Catching the Signals of Global Geopolitical Uncertainty

The USS Ronald Reagan (left) and the USS Boxer amphibious warfare ship and other ships participate in exercises in the South China Sea on October 6, 2019. (NAVY OFFICE OF INFORMATION/ERWIN JACOB V MICIANO VIA AFP)

World geopolitics is a tough row to hoe . So complicated and long.

If we examine the concept of world geopolitics in relation to geography, political power and international dynamics, it has existed in various forms for centuries. And from there the problem arose.

At least this was absorbed when the term “geopolitics” was introduced in the early 20th century by the Swedish geographer and military commander, Rudolf Kjellén.

Then in 1905, Kjellén published a book entitled “Staten som lifsform” or “The State as a Living Organism” which discussed the interaction between geography, politics, and state power: there were problems in strategic and geographical interests.

The development of geopolitical terms and concepts continued with the work of scholars such as Halford Mackinder and Alfred Thayer Mahan.

Halford Mackinder put forward the “Heartland Theory” in 1904, which stated that world power would be determined by the countries that controlled the central Eurasian landmass.

Geopolitics then saves the concept of “term development”: the most subtle and not easy to remember elements, but very visible in a number of interests.

The development of a term paved the way by geopoliticians such as Halford Mackinder, in theory informs states that have the strategic potential to control the world.

This region is located in central Eurasia and includes most of mainland Russia and some of its nearby areas.

Mackinder argues that the countries or powers that control the Heartland have the potential to control and influence global policies. Also regions such as Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia in the context of the game of global power.

Global power play

The global power play is a problem of world geopolitical uncertainty. And geopolitical uncertainty has been a dominant feature on the global stage for centuries now.

So it is true what President Joko Widodo said, “We know the world is not doing well right now.”

The announcement made by President Joko Widodo before more than 500 participants in the 2023 ASEAN Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue Conference, on August 8 2023, in Jakarta, is of concern to citizens of the world.

President Joko Widodo has become the eyes of the nation and state of Indonesia who are so keen to see the world.

Through the sharpness conveyed by the leader of this great nation, it is clear how the dynamics of the global power game is between the big countries – so competitive with each other to achieve their goals and national interests.

Thus the global power play is a complex phenomenon involving interactions between political, economic, military, cultural and other forces. The global power play also creates world geopolitical uncertainties and influences the international order.

Then one of the main reasons why the global power play creates uncertainty: because political and economic power can change rapidly.

And these changes in factors such as economic growth, technological innovation, internal politics, and international conflicts.

A powerful force at one time may face challenges in the future. An example is the economic and political shift from Western Europe to the United States after World War II.

So that competition among major countries to achieve their respective national interests often contributes to geopolitical uncertainty. Countries compete in terms of economy, security, natural resources, and global influence.

Such rivalries can trigger sudden changes in political alliances, imposition of economic sanctions, or even military conflict.

For example, the trade war between the United States and China has shown how economic tensions can create uncertainty in international relations.

The impact of global geopolitical uncertainties

Geopolitical uncertainty also arises from the complexity of international relations involving interrelated political, cultural and religious factors.

Major powers often have to deal with complex and often conflicting cross-border interests.

Obviously this can create dilemmas in decision-making that impact global security and stability.

An example is the conflict in the Middle East, which involves different countries and groups with different goals and agendas.

Thus the world’s geopolitical uncertainty has a broad and serious impact on the international order. This can hinder economic investment, disrupt trade relations, trigger armed conflict, and undermine diplomatic efforts to reach a peaceful solution.

Worries about uncertainty can also undermine countries’ confidence in international cooperative efforts, such as trade and environmental agreements.

Nevertheless, it must also be understood that in an increasingly interconnected and complex world, global power plays have made a major contribution to geopolitical uncertainty.

This uncertainty arises from rapid changes in political and economic power, competing national interests, the complexity of international relations, and the pervasive detrimental impact on the international order.

Efforts to deal with uncertainty require strong international cooperation, effective diplomacy, and a deep understanding of the dynamics of the global power play.

Only through a planned and collaborative approach can the world mitigate the negative effects of geopolitical uncertainty and build a more stable and prosperous future.

Catching signals of global geopolitical uncertainty

The world’s geopolitics have long been defined by inevitable uncertainty. These signals of uncertainty are a reflection of the complex dynamics in international relations involving major powers, alliances, conflicts, the economy and foreign policy.

These signals appear as early signs of shifts, tensions, or changes that could change the world order.

Various signals of world geopolitical uncertainties, among others, are regional tensions. Where tensions between countries, or in certain areas, often appear as signals of uncertainty.

Border disputes, overlapping territorial claims, or resource disputes can trigger escalations that have a profound impact on relations between countries. This signal also reflects the instability of the region and the potential for further conflict.

This includes shifts in the global economy. That shift in global economic power can, inevitably, create signals of uncertainty.

Newly emerging countries as major economic powers can change the geopolitical landscape. This shift can affect trade relations, economic alliances and global influence.

Signals of global geopolitical uncertainty can also be read in technology and cyber threats. You see, technological progress also gives a signal of uncertainty.

Meanwhile, complex cyberthreats can change the way countries communicate, cooperate, and wage war.

Cyberattacks that involve theft of sensitive data, sabotage or destruction of critical infrastructure can have far-reaching impacts on a national or global level.

The impact of these signals creates a complex and unpredictable geopolitical environment.

In this context, it is very understandable when President Jokowi emphasized that Indonesia must be prepared to face the world’s geopolitical uncertainties.

It must be ready, meaning that, among other things, Indonesia must be able to wisely respond to world geopolitical changes, then design adaptive policies, and build stronger relations to face the inevitable challenges.

The signals of global geopolitical uncertainty are a stark reminder of the complexity of geopolitics, and the need for a mature approach to addressing global challenges.

(Prof. DR. Drs. Ermaya Suradinata, SH, MH, MSI, is the former Director General of Sospol of the Ministry of Home Affairs RI, Rector of IPDN, Governor of Lemhannas RI, and currently the Board of Experts for Geopolitics and Geostrategy of BPIP RI.)