The World in 2018

Outlets from media to think tanks to governments have published their annual prognostications for the year ahead. From sports, to culture, to economics, to global politics, here I present a calendar of events, as well as predictions for the next 365 days.


The 2018 Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held in Pyeonchang, South Korea. The international multi-sport event will take place from February 9 to 25, and the country of 51.25 million sees this as their first time hosting the Winter Olympics, and their second Olympic Games.

The World Cup 2018 will be held in Russia. This once-in-four-years football event will take place from June 14 to July 15 and is said to be the first World Cup to be held in Europe since 2006.


The global economy in 2017 was for the most part about steady growth, and the year 2018 sees this trend continuing to 3.6 percent for 2018 compared to 3.5 percent the previous year. In fact the major economies of the world have had their growth forecasts revised from 2016: the International Monetary Fund collectively described them as ‘positive surprises.’

Goldman Sachs predicts a generally ‘strong expansion in the world economy’ at 4.0% real GDP growth in 2018. It further added that the “strength is broad-based across advanced economies (US, Japan, Euro area)”, except for the UK with a much slower growth.

As for emerging economies, Goldman Sachs are positive about the economies of India and Russia, while China “appears to be slowing modestly.”

The annual World Economic Forum, a gathering of the world’s biggest economic leaders, top CEOs, and millionaires and billionaires, will be held on January 23 to 26 in Davos, Switzerland. It is said that this year’s edition will be the first time in two decades an Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, will be visiting this ski resort.


Russia’s incumbent president, Vladimir Putin, will once again run for presidential elections in April this year. The 65-year-old leader is expected to lead the polls once again, but as an independent candidate after leaving United Russia, a political party he has been associated with since 2001.

In the United Kingdom, another Royal Wedding is stirring up moods and spirits. This one’s a bit special as the bride-to-be, Meghan Markle, to be married to Prince Harry, is an American. When she becomes Royal on May 19, 2018, the former TV actress says she will focus on humanitarian work.

The United States will once again be busy at the polls as the midterm elections takes place on November 6. This midterm election is expected to shakeup the House of Representatives and the Senate as Democrats rally their way to Capitol Hill (and to opposed and worsen the presidency of Republican Donald Trump). Although in the minority right now, the Democrat’s win is not as far-fetched as it sounds since Conservative Trump has quickly become one of the most-hated presidents in US history.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s move to lessen conservatism will start with allowing women to be issued driving licenses starting June. Women will now be allowed to attend sporting events (although segregated through designated ‘family sections’), as well as the return of movie theaters to the kingdom since the 1980s by March this year. Also important is Riyadh’s plans to offer its first tourist visas in 2018.

The Palestine issue will be a pivotal topic in Middle East politics especially after the United States and Israel angered the world with the announcement that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel (and with it the relocation of US embassies to the city) back in December. Trump was quick to lash out those who opposed the decision (where a UN vote saw 128 to 9 votes against the Trump declaration) by threatening to withdraw billions of dollars of US aid to countries that opposed him.


Outer space and the Moon is expected to be in the headlines in this Year of the Dog as private companies try their hands on economizing the last frontier. Elon Musk, the American business magnate who owns Tesla Inc. among other big ventures, announced his outer space company SpaceX will send two (unidentified) space tourists on a trip around the Moon in 2018. If successful, this leisure trip will be the first time humans have ventured beyond low-Earth orbit since 1972.

British billionaire Richard Branson has announced his company Virgin Galactic is on track to begin commercial passenger spaceflights before the end of 2018. This prodigious plan will be accomplished by Virgin Galactic’s air-launched suborbital spaceplane SpaceShipTwo, allowing extremely well-paying passengers to experience a few minutes of microgravity and divine views of the Earth below.

Another space-faring company, Moon Express, announced that it is “definitely” going to land a spacecraft to the Moon in 2018. Moon Express is owned by Indian-American entrepreneur Naveen Jain. His company (so is SpaceX, and other space venture companies) is a participant to the Google Lunar X-Prize, an international prize space competition which challenges private funded spaceflight contestants to “be the first to land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon, travel 500 meters, and transmit back high-definition video and images.” The $20 million reward will and should be awarded at the contest’s conclusion on March 2018.


“Locked and loaded” for ship collisions: is the US Navy too arrogant to give way?

Not one, but two United States Navy maritime collisions have occurred in less than two months in the “freedom of navigation” sea lanes the US government proclaims of the seas in the Far East.

On August 21 the American USS John S McCain warship collided with a Liberian-flagged commercial vessel Alnic MC which damaged the military ship off the coast of Singapore. The Navy announced that “there are currently ten sailors missing and five injured” as a result of the mishap. President Donald Trump in a Twitter statement conferred his “thoughts and prayers…with our US Navy sailors aboard.”

Some three times the Navy vessel’s size, the oil and chemical tanker Alnic MC measures in at 183 meters long and has a deadweight of 50,760 tons. The shipping lanes off Singapore’s coast are among the busiest in the world, carrying a quarter of the world’s oil and commodities. Early reports showed that the merchant vessel was not loaded with oil cargo and thus avoided a major oil and chemical spill which would have been a bigger disaster.

This accident comes as the investigation for an earlier collision involving the USS Fitzgerald, a ballistic missile (BMD) ship, has yet to be concluded. The collision which occurred in mid-June claimed the lives of seven sailors, as well as injuring three crews and Commander of the ship Bryce Benson.

In total this year, the US Navy, the largest and often considered the “most sophisticated and powerful” in the world, have been involved in four collisions and accidents. In January the USS Antietam guided missile cruiser run aground off the coast of Japan where it spilled more than a 1000 gallons of oil. In May the USS Lake Champlain guided-missile cruiser hit a South Korean fishing vessel, and in June the USS Fitzgerald guided missile destroyer collided with a Philippines-registered cargo ship off the coast of Japan.

In its reaction to the latest fatal US Navy accident, China’s state news ran a spread with the headline “the South China Sea should not be Bermuda Triangle for the United States.” In a statement, it also opined that “the US Navy has behaved arrogantly in the Asia-Pacific region. It lacks respect for huge merchant vessels and fails to take evasive action in time, thus resulting in serious accidents.”

And as always, when the competencies of American sailors should be questioned, the blame will always fall on others. For instance, American cybersecurity firm Votiro said in a statement that “I don’t believe in coincidence, both the USS McCain and USS Fitzgerald were part of the 7th Fleet…there may be a connection…China has capabilities, maybe they are trying things, it is possible.”

Accidents in this part of the world should not be surprising: the US Navy’s confrontational maneuvers in Chinese waters

USS Fitzgerald after it collided with Philippine-flagged container ship in Tokyo Bay in June 2017, claiming 7 lives.

Early last year the United States conducted the so-called freedom of navigation (FON) program in the South China Sea which infuriated Beijing, interpreting it as reckless provocation of China’s claim in the highly disputed seas. The US Department of State has in its official statement that the FON operations are designed to deter “unilateral acts of other states (that) restrict the rights and freedoms of the international community in navigation and overflight…in high seas uses.” Furthermore, the FON program are conducted “on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent…with the Law of the Sea Convention.”

Reacting to the FON operations, China’s Defense Ministry continues to condemn Washington’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, warning of “an increase in the intensity of air and sea patrols…according to the extent of the threat that its national security is facing.”

It should not be sidelined that the United States is not and refuses to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an international agreement signed by 167 states. UNCLOS is the de-facto body for setting and respecting sea borders among nations, and thus has jurisdiction over the use of international waters as well as maritime disputes. The United States, being averse to international treaties, blatantly avoids any jurisdiction over its sea vessels, and most especially on the conduct of its Navy around the world, from performing dangerous patrols to the immunity of its servicemen abroad.

Indeed, the United States continues to believe that all the world’s oceans are their backyard; that there should be priority accorded only to US warships and that all other vessels should give way to American warships wherever they are in the world. A ship the size of a typical oil tanker is impossible to miss and remain undetected aboard sophisticated US Navy vessels. That fact that these military vessels are designed to detect ballistic missiles in space and yet are unable to detect nearby and very large vessels should be a cause of concern for how Washington’s military machine operate beyond the continental United States. To be sure, the task of “policing” the world will always be America’s sole responsibility; that these military vessels in busy international shipping lanes are in a hurry to delivery democracy around the world.

US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change accord should not be a surprise


Early last month, US President Donald Trump announced that the United States will be withdrawing from the 2015 Climate Change accord, which was signed by 195 countries in December 2016 to help address global warming.

Trump cited that the climate deal imposed unfair environmental standards on American businesses, calling it a “draconian” international pact. Although many met this announcement as a surprise and an insult to international cooperation, how Trump and the United States in general acted with arrogance should not be a surprise.

To cite America’s involvement in the affairs of other countries, for instance its unwelcome and illegal involvement in Syria, as the only example of its braggadocio is an understatement. Many have forgotten that Washington is non-signatory to other major international accords. In other cases it has been hostile and has repealed landmark international deals for its aggrandizement, immunity and benefit.

For one, the United States is not party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) which governs the rights and obligations of nations on the use of the world’s oceans. UNCLOS is signed by 162 countries, including the European Union, yet the US refuses to ratify the treaty because it “infringes on its sovereignty as a state” and hence it should remain “independent from any international interference on international maritime matters.

Despite that, while the US is not party to UNCLOS, it is using that jurisdiction in order to subvert the interests of other nations, such as in the case of the South China Sea, when it actively lobbied for the Philippines, its ally in the region, to use UNCLOS to claim the country’s stake against China in the disputed waters.

Another noteworthy case is Washington’s hostility towards the International Court of Justice (ICJ) treaty, which is the principal judicial court of the United Nations (UN). The US government’s refusal to sign the treaty stems from its avoidance of liability if and when US military personnel and political leaders misbehaved overseas, thus giving them immunity from persecution.

In addition to avoiding the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the United States has been actively undermining the global standard of justice, including when it threatened to withdraw from peacekeeping missions in Europe and South East Asia if US personnel were not given complete immunity from persecution. This is under the auspices of the relatively recent American Servicemember’s Protection Act (ASPA), which was passed by the Congress and signed by former President George Bush in the early 2000s. In addition, the US actively sought to sign bilateral agreements with other nations which required countries not to surrender American nationals to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

In the realm of nuclear arms control, the United States also withdrew from the landmark Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972, which imposed limits on the US and Russia (then the Soviet Union) regarding the deployment of defensive weapons. The treaty was signed in order to reduce the need to develop new anti-ballistic missile systems putting each country vulnerable and denying them any advantage of a first-strike nuclear capability. Despite Russia’s opposition, the United States withdrew from the treaty in June 2002.

As for the landmark Paris Climate accord, the US government’s refusal to be part of the global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions that will lead the world to its human-induced destruction speaks volumes about America’s behavior against being a responsible nation. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris treaty also includes halting contributions to the UN Green Climate Fund (to help poorer countries adapt to climate change policies) as well as refusing to report on its carbon emissions.

The reaction across the world was expected, with major powers in Europe expressing their “regret” about Washington’s decision, and while Trump spoke of “renegotiating the treaty to benefit America”, leaders in France, Germany, and the UK said the Paris Climate Treaty is non-negotiable.