What Our Editors Will Follow in 2023

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2022 was yet another rollercoaster year for global affairs. But with Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, tensions between the U.S. and China, global economic turmoil, and other ongoing developments, 2023 has the potential to be just as turbulent. January’s unusually warm weather in Europe is a reminder that climate change will be a constant issue on the world’s agenda. Noteworthy events to follow this year include, among others, the takeover by President Lula in Brazil, continuing protests of Iranians demanding respect for human rights from their government, and upcoming elections around the world deciding on the fate of a number of state leaders. 

Here are the top three issues which the Foreign Policy Rising team will be observing in 2023.

1. Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

On February 16, 2022, days before Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, FPR published a Raising Debate interview with Dr. Lilia Shevtsova on “what Putin really wants”. Eleven months into this unjustifiable act of aggression, it is safe to say that Putin wants to destroy Ukraine and its people as well as live in his own fantasy version of the world in which Russia is a great power empire while the decadent West freezes during the winter and collapses. Meanwhile, the war continues to affect innocent people, first and foremost in Ukraine but also around the world. The invasion has many dimensions and consequences for a variety of spheres, including arms control, food security, energy and fuel, intelligence, international law, journalism, migration, and trade. It has also acted as a spur to debates about the future of the global order, diplomacy, and international relations more broadly.

What awaits in 2023 remains unclear. Many experts and officials believe that ending this at the negotiation table is impossible. Russia is backed up in a corner and continues to launch strikes, leaving millions of people without basic resources. Building on the West’s support, Ukraine intends to continue until Moscow’s total defeat. However, Kyiv’s victory will not be the end of the story: it will be the beginning of a new era for Ukraine, Europe, and global politics. Until this new era dawns, there is a rocky road ahead for Ukraine and its allies.

More from FPR’s 2022 collection:

2. America, the Great

2022 was a tumultuous year for U.S. domestic policy. In June, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision on abortion access was a serious blow to women’s rights, sending shockwaves far beyond U.S. borders. In November, the midterm elections captured global attention with no less than the “future of American democracy” at stake. Luckily, elections unfolded with hardly any cases of voter fraud and the majority of the more than 200 “election deniers” who ran for office in the midterms lost their bids for public office.

2023 promises to provide observers of U.S. politics only little respite. During the first week of January, the dramatic election of the speaker of the House of Representatives already highlighted the deep divisions in the U.S. party landscape, both between and within the two parties. Republicans have announced a host of investigations they plan to launch, including into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and President Joe Biden’s son and his alleged relations to foreign governments. With the U.S. Congress likely paralyzed by domestic power struggles and infighting, there is little hope for policy progress on the domestic front. But the big question for international observers will be whether a domestically divided and polarized United States will be able to lead on global issues like the war in Ukraine, climate change, and reviving multilateralism.

More from FPR’s 2022 collection:

3. How Many Poles, How Many Systems?

Systemic rivalry reached an escalation point in 2022. Russia’s aggression is feared to inspire another heavyweight contestant to the U.S. led international order—China. Relative optimism had emerged in 2022 about China-West relations after the meeting of Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Bali at the G20 summit. With its zero-COVID strategy, growing protests, a party summit, and a new strategic vision, China seemed to have too much on its plate. It was anticipated that President Xi would build on the positive tone of the bilateral meeting and choose a less aggressive approach going forward.

However, this development may well have just been temporary. Washington is planning to compete further with Beijing in 2023 through new economic and military measures, including the provision of extra weapons to Taiwan. Meanwhile, China is set to leave the isolation of 2022 to take a stronger stance in the Indo-Pacific region and continue its engagement with the Global South. Finally, the “will they, won’t they” around Taiwan will be one of the most defining strategic issues of 2023. Will China hedge and learn from Russia’s bitter lessons in Ukraine, only to launch a surprise attack? Will U.S. support of Taiwan succeed in deterring the People’s Republic? It remains to be seen whether tensions over Taiwan will lead to an unprecedented global security crisis or result in a stalemate. A peaceful resolution is nowhere in sight.

More from FPR’s 2022 collection:

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