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Centre for Geopolitics

Providing historically-grounded approaches to enduring geopolitical problems.

The Nightmare Lecture Series, created by the Centre for Geopolitics, invites leading thinkers and practitioners in the area of geopolitics to reflect upon their own personal “nightmare” scenarios for humanity: the greatest potential man-made disasters that could be on the horizon in the near future.

 As well as outlining the precipitating event or cause of the nightmare scenario, and the social, political and economic ramifications that follow, speakers will also consider strategies and new ways of thinking that could prepare governments, organisations and individuals to prevent these events from happening, or better cope with the consequences if they do.

The aim of the Nightmare Series is to demonstrate the need for innovative, strategic forward planning at the highest levels of policy-making, and to illustrate the value of cutting-edge academic thinking to prepare for “real world” geopolitical events that may very well be just around the corner.

A Nightmare Scenario: Technology and Democracy
22 January 2019

From corporate surveillance to allegations of election hacking, the ever-evolving technological landscape continues to have profound impacts on politics and beyond. This all-star panel, which included Big Brother Watch's Silkie Carlo, the Director of the University of London's Information Law and Policy Centre, Dr. Nóra Ni Loideain, the University of Cambridge's Prof. John Naughton and Prof. David Runciman with former Guardian Technology Editor Charles Arthur serving as moderator, sought to address their personal nightmares on the effects technology could have on the functioning of contemporary democracy.

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The Partition of Ukraine: A Nightmare
7 February 2018

As part of its Nightmare series, Dr. George Friedman (CEO of Geopolitical Futures and founder of Stratfor) explained how an escalation of the ‘New Cold War’ leads to a new Iron Curtain through Ukraine, and what the subsequent political fallout would be. The event set the stage for the Forum’s upcoming research project on The New Intermarium, which aims to examine the new geopolitics in Central and Eastern Europe.

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President Trump - the First 100 Days
19 October 2016

Thomas Wright (Brookings Institution) presented a 'Nightmare Series' lecture, in which he discussed the foreign-policy consequences of a successful Trump bid for the US presidency.

Brexit: a Nightmare?
22 March 2016 

One of Germany's leading European parliamentarians, David McAllister, discusses this topical issue with Cambridge historian Brendan Simms. On June 23rd, Britain is due to vote in a referendum on continuing its membership in the European Union. Until now, the conventional wisdom has been that the country will opt to stay in. But the landscape is changing. The prospect of a 'Brexit', as a possible British exit is known, looks more likely now than it has for more than a generation.

The UK’s departure would to a degree disrupt the inner workings of the European Union. It has the potential to create an imbalance of power in view of the strong influence that the Franco-German alliance has on European Affairs, as well as raise issues regarding the common defence and security policies of the European Union. Moreover a Brexit could diminish the EU’s international standing and weaken the EU's integrity and policy orientation. As an alternative to this rather gloomy prospect, some outline the view that a Brexit could shock the remaining member states into action. The hope is that the political convulsions of a Brexit would revitalize the European integration process and potentially enable steps to be taken that currently remain beyond the realm of possibility.

The Big Freeze - Russia and Europe: Nightmares and Realities
14 March 2016

As part of its Nightmare series, Professor Nick Butler (KCL) discussed whether Europe is trapped in a state of dependence on Russian gas. The debate posed the question of what would happen if by some accident, let alone a strategic decision taken in Moscow, the gas stopped coming. Would eastern Europe grind to a halt, and would the west, led by Germany, sue for peace on any terms? Jānis KažociņšNational Security Adviser to the President, Republic of Latvia, acted as respondent.

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Catalonia:The next nightmare
5 March 2016

Panel discussion exploring the current situation in Catalonia and the possibilities for the future.

Speakers include:

  • Montserrat Guibernau, Visiting scholar at the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) at the University of Cambridge
  • Antoni Castells, Professor of Public Finance at the University of Barcelona; Minister of Economy and Finance of the Catalan Government (2003-2010)
  • Miquel Puig, economist and author; Former director of the Catalan Media Corporation (public TV and radio)

Co-chaired by:

  • Isabel-Helena Martí, president of Sobirania i Justícia (civic Catalan body)
  • Brendan Simms, Professor of the History of European International Relations and Director of the Forum on Geopolitics (POLIS, University of Cambridge) and the Project for Democratic Union 

The Day 1.5 Billion People Lost Their Water
15 May 2015

As part of the Nightmare series, Professor Paul Kennedy (director of International Security Studies at Yale University) spoke on the topic of water security by painting a picture of an accidental and cataclysmic contamination event on the Tibetan Plateau. Prof. Kennedy emphasised that one of the most powerful geopolitical forces unleashed by such a 'nightmare' circumstance would be the mass panic of up to 1.5 billion people, and a disruption of economic activities sufficient to topple multiple governments.

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