No Exit From the US-Saudi Relationship by Jacob Logan Shapiro

The Saudi government is probably not in immediate danger. King Salman and MBS have successfully centralized control of the major nodes of power in Saudi Arabia: the tribal elites, the national guard, the military, the interior ministry and the clerics. The speculation that MBS will be ditched because of Khashoggi’s murder is misplaced; King Salman has ordered a reorganization of Saudi intelligence services as a mea culpa, but he has put MBS directly in charge of the process. There may very well be a crisis of succession when King Salman, who at 82 years old may not last to see what becomes of Vision 2030, dies. MBS has positioned himself as the heir apparent, but he himself skipped a few places in the line of succession, and there’s no guarantee that someone else won’t try to do likewise. But a succession crisis is a far cry from overthrowing the current king, who still enjoys widespread loyalty. While he’s around, there is no institutional force inside the kingdom that can bring about regime change without foreign intervention or outright revolution. This is why King Salman and MBS are so skittish in general, and why they are taking no chances with dissidents like Khashoggi – or any of the numerous other Saudi officials who have been purged in recent years.

All the while, Saudi Arabia will try to accomplish the impossible – a complete reorientation of its political economy in 12 years. It will probably fail. So long as Saudi Arabian oil keeps flowing, the kingdom can buy allies such as Egypt and Pakistan, and so as long as the United States remains committed to countering Iran, the Saudis can be sure that Washington will ignore its human rights abuses. Turkey is better positioned than any other country to capitalize on the friction that comes from this arrangement, and already it is moving to take advantage of the opportunity. It does not need to balance against Iran while the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia engage in that hard work. It can simply play the role of a beneficent power and de facto spiritual leader, the sultanate and the caliphate reborn in the 21st century.

It’s ironic that Saudi Arabia and the United States have what they thought they wanted from their relationship. Iran is buckling, and the Islamic State has been crushed. What’s unclear is whether Riyadh and Washington can continue to be useful to each other now that the unintended consequences of their reinvigorated relationship have been laid bare.


About Jacob Logan Shapiro:

Jacob Logan Shapiro is the Director of Analysis for Geopolitical Futures (GPF). At GPF he oversees a team of analysts, the company’s forecasting process and the day-to-day analysis of important geopolitical developments. Prior to working at GPF, Shapiro worked at Stratfor, the geopolitical intelligence firm founded by George Friedman in 1996. He joined GPF after Friedman left Stratfor in May 2015 to help found a new company dedicated to publishing excellent analysis and accurate forecasts based on the geopolitical method Friedman pioneered.


To Learn more about Jacob contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866 727-7555 or [email protected]

12 Highest Rated Speakers of May 2018

The results are in. Each month, companies come to us asking for Speaker ideas on a variety of topics to help inspire, educate, and inform their audiences. We do the research and deliver specific Speaker suggestions that our clients can choose from. Based on their response, here are our highest rated Speakers of May 2018.

Dr. George Friedman, Speaker and Author on the Future of Geopolitics

George Friedman is an internationally recognized geopolitical forecaster and bestselling author of Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe and The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century.

Video:https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Dr.-George-Friedman

 

Mark Thompson, Authority on Leadership and Employee Engagement

Mark is an expert on executive leadership, business strategy, and innovation who has spent over 25 years leading teams and building companies from the ground up. He delivers actionable, valuable and practical advice for leaders at all levels of an organization.

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Mark-Thompson

Josh Linkner, Speaker on Creativity, Innovation, and Leadership

Josh Linkner – who started his career as a jazz guitarist – personifies creativity, entrepreneurship and disruptive innovation.  He has been the founder and CEO of four tech companies, which sold for a combined value of over $200 million.

Videohttps://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Josh-Linkner

 

Garry Golden, Academically Trained Futurist and Speaker on Emerging Trends

Garry Golden is a professionally trained futurist who writes, speaks, and consults about issues that will shape society and business in the 21st century. His uncanny sense of what will hit—and what won’t—can be seen in futurethink’s research and heard in his international keynotes and corporate leadership seminars. His insights on how to align talent development to coming industry and market transitions have been shared with and implemented by such organizations as the McGraw-Hill Companies, Goodyear, S&P, and Reliant Energy.

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Garry-Golden

Mike Abrashoff, Former Commander, USS Benfold and Author of It’s Your Ship

Mike Abrashoff’s inspiring speeches challenge people to re-imagine their own leadership thinking and instill a renewed responsibility for results and success. At the age of 36, the Navy selected Abrashoff to become Commander of USS Benfold, at the time the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet.

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Mike-Abrashoff

Polly LaBarre, Speaks about Innovation, Leadership and Management

For two decades Polly LaBarre has used her writing and speaking to help make organizations more resilient, innovative and inspiring – and to embolden and equip leaders at every level to make a meaningful impact.

Videohttps://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Polly-LaBarre

 

Stuart Knight, Award Winning Entrepreneur, Critically Acclaimed Author, and Hit Producer

Stuart Knight has written, produced and starred in live presentations that have been seen by over one million people and each year speaks internationally helping some of the world’s biggest companies reach new levels of success. When he is not on the road speaking, you may have seen or heard him on some of nation.’s biggest TV and Radio stations where he is often asked for his expert opinion on high level communication.

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Stuart-Knight

Seth Mattison, Expert on The New World of Work and Leadership in The Digital Age

Seth Mattison advises world-leading brands and organizations on the key shifts happening around talent management, change and innovation, leadership, and the future of work.

Videohttps://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Seth-Mattison

 

Jacob Logan Shapiro, Distinguished Geopolitic Analyst & Speaker on International Affairs

Jacob Logan Shapiro is the Director of Analysis for Geopolitical Futures (GPF). At GPF he oversees a team of analysts, the company’s forecasting process and the day-to-day analysis of important geopolitical developments. Shapiro is a regular speaker at international conferences and has appeared both in print and on television as an expert on international affairs in such places as MSNBC, CNBC, the New York Times, and Fox News.

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Jacob-Logan-Shapiro

Gary Hamel, Business Management and Strategy Speaker

Gary Hamel is one of the world’s most influential and iconoclastic business thinkers. He has worked with leading companies across the globe and is a dynamic and sought-after management speaker. Hamel has been on the faculty of the London Business School for more than 30 years and is the director of the Management Innovation eXchange.

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Gary-Hamel

Marci Rossell, CNBC Chief Economist and Speaker on Finance

Marci Rossell electrifies audiences nationwide, speaking on the nexus of economics, politics, culture and the media. Her animated style was honed when she served as the popular, lively Chief Economist for CNBC in the months immediately following September 11th. She takes complex economic issues, often dull in the button-down business press, and makes them relevant to people’s lives, families and careers.

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Marci-Rossell

Rick Searfoss, Astronaut and Speaker on Leadership and Teamwork

Engaging and entertaining, Rick speaks from the heart to movingly share the lessons of human space flight. His stunning multimedia presentations filled with spectacular message reinforcing images uplift, inspire, and move to action. A great mix of down-to earth style and out-of-this-world excitement as he shares the astronauts’ tools for effective leadership, teamwork, and innovative results that count!

Video: https://thesweeneyagency.com/speakers/Rick-Searfoss

 

To Learn more about these speakers contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]

The 12 Most Requested Speakers For 2016

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The Speaker finishes, the crowd is on its feet with thunderous applause and right away the buzz starts. Demand for a Speaker is based on impressive past reviews and word of mouth. When word gets out there that a Speaker delivered an impressive presentation that had audiences talking, people want to know if they can have that Speaker at their event. Most Clients book their Speakers 3-4 months out but the buzz in 2015 around the 12 Great Speakers listed below had clients booking them 8-12 months before their  2016 events:

Shawn Achor

What is it about having a positive outlook and being happy that improves performance and fosters success?  In his life’s work, first at Harvard University, then at his consultancy, GoodThink, Shawn Achor has found the connection linking positivity to performance. His research shows that happiness and well-being at work is the foundation of a productive and optimized organization and makes a huge difference for a company’s bottom line. Shawn’s message becomes even more pertinent in 2016 as a greater number of workers clamor for better work-life balance and job satisfaction. Through his TED talk with over 11 million views, his highly-rated television special on PBS, and his speaking engagements in more than 50 countries, Shawn has shown audiences world-wide how to reap the benefits of a positive mindset, how to overcome challenges, and succeed in both work and in life.

Robyn Benincasa

The importance of a motivated, functional team to organizational success cannot be overstated. Robyn Benincasa is a World Champion Adventure Racer and an award-winning motivational speaker. The past 20 years have seen Robyn and her teams successfully race through the jungles of Borneo, climb the Himalayan peaks of Tibet, swim the rivers of Fiji, and fight the brush fires of Southern California. It is through these life-affirming and team-building experiences that Robyn developed her unique perspective on what it takes to succeed against all odds and go the distance at work and in life: Human Synergy and Teamwork. With this key message, Robyn has ignited meetings and motivated audiences to look at how they can transform their own groups into World Class Teams. In 2016, her quest to impart this lesson continues.

Ty Bennett

At just 21 years old, Ty Bennett co-founded a company that grew to over $20 million in annual revenue before he turned 30. Today, Ty is a speaker who excites audiences with practical ideas and effective strategies on Leadership, Communication, and Sales based on his own experiences as a successful entrepreneur. A naturally gifted presenter, he has been a sure-fire hit in 2015 for clients like RE/MAX, Johnson & Johnson, and Russell Investments. 2016 promises to be an even bigger year for Ty as he offers a young, fresh voice using interactive presentations that are as engaging as they are inspiring and motivational.

Andy Boynton

The notion that the best business ideas come solely from innately creative and brilliant minds is a mistaken belief that leads to apathy and inaction within organizations and their employees. The Dean of Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, Andy Boynton is an expert on helping organizations implement his proprietary methodology for harnessing the power of teams to “significantly improve problem-solving speed, innovation and results” – A skill of great importance considering the rate of innovation and change in business – projected to only increase in 2016. Innate creativity and brilliance aside, great ideas come to those who are in the habit of looking for great ideas! In his engaging presentation, Andy will show you how.

Dr. Travis Bradberry

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has become a buzzword in business circles ever since a landmark study in 1990 found that people with high EI tend to make the best leaders and team players because of their ability to understand, empathize, and connect with others around them. Travis Bradberry is the award-winning author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart ⎯ a consultancy that serves more than 75% of Fortune 500 companies and the world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence tests and training. With increasing globalization and corporate consolidation in 2016, the importance of EI in organizational cohesion and health cannot be ignored as leaders manage people of differing backgrounds in ever growing numbers. Travis contends that successful leaders know how to handle their own emotions, understand the emotions of others, and find a balanced approach to managing both.

Geoff Colvin

Geoff Colvin has been an editor and columnist at Fortune Magazine for more than 35 years, covering a variety of current events and offering analyses on how those events affect the greater financial, political, and economic landscape. His speaking career has taken him on engagements in six continents where he delivered on topics ranging from Leadership and Management, Economic Trends and Global Competitiveness, to the intersection of Politics and Business. In 2016, Geoff’s insights into the workings of the global economic and geopolitical arena will remain an invaluable resource for businesses and organizations.

Chester Elton 

The development and promotion of a healthy organizational culture is crucial to helping people within companies work together as a team. Chester Elton has spent his career studying the intricacies of organizational culture, teamwork, and motivation. He is the co-author of the New York Times bestsellers All In, The Carrot Principleand The Orange Revolution which have been called “must-read(s) for modern managers” by no less than Larry King of CNN. Chester has developed a road-map that managers can use to create a high-achieving culture within their own teams, increasing productivity, and making a real impact on the bottom line. In 2016, the speaker who the Globe and Mail calls the “Apostle of Appreciation,” will continue to make waves in the corporate world as he extols the merits of passionate engagement and a culture of possibility within organizations.

Dr. George Friedman

Dr. George Friedman is the foremost geopolitical authority in the world today. He is the Founder and Chairman of Geopolitical Futures, a new online publication dedicated to forecasting the course of global events. He also founded Stratfor, a global intelligence and consulting firm that helps clients identify opportunities, make strategic decisions, and manage political and security risks. Dr. Friedman is invited to speak at conferences and business meetings on five continents where his insights on events shaping international affairs and business are highly prized. As we move into 2016, the continuing migration of millions of refugees into Europe coupled with the slowing economic engines of the BRIC countries, Dr. Friedman’s overarching knowledge and expertise of geopolitical forces is poised to make an even bigger impact on the world stage.

Dr. Frank Murtha

Dr. Frank Murtha is an expert on Investor Psychology and Behavioral Finance who is known for his ability to take the weighty scientific and academic subjects of his training and communicate them in a practical, and often humorous way. Frank helps financial professionals understand the underlying emotions and behaviors that may affect their management of investments as they go through the Capital Market Cycle. Since the financial crisis of 2008, the markets have seen the second longest period of growth in history. By mid-2015 however, the Chinese stock markets have collapsed, oil prices are less than half their value over the previous year, and the Euro Zone’s tenuous economic recovery is threatened by the refugee crisis. How do investors manage expectations and not give in to fear and panic, or conversely, to speculative buying sprees? With looming economic uncertainty in 2016, Frank’s expertise is bound to be in great demand.

Josh Linkner

Current levels of innovation drive business cycles in months, not years. How do business leaders keep up with this break-neck pace of change in the market place, maintain their organizations’ relevance, and fuel growth? Josh Linkner believes the answer lies in creativity. A four-time tech entrepreneur, a two-time New York Times Bestselling Author, and a professional Jazz guitarist, Josh has built an exceptionally successful career using the power of creative disruption. As a speaker, he helps audiences harness creativity, innovation, and re-invention to develop actionable strategies that produce measurable outcomes. Using highly engaging, visually-rich presentations, Josh enlivens meetings and events –2016 will prove no different.

Marilyn Tam

Marilyn Tam’s story of never giving up on one’s dreams in spite of daunting odds and brutal circumstances is inspirational. Growing up as an abused, neglected child in Hong Kong, she left home as a teen and moved to America alone. Through sheer determination and hard work, Marilyn achieved international and humanitarian success, first becoming President of Reebok/CCM, then CEO of Aveda Corporation, and for the past 19 years, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Us Foundation. As a speaker, her presentations on leadership excellence, business management, and diversity are a hit with corporate audiences. But especially because of the continuing global events that will impact 2016, her message on women in the workplace, corporate social and environmental responsibility, and organizational well-being are timely and of the essence.

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson has been leading teams and building companies for over 25 years, a career that places him among a select group of thought-leaders on executive leadership, business strategy, and innovation. His clients include some of the most recognizable brands and Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, Nike, Ford, Coca Cola, and the Virgin Group. Much in demand in 2015, 2016 is shaping up to be an even bigger one for Mark. With more companies moving towards consolidation, new technologies and rapid innovation disrupting business models, and the pressure on leaders to deliver and perform increasing, Mark’s expertise and experience will be needed in the new year.

*Speakers are listed in alphabetical order

5 Speakers that CEOs are Talking About

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CEOs need to see the big picture, they need to be able to spot storms in the distance and future successes when they are just ideas on a table. To do that properly they need to know  about the forces shaping their markets, the technologies changing their business and new ways of attracting, managing, and keeping their talent.
The  5 Speakers below deliver fascinating  presentations on the key forces shaping business and what CEOs need to do to succeed in a constantly changing environment.

Dr. George Friedman | Founder of STRATFOR and expert on Geopolitics | Geopolitical Trends Businesses Cannot Afford to Ignore

We no longer live or work in isolated environments. The ever-increasing interconnectivity of the globe compels organizations to not just observe what is going on in their own backyards, but to extend their watch beyond their own borders. Dr. George Friedman is an expert on geopolitics and how business is being impacted by both events and individuals half way across the world. His expert analyses evaluate global trends and identify who and what will affect your organization – pointing out areas where major change will take place or identifying emerging markets that show promise and future profitability. His fascinating insights appeal to audiences from executives of large corporations to anyone who wants to keep their fingers on the pulse of global dynamics.

Scott Klososky | Technology and Trends Guru | Trends, Technology, and Taking the Lead in Your Industry

Technology is no longer relevant to just the IT department – it has become so important and ingrained in every facet of an organization that it is now everyone’s business. Scott Klososky’s presentations explain how technology has become integrated into our daily lives and business and how organizations can leverage this into profit. Scott is particularly adept at addressing those in leadership positions, illustrating the importance of the “technology infused leader.”  Scott’s strategic directions and unique perspective on technology, trends, innovation, and leadership make his keynotes memorable and applicable to every business.

Patrick Lencioni | Expert on Organizational Health and Employee Engagement | Creating a Culture of Engagement

Billions of dollars are lost each year due to employee disengagement. Organizations with low employee morale, uncommunicative teams, and general detachment impact every business’s bottom line. In his presentations, Patrick Lencioni addresses all the reasons and practices that contribute to low employee engagement and provides practical tools that can be implemented immediately to alleviate these costly issues. Patrick uses storytelling and humor to captivate his audiences and his messages are simple, elegant, and accessible. His presentations are not only intriguing, they provide invaluable insights into how to create and sustain a happier and more profitable company.

Cam Marston | Motivational Speaker and Generational Expert | Leading 4 Generations at Work

Generational conflict is one of the most pressing issues facing business today. Cam Marston is the leading authority on how the shifting workplace and marketplace demographics influence your business. Each generation in the workplace today has its own unique qualities and Cam explains how to recruit, retain, and manage each of these diverse groups. Furthermore, he provides insight and practical tools on how to sell to each of them. Cam’s deep understanding of the generational differences will inform employers as to how to ease tensions that arise in the office, cultivate a collaborative working environment, and increase sales!

Liz Wiseman | Leadership Speaker and Author | Creating The Leaders of Tomorrow

There are two types of leaders in business today: those that place themselves above everyone else, continuously illustrating how talented and smart they are – and those who recognize the talent and intelligence in their people, and who work diligently to cultivate the capabilities of everyone around them. The latter group is what Liz Wiseman calls “The Multipliers” – those who elevate their employees and multiply talent, intelligence, and profit. Liz Wiseman’s presentations are essential for leaders who want to make a real difference in their organization. Her keynotes are poignant and perceptive, leaving audiences with the understanding of what makes a great leader – and how to become one.

 

*Speakers are listed in alphabetical order

5 Speakers Who Should be Featured on 60 Minutes

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A few weeks ago we were thrilled when our Speaker Dr. Robert Ballard was featured on an episode of 60 Minutes, the longest continuously running prime-time show in American television history. Dr. Ballard was fascinating, intriguing, and proved on-screen that he is an amazing storyteller which contributes to making him a powerful Speaker.  At the office the next day we had a debate, and then a vote as to who else we thought should be featured on 60 minutes. Below are our top 5 choices for Speakers who we truly believe would fascinate TV viewers as they have with every live audience we have ever booked them for (Also we’re sending this list to Morley Safer!)*

Shawn Achor | Happiness Guru, Best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage

Happiness is a science. It is also a prevalent goal that so many people are trying to obtain, whether at home or at work. Unfortunately, most people have their “happiness plan” backwards – and that’s where positive psychology expert Shawn Achor comes in. Believing that happiness is the result of success, money, etc., few recognize that happiness is not the end result – it is the cause. After extensive research, Shawn Achor found that the most successful people with the healthiest social relationships began their endeavors with optimism and positivity – Happiness is not the goal, but the catalyst for overall contentment. Shawn provides practical applications to help his audiences shift their mindsets, teaching them how to be happy first, and watch the rest fall into place.

Robyn Benincasa | CNN Hero, Firefighter, and expert on Teamwork

Robyn Benincasa is the ultimate influencer – she inspires those around her to take beautifully brazen risks like climb a mountain, join an adventure racing team, or even start their own business. As a professional adventure racer, Robyn has travelled the world, pushing her body and her team to new and exciting heights. She is also a full time firefighter in America’s first all-female crew and is the founder of Project Athena: a non-profit dedicated to helping women with medical issues achieve their athletic dreams. Robyn’s stories excite, inspire, and astonish anyone who hears them – her narrative will capture all audiences and empower them to recognize that their limitations are simply their own perceptions, not their reality.

Dr. George Friedman | Founder of STRATFOR and expert on Geopolitics

Businesses no longer operate in an isolated environment. Our ever-growing interconnectivity compels organizations to not just observe what is going on in their own backyards, but to extend their watch beyond their borders. Dr. George Friedman is an expert on how business is being impacted by both events and individuals half way across the world. He is a master analyst who evaluates global trends and identifies who and what will affect how your organization does business – either bracing for a significant shift in foreign dynamics or identifying emerging markets that could result in huge opportunities. His fascinating insights would appeal to audiences from executives of large corporations to anyone who wants to keep their fingers on the pulse of global developments.

Cam Marston | Motivational Speaker and Generational Expert

There is no greater workplace issue impacting business today than generational conflict. Cam Marston is the leading authority on how the changing generational demographics in the workplace and in the marketplace will influence your business. Cam explains the differences of each generation currently in the workplace and how to recruit, retain, and manage each of these diverse groups. Furthermore, he also knows exactly how to sell to each of them. Cam’s insights into the generational differences will inform employers as to how to ease tensions that arise in the office, cultivate a collaborative working environment, and increase sales!

Peter Ricchiuti | Economist, and Professor at the Freeman School of Business at Tulane University

Too often economic experts use abstruse jargon when speaking of finance, making it inaccessible to those outside the financial realm. Peter Ricchiuti is the economist who makes finance not only easily understandable, but fun too! Peter has a fantastic sense of humor and uses it to connect with his audiences – explaining the economy and finance in a way that is inclusive of all knowledge-bases and backgrounds. Peter Ricchiuti is truly The Everyman’s Economist!

 

*Speakers are listed in alphabetical order

‘Flashpoints: The Emerging Crisis in Europe’: Fascinating New Book from Dr. George Friedman

A major new book by New York Times bestselling author and geopolitical forecaster George Friedman, with a bold thesis about coming events in Europe. This provocative work examines “flashpoints,” unique geopolitical hot spots where tensions have erupted throughout history, and where conflict is due to emerge again.

9781925106602With remarkable accuracy, Stratfor founder and Chairman George Friedman has forecasted coming trends in global politics, technology, population, and culture. In his long awaited and highly anticipated follow up to the New York Times bestsellers The Next 100 Years and The Next Decade, Freidman investigates the intersection of culture and conflict in FLASHPOINTS: The Emerging Crisis in Europe (Doubleday; January 27, 2015; $28.95).

In Flashpoints, Friedman focuses on Europe — the world’s cultural and power nexus for the past five hundred years… until now. Analyzing the most unstable, unexpected, and fascinating borderlands of Europe and Russia — and the fault lines that have existed for centuries and have been ground zero for multiple catastrophic wars — Friedman highlights, in an unprecedentedly personal way, the flashpoints that are smoldering once again.

The modern-day European Union was crafted in large part to minimize built-in geopolitical tensions that historically have torn it apart. As Friedman demonstrates, with a mix of rich history and cultural analysis, that design is failing. Flashpoints narrates a living history of Europe and explains, with great clarity, its most volatile regions: the turbulent and ever-shifting land dividing the West from Russia (a vast area that currently includes Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania); the ancient borderland between France and Germany; and the Mediterranean, which gave rise to Judaism and Christianity and became a center of Islamic life.

Through Friedman’s seamless narrative of townspeople and rivers and villages, a clear picture of regions and countries and history begins to emerge. Flashpoints is an engrossing analysis of modern-day Europe, its remarkable past, and the simmering fault lines that have awakened and will be pivotal in the near future. This is George Friedman’s most timely and, ultimately, riveting book.

Drawing on a trademark blend of historical analysis and geopolitical forecasting, in Flashpoints Friedman explores Europe’s dominance and upheaval through the twentieth century to reveal their basis in a specific set of cultural fault lines – flashpoints that remain volatile today and are due to erupt again.

Friedman asks the most important question facing global citizen today – have conflict and war actually been banished from Europe? Or is today’s period of comparative peace merely an interlude following the centuries of conflict that preceded it? We are now living through Europe’s test and to answer that question, must investigate centuries of European history to discover how today’s events will once again impact the rest of the world. Flashpoints offers a clearly explained, riveting look at the history that has led us to this moment, as well as the situations, conflicts, opportunities, and events to come.

“There is a temptation, when you are around George Friedman, to treat him like a Magic 8 Ball.” — The New York Times Magazine

George Friedman’s impressive track record in forecasting includes successful predictions covering the European financial and political crises, increased Russian aggression in its “Near Abroad,” the Arab Spring, and conflict in Syria. Flashpoints continues this tradition of correct calls with new predictions focused on the struggle for Ukraine, the fragmentation of Europe’s eastern frontier, hostility in Turkey, and the rise of right wing extremism throughout the continent at large.

George-Friedman About Dr. George Friedman – Speaker and Author on the Future of Geopolitics:

Dr. George Friedman is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of STRATFOR. Since 1996 Dr. Friedman has driven the strategic vision guiding STRATFOR to global prominence in private geopolitical intelligence and forecasting. A very popular keynote speaker on the future of international politics and economics, Dr. Friedman is in high demand at numerous conferences and industry-specific events for major financial firms such as JP Morgan, Citibank, Ernst & Young and many Fortune 500 companies. In addition he has briefed the Australian Command and Staff College, Eglin Air Force Research Laboratory, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College and many other military and government organizations. Dr. Friedman is frequently invited to speak internationally, including in Turkey, Germany, Poland, Azerbaijan, Australia and New Zealand.

Dr. Friedman is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going, which forecasts the major events and challenges that will test America and the American President over the course of the next decade. Dr. Friedman’s previous book, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century was also a New York Times bestseller and was published in over 20 languages. His other books on warfare and intelligence have included America’s Secret War, The Future of War and The Intelligence Edge.

Major television and radio networks such as CNN, Fox News, and NPR frequently invite Dr. Friedman to appear as an international intelligence expert. He and STRATFOR have also been featured in cover stories in Barron’s and in the UK’s New Statesman. Dr. Friedman has been featured in Time Magazine, The New York Times Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. He is frequently quoted in The New York Times, Fortune, Newsweek, USA Today, the International Herald Tribune and many other publications.

Dr. Friedman received his bachelors degree from the City College of the City University of New York and holds a Ph.D. in government from Cornell University.

STRATFOR is a global intelligence company with its headquarters in Austin, Texas.

For more information, please visit The Sweeney Agency.

Borderlands: The View From Azerbaijan

41592I arrive in Azerbaijan as the country celebrates Victory Day, the day successor states of the former Soviet Union celebrate the defeat of Germany in World War II. No one knows how many Soviet citizens died in that war — perhaps 22 million. The number is staggering and represents both the incompetence and magnificence of Russia, which led the Soviets in war. Any understanding of Russia that speaks of one without the other is flawed.

As I write, fireworks are going off over the Caspian Sea. The pyrotechnics are long and elaborate, sounding like an artillery barrage. They are a reminder that Baku was perhaps the most important place in the Nazi-Soviet war. It produced almost all of the Soviet Union’s petroleum. The Germans were desperate for it and wanted to deny it to Moscow. Germany’s strategy after 1942, including the infamous battle of Stalingrad, turned on Baku’s oil. In the end, the Germans threw an army against the high Caucasus guarding Baku. In response, an army raised in the Caucasus fought and defeated them. The Soviets won the war. They wouldn’t have if the Germans had reached Baku. It is symbolic, at least to me, that these celebrations blend into the anniversary of the birth of Heydar Aliyev, the late president of Azerbaijan who endured the war and later forged the post-Soviet identity of his country. He would have been 91 on May 10.

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Baku is strategic again today, partly because of oil. I’ve started the journey here partly by convenience and partly because Azerbaijan is key to any counter-Russian strategy that might emerge. My purpose on this trip is to get a sense of the degree to which individual European states feel threatened by Russia, and if they do, the level of effort and risk they are prepared to endure. For Europe does not exist as anything more than a geographic expression; it is the fears and efforts of the individual nation-states constituting it that will determine the course of this affair. Each nation is different, and each makes its own calculus of interest. My interest is to understand their thinking, not only about Russia but also about the European Union, the United States and ultimately themselves. Each is unique; it isn’t possible to make a general statement about them.

Some question whether the Caucasus region and neighboring Turkey are geographically part of Europe. There are many academic ways to approach this question. My approach, however, is less sophisticated. Modern European history cannot be understood without understanding the Ottoman Empire and the fact that it conquered much of the southeastern part of the European peninsula. Russia conquered the three Caucasian states — Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan — and many of their institutions are Russian, hence European. If an organic European expression does exist, it can be argued to be Eurovision, the pan-continental music competition. The Azerbaijanis won it in 2011, which should settle any debate on their “Europeanness.”

But more important, a strategy to block Russia is hard to imagine without including its southern flank. There is much talk of sanctions on Russia. But sanctions can be countered and always ignore a key truth: Russia has always been economically dysfunctional. It has created great empires and defeated Napoleon and Hitler in spite of that. Undermining Russia’s economy may be possible, but that does not always undermine Russia’s military power. That Soviet military power outlived the economically driven collapse of the Soviet Union confirms this point. And the issue at the moment is military.

The solution found for dealing with the Soviet Union during the Cold War was containment. The architect of this strategy was diplomat George Kennan, whose realist approach to geopolitics may have lost some adherents but not its relevance. A cordon sanitaire was constructed around the Soviet Union through a system of alliances. In the end, the Soviets were unable to expand and choked on their own inefficiency. There is a strange view abroad that the 21st century is dramatically different from all prior centuries and such thinking is obsolete. I have no idea why this should be so. The 21st century is simply another century, and there has been no transcendence of history. Containment was a core strategy and it seems likely that it will be adopted again — if countries like Azerbaijan are prepared to participate.

To understand Azerbaijan you must begin with two issues: oil and a unique approach to Islam. At the beginning of the 20th century, over half the world’s oil production originated near Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. Hence Hitler’s strategy after 1942. Today, Azerbaijani energy production is massive, but it cannot substitute for Russia’s production. Russian energy production, meanwhile, defines part of the strategic equation. Many European countries depend substantially on Russian energy, particularly natural gas. They have few alternatives. There is talk of U.S. energy being shipped to Europe, but building the infrastructure for that (even if there are supplies) will take many years before it can reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia.

Withholding energy would be part of any Russian counter to Western pressure, even if Russia were to suffer itself. Any strategy against Russia must address the energy issue, begin with Azerbaijan, and be about more than production. Azerbaijan is not a major producer of gas compared to oil. On the other side of the Caspian Sea, however, Turkmenistan is. Its resources, coupled with Azerbaijan’s, would provide a significant alternative to Russian energy. Turkmenistan has an interest in not selling through Russia and would be interested in a Trans-Caspian pipeline. That pipeline would have to pass through Azerbaijan, connecting onward to infrastructure in Turkey. Assuming Moscow had no effective counters, this would begin to provide a serious alternative to Russian energy and decrease Moscow’s leverage. But this would all depend on Baku’s willingness and ability to resist pressure from every direction.

Azerbaijan lies between Russia and Iran. Russia is the traditional occupier of Azerbaijan and its return is what Baku fears the most. Iran is partly an Azeri country. Nearly a quarter of its citizens, including Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are Azeri. But while both Azerbaijan and Iran are predominantly Shiite, Azerbaijan is a militantly secular state. Partly due to the Soviet experience and partly because of the unique evolution of Azeri identity since the 19th century, Azerbaijan separates the private practice of Islam from public life. I recall once attending a Jewish Passover feast in Baku that was presided over by an Orthodox rabbi, with security provided by the state. To be fair, Iran has a Jewish minority that has its own lawmaker in parliament. But any tolerance in Iran flows from theocratic dogma, whereas in Azerbaijan it is rooted in a constitution that is more explicitly secular than any in the European Union, save that of France.

This is just one obvious wedge between Azerbaijan and Iran, and Tehran has made efforts to influence the Azeri population. For the moment, relations are somewhat better but there is an insoluble tension that derives from geopolitical reality and the fact that any attack on Iran could come from Azerbaijan. Furthering this wedge are the close relations between Azerbaijan and Israel. The United States currently blocks most weapons sales to Azerbaijan. Israel — with U.S. approval — sells the needed weapons. This gives us a sense of the complexity of the relationship, recalling that complexity undermines alliances.

The complexity of alliances also defines Russia’s reality. It occupies the high Caucasus overlooking the plains of Azerbaijan. Armenia is a Russian ally, bound by an agreement that permits Russian bases through 2044. Yerevan also plans to join the Moscow-led Customs Union, and Russian firms own a large swath of the Armenian economy. Armenia feels isolated. It remains hostile to Turkey for Ankara’s unwillingness to acknowledge events of a century ago as genocide. Armenia also fought a war with Azerbaijan in the 1990s, shortly after independence, for a region called Nagorno-Karabakh that had been part of Azerbaijan — a region that it lost in the war and wants back. Armenia, caught between Turkey and an increasingly powerful Azerbaijan, regards Russia as a guarantor of its national security.

For Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh remains a critical issue. Azerbaijan holds that U.N. resolutions have made it clear that Armenia’s attack constituted a violation of international law, and a diplomatic process set up in Minsk to resolve the crisis has proven ineffective. Azerbaijan operates on two tracks on this issue. It pursues national development, as can be seen in Baku, a city that reflects the oil wealth of the country. It will not endanger that development, nor will it forget about Nagorno-Karabakh. At some point, any nation aligning itself with Azerbaijan will need to take a stand on this frozen conflict, and that is a high price for most.

Which leads me to an interesting symmetry of incomprehension between the United States and Azerbaijan. The United States does not want to sell weapons directly to Azerbaijan because of what it regards as violations of human rights by the Azerbaijani government. The Americans find it incomprehensible that Baku, facing Russia and Iran and needing the United States, cannot satisfy American sensibilities by avoiding repression — a change that would not threaten the regime. Azerbaijan’s answer is that it is precisely the threats it faces from Iran and Russia that require Baku to maintain a security state. Both countries send operatives into Azerbaijan to destabilize it. What the Americans consider dissidents, Azerbaijan sees as agents of foreign powers. Washington disputes this and continually offends Baku with its pronouncements. The Azerbaijanis, meanwhile, continually offend the Americans.

This is similar to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Most Americans have never heard of it and don’t care who owns it. For the Azerbaijanis, this is an issue of fundamental historical importance. They cannot understand how, after assisting the United States in Afghanistan, risking close ties with Israel, maintaining a secular Islamic state and more, the United States not only cannot help Baku with Nagorno-Karabakh but also insists on criticizing Azerbaijan.

The question on human rights revolves around the interpretation of who is being arrested and for what reason. For a long time this was an issue that didn’t need to be settled. But after the Ukrainian crisis, U.S.-Azerbaijani relations became critical. It is not just energy; rather, in the event of the creation of a containment alliance, Azerbaijan is the southeastern anchor of the line on the Caspian Sea. In addition, since Georgia is absolutely essential as a route for pipelines, given Armenia’s alliance with Russia, Azerbaijan’s support for Georgian independence is essential. Azerbaijan is the cornerstone for any U.S.-sponsored Caucasus strategy, should it develop.

I do not want to get into the question of either Nagorno-Karabakh or human rights in Azerbaijan. It is, for me, a fruitless issue arising from the deep historical and cultural imperatives of each. But I must take exception to one principle that the U.S. State Department has: an unwillingness to do comparative analysis. In other words, the State Department condemns all violations equally, whether by nations hostile to the United States or friendly to it, whether by countries with wholesale violations or those with more limited violations. When the State Department does pull punches, there is a whiff of bias, as with Georgia and Armenia, which — while occasionally scolded — absorb less criticism than Azerbaijan, despite each country’s own imperfect record.

Even assuming the validity of State Department criticism, no one argues that Azerbaijani repression rises anywhere near the horrors of Joseph Stalin. I use Stalin as an example because Franklin Roosevelt allied the United States with Stalin to defeat Hitler and didn’t find it necessary to regularly condemn Stalin while the Soviet Union was carrying the burden of fighting the war, thereby protecting American interests. That same geopolitical realism animated Kennan and ultimately created the alliance architecture that served the United States throughout the Cold War. Is it necessary to offend someone who will not change his behavior and whom you need for your strategy? The State Department of an earlier era would say no.

It was interesting to attend a celebration of U.S.-Azerbaijani relations in Washington the week before I came to Baku. In the past, these events were subdued. This one was different, because many members of Congress attended. Two guests were particularly significant. One was Charles Schumer of New York, who declared the United States and Azerbaijan to be great democracies. The second was Nancy Pelosi, long a loyalist to Armenian interests. She didn’t say much but chose to show up. It is clear that the Ukrainian crisis triggered this turnout. It is clear that Azerbaijan’s importance is actually obvious to some in Congress, and it is also clear that it signals tension over the policy of criticizing human rights records without comparing them to those of other countries and of ignoring the criticized country’s importance to American strategy.

This is not just about Azerbaijan. The United States will need to work with Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary — all of whom have been found wanting by the State Department in some ways. This criticism does not — and will not — produce change. Endless repetition of the same is the height of ineffectiveness. It will instead make any strategy the United States wants to construct in Europe ineffective. In the end, I would argue that a comparison between Russia and these other countries matters. Perfect friends are hard to find. Refusing to sell weapons to someone you need is not a good way to create an alliance.

In the past, it seemed that such an alliance was merely Cold War nostalgia by people who did not realize and appreciate that we had reached an age too wise to think of war and geopolitics. But the events in Ukraine raise the possibility that those unreconstructed in their cynicism toward the human condition may well have been right. Alliances may in fact be needed. In that case, Roosevelt’s attitude toward Stalin is instructive.

Source: Forbes | Borderlands: The View From Azerbaijan

About Dr. George Friedman – Speaker and Author on the Future of Geopolitics:

Dr. George Friedman is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of STRATFOR. Since 1996 Dr. Friedman has driven the strategic vision guiding STRATFOR to global prominence in private geopolitical intelligence and forecasting. A very popular keynote speaker on the future of international politics and economics, Dr. Friedman is in high demand at numerous conferences and industry-specific events for major financial firms such as JP Morgan, Citibank, Ernst & Young and many Fortune 500 companies. In addition he has briefed the Australian Command and Staff College, Eglin Air Force Research Laboratory, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College and many other military and government organizations. Dr. Friedman is frequently invited to speak internationally, including in Turkey, Germany, Poland, Azerbaijan, Australia and New Zealand.

Dr. Friedman is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Next Decade: Where We’ve Been…and Where We’re Going, which forecasts the major events and challenges that will test America and the American President over the course of the next decade. Dr. Friedman’s previous book, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century was also a New York Times bestseller and was published in over 20 languages. His other books on warfare and intelligence have included America’s Secret War, The Future of War and The Intelligence Edge.

For more information on George Friedman, please visit: The Sweeney Agency