While the United States will remain the world's
single most powerful country in 2025, it will be less dominant and more constrained
in its freedom of action even in the military sphere than it is
now, according to a major new report released here Thursday by the government's
National Intelligence council (NIC).
Instead, "a global multipolar system" will likely have emerged, one
marked especially by the rise of the so-called BRIC countries Brazil,
Russia, India and China among others. The "relative power of non-state
actors businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and even criminal
networks" will also have increased, according to the 110-page report, entitled
"Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World."
India and China, however, are still likely to be more preoccupied with their
internal development than in changing the international system, according to
the report, which also concluded that none of the BRIC powers is likely to challenge
the status quo in the ways that Germany and Japan did in the 19th and 20th centuries
and that led to world wars. Less cataclysmic challenges, however, could take
place as emerging powers seek to protect their own interests, and power itself
will have become more dispersed.
Still, competition for strategic resources, particularly energy, food and water,
could also make for a more turbulent world; indeed, in one of four possible
albeit not necessarily likely scenarios depicted in the report, Chinese
suspicion of efforts by others to threaten its energy supplies could lead to
a clash with India in which the conflict escalates into a global conflagration.
But much is unpredictable at this point, according to the report, which stressed
that the world has entered a period of historic changes, including an unprecedented
transfer of "global wealth and economic power...roughly from West to East"
which will likely continue.
Indeed, the BRIC countries alone are likely to collectively match the original
Group of Seven (G7) the US, Canada, Japan, and the European Union in
global (Gross Domestic Product) by 2040-2050. By 2025, China will have the world's
second largest economy behind the US and will be a "leading military
"The international system as constructed following the Second World
War will be almost unrecognizable by 2025," according to the report.
"Indeed, 'international system' is a misnomer as it is likely to be more
ramshackle than orderly, its composition hybrid and heterogeneous as befits
a transition that will still be a work in progress in 2025," according
to the report.
The report, the fourth quadrennial series that began in 1992, is designed primarily
to give policymakers particularly those who may be preparing to take key
roles in new administration and the public some longer-range of views (about
18 years) of where the world may be heading and the key drivers that are taking
it there. The report's authors have stressed that the study should not be seen
as a prediction, particularly given the large numbers of major uncertainties
that could have profound implications depending on how they turn out.
The 2004 edition, in which, as with the new one, many non-US analysts participated,
made quite a sensation both here and abroad, particularly in its use of fictional
future scenarios to illustrate the possible results of existing trends.
The latest edition notes that several key assumptions of its 2004 report, which
addressed the likely world of 2020, have been substantially modified, or even
The 2020 report, for example, projected a world in which US would be dominant,
so dominant that most major powers would have given up the idea of balancing
or challenging it. In contrast, the 2025 report depicts a multi-polar world
in which "the US will find itself as one of a number of important actors
on the world stage, albeit still the most powerful one."
In another major difference, the 2020 report assumed that fossil fuels would
remain dominant as sources of energy and that existing energy supplies "in
the ground" would be "sufficient to meet global demand". The
new report, however, sees the world of 2025 as one in which energy scarcity
has become a "driving factor in geopolitics" and a time of "inevitable"
transition to cleaner fuels that could wreak havoc in major oil and gas exporters
like Saudi Arabia and Iran.
And while the 2004 report projects probable strong economic growth fueled by
the BRIC nations, the latest report was more uncertain, assessing "the
likelihood of major discontinuities, to be high" and the next 20 years
of transition toward a new international system to be "fraught with risks,
such as a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and possible interstate conflicts
Aside from the relative decline in US power and the emergence of a multi-polar
system, the study lists as "relative certainties" continued rapid
population growth and resulting "youth bulges" Afghanistan,
Nigeria, Pakistan and Yemen, among other states. Unless employment conditions
in those countries improve dramatically, it said, these nations will "remain
ripe for continued instability and state failure."
The study suggests an increase in the potential for conflict and terrorism
in the greater Middle East, particularly given the likely proliferation of weapons
and the technology (such as chemical, biological, and, "less likely,"
nuclear) to increase their lethality, but the threat could be reduced by economic
growth, the stabilization of Iraq, and a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian
In any event, the "need for the US to act as regional balancer in the
Middle East will increase, although other outside powers Russia, China and
India will play greater roles than today," according to the report,
which noted that it will also be expected to play a balancing role in Asia.
Key uncertainties with major geopolitical and geoeconomic implications include
whether and how quickly an energy transition toward cleaner fuels and away from
oil and gas can be achieved; how quickly climate change occurs and where its
impacts are greatest; "whether mercantilism stages a comeback and global
markets recede" in which case the chances of conflict over resource competition
are likely to increase; and whether "global powers work with multilateral
institutions to adapt their performance to the transformed geopolitical landscape."
Sub-Saharan Africa, which will remain the region most vulnerable to economic
disruption, civil conflict, and political instability, and much of Latin America
especially those countries that adopt populist policies will lag further
behind in terms of economic competitiveness.
The report depicts the US as the preeminent military power in 2004 but notes
that "advances by others in science and technology, expanded adoption of
irregular warfare tactics by both state and nonstate actors, proliferation of
long-range precision weapons, and growing use of cyber warfare attacks increasingly
will constrict (its) freedom of action."
"At the same time, the multiplicity of influential actors and distrust
of vast power means less room for the US to call the shots without the support
of strong partnerships," it added.
(Inter Press Service)