Imagine, for a moment, that the future of global political power is a zero-sum contest, one in which you—the wealthy, self-elected head of a heavily armed petroleum state—are competing against the United States. Every place Washington loses clout, you gain. Now imagine that your competitor appears to be relenting as it looks to shrink its global military footprint and loses interest in maintaining the alliances that hold you in check. As 2019 dawns, where do you invest your resources, your time, your military assets to secure the greatest gains? A zero-sum game may not be the best way to understand global affairs, but it is how Russian President Vladimir Putin understands it. The West’s loss is his gain, or at least, something to show the Russian people in order to discredit democracy.
Several experts who closely track Russian military and diplomatic maneuverings have offered their view of what Putin may try to pull in 2019. They predict that the situation between Russia and Ukraine will worsen. Some expect an imminent attack against Ukraine after a prolonged military tank buildup on the border. Others were more conservative in the estimates of when and how large new hostilities would flare.
One expert expects Putin to cement a new role as primary powerbroker in the Middle East as the U.S. retreats. At home, they say, the Russian leader will work to field more drones and marshal the country’s resources toward a leading position in artificial intelligence.