Review of NIC’s Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds”

National Intelligence Council’s 12.10.12 “Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds”  predicts that by 2030 Russia is likely to have declined while China will become No 1 economic power, but U.S. will continue to play a lead global role. Overall, a good scenario-planning effort, I’d say.

I.  Russia-related points of the report.

Russia-specific predetermined trends

  • Russia has serious concerns regarding the threat posed by a rapidly expanding China, particularly Beijing’s growing appetite for natural resources which could eventually encroach upon the Russian Far East and Siberia.
  • Russian leaders believe that they need to be wary of the potential for the US and NATO to intervene in a conflict involving Russia and one of the former Soviet republics.
  • Russia’s economy is its Achilles’ heel. Its budget is heavily dependent on energy revenue. Russia will need to improve the environment for foreign investment and create opportunities for Russian exports of manufactured goods.
    • By 2030 Russia faces a steep population drop—about 10 million people—a greater decline than any other country during that time frame.
    • By 2030, Share of Moslems in Russian population is projected to grow from 14 to about 19 percent.

Russia-related predetermined trends

  • Opposite directions of nuclear ambitions in the US and Russia: US wants to reduce role of nukes, Russia wants to expand.
    • Future wars in Asia involving Russia, China, or India and Pakistan would risk use of a nuclear weapon.
  • Not clear whether BMD systems can keep pace with increasing numbers of ballistic and cruise missiles that can employed against them.
  • China, India, and Russia—countries that have critical needs for key resources—are expected to realize substantial rewards in being the first countries to commercialize next-generation resource technologies.
  • The potential for disputes to grow over seabed rights is particularly striking in Arctic.

Three Alternative scenarios for Russia:  Russia’s clout will probably wane, as will the economic strength of other countries reliant on oil for revenues. A negative role (for Russia in world) is more likely with sagging living standards which would spur more nationalist sentiments.

  1. Russia could become more of a partner with others, most probably, in a marriage of convenience, not of values. Russia’s centuries-long ambivalence about its relationship with the West and outside is still at the heart of the struggle over Russia’s strategic direction.
  2. Russia might continue in a more or less ambivalent relationship with the other powers, but over the next 20 years this path would likely be a more troublesome one for international cooperation if Russia rebuilds its military strength and must contend with an increasingly powerful China.
  3. Russia could become a very troublesome country, trying to use its military advantage over its neighbors to intimidate and dominate. This outcome would be most likely if a Russian leader were facing rising public discontent over sagging living standards and darkening economic prospects and is looking to rally nationalist sentiments by becoming much more assertive in the Near Abroad.

II. The report’s general points: China will outstrip U.S. as the leading economic power before 2030, but that America will remain an indispensable world leader, bolstered in part by an era of energy independence.

Tectonic Shifts between now and 2030:

  • Growth of the Global Middle Class
  • Wider Access to Lethal and Disruptive Technologies
  • Definitive Shift of Economic Power to the East and South
  • Unprecedented and Widespread Aging
  • Urbanization
  • Food and Water Pressures
  • US Energy Independence.

Game-changers: Extrapolations of the megatrends point to changed world by 2030 – six key game-changers will largely determine what kind of transformed world we will inhabit in 2030.

  • The Crisis-Prone Global Economy
  • The Governance Gap
  • Potential for Increased Conflict
  • Wider Scope of Regional Instability
  • The Impact of New Technologies
  • The Role of the United States
    • The US most likely will remain “first among equals” among the other great powers in 2030 because of its preeminence across a range of power dimensions and legacies of its leadership role.

Potential Black Swans—discrete events that could cause large-scale disruption:

  • Severe Pandemic
  • Much More Rapid Climate Change
  • Euro/EU Collapse
  • A Democratic or Collapsed China
  • A Reformed (more liberal) Iran
  • Nuclear War or WMD/Cyber Attack
  • Solar Geomagnetic Storms
  • US Disengagement.

Alternative scenario for the world:

Scenario 1 “Stalled Engines”: All boats sink in this scenario. Slower global growth is accompanied by higher food prices. A new “great game” ramps up in Asia. Sunni-Shia violence erupts in the Middle East, pitting Iran against Saudi Arabia. Outside powers such as the US and Europe decline to intervene.

  • US: US turns inward, more interested in building a Fortress America.
  • China: Fundamental economic and political reforms have stalled; corruption and social unrest is slowing growth rates.
  • Russia: Russian power in the Near Abroad has grown with the US pull back from Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Scenario 2 “Fusion”: Specter of a spreading conflict in South Asia triggers efforts by the US and China to intervene and impose a cease-fire and collaborate.

  • US: The American Dream returns, with per capita incomes rising $10,000 in ten years. The United States’ technological surge and efforts to end conflicts are the basis of US leadership.
  • China: China emerges stronger with its soft power enhanced and begins to move toward democracy. It assumes increased global and regional roles.
  • Russia: As technology becomes the source of international legitimacy and status, Russia starts rebuilding its S&T sector. Russia becomes a creative hotbed for cross-cultural fertilization.

Scenario 3 “Gini Out-of-the-Bottle”: The world becomes wealthier— but less happy as the differences between the haves and have-nots become starker and increasingly immutable; EU splinters and eventually falters.

  • US: remains the preeminent power, but allies with authoritarian states to try to restore some order because of growing nonstate threats.
  • China: struggles to maintain its previous high economic growth rate as divisions between urban and rural populations grow; the regime is losing legitimacy, a Maoist revival.
  • Russia: Inequalities at home become a bigger issue with Russian elites allying with counterparts in US, Europe, and China to stem the rise of cybercriminals.

Scenario 4: “Non-state world”:  NGOs, multinational businesses, academic institutions, and wealthy individuals, as well as subnational units, such as megacities, flourish and take the lead in confronting global challenges. Countries do not disappear, but governments increasingly see their role as organizing and orchestrating “hybrid” coalitions of state and nonstate actors which shift depending on the challenge.

  • US: has an advantage because many nonstate actors originated there, but they increasingly see themselves as having a global identity. USG maximizes its influence when it organizes a hybrid coalition of state and nonstate actors to deal with global challenges.
  • China as an authoritarian regime is preoccupied with asserting the primacy and control of the central government and finds it difficult to operate in this world.
  • Russia Moscow is increasingly concerned about security threats posed by the growth of terrorist and criminal organizations. Russia finds it difficult to work with the proliferation of global nonstate actors in the international arena.
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