Five US Top Spy Predictions About What the World Will Look Like in 20 Years

Global Intelligence Commission Threatens Christopher Raypole Nakasone Avril Haines William Burns Scott Belier

FBI Director Christopher Ray, NSA Director Paul Nakasone, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, CIA Director William Burns, and DIA Director Scott Belier at a house hearing on global threats on April 15, 2021. Tasos Katopodis / Pool via REUTERS

  • Every four years, US intelligence summarizes the scenarios that policy makers may face in 20 years.

  • Some scenarios are catastrophic, while others are similar to future versions of our current world.

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What will the world look like in 2040?

Peaceful coexistence of the United States and China based on mutual economic interests? A chaotic and fragmented world trying to recover from a major natural disaster caused by climate change? Or is it a devastating World War III?

These are some of the questions that the US intelligence community asks themselves when preparing one of the most important and interesting national security reports.

Global trends

Biden Putin Climate Change

Russian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden at the Virtual World Climate Summit in Moscow on April 22, 2021. Sputnik / Alexei Druzhinin / Kremlin via Reuters

Published every four years since 1997, the Global Trends Report is a comprehensive assessment of geopolitical trends by the intelligence community. It aims to explain the realistic scenarios that policy makers will face 20 years from now.

As a prelude to this year’s report, the seventh iteration describes the goals of the intelligence community. Is not to do To be specific Emphasize issues and trends that may increase in importance, not what the world will look like in 2040, and that current and future governments may help develop national security strategies. Emphasize.

The publication of this version of the report was in close agreement with the intelligence community’s annual threat assessment, where the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, NSA, FBI, and Defense Intelligence Agency directors provide US threat assessments. Will face next year.

There are several steps to publishing a Global Trend Report. The author reviews and reassesses past reports and adjusts his approach accordingly, while also incorporating new collection and analysis methods.

In addition, they seek both internal and external feedback. Indeed, open dialogue with academia and the private sector is key to the report.

Interestingly, the author also gathered opinions and views from a wide range of domestic and international sources, including American high school students, African civil society organizations, and Asian businesses.

Beijing, China

Beijing, China. Reuters / Thomas Peter

In addition, the authors of the report first put some structural forces such as demographics, environment, economy, and technology, and other external factors, including those and very important human behavior, into the geopolitical scene. We investigated how it affects us.

In addition, they calculated how some common global challenges, such as climate change, illness, the financial crisis, and technological turmoil, could affect all countries.

But it’s important to emphasize what intelligence analysis is and what it isn’t.

Good analysis aims to provide a solid understanding of problems and possible consequences, thereby informing policymakers’ actions. Conversely, analysis is not a magical sphere that can look into the future to determine whether North Korea will launch a nuclear missile in Seattle.

Sherman Kent, a legendary CIA analyst and founder of the Office of National Estimates, said: A carefully considered estimate. “

The latest edition of the Global Trends Report details five potential geopolitical scenarios covering a wide range in 2040. Some are catastrophic, others resemble future versions of the present world.

The following is a brief breakdown of the scenarios.

Democratic Renaissance

In this scenario, open democracy around the world sees a resurgence led by the United States and its allies.

Rapid technological advances and increased public-private cooperation are driving the rapid expansion of the world economy, saving more people from poverty, improving their quality of life and involving them in society. ..

Conversely, societies that dominate citizens dictatorially, such as China and Russia, are lagging behind due to stagnant innovation capabilities.

Drifting the world

In a very pessimistic scenario, the world is a place of directionless, chaotic and volatile, as institutions and international norms and rules have collapsed and very few countries continue to comply with them. ..

Major oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Angola are facing economic stagnation, causing social division and political instability. China’s dominance continues while the West lags behind.

In this volatile world, many global challenges remain unsolved.

Competitive coexistence

In a scenario similar to today, the United States and China are leading the world through strong trade relationships that prioritize economic growth.

Competition among the great powers continues, focusing on geopolitical impacts, strategic and technological advantages, but countries are promoting governance models. Liberal democracy in the United States and communist capitalism in China.

Despite continued geopolitical tensions, large-scale wars are unlikely, and global issues such as climate change and water scarcity are controlled by international cooperation and technological advances.

Individual silos

In this pessimistic future, the geopolitical scene is fragmented into several economic and security blocks of varying importance and strength.

The United States, China, Russia, and the EU continue to be major players, but are probably strengthened by several regional powers such as South Africa, India, Brazil, and even Nigeria. Blocks are self-sufficient, reorienting the supply chain and focusing on resilience and security.

Individual sovereign cyber enclaves control the flow of information, disrupting international trade. Developing countries are unknowingly observers.

Tragedy and mobilization

This scenario envisions the aftermath of a catastrophic global food shortage caused by climate change.

The EU-China-led global coalition is working with non-governmental organizations and multilateral institutions to undertake comprehensive transformation to address climate change, natural resource depletion and poverty.

Developed countries are helping emerging economies cope with the crisis and the transition to low-carbon economies through aid programs and technology transfers.

Lessons for the future

Getty Images Xi Jinping Joe Biden

September 25, 2015, at the China National luncheon, which was held in the US State Department Biden, Vice President of the time, Xi Jinping China president. Paul J. Richards via Getty Images / AFP

Scenarios such as “tragedy and mobilization,” “individual silos,” and “world drift” envision a dark future, but mean to explain current or imminent external factors such as world population growth and world population growth. And realistic. Depletion of natural resources. Failure to address this will result in a global emergency.

Conversely, “competitive coexistence” is essentially a future version of our current world, but there is a stronger China. The “Renaissance of Democracy” is a better result for the United States and the West, but it requires investment in institutions and values ​​that differentiate these societies from dictatorships like China and Russia. Become.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a veteran of the Greek Army (National Service of the 575th Marine Battalion and Army Headquarters), and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University.

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