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I drew this map and wrote the skeleton of this article in November, but have only recently gotten around to finishing it…
The US is occasionally referred to as “the only remaining global superpower”. By 2050, I believe that it will still be a superpower, but that others will have risen to join it.
The United States
The US will keep military bases in the middle east, even if its original reason to do so (namely oil) has diminished by the middle of the 21st century.
The European Union
Growing co-operation between member states, a strengthening European Parliament and weakening national parliaments will have transformed Europe into effectively one country, even if officially the member states retain some form of soverienty. Most importantly, by 2050 Europe will almost certainly have a united foreign policy. This factor, plus it’s population of over a billion people, and its wealth will make it a global superpower.
New Member States
The EU will have encompassed all the former parts of Yugoslavia by 2020.
Assuming that Turkey’s membership application is successful, a smattering of nearby former Soviet republics may have joined the EU by the mid 21st century, or be on their way to joining. Even if they don’t join, the presence of such an enormous economic power on their doorstep will put them under strong influence of European policy.
Switzerland might not ever officially join the EU because of their unique financial situation and traditional policy of neutrality. Nonetheless, because of its geographic position and strong ties with neighbouring states, it may become a de facto EU state.
Micronations such as Andorra, San Marino, Monaco and Leichtenstein may elect not to join the EU because of their long histories of independence. But because of their reliance on their neighbours for currency and military protection, they will probably be administered by it, even if their independence is officially recognised.
The Ukraine may elect to join the EU, but as of 2008, it is difficult to tell whether its foreign policy will move in the direction of Europe or Russia.
Russia & Belarus
In recent years, Belarus has expressed an interest in returning to a union with Russia. Russia’s steady growth since the collapse of the Soviet regime, plus its vast stockpile of military hardware will make it a force to be reckoned with once more.
Russia’s vast geographical area will become an asset as global populations climb towards the eleven-digit mark.
Even though per-capita GDP may not have caught up with the west by 2050, the sheer population of China will make it a global superpower.
For many of the same reasons as China, India will be considered a major global player.
The Islamic Caliphate
Will this happen? Perhaps. Could it even be good for the world as a whole? Maybe. I’m afraid I’m going to have to remain vague on this one…
The US and the Caliphate will be the two superpowers that have a strongly religious agenda, unlike the mainly secular states of the EU, China, India and Russia & Belarus. (India will probably have a large population of religion adherents, but because of the mixture of religions represented, will retain a strongly secular government.) This could lead to one of two outcomes:
The US and the Islamic Caliphate exist almost at a state of cold war with each other; or
The opposite: the US and the Caliphate see anti-secularism as a common goal between them.
Neither outcome is particularly reassuring.
Rising sea levels (map not adjusted for sea level rises) and climate change will see massive immigration into the six superpowers from elsewhere. India will get an influx of immigration from flooded Burma; China from much of the rest of East Asia; and Africans, forced from their homes by drought and heat may seek refuge in Europe.
Some states will be more receptive to immigrants than others. The Russians may well encourage immigration to help settle their newly defrosted northern hinterlands.
Depending on how global warming effects the outback, Australia might be seen as an increasingly attractive destination for migration.
Europe will probably be a beacon of liberalism; the US and the Caliphate the opposite. India will probably be socially liberal, but fiscally conservative; China and Russia the opposite.
Overall because of their size and relative financial security, the superpowers will have fairly stable, and mostly democratic governments without too much in the way of coups.
Parts of the world outside the superpowers may be more volatile, especially those suffering at the hands of climate change. Countries strongly allied to the superpowers will benefit economically and politically from their relationship, so will be more stable.