All posts in Infographics & Videos

China’s Strategic Calculus in North Korea

China has joined the chorus of international condemnation of North Korea’s apparently successful nuclear weapons test. But its strategic interests in North Korea remain at odds with those of key regional powers and the United States, argues Dr. Benjamin Herscovitch, a Wikistrat Senior Analyst.

For China, the worst-case scenario is not a nuclearized Korean Peninsula. Rather, Beijing fears the collapse of the Pyongyang regime and the instability on China’s border that such political change could unleash.

Moreover, the absorption of North Korean territory into a pro-U.S. reunified Korea would be seen by China as a strategic disaster.

Of course, Beijing would prefer that Pyongyang did not conduct provocative and destabilizing nuclear weapons tests. Nevertheless, if tests of this kind secure the regime’s ongoing survival, they may well be a net strategic benefit for China.

The international community should therefore not expect China to significantly increase its pressure on North Korea in the wake of the latest test. Not only is Beijing’s diplomatic leverage over Pyongyang likely limited; it remains unclear if China would actually welcome North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons program.

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Saudi-Iranian Tensions: Wikistrat Infographic

The January 2 execution of prominent Shi’a cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia drove hundreds of protesters to storm Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran, setting fire to the building and burning images of King Salman in the process. Media outlets have described this as another escalation in tensions between the two regional rivals; many believe that Riyadh’s move was a show of power aimed at deterring Iran from interfering in Saudi affairs (as well as in Bahrain).

Wikistrat’s analysts are currently debating how the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran might develop. They have so far proposed five major pathways by which the diplomatic row could escalate. Each is described in the infographic below.

Wikistrat Saudi-Iranian Tensions Infographic

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Infographic of Wikistrat’s 2016 Predictions

Wikistrat 2016 Predictions

Wikistrat 2016 Predictions Infographic

Wikistrat’s analysts recently assessed the likelihood of some of the key topics in economics, geopolitics and technology for 2016.

  • Will Vladimir Putin face civil unrest in Russia?
  • Will oil prices rise to $60 per barrel?
  • Will the Taliban enter into another round of peace talks with the Afghan government?
  • Is ISIS planning to intensify its terrorism campaign outside the Middle East?

Take a look at the charts below for Wikistrat’s “wisdom of the crowd” on these issues and more, or click here to download the full infographic. Read More →

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Belgium: The Terror Nest of Europe?

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Nearly all recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe have had a connection to Belgium. From the weapons used in the Charlie Hebdo attack in January to the shootings and suicide bombings in Paris this November, the small European country appears to have been central to terror plots.

After ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris last month, Wikistrat ran various analytic activities on its online platform, including a SWOT analysis of the group and a forum where analysts crowdsourced the implications of the attacks. Wikistrat’s Europe Desk analysts specifically discussed the role Belgium plays and why. This infographic summarizes their findings.

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Are Both Kiev and Moscow Fighting the Wrong Wars?

Ukraine simulation infographic

Are both Kiev and Moscow fighting the wrong wars?

Could it be that both Kiev and Moscow are fighting the wrong wars? A crowdsourced simulation Wikistrat recently conducted about the future of Ukraine suggested they might be.

As this infographic shows, Ukraine would actually be better served by cutting away so-called “Novorossiya” while the Kremlin ought to be working a lot harder to maintain the unity of Ukraine.

This counterintuitive-but-compelling finding emerged from a two-week crowdsourced simulation run by Wikistrat in February and March. Almost seventy analysts from a variety of fields and backgrounds brainstormed potential scenarios for how Ukraine could develop over the next five years. Some concentrated on big-picture issues: Will it be one country, or two or even three? Will it succumb to Russian pressure, or manage to find a place in the European community of nations? Others instead addressed granular points: Could the country’s agricultural or energy industries develop under the current circumstances? Is there a role for private military companies in the conflict?

Across the scenarios, analysts struggled to come up with a plausible solution that offers Ukraine much hope in the five-year timeframe so long as it holds on to the rebellious southeast. Even if it wins on the battlefield, Kiev may then lose the peace, burdened with a war-ravaged region that needs to be rebuilt, and an alienated local population to be reintegrated.

Perhaps Kiev ought to hope it doesn’t win the war at all? The freezing of the conflict would be a devastating blow to the identity of the “new” Ukraine, but it offers perverse advantages.

The rump Ukraine that remains could gain a new cohesion through the shared experience of struggle, while the West — eager to teach Moscow a lesson — would both require and support the often-painful processes of political and economic reform the country so desperately needs.

Russia, by contrast, already suffering a serious economic crisis unlikely to soon resolve itself, would be forced to continue to arm, guard, feed and support its puppet fiefdom. Its interests are actually better served by forcing the rebellious regions back into Ukraine, like a rusty nail to poison the country’s bloodstream. Read More →

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Confronting Libya’s Turmoil: Four Key Scenarios

Confronting Libya's Turmoil Infographic

Confronting Libya’s Turmoil: Four Scenarios

Although Wikistrat believes the likelihood of another military intervention in Libya is low, a recent crowdsourced simulation on the topic proposed four key scenarios for what intervention — if it does happen — could look like.

The attached infographic shows the four options.

In the first, Egypt leads an alliance of Arab states to fight the ISIS terrorist organization. In the second, NATO joins the effort, largely by providing air support as it did during Operation Unified Protector in 2011.

A third option has the United States leading the intervention. Wikistrat’s analysts said that was only likely to happen if the terrorist threat emanating from Libya becomes significantly worse.

Finally, some analysts suggested that Algeria could lead a diplomatic effort to resolve the standoff between Libya’s two rival governments, allowing them to focus on eradicating ISIS together instead. This was seen as rather beyond Algeria’s current inclinations, however.

None of the four scenarios was considered highly probable, at least not in the short term. Conditions on the ground would have to worsen before Egypt, European countries or the United states might be persuaded to confront Libya’s turmoil — again. Read More →

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Wikistrat Infographic: Far Right’s Impact on Europe

High unemployment, problems in the eurozone and anti-immigration sentiment have led to a resurgence of far-right or nationalist movements in Europe. Wikistrat’s analysts assess the impact of these movements.

Hungary is experiencing a rollback of democratic freedoms under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. France’s Marine Le Pen stands a solid chance in the next French presidential election. Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, who has received significant media attention for his views on Islam, is a power player in Dutch politics, controlling the fourth-largest party in parliament. Golden Dawn in Greece has literally used Nazi imagery in their political branding. And if Russia is to be considered European, its rightward slide over the last few years should be evident enough on its own.

In an online discussion forum, Wikistrat’s analysts examined the impact that the rise of the far right might have on the European Union, NATO, minorities, defense spending, counterterrorism operations, immigration, xenophobia, social services, separatism and more.

Far Right Impact on Europe - Wikistrat Infographic

This infographic illustrates some of the key insights from the dicsussions. Insights from Wikistrat’s analysts include the possibility that:

  • Rising nationalism in the United Kingdom may have an effect on the EU as a whole, spurring decentralization in order to entice Britian to remain a member.
  • Should France elect Marine Le Pen in the next presidential election, NATO withdrawal is possible, but detachment from the military structure is more likely.
  • Swiss far-right parties will isolate the country further from the EU and NATO, and could cause problems for immigrants from the former Yugoslavia.
  • Germany is highly unlikely to see a far-right resurgence, but if it did, it would be a movement of extreme isolationism.
  • The Danish People’s Party, while right-wing, is more hawkish than some of its European counterparts. It would likely call for an increase in defense spending.
  • Swedish far-right movements could pose a threat to the comparatively large Muslim refugee population in the country.
  • Hungary, if going through a phase of illiberalism, will not necessarily align with Moscow. The shift to illiberalism is likely to be temporary.
  • Should the extreme far-right take power in Hungary, there is a slim chance that there could be a rise in irredentist feelings against Romania.
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    Top Four Possible Global Impacts of the Ebola Outbreak

    Wikistrat recently concluded a crowdsourced strategic simulation to study the implications of the Ebola virus outbreak. The infographic released today shows the top four possible global impacts of the disease, from Africa to China to Europe to the United States.

    EGHC infographic

    Click here or on the image above to see the full version.

    For more information about Wikistrat and for access to the full simulation archive, contact [email protected]

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    When Scotland Leaves the UK: How Will the World React?

    How will the world react to Scottish independence? Wikistrat’s newest infographic shows there are three scenarios.

    When Scotland Leaves the UK Wikistrat Infographic

    Based on Wikistrat’s recently concluded crowdsourced simulation “When Scotland Leaves the UK,” the infographic shows three scenario pathways for an independent Scotland, each with different implications for separatist movements elsewhere, the European Union and Russia.

    Click here or on the image above to see the full version.

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    New Wikistrat Simulation: When Scotland Leaves the UK

    When Scotland Leaves the UK banner

    Today, Wikistrat launches a new two-week crowdsourced simulation called “When Scotland Leaves the UK” in which analysts are invited to explore scenario pathways for Scotland’s emergence as an independent country.

    After years of debate, Scotland nears a landmark referendum on whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom. The vote on independence, scheduled to take place on September 18, 2014, requires a simple majority to pass and will determine the shape of the country’s political environment for years to come. It will also likely have an influence on other secessionist movements in Europe, including those in the north of Belgium and Catalonia, Spain.

    The opportunities potentially available to an independent Scotland have led commentators to suggest that the country could become one of Europe’s wealthiest. Significant access to massive oil reserves in the North Sea make Scotland one of the continent’s few serious resource extractors, while favorable environmental conditions — namely reliably active trade winds and a mild climate — speak to the promise in plans for a renewable energy-exporting industry.

    Moreover, the country’s small tax base lends credence to the notion that Scotland would build its new governmental institutions along the lines pioneered by countries like Denmark and Qatar — minimal, efficient and geared toward supporting national commerce. The resultant national system, characterized by a budding economy and low spending needs, could be massively profitable.

    However, the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) plan for a post-independent Scotland faces massive, if uncoordinated, opposition. Public opinion varies widely. Polls haven’t placed support for independence at higher than 40 percent nationwide, but low turnout could swing the vote in the nationalists’ favor. Low turnout in the 1997 referendum on devolution is what led to the creation of a Scottish Parliament, now dominated by the SNP.

    Questions have also been raised about the feasibility of the SNP’s plans by opponents in both London and Edinburgh. How, for example, is Scotland to secure the massive investments needed to develop its oil and renewables energy sector? And what are the true costs and aims of post-transition Scottish defense policies?

    Perhaps more worryingly, the SNP has offered up little in attempting to remedy the allegation that Scotland could face massive legal and financial challenges when it comes to redefining political and economic relationships with Europe and the United Kingdom. Current plans, for example, call for the continued use of British pound and the Bank of England as the lender of last resort. Such a monetary union calls into question the feasibility of SNP plans to grow and transform Scotland’s economy, as the need for bilateral agreement on policy could limit the types of actions Salmond has suggested taking and Scottish disregard for common spending limits could lead to currency instability.

    There are clear incentives for Scots to vote in favor of opportune and potentially profitable policies. The question is whether or not such promises lie in the reality of independence from the United Kingdom. Will such a move help the country in the long term? Or do the transitional and long-term challenges make British solidarity the sound choice?

    Rather than focus on near-term drivers of the Scottish independence movement, this Wikistrat simulation assumes a successful independence bid set within the next five years. Such an assumption enables participants to offer long-term, yet timely analysis by addressing those issues that might shape assessments of the feasibility of independence. Read More →

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