'Pivotal' States Facing Defining Moments In 2014
BMI View: Several critically important countries are facing tests in 2014 that could determine their political and economic evolution for years to come. Iran perhaps offers the greatest opportunity for positive change, while the biggest systemic risk among 'pivotal' states is the Korean Peninsula.
One way of gauging global political and geopolitical stability is by assessing the political and economic conditions in countries that play crucial roles in their respective regions. We call these countries 'pivotal' states. These are typically middle-ranked countries in which any transformation of their polity or behaviour could have a profound and lasting impact on their region, and possibly the wider world. Pivotal states draw their importance from a combination of their large populations, economic influence, military power, key geographical location, cultural reach, or commodity resources. Although definitions of pivotal states vary, BMI has in recent years identified a list of fourteen such countries. These are in alphabetical order: Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Korea (North and South), Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Taiwan, Turkey, and Ukraine. The list deliberately excludes traditional 'great powers' such as the US, China, Japan, Russia, key EU members, and aspiring world power India, because they are too big to be considered 'swing' states. Our reasons for selecting the pivotal countries are listed in the table below:
In 2014, five of the fourteen pivotal states - Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey - will hold national elections of some sort, while a sixth - Nigeria - will be gearing up for general elections in 2015. Meanwhile, Iran - arguably one of the most crucial of the pivotal states - will face a major test this year of whether it can end 35 years of hostility towards the US and reach a lasting rapprochement with the West. The Korean Peninsula, too, could face major challenges, amid signs of a power struggle in the North. Elsewhere, Ukraine, which is a geopolitical swing state in western Eurasia, faces the prospects of ongoing anti-government demonstrations, which could eventually weaken or topple the pro-Russian administration of President Viktor Yanukovych.