Are We Headed For International Disorder? | A Q&A with Geopolitical Expert John Sitilides

24 August 2017

Over the last few years, geopolitical rivalries have been rife - including Britain leaving the EU, Russian media activities, the Saudi Arabia-Iran crisis, the threat of the Islamic State, and North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs, to name but a few.

We interviewed John Sitilides - geopolitical expert and government affairs specialist in Washington DC - to find out what his background has taught him about such issues and how he delivers significant value to conferences and events as a speaker, panelist or moderator. The son of Greek immigrants fleeing the devastation of Nazism and Communism in southeastern Europe, John's personal story adds gravitas to his words, which demonstrate that we do not need to choose between the extremes of nativism and globalism to create a safe and secure world for all.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and what this has taught you?

My professional experience at the nexus of international relations, Congressional affairs, American politics and business policy informs my insights into global risk trends and geopolitical strategy. My personal life story as the grandson of political refugees and the son of immigrants has informed my perspective on the human impacts of political and financial decision-making at the highest levels. And as the father of four sons, I am profoundly devoted to helping shape a stronger, freer, more vibrant and secure future for our nation and the world.

What are your key speaking topics?

My presentations focus on the major international and global security issues facing the United States and its allies worldwide, and the way this new disorder, unparalleled in recent decades, will be effectively managed by the Trump Administration. From most indications, current trend lines point to high global and regional risk quotients for the foreseeable future. My presentations will often challenge the traditional analyst and media consensus on critical international issues, and my storytelling is delivered without any notes or prepared text, communicating directly with the audience against the backdrop of a visually compelling slide deck of maps, graphs and charts – and zero bullet points – so it is richly informative, highly engaging and purposefully valuable for my clients and audiences.

In terms of impacting markets in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, what major geopolitical trends do you think are most notable, and why do you think we’re seeing old-fashioned power plays back in international relations?

In the face of perceived American retreat, the rise of new powers and the assertiveness of rogue regimes in the world’s most critical geostrategic regions are at the root of the new international disorder. China is determined to remake the international order along a system of rules that constrain American power in the Pacific, and potentially worldwide. Russia is seeking to undermine Western democracy, European cohesion and the trans-Atlantic alliance. Iran’s radical Shiite theocracy craves to dominate the Middle East, to the exclusion of moderate Sunni neighbors and American allies from South Asia to northern Africa. North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme is intended to provide the military shield to eventually invade and absorb South Korea while deterring any unified American and Japanese response.

Making strategic investments is now fraught with difficulties. How can businesses understand where the world might face further instability, and how can they mitigate risk?

Ultimately, those are investment, corporate planning and business leadership decisions which I entrust to my clients and audiences. My responsibility is to offer deeper insight into major strategic decisions by the world’s most influential political leaders, and to cut through much of the superficial media-driven analyses in order to explain why and how those decisions are actually being made. From that basis, we can more clearly envision the directions in which current trends are pointing, to provide enriching near-term understanding, and valuable mid- to long-term planning information, to clients and audiences, which they, in turn, integrate into their own organisational decisions.

In May 2017, you gave a TEDx talk on ‘American Identity on the Global Stage’, where you drew on your personal story – can you share this with us and how it helped your audience understand the importance of geopolitical strategy and international security?

I appreciated the invitation from TED to present on this critical topic. I wanted to express my gratitude to my nation for the opportunities it has afforded me - the grandson of political refugees in the aftermath of World War One, and the son of Greek immigrants fleeing the devastation of Nazism and Communism in southeastern Europe - to prosper as a proud citizen. I also wanted to express my gratitude to several family generations, especially to my late father, for their great sacrifices on our behalf. And I wanted to inform the audience that we do not need to choose between the extremes of a nativism that shuts out the world, and a globalism that ignores the pain of our fellow citizens, to build a more successful future for our society. To effectively conduct international relations and public statecraft, we have no choice but to respect national power and sovereignty, even as we see to it that every individual is afforded liberty, dignity and the opportunity to securely prosper – the essential human rights which I have been fortunate to enjoy.

In August 2017, Donald Trump issued a warning to North Korea, stating that the USA could unleash ‘fire and fury like the world has never seen’. What do you think about this statement, and how do you see the current threat-level from North Korea?

I take at face value the stated intentions of leaders in business and government alike. The North Korean dictator has demonstrated repeatedly since coming to his sadistic rule over his slave-like society, his willingness to assassinate family members to remain in power, his erratic aggression against South Korea and Japan, and his willingness to repeatedly threaten the United States with nuclear war. Taken together, these underscore the heightened risk he poses to the Pacific Rim region, home to massive human populations and one-third of the world’s commerce, and to nations and populations far beyond.

Which conferences/forums/events have you most enjoyed speaking at so far?

I’ve had the good fortune to deliver my presentations at 24 speaking engagements throughout the United States and in Europe over just the 12 months. We are planning right now for an extended series of engagements through 2018. All of these events have provided me with enriching environments to share my insights, meet stellar individuals with some of the sharpest minds anywhere, and exchange ideas on the financial, corporate and business impacts of global risk and geopolitical strategy. I appreciate the opportunity to share my insights and I am humbled and privileged to be considered their peer.

Thanks John. Very insightful! Tell us - what’s next for you?

Learning, exploring, researching, analysing and sharing my insights with clients and audiences around the world. Asia and the Middle East are fraught with both opportunity and crisis. Africa’s booming economic and demographic growth offers the exceptional investment and financial markets of the 21st century. Latin America, perhaps the region most important to Americans’ daily lives, offers enormous opportunity as well. What’s next for me? If I continue to be blessed with good health, I plan to carry on my human journey across America and throughout the world, meeting leaders and learning from citizens, helping to promote interest in – and awareness of – the reality of the world in which we all live, interact and hopefully can thrive.

John is one of our leading politics and current affairs speakers  who we work with.

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