Observations of an Expat: 2018

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Tom Arms


It won’t improve. The world is in a mess. The economy is a bright spot, but politically there is turmoil in every which direction.

Only a fool would offer predictions, but it is worth noting some of the big events and issues for 2018 that could prove to be important catalysts and platforms.


Catalonia: The unilateral independence referendum declared in favour of independence from Spain. The Madrid-approved election also declared in favour of independence. Now it is up to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to make concessions that will prevent his country’s break-up.

It won’t be easy. Rajoy is a dyed-in-the-wool federalist. It was his 2006 clampdown on the Catalan language and the region’s constitutional status that provided the independence movement with its latest spark.


Brexit: What appeared to be an historic pre-Christmas agreement was an exercise in papering over the political cracks.

Talks have now entered the meaty and more difficult phase—trade. The negotiators have to balance the special interests of hundreds of different industries, professions and trades in 28 countries. Each country, plus the European Parliament, can veto the result.


The EU: Spain and Brexit are victims of competing cyclical movements which are affecting Europe and beyond. On the one hand are the forces of globalism which offer a higher standard of living for all, but at the cost of the acceptance of the lowest common denominator. On the other is the traditional power of nationalism and national identity.

If the European experiment is to succeed it must find a way of balancing these competing forces or, even better, construct structures that turn the competing forces to Europe’s advantage.


Mid-Term Elections in the US: The anti-Trump brigade took heart at the end of year in Democratic victories in Alabama, New Jersey, Virginia and New York. Perhaps they can regain control of Congress in the November mid-term elections and block the second half of Trump’s term or even impeach him.

It will be tough. Of 33 Senators up for re-election, ten of them are considered vulnerable, and eight of the ten are Democrats. The US mid-terms election race will start early, be hard fought, dirty and vitally important.


The Middle East: The Trump Administration effectively removed itself from any future Middle East peace negotiations by moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Russia has injected itself more firmly by rescuing Syria’s Assad and providing Iran with an expanded political and military role.

An event to watch is the Iraqi elections. Prime Minister al-Abadi has done a reasonable job of balancing Sunni and Shia factions, but the latter still represent 65 percent of the population and many Sunnis have been displaced by the war against ISIS. A solid shift towards the shiites would be a big plus for Russia and Iran.


Russian Elections: Putin will win a fourth term in March/April. He controls the media. He controls the courts. His tentacles spread to every corner of a corrupt political and economic system which equates the glory of Putin with the glory of Mother Russia. People will cast their ballots freely but in the context of a structure where the thought processes are controlled by a state controlled by Putin who suffers from the same fate as the rest of us—mortality.


North Korea and the Winter Olympics: The Winter Olympics will be in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang in February—a tempting target for North Korean’s unpredictable and nuclear-armed Kim Jong-un. Will the latest harsh sanctions keep him in check? Can the rest of the world—especially America—learn to live with a nuclearized North Korea? If so, how?


Other events and issues for 2018: The Islamic State is gone from Syria and Iraq but thousands of its radicalised European-born fighters are returning home and jihadism continues to fill political vacuums in other parts of the Islamic world. Climate Change is always on the agenda with both France and China keen to use the issue to further their political aims. In April, Raul Castro will step down as Cuba’s leader. Will the Trump Administration take the opportunity to extend an olive branch? The list goes on, add your own and be sure to have a Happy New Year.





Tom Arms is the editor of LookAheadnews.comSign up now for the weekly diary of world news events.


LookAhead Radio World Report for week commencing 1 January 2018:



Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and email[email protected].

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