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The five biggest geopolitical risks for the rest of 2018

  • Think tank Atlantic Council has outlined five major risks for the year ahead.
  • They include U.S. political stress as well as potential trade wars between Washington and Beijing.

Four of the five biggest threats to the global political system this year are directly related to President Donald Trump's administration, according to an assessment from a Washington-based policy think tank.

President Donald Trump
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Donald Trump

"What's worrisome about the first days of President Trump's second year is that the political stress emanating from Washington is escalating while the world's ability to absorb new shocks is diminishing," Fred Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, said in a note this week.

Trump's White House has strongly signaled its willingness to depart from traditional U.S. foreign policy.

"So, hold on to your seats for a year ahead that is fraught with risk, one in which the U.S. and the world will face a stress test amid potential political and economic shocks," Kempe said.

Those possible shocks, according to Kempe, include:

  • "Potential trade wars following the Trump administration's imposition of new aluminum and steel tariffs, which could be exacerbated by additional trade measures against China, in particular those related to intellectual property theft."

    The White House is reportedly set to announce Thursday up to $60 billion in new duties on Chinese imports, which could trigger an aggressive response from Chinese President Xi Jinping. Potential targets of retaliation include U.S. agriculture products, particularly soybeans.
  • "Dealing with an emboldened Vladimir Putin in Russia."

    The Russian leader secured a fourth term in power on Sunday thanks to a national election which, as with most Russian elections in recent years, is widely suspected of fraud. Putin this week claimed a democratic mandate even as the Kremlin is believed to have interfered with the most recent U.S. national election and Europe and stands accused by UK authorities of attacking a former Russian operative with a deadly nerve agent on British soil.
  • "Growing tensions with Iran, as Trump's May deadline to decide whether to leave the nuclear deal draws closer."

    Trump's administration is looking to change an existing deal that agreed to lift long-running sanctions against Tehran in exchange for limits on Iran's nuclear program. The future of the deal is uncertain.