What’s in a name? (North Korea edition)

Hello listeners and welcome to another episode of Cognitive Dissidence. As usual, I’m your host. I’m Jacob Shapiro. I’m a partner and the director of geopolitical analysis at Cognitive Investments. Joining me on the podcast is Roger Baker. He is the executive director at the Stratfor Center for Applied Geopolitics.

He also works at RAINN. He was the head analyst at Stratfor who trained me back in the day when we were both at Stratfor. And he was Gracious enough to come on to lend us some of his expertise on North Korea, which, the Middle East was my first expertise. North Korea in some ways was Roger’s first expertise and there’s been a lot going on in North Korea.

So we touch base on that and then we wedded your appetite at the end for future episodes with Roger talking about the Arctic and some other considerations in global geopolitics. we had some recording difficulties as I switch recording softwares and platforms here, so hopefully everything sounds okay.

But if there are any hitches, that’s the reason. Otherwise you can email me at. Jacob at cognitive. investment talk anymore about what CI does or any of the things we’ve talked about on this podcast, cheers and see you up.

And we’re going to talk about North Korea. So for all I know, the hackers are going to start hearing us talk, Roger, and they’re going to come in and blow up all of my shit. But anyway, we’ll try. It’s nice to have you back on the podcast.

Great to be here, Jacob.

I often joke, when I’m giving talks or speeches and things like that because inevitably you get a question about North Korea and I always preface my answer with nobody has any clue what’s going on inside of North Korea and if anybody tells you a clue of what’s going on in North Korea, they probably don’t know what they’re talking about.

You are the only exception to that rule because I think you probably have a little bit more sense than everybody else of what’s going on in North Korea. and I reached out to you right after you wrote a piece for rain about and how North Korea is referring to South Korea in terms of it’s a we just start by telling the list.

That means and why there is so much meaning in a name

change here, right? I think it’s been really important. We’ve seen this change slowly emerge over time where North Korea has decided to call South Korea by their official name, Daehan Minguk, which is the, the Republic of Korea, as opposed to calling them, just, the, people South of us or, those breakaway people, they still use lots of derogatory terms, but.

It ties into a set of things that the North Koreans said, which effectively said unification is no longer the policy of North Korea. That they are, by default, looking at themselves as, we are North Korea, we’re not half of Korea. And how do we think about Korea as a whole? if there, if that is the change in the way in which North Korea perceives themselves, And their goal.

It really does change a lot about how we want to start thinking about their military dynamics, their potential economic dynamics, their outreach. we just had the North Koreans today say, yeah, sure, we should talk with the Japanese. That would be great. We’d love to be your best buds. it, puts the North Koreans in an interesting position where on the one hand, they recognize that the chances of unification were slim to none, particularly unification in a North Korean context.

And secondarily, that they have a lot more options for international relations if they’re not always worried about what their actions might do to the political considerations of the South Korean government.

speaking of that derogatory language, you quoted some in this piece. even though they’re referring to them by their official name, they are still the hemiplegic malfortion and state whose whole tainted by Yankee culture.

is that from the confederacy in the 18 North Korea? We should do a little game of who wrote that. I guess the first question is, do you think that’s for? Do you, because I know that we’ve talked before, from a geopolitical, abstract, almost ethereal level, you would think that a vector together, that this is east and west, it’s an artificial division, that eventually the politics will resolve themselves.

And that basis, it’s an artificial division that divides in the north and the south. Do you think that is still true? Do you think it’s more and we could bring in China and Are there, is there now a defined enough national consciousness in the North versus, and also in the South, that reunification from that sort of point of view is off the table?

That they’re too different? Or do you think this is really just tactically, we see short term incentives for dropping

this? I think it’s a bit of. Both, which is always the worst answer to give. but when I look at this, look, I’m from a structural point of view, from a raw geopolitics point of view, a unified Korea is stronger than a divided Korea.

All right. it is able to secure itself a little bit better. It’s better able to utilize the North Korean mineral resources, hydropower, electricity resources, better able to utilize South Korean agriculture technology. and it could be a stronger entity. You’d have a 70 80, 000 person country, with high technology and nuclear weapons, and not, putting half of their attention to a very, flimsy DMZ.

All right. but I think that as we think about, the evolution as you raised with Taiwan, right? When in the polls in Taiwan, Taiwanese think of themselves as Taiwanese now, right? It was their grandparents or older who came over in 49 and thought of themselves as Chinese. But we’re two generations on, they think of themselves as Taiwanese.

The most of the polls in South Korea suggest that the South Korean youth have no interest in unification. It’s only the grandparents who still think about unification and North Korea defined it’s. defined itself around the idea of unification, right? North Korean political social structures from Kim Il sung on were all about we are the legitimate Korea.

We’re one Korea that broke a little bit in 9192 when both were brought into the United Nations. and I think with the death of Kim Il sung, the potential for unification in mutual terms became much harder. and then when we saw the change in regional dynamics under, Kim Jong il could not really pull it off and Kim Jong un, doesn’t have a high chance, particularly under conservative leadership in the South Korean.

So there’s a tactical component to it, that they’re just not getting the benefits. Of. Of trying for unification, particularly when you look at the South Korean current government that has very little interest in giving money to the North that only wants to go out and hammer North Korean human rights and how the North Koreans are selling missiles to Hamas to kill Israelis and their North Korea, who’s now responsible for the Ukraine crisis.

there’s not a chance of anything. So why waste the time with that? But I think the other dynamic we want to take into consideration is there’s a real change in the regional geopolitical balance. Russia, China feel more confident. In countering the United States or countering the expectations of global norms, global standards, global structures, and North Korea, I think feels secure within that.

And therefore the only threat to North Korea is South Korea or the United States, maybe Japan, but probably not in a proactive way. And if North Korea can tweak its relation with Japan, it fractures that trilateral security that’s been built up between South Korea, Japan, the United States over the last year and a half.

and it actually puts them in a pretty. Decent position from a defensive posture.

Why would Japan go for this? so it was either this morning or yesterday morning. We’re recording on February 15th where Kim Jong un’s sister said this crazy thing about Japan. And I, get why she would want to say it.

Do you think there’s any, it’s hard for me to understand why Japan would want that because North Korea is still a pretty big threat to Japan. At least I would think on the face

of it. Japan’s been working on this for years. Japan wants the summit. Now, the, current Japanese government wants a summit with the North primarily to resolve the, social problem of the last detainees, right?

The kidnapped. Japanese and the North Koreans say that’s already solved. We’re not going to talk about it. when Koizumi went over, they got a bunch of people back, most of them, most of the remaining ones are probably by now dead. There’s not a lot to give back, but the Japanese want to close the book on that.

The Japanese also want to find a way to discourage North Korea. from continuing active long range missile tests that fly over Japan, right? And so Japan wants to be able to manage its security environment, and it has a social political issue that could benefit from easing tensions with North Korea. And we have to remember, too, that Japan still has a very large Korean population, many of whom affiliate with the North rather than the South.

So I think from the Japanese perspective, this isn’t about saying North Korea is not a threat, or we want to be best buds with them. How do you manage the North Korean threat in a way that costs less, that allows you to put your resources focused on Southeast Asia, like they’re trying to focus on a full encirclement of China, rather than having North Korea be a potential tool of the Chinese to, draw too much of the Japanese attention and leave Japan vulnerable to that broader swath.

And I think that’s what the Japanese are looking at.

Is it fair to say, because part of what you’re saying is that the South wants to be able to focus on other things that are happening in the world, rather than a myopic gaze towards the DMZ with the South. Does that also, though, suggest that North Korea does not feel threatened by the South in any meaningful way?

That if they take their eyes off the DMZ, and if they start trying I don’t want to say less of a pariah state because it’s hard to imagine them as making inroads and sort of Western countries and things like that. But if they want to be shipping all their ammunition to the Russians and they want Some sort of anti U.

S. multipolar coalition alliance thing, don’t they then have to assume that the South is not going to take advantage of that and like steam over the DMC? Like, how does that work in the strategic framework that you’re crafting?

So I don’t think that the South, the North Koreans stop looking at the South in this dynamic.

but we’ve seen a real shift in North Korean deterrence. in the way in which they build and design weapons, the last, three or four years, we’ve seen a really heavy focus on short range systems with that are highly maneuverable with greater accuracy. So what the North Koreans have done is gone from a 0 to 100 strategy of, you can shoot me once and I can shoot you once, but the next step is total nuclear annihilation because.

We don’t have any more steps in our ladder to having three, four, five, six steps in their ladder before they have to get to total devastation. That gives them more of a deterrence capability with the South that increases the likelihood of more, more tactical conflict, but it also allows them to. hit at key strategies, key important points in South Korea, right?

They can now target airfields intentionally. They can target resupply points. They can target specific assets rather than just going full out to a, full scale, devastation of Seoul, which means that the U. S. response might not be immediate, right? So in the past, they would devastate Seoul. They would devastate Seoul, and then the U.

S. would be forced into the war, and North Korea would be wiped out. That’s not necessarily the case any longer. So we’ve,

we’ve talked about this a little from North Korea and I want to understand a little bit better what this means for North Korea on the world stage. But before we leave this, what does this mean for South Korea?

So how does South Korea respond to this? Is this music to South Korea’s ears? Is this, to your point, does this just increase the likelihood of more tactical conflict? So actually it’s bad. Like how does South Korea think about this? And is it a challenge? Is it welcome? Is it I’m just trying to understand their,

response.

if we think about it under the current South Korean government, they had zero interest in any dialogue with North Korea. So North Korea saying, we’re not going to talk to you. Okay. Technically that shouldn’t matter at all. At the same time though, I think because again, the North Koreans are more confident of their backside with the Russians and the Chinese.

they are. Once again, stepping up a testing cycle to demonstrate capability and in showcasing that capability, they are highlighting that they are finding ways to bypass South Korea’s defenses, right? Can they, may be able to overwhelm. Or trick out South Korean missile defense systems, in targeted ways, rather than just because they fired everything they had in the U.

S. Is pulled in. So I think it does create a little bit of a greater challenge for the South Koreans. at the moment, their response appears to be double down on their international. push to say North Korea is evil, get everybody to support them on that, and, to really reinforce the idea of extended deterrence with the United States, which is what this South Korean government, has, pursued.

but down the road, we have to think about how do we think about changes in future? South Korean governments five years down the road, seven years down the road. Do we come back to a more liberal government? What’s their relationship with the north? What have they done? And finally, how does the, how do the, how does the evolution of the U.

S. forces in Korea take place? If, over the next two, three, four years, North Korea actually starts to appear to be really honest in the idea that they have no longer an interest in unification or using their military proactively against South Korea and that they’re not a aggressive military country, they’re just out talking with other people, does that give room for what’s already seen as an over commitment of the U.

S. to troops in Korea that can’t be used for other contingencies. Does that create some incentive for the U. S. to draw down some of its forces in Korea, which is something that the South Koreans would obviously be concerned about.

What if we got so, but the previous South Korean government was all about engagement under Moon.

If we got another shift to a South Korean government that was more like that, would the North Koreans just tell them, To go stuff it or, has, North Korea effectively killed that sort of more dovish government in South Korea or how would that work in here? Because the current government won by a very, slim margin and arguably not because of anything with North Korea, South Korea relations, but because of domestic issues that came to the forefront.

And it was a pretty apathetic. Election. If I remember correctly. So does this lock in a more hawkish South Korea? Or what if we get a more dovish South Korea? How does that work?

Yeah, I don’t think it locks it in. And I don’t think it prevents the North Koreans from having dialogue with the South in the future if there’s a change in the South Korean government.

But it may be that what Kim is trying to do is to redefine North Korea in a new light in a new way, right? So his grandfather defined North Korea as the only legitimate Korea and unification was the primary goal. His father didn’t have a good definition for North Korea, other than I don’t want to lose it.

and he would play both directions, right? He would work with the South Koreans. He wouldn’t, a lot of interesting progress came. Kim Jong un had some outreach with the South. There was the potential for it. I thought originally that as you thought about the evolution of this third generation leadership, these are all the ones who were trained overseas.

they lived in Europe as they were kids and stuff like that. If anybody in the future would sell out North Korea, it would be the third generation. But instead, what we may be seeing is a push towards this nationalism and that nationalism doesn’t prevent you from having economic relations with your neighbor from having relatively peaceful political relations with your neighbor.

But it may, but all of that may only be in the context of this is my neighbor. It’s not the people who get to own me. And I think the North Koreans to have recognized for a long while. And Kim has certainly recognized that any unification. Now the North Korean system doesn’t survive. The North Korean economy is totally overwhelmed.

It’s, it’s, absorption by the South. it’s not unification.

Yeah, that was my next question. so turning to, what this means for North Korea and what it looks like, does this mean North Korea 10 years from now turns into. a Japanese factory where Japanese companies are making lots of products in North Korea with extremely cheap labor or is it Chinese companies that are doing that?

Is it South Korean companies that are doing that? Is it still North Korea is really a hermit state, but we’re going to see North Korean nuclear advisors in Syria and other multipolar block? Is it just They’re just, they just want to be left at, like, how do we think about what this means for North Korea on the world stage going forward?

So if you go with the statements that they made in and around this change in policy, they basically reiterated that they now want to be part of the, they’re thinking of re engaging the global anti imperialist movement, right? So when you think way back to, Kim Il sung, he was very activist internationally.

North Koreans were sending money, advisors, fighters, weapons all over the world. towards the end of his time that faded and, with the end of the Cold War, it pretty much collapsed except for a few missile sales to the Yemenis and things like that. this potentially puts the North Koreans back into that export business, right?

they’re selling artillery shells to the Russians. that’s a great thing for the North Koreans. They’re deploying more labor into Russia, sending North Koreans abroad to earn currency. We’ve seen them shut down most of their embassies that were primarily used as economic tools internationally.

but maybe that’s going to be a retrenchment and then we’ll see them have very targeted outbound embassy activity that better fits with that. I don’t think they’re yet at the point where they’re going to be a massive factory of internal labor. The North Korean government is still real concerned about keeping some of those outside ideas isolated from the rest of the population.

That was the purpose of K song right to keep it in one place and not. In fact, the rest of the country, with those ideas, and it’s not clear. They have the full labor pool and they also jealously want to do things themselves, but I do think we’re going to see them outbound. I think we’re going to see them more active internationally, at least here and there, in Africa, Maybe the Middle East, maybe Latin America and certainly they are looking at that Russian relationship as a way to, manipulate the Chinese into giving them greater economic space.

That’s the age old story. What does this mean for nuclear arms in the region? Does South Korea decide that it needs nuclear weapons?

If some of what you’re talking about comes to pass, does Japan tighten the screws there and decide it needs a nuclear or do you think that these other regional countries are going to be, I don’t know, Satisfied with U. S. security guarantees and don’t feel like they need their own nuclear deterrent against what North Korea has built.

So it’s the giant debate in South Korea. This is where the current president has come out and talked about, that they have the capability and it’s possible, but they don’t want to do it. And that’s why they’re getting that extended deterrence from the United States and extended deterrence is always.

an evolving process, not a static element. But I think it is putting pressure on that nonproliferation concept for the U. S. For the South Koreans of the Japanese, though, to develop nuclear weapons themselves, which, by the way, the South Koreans thought of and played with in the past. they would effectively have to declare themselves.

Opposed to the core U. S. Principle of nonproliferation. and it doesn’t mean that countries haven’t been able to do that and still go. the U. S. And India work together. The U. S. Still worked with Pakistan. The U. S. Still works with Israel and their non existent nuclear weapons. so it doesn’t mean that it completely breaks things, but it Everybody in that region is concerned about the domino effect, right?

If South Korea gets them, Japan is going to get them. If Japan gets them, South Korea is going to get them. And Japan and South Korea are not necessarily always going to be fully aligned. So if we think that it’s really complex managing U. S., Russia, China as a nonproliferation dynamic with the three biggies, imagine adding another half a dozen little powers or medium powers who all possess a minimal deterrent capability, and live right next door to each other.

I’m going to ask you an impossible question, but I’m just curious to see how you’ll answer it. How does North Korea pull this off? Like, how does it stay so hermetically sealed from everything else that’s going on around it? Because even a country like Iran, it’s clear who the factions are in Iran.

It’s clear that access to Western ideas. I remember a couple of years ago when Game of Thrones was a big phenomenon, there was an article about how Iranian college students were trying to screen Game of Thrones in the streets of Tehran and the morality police had to come in and shut it down, which, there’s even in a place like Iran where there’s an authoritarian regime, they have to crack skulls.

Just diversity of ideas. It’s not so demented. How does North Korea? it’s 2024. Like, how does Kim Jong Un keep a lid on all this? it can’t just be, okay, only Khe Sanh is where we’re going to have the advanced stuff and everything else is going to, it’s going to be like, it’s 1949 or whatever it is.

Do you have an explanation for how they’ve been able to do this and maintain it for so long? And what The prospects are for them continuing because part of what’s in what you’re saying is they’re confident enough in their control of their domestic system that they can do this. Like they’re not worried about domestic politics or at least not publicly in the way that say Iran is or even Russia or China or some of these other authoritarian regimes.

So it may not be that they’re not worried. some of this, there are some people who are arguing, for example, that this shift in North Korea saying unification is not possible with the South and we shouldn’t have it. And that’s not our goal anymore is actually because they’re worried about the influence of South Korean culture on North Korea, right?

And that they have to reframe South Korea as the enemy. Rather than as compatriots, so that insidious South Korean K pop and K drama doesn’t continue to erode the, moral standings of the, of the North Korean population. But I think, a big failure of U. S. analysis and U. S.

intelligence for a very long time on places like North Korea has been Sort of a baseline assumption that the desire of every country and every individual of every individual in the world is to have American style freedoms. That, family doesn’t matter, that culture doesn’t matter, that, that it’s illegitimate if somebody thinks that the state is an okay tool, a fatherly tool and things of that sort.

And of course it’s not, accurate. There are lots of different dynamics around the world on that relationship between population and, government. I think what the North Koreans are able to do and why they’ve been able to persevere, and it’s always a balance and it’s always somewhat tenuous is they balance the concept of embattlement, which pulls people together with the promise of, better things to come.

you go back to Kim Il sung and he promised a tile roof house for everyone instead of a straw thatch roof house. And if you look at the first couple of years of Kim Jong un, he’s literally the mirror image of his grandfather. They Dialed him physically to look like his grandfather. He dressed like his grandfather.

He got fat, like his grandfather. He smiled like his grandfather. He shook hands. He touched people. He put himself back in that way. And so he exploited that avuncular image to reconnect himself. He changed policy to be not military first, but parallel military and economic. and he is pushing these, economic things, right?

His, latest round of discussion of, inspections of South or North Korean factories, he criticized them for bad things in public for not doing a good enough job, right? so he showcases that. I think he has to constantly balance that. He has to give things to his people in regards to food, housing.

education, the technology and he controls the impact of that through the persistent sense of embattlement and everybody’s out to get us. So we’ve got to hold together and then, of course, it’s got an invasive bureaucracy and party structure and things like that help to keep that controlled even tighter.

at the personal or neighborhood level.

What about the elevation of his sister? Is that trying to reach out to the, to women, like trying to be more progressive or forward thinking? Cause she seems like a pretty big anomaly within the North Korean political context.

But it’s actually not the case. So Kim Jong Il, his aunt was a key component of his, government and policymaking.

Kim Jong Un is setting up his daughter to be his successor, not his sister. But his sister plays a big role. Actually, Korea has a history of Empress Dowagers, and it has a history of, women taking that role. And if you look all over Asia, despite Asia being such a, A, male dominated society.

There’s a whole history of women taking on the leadership roles for their dead husbands or for their fathers or things like that throughout the region. So I don’t think it matters. And then you go back to the North Koreans, when the North Koreans. when China was making everybody look the same and all wear the same green jumpsuits and have the same haircuts, men, women, children, it didn’t matter, right?

The North Koreans have always embraced women looking like women and men looking like men, and embrace the fashion and allowed that to be. When North Korea was having some economic, advancements, Pyongyang was full of like beauty parlors. and they’re, they replace it. So I don’t know that it’s about, it’s not like a Saudi thing where they’re rehabilitating the role of women or things like that.

They’ve always played a pretty important role. there is a bit of a extended normalization or expansion of that role, but his sister always has to be a little cautious too, that she doesn’t overstep bounds, and make him feel vulnerable. Yeah,

I also, I meant to congratulate you on the vernacular. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it actually used before.

I’m very, written and like the economist and places like that. And listeners, if you don’t know what it is, go look it up. I’m not going to spoil it for you. let, I hate asking this question, but it’s the question that we have to ask because. The entire world is in a holding pattern until the U.

S. Election comes through. what we have two pretty diametrically opposed scenarios, and we have trump and biden who have had very different policies when it comes towards relations with both south and north Korea. so what is what do you think the future looks like if biden wins and the future looks like if trump wins, you

know, biden victory would be a status quo victory.

I think North Korea remains a secondary or tertiary issue for the United States, so long as they don’t pop off another nuke, or have a really bad accident with one of their missile tests or something like that, a booster falls on Hokkaido, type of thing. And with South Korea, the U.

S. Is very happy with this idea of really strengthening that trilateral dynamic South Korea, Japan, the United States. It’s been a struggle for the United States for decades. so I think there’s a real continuity there with Trump. There’s all sorts of. Uncertainties. his first term, he was fire and fury and cheeseburgers and paradise, right?

it was the, it was both at the same, it’s swung pretty radically. I don’t think he has the opportunity this time around. I don’t think the North Koreans will give him the opportunity to try again with the symmetry. I don’t think that they, see it as something that could ultimately benefit them unless they played a short term game of using it to undermine U.

S. South Korea dynamics, right? the, tactical thing they got last time was the delay of U. S. South Korean military exercises, but the U. S. just didn’t have the structures in place to make good on what could have been a really breakthrough moment. And it didn’t happen on the South Koreans. Of course, they’re concerned on the whole basing issue, the money, the cost sharing issue, and rightfully so concerned about again a potential for a reduction in U.

S. Forces in Korea, or a change in their status. The arrangement right now. Basically does not allow forces stationed in Korea to be used in crises elsewhere or contingencies elsewhere, which means they’re not actually part of Chinese containment. They’re not able to respond to a crisis in the South China Sea, all of those things.

and that’s been something the U. S. has wanted to change for a long time. as considering it just a raw cost issue, you could see potentially. a risk of a drawdown on U. S. forces by, 5, 000, 10, 000, out of that space, that would really hit South Korean politics and their perception of security pretty harshly.

so those are some of the things, it’s that uncertainty, I think right now, more than anything. That potentially puts things off. And then finally, the other piece we have to think about is for South Korea right now, as you think about the current U. S.

Administration’s push for better green energy, more EV vehicles, the technology separation and things like that from the Chinese, but in a very structured and ordered way that ultimately remembers U. S. Allies and tries to integrate them. It’s no guarantee that in its Trump presidency, a second Trump term that there would be as much consideration for the integration of the allies into that they may be treated similar to how they were perceived being treated last time as no different than the Chinese,

right?

you go from exemptions for South Korean companies to continue working with Chinese companies to them actually being their own threat and their own sort of centers, which is a very difficult. I wanted to ask you one or two just questions about at the macro level, what you’re thinking about what’s going on in the world.

Is there anything I have not asked you about North Korea that I should have asked you about or anything you want to leave the listeners with for thinking about North Korea going forward?

So I know there’s been a lot of consternation lately expecting that this North Korean change in perceived change in behavior and things like that is about to lead to a North Korean war on South Korea.

I, don’t necessarily, buy into that. Certainly you have to have Capabilities and demonstrate deterrence. and the North Koreans feel the need to not only develop deterrence, but to showcase it. and I think, you can go back to, what’s the point of a doomsday machine if you don’t let people know about the doomsday machine?

I think the North Koreans. feel very strongly that they have to let people know about the doomsday machine if it’s going to be a proper and effective deterrent. but I don’t necessarily see North Korea gearing up. There, there aren’t the other signs we would expect to see North Korea gearing up for an invasion of the South.

but I do think we are going to see an increase, in conflict. And I would be particularly watching The West Sea, the North Koreans, if you remember back in the late 90s and early 2000s, they tried to change the NLL, the Northern Limit Line, back to the MDL, the Median Defense Line or whatever it is, because the North Koreans feel very constrained, right?

The UN unilaterally put the line way close to the North Korean border and not in a diagonal like it would be in any other bilateral space. The North Koreans declaring South Korea is just another country. We can start to think about them using things like. unclose to say, Hey, we need to renegotiate this border.

and that maritime space always gives them more room for shooting people without triggering a wider war. so I think that we really want to be watching that West Sea space with the North Koreans.

More shipping disruption in our cards. before I let you get out of here, because I know that you have to go, I’ll let you, this will be dealer’s choice question, but I love talking to you in part because you always have your eyes, squarely on the future from a larger scale perspective.

So I just wonder, what is the most important thing you’re, watching this year besides the U. S. election or besides the Russia Ukraine war and Israel Gaza and everything that’s filling up the headlines? Or where do you think we’re going here over the next five to ten years? Because even me, like we did a podcast earlier this morning with Rob and we were talking about, Red Sea shipping, Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, Venezuelan Guyana, Indonesian elections, Pakistani elections, Myanmar and military conscription.

Like you could occupy yourself with any one of these things for a large amount of time and maybe even lose the direction that we’re heading and heading in globally. So I just wonder where your compass is right now, because I’m still pretty optimistic. The rest of the decade, even though I see us moving towards a multipolar world, but have there been any shifts for you in your thinking since the last time you were on?

Or again, take that question however you want. I’m just looking for your macro view.

Yeah, to me, I know that now China is embracing multipolarity as a, as an ideal. I think it’s just a reality. and I don’t think that Everyone has fully absorbed what a multipolar system really looks like in regards to international trade, international security dynamics and things like that.

You get that trend back to asserting national self interest, which is not really an odd thing, but for the last 25 years, everyone has thought that’s an anomaly of history, but it’s actually the norm of history. Maybe the last 25 years have been pretty anomalous. so really starting to tease that out.

I think, down the road, obviously there’s issues of demographic dynamics. And how do we, think about a, continuing growing southern hemisphere, and economic opportunity or lack of opportunity, obviously the, the democratization of military technology. continues to be a really significant thing because, the US in particular continues to put a high level of attention to very slow, long term development cycles of excessively high end systems that are not necessarily adaptable quickly to what’s going on.

So how does a country like the United States, particularly in his defense establishment, learn to be fluid and adaptable? To a world where the risks and the threats are always changing, and they’re not necessarily from peers, even at the same time that you have to be cognizant of peer and near peer competition from places like China.

And then finally, we’ll talk about it another time. I’m sure I’m still always obsessed with the Arctic. In the next 5 to 10 years, if you start having 12 month a year open shipping along the northern frontier of Russia, what does that do to Russia’s perception of places like the Black Sea?

is the Black Sea still as significant to Russia? If it has a whole large northern frontier to be operate out of, I know it’s the past to Mediterranean, but are there other ways that we see Russia redefine itself as we watch, what has been a defining characteristic of the global geopolitical system for since Mackinder was writing about it, right?

That Russia was an enclosed state. It’s a continental state. we now have two states, China and Russia that have long been continental powers and acted like continental powers that are now what I would refer to as amphibious powers. They are maritime and continental powers, and that is a huge challenge to the way in which the world has perceived for a long time that what’s the, the difference in the dynamics between a continental power, a maritime power, how they interact with each other, what’s their base of resources do maritime powers by default, ultimately lead to become democracies.

we’re now seeing this interesting hybrid powers that don’t necessarily match that pattern. There’s a whole lot of things if you want to get into fun, deep geopolitics that are fundamentally changing the ideas that have framed the field. Since the late 1800s. I wish

I could title this podcast fun, deep geopolitics, but I have a feeling my producer is going to want something a little bit different.

and you’ve already, we’re going to talk about the Arctic in depth. Next time you come on, if, you’re willing, I think that’s, fascinating and does allow us to play with things. do you feel like the Arctic has any. Like just a question to what the listeners appetites. do you feel like the Arctic is a completely new thing?

Does it have a now in the past? I’ve analogized it as similar to the Mediterranean. If you did get 12 month open shipping there that the countries that are around it in some ways would have the same dynamics that the Mediterranean countries would, or do you feel like it’s its own separate thing and that it’s not useful to compare it to other bodies of water or seas around which you’ve had national

competition?

Yeah, it used to be called the Northern Mediterranean. you can go back and look in the 1800s and 1900s and people are calling it that, the big, biggest difference, is if, you think about it as a, Mediterranean, it’s a Mediterranean that already has the Roman Empire because Russia is 50 percent of the Arctic.

And it’s not a divisible 50%. So it’s not even a Roman Empire that’s gonna eat lead, go crazy and collapse, right? It is, now maybe, we can talk later too on whether or not and what it would mean if Russia actually did collapse. but, I think that piece of it is there. And we’re, seeing that.

really play up. and then the other half of the Arctic is all NATO. And so you, there’s no neutral. The Arctic is divided 50, 50 between NATO and Russia. And I think that’s something that makes it very different than the Mediterranean or the North Atlantic. Or even, thinking about the bigger, the Pacific space,

China has a little bit, right?

China has no Arctic. No, China claims themselves to be near Arctic, but China is as near Arctic as is Maine, which claims to be a near Arctic state just for the fun of it too. But China has a big economic and growing security footprint in the Arctic and in particular in the Russian Arctic.

All right.

we’ll put a pin in it and that’s where we will pick up next time. And it’s always good to see you, Roger. Thanks for making the time.

Thank you, Jacob. Happy to be here.

Thank you so much for listening to the Cognitive Dissidence podcast brought to you by Cognitive Investments. If you are interested in learning more about Cognitive Investments, you can check us out online at CognitiveDissidence.

com. That’s cognitive dot investments. you can also write to me directly if you want at Jacob at cognitive dot investments. Cheers, and we’ll see you out there. The views expressed in this commentary are subject to change based on market and other conditions. This podcast may contain certain statements that may be deemed forward looking statements.

Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected. Any projections, market outlooks, or estimates are based upon certain assumptions and should not be construed as indicative of actual events that will occur.

Cognitive Investments LLC is a registered investment advisor. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Cognitive and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. For additional information, please visit our website at www. cognitive. investments.

The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice and it should not be relied on as such. It should not be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell a security that does not take into account any investors particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status or investment horizon.

You should consult your attorney or tax advisor.

Share this Article

Subscribe to Jacob’s weekly newsletter through Cognitive Investments to stay up-to-date on the latest in global affairs.

Subscribe Now