In response to the global power vacuum, we'll see a return to geography as a primary organizing principle, where a country's placement will determine its friends and enemies, trading partners, and foreign policy focus to an outsized degree. Countries are already coming together in new ways on a regional level, filling the void left by global institutions with smaller-scale governance within limited spheres of influence. We will see new institutions, organized geographically that promote and reflect regional interests, and new trends exposing the ascendancy of neighborhoods in a G-Zero world.
This rise of regionalism, at its core, arises from an accepted truth: nations are selfish. They act in their own interests. But they also acknowledge that the unbridled pursuit of those interests produces sub-optimal results, and coordinated policies can help drive national agendas forward. In order to provide leadership that extends beyond the national stage, there is a growing reliance on regionalism to stopgap this shortage of effective global decision-making.
All regions are not created equal, however. This trend is not simply localized globalization, where the free flow of ideas, money, information, people, and goods has fractured along regional borders. A host of factors and forces are promoting unique constellations of regional power around the world. Clearly, the nature and degree of regional cohesion will vary. Some groupings are more formalized -- the European Union is the most formal and mature integration of states, with significant institutional capacity at a regional level. Other regions will be more informally arranged, with sheer power dynamics driving cohesion; in this regard, the Caucasus and broader Middle East regions come to mind. In some cases, unity will be more symbiotic with voluntary participation -- in other cases, a coercive local hegemon may impose integration on neighbors that do not have the capacity to hedge their bets against it.
Likewise, the integrative forces that impel coordination -- whether it is formal or informal, voluntary or coercive -- will differ dramatically. What combination of security, energy, economic, political, cultural, and religious concerns will prompt or repel integration, and influence how it takes shape? To ascertain the impact of a world with regional models, we'll take a closer look to determine how they have and will cohere.