Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Challenges of Good Governance in the new Millennium- The Ethiopian Experience Analysis Series

The link between ethno-centric minority rule and corruption - The Case of Ethiopia
By Professor Seid Hassan
Murray State University
November 26, 2008


"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” - Edmund Burke


Many observers, including those members of the Diaspora community who visit their homeland, Ethiopia, have observed that the level of corruption in Ethiopia is so unprecedented that it defies common sense. The outright theft that is going on in the country has many dimensions, which are:

economic - as exemplified by the deep involvement of the TPLF in the Ethiopian economy and its ability to completely monopolize each sector of the country’s economy using its controlled oligarchs.i Not only the TPLF was able to hijack the so-called privatization process and “buy” the previously government owned enterprises at throw away prices but the organized and corrupt officials were also able to appoint themselves as owners and CEOs of the same conglomerates.

Political - due to the fact that those who are at the top of the political power continue to enrich themselves while at the same time suppressing those who object the looting. They have accomplished this by denying them any political space and wiping out the already weak independent media.

Mr. Meles also continues to use his absolute power and selectively prosecute his political enemies in order to cover-up the criminal behavior committed by the TPLF and its allies. Of course, Mr. Meles also throws into jails a handful of his collaborators as scapegoats whenever he feels threatened or he becomes too embarrassed by their excesses.

Legal - due to Meles’s and his cronies’ use of and changes of the legal codes to both enrich themselves and attack their political opponents with tramped-up charges.

Social and cultural – due to, among other things, the instigation of ethnic and religious-based conflicts by the ethnocentric clique. Most importantly, the embezzlement is so commonplace that it is changing the culture and the way of life in the country.

For example, it is not uncommon for the layman in the streets of Addis Ababa or elsewhere to hear him say out-loud, that it has become impossible for anyone in the country to make a decent living without being a part of the corruption process. It is not uncommon to hear the traffic policeman boasting to a minibus driver that his police badges and hats can garner more revenue than he does, while at the same time telling the driver to meet him at a designated place where the bribing would take place.

These are daily incidents that friends of mine and I have observed in the streets of Addis Ababa. Unfortunately, such practices seem to have badly affected the minds of those who are deeply involved in the rampant corruption to the extent that they have come to believe that their involvement in the corruption process is normal and part of their booty.

Military – due to the fact that the military wing that is controlled by Mr. Zenawi- the Agazi killer squad - has intensified its intimidation, killings, terror, disappearance of people, and mass-arrests, especially after the 2005 election. The military’s involvement in the contraband and business sector, especially around the border areas also shows how the entire system has become so corrupt.

How lethal the Agazi killer squad could be is proved not only by its senseless killings of peaceful protesters after the 2005 election but the military’s willingness to burn the entire villages and wipe out the civilian population in order to fight the militants of the Ogadeni region.

Information coming out of Meles’s circle indicates that, sensing that different gorilla type of fighters maybe propping up in many parts of the country, Meles is now in the process of assembling many more similar Agazi-type killer squads which will be used to immediately attack and burn villagers who may be susceptible to harboring them. My sources also indicate that Meles continues to reconstitute the military command by appointing those who go along with his ethnocentric beliefs and those who enjoy the pillaging.

The purpose of this article is three-fold:

to show the potential fallouts of this Mafia-type corruption which is manifested by increased misery and migration of people; the continuous sinking of the Ethiopian economy to the ground; and the increased polarization of the society which may culminate to an ethnic-based warfare;

to explain the basis of the unprecedented corruption using the propositions and hypotheses advanced by other experts in the economics field and myselfii; and
to raise the awareness of and remind Ethiopians and those of Ethiopian origin, as well as those who care about that country that not only the rampant corruption is here to stay and is deeply rooted in a minority ethnic-based administration, but every indication also suggests that it will intensify, with its potential to completely destroy the social fabric of that society and the country itself.

I call upon the foreign enablers of this oppressive click that it is their moral duty to do the right thing- not only deny the regime their support but also put pressure on it so that it would respect the rule of law and human rights. Those of us who know the level of misery in each village of the country, albeit the EPRDF’s lies of continuous double-digit economic growth, know and strongly believe that Ethiopia is on the brink of catastrophe, albeit slowly but surely, that we have never seen before.

This increased misery, some of it already being manifested by unheard of migration of people, will spill over to neighboring countries and the rest of the world. The organized crime culture and the squalor created by the TPLF economic policies are now dangerously manifesting in such a way that the relatively young population of that country is acting against its own interests. For example, imitating their political leaders and forced by the misery they are in, it is now common to see thieves steeling public property at night and selling them back to the TPLF-owned businesses during day time.

Putting such thievery scenarios in motion, one would not be mistaken to that such a creeping lawlessness and misery would lead to the already failed state, Ethiopia, to be like that of its neighbor, Somalia. With such a scenario, Ethiopia could become a breeding ground for terrorist activities and piracy.

I believe it is about time to recognize the fact that the TPLF’s terror and lawlessness will breed more terror and lawlessness. Of course, neglecting this fact will result for the world at large to pay for it, as it is now evident with the phenomenon currently existing in Somalia!

I especially would like to call upon all Ethiopians and all those of Ethiopian origin, to recognize this fact and do their utmost before things become worse. I call upon all of you to think about what you can do to fight this monkey of rampant corruption off the back of the poor Ethiopian people. We have come up with one way that you can do your part I explain at the end of this write-up.


When it comes to the sub-Saharan Africa in which Ethiopia is a part, experts who studied the effects of corruption agree on two things: that both corruption and the study of it are on the rise.

There is also an increasing consensus among empirical researchers that corruption has a significant negative impact on economic growth. Most importantly, experts also agree that the level of corruption within some countries, such as Ethiopia, is so ubiquitous, so rampant, and so endemic that it may even determine their survival. Because of this fact, one may ask; “Why is corruption so bad in countries such as Ethiopia?”

When one looks at the degree of corruption that exists in some of the sub-Saharan African countries, one can easily observe that the countries which are highly affected by high corruption crimes seem to be fractionalized among many ethnic groups.

One can, therefore, hypothesize that the rise and the endemic nature of corruption is highly correlated with ethnic fractionalization and ethnic-based-politics, the latter being the cause of the former.

Since some of these countries which have been highly affected by corruption are ruled by a minority ethnic group, a corollary to the same hypothesis is that ethnic-based politics localizes corruption and makes it intractable to both detect and manage.

I submit to the reader, therefore, that, looking at it in this framework, we can easily explain both the endemic and intractable nature of the corruption scourge that exists in Ethiopia. Here are some of the characteristics of a government ruled by a minority ethnic group, nearly all of them being applicable to the Ethiopian situation:

As Etienne B. Yehoue from the World Bank and Banerjee et al theorize and empirically found, a political process based on ethnocentrism creates regional kingmakers who claim to represent the interests of their ethnic groups. Such a scenario allows them to rally behind all of those who belong to the same ethnic group creating a sense of rivalry among ethnic groups.

The society as whole gets highly polarized, thereby creating a sense of cohesiveness within each ethnic group. In the process, each member of the ethnic group becomes myopic in the sense that it is blindfolded to look beyond its own ethnic entities. Such a scenario not only creates uninformed voters but it also allows regional kingmakers to insulate each other from their corruption activities. Since the state is divided among the corrupt regional kingmakers, it is incapable of fighting the corruption scourge.

The autonomy given to the smaller regional kingmakers also prevents the state from interfering in their local affairs. As a result, a political process, which is based on “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours”, becomes the norm rather than the exception.

The top kingmaker always tries to reward the regional kingmakers by allowing them to stay in power as long as the kingmaker at the top is allowed to do whatever he wants. Such a scenario creates veto power to the top kingmaker, thereby allowing him to leverage his ill-gotten gains.

As Yehoue stated it, in the process, ethnicity becomes a “rent-extracting technology that fosters a highly politicized administration and widespread corruption.” Since the state is weakened, its ability to adopt growth enhancing policies is weakened as well. In the process, nationalist parties are overwhelmed by regional king-makers resulting in rent-seeking behaviors and wide-spread corruption.

Even though ethnic-based fractionalized rule brings with it a localization of officials, it also promotes personalism. But, as Tanzi argues, personalism reduces professionalism which breeds corruption since officials would have to pay greater attention to individual citizen’s needs.

In the process, the public interest is neglected and even disregarded. Ethnic-based rules also foster a greater influence of interest groups and lobbying at the local level, thereby increasing the tenure of incumbents who happen to enjoy unethical relationships. Such localized corruption activities become intractable in that they allow local kingmakers to collude with the local media and auditing agencies.

Ethnically based localization has also the potential to distract competition by awarding contracts and business licenses to only ethnically based firms. Powerful local leaders could also encourage and be involved in perpetual rent-seeking behaviors.

They tend to serve narrow interests with diminished accountability to national interests. Since powerful ethnic lords have the potential to rebuff any accountability, and because power is decentralized, it would be very difficult to fight corruption. Moreover, ethnic divisions increase patronage thereby reducing the efficiency of public services. Ethnocentric leaders foster the fragmentation of resources which are vital to the national interests.

When it comes to economic development, the economics literature suggests that ethnic fractionalization and low quality institutions are highly correlated. And highly fractured and ethnically fractionalized societies are prone to increased polarization, violent conflicts and zero-sum game activities. Lack of social cohesion due to ethnic groupings negatively affects institutions and therefore economic growth. Such a situation is also counterproductive to foreign direct investment and international business.

As Alesina, Baqir and Easterly (1999), argue, ethnocentrism exploits already existing heterogeneity and attempts to raise the low tastes or preferences, such as suspicion and gossips, of different ethnic groups. By creating and intensifying rivalry between different ethnic groups and regions, it is prone to under-provide local public goods either by generating unfocused lobbying (i.e., every group wants different local public goods, or local public goods physically located in different places), and as a result no agreement is reached on which goods should be provided, and none, or fewer, are provided.

Additional characteristic of ethnocentric leaders is their attempts to exploit the unwillingness of some community members to fund social services that will benefit members of other groups. They just try to carve out the biggest slice of “their own” group in the process.

Ethno-centric governments provide relatively very low security, health care, education, and local infrastructure, because, due to being highly splintered and localized, they lack the capacity to garner unified sums of funds. With ethnic and religious conflicts in full force, the ruling party is unable to create a common security. In all likelihood, an ethno-centric administration is blinded by hatred and ethnocentric phobia. As a result, it is incapable of addressing or solving a crisis.

Instead, it intensifies polarization. Obviously, not only a polarized society becomes engaged in a totally useless zero-sum-game, but the results of the game are highly unfair to the poor. When the same zero-sum-game escalates, it even has the potential to be highly destructive!iii At times, especially when the going becomes tough and the paranoia intensifies, such regimes use collective punishment, as it is evident by the use of the economic deprivation practices that are applied on the people of the Ogaden region.

A minority administration is predisposed to spur militarization due to security fears. The kingmaker, especially the one who represents a minority ethnic group is always afraid, to the point of being filled with paranoia, of being overtaken by other and possibly bigger ethnic groups. To overcome his fears, he tries to bring in other paranoid minority and oppressed ethnic groups. And one thing that the kingmaker and other minority groups have in common is their fear of the one-man-one-vote principle.

Kingmakers and their henchmen make relentless efforts to create mistrust among the different ethnic groups and within the general populous and exacerbate the already existing confusions among dominant groups.

They do it, as it is evident in Ethiopia, by controlling the commanding heights at any cost, such as having full control of the national economy, the army and the media outlets. Such control allows them to countervail their weak legitimacy and inferiority.

Moreover, ethnocentric thinking causes ethnocentric people to make wrong assumptions about other people whom they think “don’t belong to them.”Such wrong assumptions are spread to the rest of other ethnic groups and, from here on, suspicion and fear of the others feed each other, thereby intensifying the potential onset of ethnic-based wars.

. It has been provided with main sources of growth, by the authoritarian government, by a poorly developed press, by ill-informed public, by lack of democratic tradition, which alone can provide checks and balances in the exercise of power by government.

All of the above inhibit the macroeconomic performances of a country. Ethnic divisions are bad on economic growth since they decrease the efficacy of macroeconomic policies and trust.

By increasing mistrust, ethnic divisions are anti-democratic in nature. As Collier (1998) states: Ethnic based politics is an identity politics and hence is blinded to see the common good in a macro sense. An identity politics, according to Collier, reminds voters about differences and hence builds less social capital.

Collier says that an ethnically divided society gains more from democracy than a homogeneous one since the former needs more dispute resolutions and cooperation. Unfortunately, ethnically fractured societies and ethnic-based ruling work against the rule of law and democracy.


If you really look at the economic situations of the country, including the abject poverty of people, the continuous starvation and misery, the recurring droughts, the shortages of foreign exchange, the rampant inflation rates, the trade and budget imbalances, the constant power outages that are taking place in all cities, the lack of access to clean water, the dire situation of health care and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the impacts of the continuous deforestation as well as the wind and water erosions accompanying it, the proportion of the population that is underage, the level of unemployment/underemployment (some speculating it to be over 70%), etc., you would conclude that the country is on the brink of collapse and financial bankruptcy.

A recently published report of the World Bank revealed that Ethiopia is facing governance, trust, and technical deficits, and its trade deficit is unsustainable. It is because of these deficits and the constant fear of persecution that the citizens of that country are migrating by the drones.

No one would like to leave his/her country unless the situation forces him/her to do so. No one would like to leave their loved ones behind and no one would risk his/her life just to become a super nanny unless the country they live becomes a living hell to them.

The impact of this migration will be devastating to the country due to the fact that most Ethiopians who have decided to leave their country are the ones who happen to be the relatively young and educated. As we all know, the TPLF’s harassment, coercion and intimidation of the intellectual community has forced a good portion of them to leave their country, thereby making Ethiopia to become increasingly brainless.

Since those who leave the country are also the relatively young and energetic, the loss of the relatively productive citizens will torment Ethiopia in the years to come.

Add to all of these the impact of the financial and economic meltdown of the world economy and the projected fall of commodity prices such as coffee. All of these problems and the current and future food shortages and the misallocation of resources would lead you to think that, not only the future of that country is at stake but you would think that something would happen, sooner or later.

Knowing this to be the case, even the dictatorial regime of Meles Zenawi is known to have feared an implosion to take place. I even read a report just a few weeks ago that, fearing such an implosion, the regime had hired foreign nationals who would advise it on how to stave off public anger and potential implosion. One indication of this is seen by the regime’s quick importation of several hundred tons of wheat and rationing it to major cities.

The regime bought the wheat, in an expedited manner, in the open market, and possibly paying exorbitant prices, despite the fact that the country is facing an alarming level of foreign exchange shortages and being warned by both the IMF and the World Bank about the consequences of the country’s too low foreign exchange reserves.

Moreover, I don’t know if this rumor is true or not, but let me also share with you a recent Addis Ababa street talk: Once the starvation that they regime was hiding for more than a year became public, Mr. Meles and his advisors were so worried that they had to discuss on how to stave off the potential public revolt.

Towards the end of their discussions, people who are familiar to the story indicated, Mr. Meles told his advisors and security men that they did not have to worry about the opposition parties, for he either has gotten them by their necks and/or he knows how to divide them thereby making them ineffectual.

He rather told them to worry about the potential revolt from the public that has been disaffected by the abject poverty and starvation. If this is indeed true, and I don’t doubt it at all, his statements are tantamount to an indictment to the failures of the opposition parties and a challenge from Meles to them as well!

The arguments that I listed above are intended to show that a minority-led government is prone to corruption and social destruction. It is my contention that these corruption crimes committed by the mafia type clique, which are made worse by the release of the mean-spirited video which I discussed in my previous write-up, have become a clan type of evil yeasts that are fermenting hatred.

As those who are involved in the corruption scourge have said it several times, every indication suggest that their “in your face, we will continue doing what we have been doing” will continue. Again, many experts who looked at the level of corruption in Ethiopia and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa clearly show that this disease could be the bane of the continent. After carefully looking into this matter regarding Ethiopia, I have truly fear not only the corruption scourge would challenge the survival of that country, but it could also become the most important element that will challenge the survival of the EPRDF as we know it.

The tensions which became evident during and after the recently concluded EPRDF congress are testimonies to this contention. Unfortunately, Mr. Meles’s announcement, done somewhat abruptly at end of the EPRDF congress, that the “status quo is maintained indicates that those who are highly immersed in the corruption process have the upper hand, at least for now. It shows that this evil, that is, the rampant corruption, would not go away unless we all begin to do our part to fight it.

We cannot just wish evil like this to go away and be done with it! Moreover, both common sense and empirical evidence indicates that the best way to fight corruption is by exposing the scourge itself! That is why we all need to cooperate from here on. My collaborators and I have taken the lead towards this effort. We plan to document all the corruption crimes committed by this regime and expose it to the world. At the end of the day, we hope to make the corrupt officials accountable to their crimes.

We, therefore, ask you to document all of those corruption related crimes, past or present, and send them to us. And you can do it unanimously- by using a name that no one else knows other than yourself and/or creating an alias email address. Even if you decided to use your real name and email address, we guarantee that it will remain confidential.

We also guarantee to assemble all of the information and present our documentation to the Ethiopian people and the world at large. We will immediately begin categorizing the corruption crimes by:

Grand corruption types: This may take the form of government purchasing goods and services at an inflated price because some of the money is going into the pockets of senior officials - either political or bureaucratic. Grand corruption takes place in kickbacks in public works' contracts, etc.

State corruption types: This is when the state itself gets corrupt aside from its individual officials. This takes place when corruption involves the head of state himself and his cronies. Mobutu Sese Seko fell under this category. So did Nigeria's successive military dictators. Mobutu did not deny accusations of corruption leveled against. Instead, he tried to justify it by for example blaming western institutions that corrupted him into it. At one time, it was reported that when his government was broke, and could not pay salaries, Mobutu lent it US$5, 000,000, which is a lot of money for a poor country such as Zaire!

Electoral Corruption Types: Manipulation of electoral process, the rigging of election results as it happened to Ethiopia during the 2005 elections; intimidation of the electorate; irregular and illegal voter registration and candidate and party registration, party financing (e.g. Lack of disclosure of funding sources), voting and counting, campaign and media regulations; and Petty corruption Types: such as is often seen on the side of the streets at a police roadblock

What else would not motivate you other than the scourge that has subjected the country to shame, such as the gold scam? What else would not make you angry other than the recent Tendaho Sugar Factory Project scandals, where Ethiopia was dragged to the Bombay High Court over unlawful awards of a contract to some TPLF cronies, worth $184.00? What else would not anger you more than the selling of both our land our children to foreigners?

… What else would not motivate you to do your part if the callousness and meanness theatre that was done at the Sheraton Hotel did not? As I pleaded to you in my recent write-up regarding the shameful “fundraising” theatre, we should not allow them to pit us against our Tigrian compatriots whenever the dictators feel threatened.

We rather should tell them, “No, you cannot be a good kin of the Tigrian people while at the same time instigating hatred against them by spewing your ethnocentric venom!” We should say to them, “enough is enough- from now on we will not allow you to continue shamelessly sucking the poor Ethiopian peoples’ blood using your mafia-type of corruption.” It is about time for you to do your part so that your deeds could assist the people you love. It is time for action, not just talk!

Here is the email address we want you to use when you send us your reports:


We are preparing some survey questionnaire regarding the same issue. We hope that you also will cooperate to fill those questionnaires.

The ideas and propositions presented in this article are taken from ongoing research topics of the writer.

Sources Used (Limited)

Alberto Alesina and Eliana La Ferrara [2005], “Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance, "Journal of Economic Literature 43: 721-61 (with Eliana La Ferrara).
The Political Economy of Ethnicity,” by Paul Collier (1998).
“Ethnocentric Politics and Reinforcing Psychology in the Ethiopian Context” By Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia. February 25, 2004.
“Parochial Politics: Ethnic Competition and Politician Corruption in India,” Abhijit V. Banerjee and Rohini Pande.
E. J. Graff: “The Lie We Love - the Adoption Racket: Inside the Sad Trade and Foreign Babies.” Foreign Policy, November/December 2008, pp. 58-66.
William Easterly and R. Levine [1997], “Africa's Growth Tragedy: Policies and Ethnic Divisions,"Quarterly Journal of Economics CXII (4), 1203-1250.
“Ethnic Diversity, Democracy, and Corruption” by Etienne B. Yehoue IMF Working Paper WP/ 07/218, September 2007.
Tanzi, Vito (1995): “Fiscal Federalism and Decentralization: A Review of Some Efficiency and Macroecoomic Aspects”, Annual World Bank Conference on Development Economics, pp.295-316.
Tanzi, Vito, and Hamid Davoodi (1997): “Corruption, Public Investment, and Growth”, IMF Working Paper 97/139, Washington: International Monetary Fund.
Tanzi, Vito (1998). Corruption around the World – Causes, Consequences, Scope and Cures.
IMF Staff Papers, Vol. 45, No.4 (December), pp. 559-594.
“Ethnic Politics and the Cracks in the Dry Ground of the TPLF,” by Messay Kebede, PhD, University of Dayton, Ohio.
The World Bank: Various online sources.
“TDA Conducts a Successful and Sounding Telethon.”
World Bank: “Information Access, Governance, and Service Delivery in Key Sectors: Themes and Lessons from Kenya and Ethiopia,” By: Sahr Kpundeh and Gilbert M. Khadiagala.
i In which case their only main competitor is the Alamoudi business sector.

ii Some writers have now began comparing the ongoing corruption to that of a mafia-type of activity, citing the fact that, among other things, that those who are deeply involved intimidate and coerce those who object their activities. There are indeed interesting parallels between the mafia type of activities that are taking place in Ethiopia and elsewhere, especially those which took place in Russia and East Europe. We will revisit this issue in another write-up.

iii As a matter of fact, many trade experts and economists believe that the zero-sum-game policies which were adopted by many countries were contributing factors of the Second World War.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Forecasting Global Trends by 2025 by NIC USA

Global Trends 2025:
A Transformed World
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office

Phone: toll free (866) 512-1800; DC area (202) 512-1800;
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To view electronic version:
November 2008
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We prepared Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World to stimulate strategic
thinking about the future by identifying key trends, the factors that drive them, where they seem to be headed, and how they might interact. It uses scenarios to illustrate some of the many ways in which the drivers examined in the study (e.g., globalization,demography, the rise of new powers, the decay of international institutions, climate change, and the geopolitics of energy) may interact to generate challenges and opportunities for future decisionmakers. The study as a whole is more a description of the factors likely to shape events than a prediction of what will actually happen.

By examining a small number of variables that we judge probably will have a
disproportionate influence on future events and possibilities, the study seeks to help readers to recognize signposts indicating where events are headed and to identify opportunities for policy intervention to change or lock in the trajectories of specific developments. Among the messages we hope to convey are: “If you like where events seem to be headed, you may want to take timely action to preserve their positive trajectory.

If you do not like where they appear to be going, you will have to develop and
implement policies to change their trajectory.” For example, the report’s examination of the transition out of dependence on fossil fuels illustrates how different trajectories will entail different consequences for specific countries. An even more important message is that leadership matters, no trends are immutable, and that timely and well-informed intervention can decrease the likelihood and severity of negative developments and increase the likelihood of positive ones.

Global Trends 2025 is the fourth installment in the National Intelligence Councilled
effort to identify key drivers and developments likely to shape world events a decade
or more in the future. Both the product and the process used to produce it benefited from lessons learned in previous iterations. Each edition of Global Trends has tapped larger and more diverse communities of experts. Our first effort, which looked out to 2010, relied primarily on expertise within the US Intelligence Community. There was some outreach to other elements of the United States Government and the American academic community. For Global Trends 2015, we engaged more numerous and more varied groups of non-US Government experts, most of whom were American citizens.

For the third iteration, Global Trends 2020, we greatly expanded the participation
of non-American specialists by convening six seminars on five continents. We also
increased the number and varied the format of meetings in the United States. These
sessions enhanced our understanding of both specific trends and drivers and the ways
these factors were perceived by experts in different regions of the world.
Each past iteration produced an even more interesting and influential report.

Indeed, the worldwide response to Global Trends 2020 was extraordinary. The report
has been translated into several languages, debated in government offices, discussed in university courses, and used as a point of departure in community meetings on
international affairs. The report was closely read and constructively criticized by myriad experts and members of the public.

Seeking to capitalize on the interest generated by previous reports and to capture
even wider circles of expertise, we modified our processes yet again to produce Global Trends 2025. In addition to increasing still more the participation of non-USG experts from the United States and abroad to develop the framework for the current study, we shared several drafts with participants via the Internet and a series of discussion sessions across the US and in several other countries. This iteration of Global Trends is the most collaborative yet produced; that collaboration has made it a better product and we are extremely grateful for the time and intellectual energy that literally hundreds of people
have devoted to this effort.

As was the case with our previous looks at global trends that will shape the future,
the process and spin-off benefits of preparing Global Trends 2025 were as important as the final product. The ideas generated and insights gained during the preparation of the accompanying report have enriched the work of countless analysts and been incorporated into numerous analytic products published by the National Intelligence Council and other
Intelligence Community agencies. Anecdotal evidence indicates they have also
influenced the thinking and work of many participants in the process who do not work for
the United States Government. We are pleased by and proud of these ancillary benefits
and look forward to reaping many more when others have a chance to read and react to
this edition of Global Trends.
Many people contributed to the preparation of Global Trends 2025, but no one
contributed more than did Mathew Burrows. His intellectual gifts and managerial
abilities were critical to the production of this report and everyone involved owes him a
huge debt of gratitude. Mat’s own note of appreciation on the following page lists others
who made especially noteworthy contributions. Many others also made important
contributions. We could not have produced this edition of Global Trends without the
support of everyone who participated and we are deeply grateful for the partnerships and the friendships that facilitated and resulted from this collaborative effort.

C. Thomas Fingar

Chairman, National Intelligence Council

In preparing this work the National Intelligence Council received immeasurable help
from numerous think tanks, consulting firms, academic institutions, and literally
hundreds of experts inside and outside governments here in the United States and
overseas. We cannot possibly name all the institutions and individuals we consulted but would like to acknowledge a number for their important contributions.

The Atlantic Council of the United States and the Stimson Center were both important for opening doors to institutions abroad and viewpoints that we would not easily have
gathered for this project. Dr. William Ralston, Dr. Nick Evans and their team at SRI
Consulting Business Intelligence provided needed S & T expertise and guidance.
Dr. Alexander Van de Putte of PFC Energy International put together a series of meetings in three regional hubs across the globe to help us begin the process of conceiving and constructing the scenarios. Others involved in that effort include Professor Jean-Pierre Lehmann of the Evian Group at IMD in Lausanne and Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall at the Monitor Group’s Global Business Network in San Francisco. Professor Barry Hughes of the University of Denver contributed notably in the scenario construction process and in plotting out the possible trajectories of major powers.

Dr. Jacqueline Newmyer and Dr. Stephen Rosen from the Long Term Strategy Group organized three workshops that were critical to advancing our thinking on the complexities of the future security environment and the changing character of conflict.

Several individuals and institutions helped organize roundtables to critique drafts or delve deeply into various aspects, including Dr. Geoff Dabelko at the Wilson Center; Dr. Greg Treverton of RAND; Sebastian Mallaby at the Council on Foreign Relations; Carlos Pascual at Brookings; Dr. Michael Auslin at AEI; Professor Christopher Layne at Texas A&M University; Professor Sumit Ganguly at Indiana University and Dr. Robin Niblett and Jonathan Paris at Chatham House in London. Professor John Ikenberry from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School organized several workshops of prominent international relations scholars, helping us with changing geopolitical trends. Two workshops—one organized by Professor Lanxin Xiang and hosted by CICIR in Beijing, the other organized and hosted by Dr. Bates Gill at SIPRI in Stockholm—were particularly instrumental in gathering international perspectives on strategic challenges facing the world.

Within the United States government, special thanks goes to Julianne Paunescu from the
State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). In helping us at every
step of the way, she and her team fulfilled their mandate spearheading intelligence
community outreach to nongovernmental experts in an outstanding manner. Marilyn
Maines and her experts at NSA provided essential expertise on S&T and organized
workshops with Toffler Associates to delve more deeply into future trends. The NIC’s
Analysis and Production staff, including Elizabeth Arens’ deft editorial hand, provided
essential support.
Executive Summary
Introduction: A Transformed World
More Change than Continuity
Alternative Futures
Chapter 1: The Globalizing Economy
Back to the Future
Growing Middle Class
State Capitalism: A Post-Democratic Marketplace Rising in the East?
Bumpy Ride in Correcting Current Global Imbalances
Multiple Financial Nodes
Diverging Development Models, but for How Long?
Chapter 2: The Demographics of Discord
Populations Growing, Declining, and Diversifying—at the Same Time
The Pensioner Boom: Challenges of Aging Populations
Persistent Youth Bulges
Changing Places: Migration, Urbanization, and Ethnic Shifts
Demographic Portraits: Russia, China, India, and Iran
Chapter 3: The New Players
Rising Heavyweights: China and India
Other Key Players
Up-and-Coming Powers
Global Scenario I: A World Without the West
Chapter 4: Scarcity in the Midst of Plenty?
The Dawning of a Post-Petroleum Age?
The Geopolitics of Energy
Water, Food, and Climate Change
Global Scenario II: October Surprise
Chapter 5: Growing Potential for Conflict
A Shrinking Arc of Instability by 2025?
Growing Risk of a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East
New Conflicts Over Resources?
Terrorism: Good and Bad News
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq: Local Trajectories and Outside Interests
Global Scenario III: BRICs’ Bust-Up
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Chapter 6: Will the International System Be Up to the Challenges?
Multipolarity without Multilateralism
How Many International Systems?
A World of Networks
Global Scenario IV: Politics is Not Always Local
Chapter 7: Power-sharing in a Multipolar World
Demand for US Leadership Likely to Remain Strong, Capacities Will Shrink
New Relationships and Recalibrated Old Partnerships
Less Financial Margin of Error
More Limited Military Superiority
Surprises and Unintended Consequences
Leadership Will Be Key
ii i
The 2025 Global Landscape
Comparison Between Mapping the Global Future: Report of the Intelligence
Council’s 2020 Project and Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World
Long-Range Projections: A Cautionary Tale
Globalization at Risk with the 2008 Financial Crisis?
Science and Technology Leadership: A Test for the Emerging Powers
Latin America: Moderate Economic Growth, Continued Urban Violence
Women as Agents of Geopolitical Change
Higher Education Shaping the Global Landscape in 2025
The Impact of HIV/AIDS
Muslims in Western Europe
Timing is Everything
Winners and Losers in a Post-Petroleum World
Technology Breakthroughs by 2025
Two Climate Change Winners
Strategic Implications of an Opening Arctic
Sub-Saharan Africa: More Interactions with the World and More Troubled
A Non-nuclear Korea?
Middle East/North Africa: Economics Drives Change, but with Major Risk
of Turmoil
Energy Security
Another Use of Nuclear Weapons?
Why al-Qa’ida’s “Terrorist Wave” Might Be Breaking Up
The Changing Character of Conflict
End of Ideology?
Potential Emergence of a Global Pandemic
Greater Regionalism—Plus or Minus for Global Governance?
Proliferating Identities and Growing Intolerance?
Future of Democracy: Backsliding More Likely than Another Wave
Anti-Americanism on the Wane?
The 2025 Global Landscape
Relative Certainties Likely Impact
A global multipolar system is emerging
with the rise of China, India, and others.
The relative power of nonstate actors—
businesses, tribes, religious
organizations, and even criminal
networks—also will increase.
By 2025 a single “international community”
composed of nation-states will no longer exist.
Power will be more dispersed with the newer
players bringing new rules of the game while risks
will increase that the traditional Western alliances
will weaken. Rather than emulating Western
models of political and economic development,
more countries may be attracted to China’s
alternative development model.
The unprecedented shift in relative
wealth and economic power roughly
from West to East now under way will

As some countries become more invested in their
economic well-being, incentives toward
geopolitical stability could increase. However, the
transfer is strengthening states like Russia that want
to challenge the Western order.
The United States will remain the single
most powerful country but will be less

Shrinking economic and military capabilities may
force the US into a difficult set of tradeoffs
between domestic versus foreign policy priorities.
Continued economic growth—coupled
with 1.2 billion more people by 2025—
will put pressure on energy, food, and
water resources.

The pace of technological innovation will be key to
outcomes during this period. All current
technologies are inadequate for replacing
traditional energy architecture on the scale needed.
The number of countries with youthful
populations in the “arc of instability”1
will decrease, but the populations of
several youth-bulge states are projected
to remain on rapid growth trajectories.
Unless employment conditions change dramatically
in parlous youth-bulge states such as Afghanistan,
Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen, these countries will
remain ripe for continued instability and state

The potential for conflict will increase
owing to rapid changes in parts of the
greater Middle East and the spread of
lethal capabilities.

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.

Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by
2025, but its appeal could lessen if
economic growth continues in the
Middle East and youth unemployment is
reduced. For those terrorists that are
active the diffusion of technologies will
put dangerous capabilities within their

Opportunities for mass-casualty terrorist attacks
using chemical, biological, or less likely, nuclear
weapons will increase as technology diffuses and
nuclear power (and possibly weapons) programs
expand. The practical and psychological
consequences of such attacks will intensify in an
increasingly globalized world.

1 Countries with youthful age structures and rapidly growing populations mark a crescent or “arc of instability”
stretching from the Andean region of Latin America across Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the Caucasus,
and through the northern parts of South Asia.
Key Uncertainties
Potential Consequences
Whether an energy transition away from
oil and gas—supported by improved
energy storage, biofuels, and clean
coal—is completed during the 2025
time frame.

With high oil and gas prices, major exporters such
as Russia and Iran will substantially augment their
levels of national power, with Russia’s GDP
potentially approaching that of the UK and France.
A sustained plunge in prices, perhaps underpinned
by a fundamental switch to new energy sources,
could trigger a long-term decline for producers as
global and regional players.

How quickly climate change occurs and
the locations where its impact is most

Climate change is likely to exacerbate resource
scarcities, particularly water scarcities.
Whether mercantilism stages a
comeback and global markets recede.

Descending into a world of resource nationalism
increases the risk of great power confrontations.
Whether advances toward democracy
occur in China and Russia.

Political pluralism seems less likely in Russia in the
absence of economic diversification. A growing
middle class increases the chances of political
liberalization and potentially greater nationalism in

Whether regional fears about a nucleararmed
Iran trigger an arms race and
greater militarization.

Episodes of low-intensity conflict and terrorism
taking place under a nuclear umbrella could lead to
an unintended escalation and broader conflict.
Whether the greater Middle East

becomes more stable, especially
whether Iraq stabilizes, and whether the
Arab-Israeli conflict is resolved

Turbulence is likely to increase under most
scenarios. Revival of economic growth, a more
prosperous Iraq, and resolution of the Israeli-
Palestinian dispute could engender some stability as
the region deals with a strengthening Iran and
global transition away from oil and gas.

Whether Europe and Japan overcome
economic and social challenges caused
or compounded by demography.

Successful integration of Muslim minorities in
Europe could expand the size of the productive
work forces and avert social crisis. Lack of efforts
by Europe and Japan to mitigate demographic
challenges could lead to long-term declines.

Whether global powers work with
multilateral institutions to adapt their
structure and performance to the
transformed geopolitical landscape.

Emerging powers show ambivalence toward global
institutions like the UN and IMF, but this could
change as they become bigger players on the global
stage. Asian integration could lead to more
powerful regional institutions. NATO faces stiff
challenges in meeting growing out-of-area
responsibilities with declining European military
capabilities. Traditional alliances will weaken.
v i
Executive Summary
The international system—as constructed following the Second World War—will be almost
unrecognizable by 2025 owing to the rise of emerging powers, a globalizing economy, an
historic transfer of relative wealth and economic power from West to East, and the growing
influence of nonstate actors. By 2025, the international system will be a global multipolar one
with gaps in national power2 continuing to narrow between developed and developing countries.
Concurrent with the shift in power among nation-states, the relative power of various nonstate
actors—including businesses, tribes, religious organizations, and criminal networks—is
increasing. The players are changing, but so too are the scope and breadth of transnational issues
important for continued global prosperity. Aging populations in the developed world; growing
energy, food, and water constraints; and worries about climate change will limit and diminish
what will still be an historically unprecedented age of prosperity.
Historically, emerging multipolar systems have been more unstable than bipolar or unipolar
ones. Despite the recent financial volatility—which could end up accelerating many ongoing
trends—we do not believe that we are headed toward a complete breakdown of the international
system, as occurred in 1914-1918 when an earlier phase of globalization came to a halt.
However, the next 20 years of transition to a new system are fraught with risks. Strategic
rivalries are most likely to revolve around trade, investments, and technological innovation and
acquisition, but we cannot rule out a 19th century-like scenario of arms races, territorial
expansion, and military rivalries.
This is a story with no clear outcome, as illustrated by a series of vignettes we use to map out
divergent futures. Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor,
the United States’ relative strength—even in the military realm—will decline and US leverage
will become more constrained. At the same time, the extent to which other actors—both state
and nonstate—will be willing or able to shoulder increased burdens is unclear. Policymakers
and publics will have to cope with a growing demand for multilateral cooperation when the
international system will be stressed by the incomplete transition from the old to a still-forming
new order.
Economic Growth Fueling Rise of Emerging Players
In terms of size, speed, and directional flow, the transfer of global wealth and economic power
now under way—roughly from West to East—is without precedent in modern history. This shift
derives from two sources. First, increases in oil and commodity prices have generated windfall
profits for the Gulf states and Russia. Second, lower costs combined with government policies
have shifted the locus of manufacturing and some service industries to Asia.
Growth projections for Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRICs) indicate they will
collectively match the original G-7’s share of global GDP by 2040-2050. China is poised to
have more impact on the world over the next 20 years than any other country. If current trends
persist, by 2025 China will have the world’s second largest economy and will be a leading
2 National power scores, computed by the International Futures computer model, are the product of an index
combining the weighted factors of GDP, defense spending, population, and technology.
vi i
military power. It also could be the largest importer of natural resources and the biggest polluter.
India probably will continue to enjoy relatively rapid economic growth and will strive for a
multipolar world in which New Delhi is one of the poles. China and India must decide the extent
to which they are willing and capable of playing increasing global roles and how each will relate
to the other. Russia has the potential to be richer, more powerful, and more self-assured in 2025
if it invests in human capital, expands and diversifies its economy, and integrates with global
markets. On the other hand, Russia could experience a significant decline if it fails to take these
steps and oil and gas prices remain in the $50-70 per barrel range. No other countries are
projected to rise to the level of China, India, or Russia, and none is likely to match their
individual global clout. We expect, however, to see the political and economic power of other
countries—such as Indonesia, Iran, and Turkey—increase.
For the most part, China, India, and Russia are not following the Western liberal model for selfdevelopment
but instead are using a different model, “state capitalism.” State capitalism is a
loose term used to describe a system of economic management that gives a prominent role to the
state. Other rising powers—South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore—also used state capitalism to
develop their economies. However, the impact of Russia, and particularly China, following this
path is potentially much greater owing to their size and approach to “democratization.” We
remain optimistic about the long-term prospects for greater democratization, even though
advances are likely to be slow and globalization is subjecting many recently democratized
countries to increasing social and economic pressures with the potential to undermine liberal
Many other countries will fall further behind economically. Sub-Saharan Africa will remain
the region most vulnerable to economic disruption, population stresses, civil conflict, and
political instability. Despite increased global demand for commodities for which Sub-Saharan
Africa will be a major supplier, local populations are unlikely to experience significant economic
gain. Windfall profits arising from sustained increases in commodity prices might further
entrench corrupt or otherwise ill-equipped governments in several regions, diminishing the
prospects for democratic and market-based reforms. Although many of Latin America’s major
countries will have become middle income powers by 2025, others, particularly those such as
Venezuela and Bolivia that have embraced populist policies for a protracted period, will lag
behind—and some, such as Haiti, will have become even poorer and less governable. Overall,
Latin America will continue to lag behind Asia and other fast-growing areas in terms of
economic competitiveness.
Asia, Africa, and Latin America will account for virtually all population growth over the next
20 years; less than 3 percent of the growth will occur in the West. Europe and Japan will
continue to far outdistance the emerging powers of China and India in per capita wealth, but they
will struggle to maintain robust growth rates because the size of their working-age populations
will decrease. The US will be a partial exception to the aging of populations in the developed
world because it will experience higher birth rates and more immigration. The number of
migrants seeking to move from disadvantaged to relatively privileged countries is likely to
vi ii
The number of countries with youthful age structures in the current “arc of instability” is
projected to decline by as much as 40 percent. Three of every four youth-bulge countries that
remain will be located in Sub-Saharan Africa; nearly all of the remainder will be located in the
core of the Middle East, scattered through southern and central Asia, and in the Pacific Islands.
New Transnational Agenda
Resource issues will gain prominence on the international agenda. Unprecedented global
economic growth—positive in so many other regards—will continue to put pressure on a number
of highly strategic resources, including energy, food, and water, and demand is projected to
outstrip easily available supplies over the next decade or so. For example, non-OPEC liquid
hydrocarbon production—crude oil, natural gas liquids, and unconventionals such as tar sands—
will not grow commensurate with demand. Oil and gas production of many traditional energy
producers already is declining. Elsewhere—in China, India, and Mexico—production has
flattened. Countries capable of significantly expanding production will dwindle; oil and gas
production will be concentrated in unstable areas. As a result of this and other factors, the world
will be in the midst of a fundamental energy transition away from oil toward natural gas, coal
and other alternatives.
The World Bank estimates that demand for food will rise by 50 percent by 2030, as a result of
growing world population, rising affluence, and the shift to Western dietary preferences by a
larger middle class. Lack of access to stable supplies of water is reaching critical proportions,
particularly for agricultural purposes, and the problem will worsen because of rapid urbanization
worldwide and the roughly 1.2 billion persons to be added over the next 20 years. Today,
experts consider 21 countries, with a combined population of about 600 million, to be either
cropland or freshwater scarce. Owing to continuing population growth, 36 countries, with about
1.4 billion people, are projected to fall into this category by 2025.
Climate change is expected to exacerbate resource scarcities. Although the impact of climate
change will vary by region, a number of regions will begin to suffer harmful effects, particularly
water scarcity and loss of agricultural production. Regional differences in agricultural
production are likely to become more pronounced over time with declines disproportionately
concentrated in developing countries, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural
losses are expected to mount with substantial impacts forecast by most economists by late this
century. For many developing countries, decreased agricultural output will be devastating
because agriculture accounts for a large share of their economies and many of their citizens live
close to subsistence levels.
New technologies could again provide solutions, such as viable alternatives to fossil fuels or
means to overcome food and water constraints. However, all current technologies are inadequate
for replacing the traditional energy architecture on the scale needed, and new energy
technologies probably will not be commercially viable and widespread by 2025. The pace of
technological innovation will be key. Even with a favorable policy and funding environment for
biofuels, clean coal, or hydrogen, the transition to new fuels will be slow. Major technologies
historically have had an “adoption lag.” In the energy sector, a recent study found that it takes an
average of 25 years for a new production technology to become widely adopted.
Despite what are seen as long odds now, we cannot rule out the possibility of an energy
transition by 2025 that would avoid the costs of an energy infrastructure overhaul. The greatest
possibility for a relatively quick and inexpensive transition during the period comes from better
renewable generation sources (photovoltaic and wind) and improvements in battery technology.
With many of these technologies, the infrastructure cost hurdle for individual projects would be
lower, enabling many small economic actors to develop their own energy transformation projects
that directly serve their interests—e.g., stationary fuel cells powering homes and offices,
recharging plug-in hybrid autos, and selling energy back to the grid. Also, energy conversion
schemes—such as plans to generate hydrogen for automotive fuel cells from electricity in the
homeowner’s garage—could avoid the need to develop complex hydrogen transportation
Prospects for Terrorism, Conflict, and Proliferation
Terrorism, proliferation, and conflict will remain key concerns even as resource issues move up
on the international agenda. Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025, but its appeal could
diminish if economic growth continues and youth unemployment is mitigated in the Middle East.
Economic opportunities for youth and greater political pluralism probably would dissuade some
from joining terrorists’ ranks, but others—motivated by a variety of factors, such as a desire for
revenge or to become “martyrs”—will continue to turn to violence to pursue their objectives.
In the absence of employment opportunities and legal means for political expression, conditions
will be ripe for disaffection, growing radicalism, and possible recruitment of youths into
terrorist groups. Terrorist groups in 2025 will likely be a combination of descendants of longestablished
groups—that inherit organizational structures, command and control processes, and
training procedures necessary to conduct sophisticated attacks—and newly emergent collections
of the angry and disenfranchised that become self-radicalized. For those terrorist groups that are
active in 2025, the diffusion of technologies and scientific knowledge will place some of the
world’s most dangerous capabilities within their reach. One of our greatest concerns continues
to be that terrorist or other malevolent groups might acquire and employ biological agents, or
less likely, a nuclear device, to create mass casualties.
Although Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons is not inevitable, other countries’ worries about
a nuclear-armed Iran could lead states in the region to develop new security arrangements with
external powers, acquire additional weapons, and consider pursuing their own nuclear ambitions.
It is not clear that the type of stable deterrent relationship that existed between the great powers
for most of the Cold War would emerge naturally in the Middle East with a nuclear-weapons
capable Iran. Episodes of low-intensity conflict taking place under a nuclear umbrella could lead
to an unintended escalation and broader conflict if clear red lines between those states involved
are not well established.
We believe ideological conflicts akin to the Cold War are unlikely to take root in a world in
which most states will be preoccupied with the pragmatic challenges of globalization and
shifting global power alignments. The force of ideology is likely to be strongest in the Muslim
world—particularly the Arab core. In those countries that are likely to struggle with youth
bulges and weak economic underpinnings—such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and
Yemen—the radical Salafi trend of Islam is likely to gain traction.
Types of conflict we have not seen for awhile—such as over resources—could reemerge.
Perceptions of energy scarcity will drive countries to take actions to assure their future access to
energy supplies. In the worst case, this could result in interstate conflicts if government leaders
deem assured access to energy resources, for example, to be essential for maintaining domestic
stability and the survival of their regimes. However, even actions short of war will have
important geopolitical consequences. Maritime security concerns are providing a rationale for
naval buildups and modernization efforts, such as China’s and India’s development of blue-water
naval capabilities. The buildup of regional naval capabilities could lead to increased tensions,
rivalries, and counterbalancing moves but it also will create opportunities for multinational
cooperation in protecting critical sea lanes. With water becoming more scarce in Asia and the
Middle East, cooperation to manage changing water resources is likely to become more difficult
within and between states.
The risk of nuclear weapon use over the next 20 years, although remaining very low, is likely to
be greater than it is today as a result of several converging trends. The spread of nuclear
technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear
weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups. Ongoing low-intensity
clashes between India and Pakistan continue to raise the specter that such events could escalate
to a broader conflict between those nuclear powers. The possibility of a future disruptive regime
change or collapse occurring in a nuclear weapon state such as North Korea also continues to
raise questions regarding the ability of weak states to control and secure their nuclear arsenals.
If nuclear weapons are used in the next 15-20 years, the international system will be shocked as
it experiences immediate humanitarian, economic, and political-military repercussions. A future
use of nuclear weapons probably would bring about significant geopolitical changes as some
states would seek to establish or reinforce security alliances with existing nuclear powers and
others would push for global nuclear disarmament.
A More Complex International System
The trend toward greater diffusion of authority and power that has been occurring for a couple
decades is likely to accelerate because of the emergence of new global players, the worsening
institutional deficit, potential expansion of regional blocs, and enhanced strength of nonstate
actors and networks. The multiplicity of actors on the international scene could add strength—
in terms of filling gaps left by aging post-World War II institutions—or further fragment the
international system and incapacitate international cooperation. The diversity in type of actor
raises the likelihood of fragmentation occurring over the next two decades, particularly given the
wide array of transnational challenges facing the international community.
The rising BRIC powers are unlikely to challenge the international system as did Germany and
Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries, but because of their growing geopolitical and economic clout,
they will have a high degree of freedom to customize their political and economic policies rather
than fully adopting Western norms. They also are likely to want to preserve their policy freedom
to maneuver, allowing others to carry the primary burden for dealing with such issues as
terrorism, climate change, proliferation, and energy security.
x i
Existing multilateral institutions—which are large and cumbersome and were designed for a
different geopolitical order—will have difficulty adapting quickly to undertake new missions,
accommodate changing memberships, and augment their resources.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—concentrating on specific issues—increasingly will
be a part of the landscape, but NGO networks are likely to be limited in their ability to effect
change in the absence of concerted efforts by multilateral institutions or governments. Efforts at
greater inclusiveness—to reflect the emergence of the newer powers—may make it harder for
international organizations to tackle transnational challenges. Respect for the dissenting views
of member nations will continue to shape the agenda of organizations and limit the kinds of
solutions that can be attempted.
Greater Asian regionalism—possible by 2025—would have global implications, sparking or
reinforcing a trend toward three trade and financial clusters that could become quasi-blocs:
North America, Europe, and East Asia. Establishment of such quasi-blocs would have
implications for the ability to achieve future global World Trade Organization (WTO)
agreements. Regional clusters could compete in setting trans-regional product standards for
information technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, intellectual property rights, and other
aspects of the “new economy.” On the other hand, an absence of regional cooperation in Asia
could help spur competition among China, India, and Japan over resources such as energy.
Intrinsic to the growing complexity of the overlapping roles of states, institutions, and nonstate
actors is the proliferation of political identities, which is leading to establishment of new
networks and rediscovered communities. No one political identity is likely to be dominant in
most societies by 2025. Religion-based networks may be quintessential issue networks and
overall may play a more powerful role on many transnational issues such as the environment and
inequalities than secular groupings.
The United States: Less Dominant Power
By 2025 the US will find itself as one of a number of important actors on the world stage, albeit
still the most powerful one. Even in the military realm, where the US will continue to possess
considerable advantages in 2025, 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 US
freedom of action. A more constrained US role has implications for others and the likelihood of
new agenda issues being tackled effectively. Despite the recent rise in anti-Americanism, the US
probably will continue to be seen as a much-needed regional balancer in the Middle East and
Asia. The US will continue to be expected to play a significant role in using its military power to
counter global terrorism. On newer security issues like climate change, US leadership will be
widely perceived as critical to leveraging competing and divisive views to find solutions. 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. Developments in the rest of
the world, including internal developments in a number of key states—particularly China and
Russia—are also likely to be crucial determinants of US policy.
xi i
2025—What Kind of Future?
The above trends suggest major discontinuities, shocks, and surprises, which we highlight
throughout the text. Examples include nuclear weapons use or a pandemic. In some cases, the
surprise element is only a matter of timing: an energy transition, for example is inevitable; the
only questions are when and how abruptly or smoothly such a transition occurs. An energy
transition from one type of fuel (fossil fuels) to another (alternative) is an event that historically
has only happened once a century at most with momentous consequences. The transition from
wood to coal helped trigger industrialization. In this case, a transition—particularly an abrupt
one—out of fossil fuels would have major repercussions for energy producers in the Middle East
and Eurasia, potentially causing permanent decline of some states as global and regional powers.
Other discontinuities are less predictable. They are likely to result from an interaction of several
trends and depend on the quality of leadership. We put uncertainties such as whether China or
Russia becomes a democracy in this category. China’s growing middle class increases the
chances but does not make such a development inevitable. Political pluralism seems less likely
in Russia in the absence of economic diversification. Pressure from below may force the issue,
or a leader might begin or enhance the democratization process to sustain the economy or spur
economic growth. A sustained plunge in the price of oil and gas would alter the outlook and
increase prospects for greater political and economic liberalization in Russia. If either country
were to democratize, it would represent another wave of democratization with wide significance
for many other developing states.
Also uncertain are the outcomes of demographic challenges facing Europe, Japan, and even
Russia. In none of these cases does demography have to spell destiny with less regional and
global power an inevitable outcome. Technology, the role of immigration, public health
improvements, and laws encouraging greater female participation in the economy are some of
the measures that could change the trajectory of current trends pointing toward less economic
growth, increased social tensions, and possible decline.
Whether global institutions adapt and revive—another key uncertainty—also is a function of
leadership. Current trends suggest a dispersion of power and authority will create a global
governance deficit. Reversing those trend lines would require strong leadership in the
international community by a number of powers, including the emerging ones.
Some uncertainties would have greater consequences—should they occur—than would others.
In this work, we emphasize the overall potential for greater conflict—some forms of which could
threaten globalization. We put WMD terrorism and a Middle East nuclear arms race in this
category. The key uncertainties and possible impacts are discussed in the text and summarized
in the textbox on page vii. In the four fictionalized scenarios, we have highlighted new
challenges that could emerge as a result of the ongoing global transformation. They present new
situations, dilemmas, or predicaments that represent departures from recent developments. As a
set, they do not cover all possible futures. None of these is inevitable or even necessarily likely;
but, as with many other uncertainties, the scenarios are potential game-changers.
• In A World Without the West, the new powers supplant the West as the leaders on the world
xi ii
• October Surprise illustrates the impact of inattention to global climate change; unexpected
major impacts narrow the world’s range of options.
• In BRICs’ Bust-Up, disputes over vital resources emerge as a source of conflict between
major powers—in this case two emerging heavyweights—India and China.
• In Politics is Not Always Local, nonstate networks emerge to set the international agenda on
the environment, eclipsing governments.
xi v
The international system—as constructed
following the Second World War—will be
almost unrecognizable by 2025. 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. The transformation is being
fueled by a globalizing economy, marked by
an historic shift of relative wealth and
economic power from West to East, and by
the increasing weight of new players—
especially China and India. The US will
remain the single most important actor but
will be less dominant. As was true of the
United States in the 19th and 20th centuries,
China and India will at times be reticent and
at other times impatient to assume larger roles
on the world stage. In 2025, both will still be
more concerned about their own internal
development than changing the international
Concurrent with the shift in power among
nation-states, the relative power of various
nonstate actors—including businesses, tribes,
religious organizations, and even criminal
networks—will continue to increase. Several
countries could even be “taken over” and run
by criminal networks. In areas of Africa or
South Asia, states as we know them might
wither away, owing to the inability of
governments to provide for basic needs,
including security.
By 2025, the international community will be
composed of many actors in addition to
nation-states and will lack an overarching
approach to global governance. The “system”
will be multipolar with many clusters of both
state and nonstate actors. Multipolar
international systems—like the Concert of
Europe—have existed in the past, but the one
that is emerging is unprecedented because it is
global and encompasses a mix of state and
nonstate actors that are not grouped into rival
camps of roughly equal weight. The most
salient characteristics of the “new order” will
be the shift from a unipolar world dominated
by the United States to a relatively
unstructured hierarchy of old powers and
rising nations, and the diffusion of power
from state to nonstate actors.
“…we do not believe that we are headed
toward a complete breakdown [of the
international system]…However, the next 20
years of transition toward a new
international system are fraught with
History tells us that rapid change brings many
dangers. Despite the recent financial
volatility, which could end up accelerating
many ongoing trends, we do not believe that
we are headed toward a complete
breakdown—as occurred in 1914-1918 when
an earlier phase of globalization came to a
halt. However, the next 20 years of transition
toward a new international system are fraught
with risks—more than we envisaged when we
published Mapping the Global Future3 in
2004. These risks include the growing
prospect of a nuclear arms race in the Middle
East and possible interstate conflicts over
resources. The breadth of transnational
issues requiring attention also is increasing to
include issues connected with resource
constraints in energy, food, and water; and
worries about climate change. Global
institutions that could help the world deal
with these transnational issues and, more
generally, mitigate the risks of rapid change
currently appear incapable of rising to the
3 See Mapping the Global Future: Report of the
National Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project,
National Intelligence Council, December 2004, which
can be found at:
Comparison Between Mapping the Global Future:
Report of the Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project
and Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World
The most dramatic difference between Mapping the Global Future: Report of the Intelligence
Council’s 2020 Project and Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World is the latter’s
assumptions of a multipolar future, and therefore dramatic changes in the international system.
The 2025 report describes a world in which the US plays a prominent role in global events, but
the US is one among many global actors who manage problems. In contrast, the 2020 report
projects continued US dominance, positing that most major powers have forsaken the idea of
balancing the US.
The two documents also differ in their treatment of energy supply, demand, and new alternative
sources. In 2020, energy supplies “in the ground” are considered “sufficient to meet global
demand.” What is uncertain, according to the earlier report, is whether political instability in
producer countries, supply disruptions, or competition for resources might deleteriously affect
international oil markets. Though 2020 mentions the global increase in energy consumption, it
emphasizes the domination of fossil fuels. In contrast, 2025 sees the world in the midst of a
transition to cleaner fuels. New technologies are projected to provide the capability for fossil
fuel substitutes and solutions to water and food scarcity. The 2020 report acknowledges that
energy demands will influence superpower relations, but the 2025 report considers energy
scarcity as a driving factor in geopolitics.
Both reports project probable strong global economic growth—fueled by the rise of Brazil,
Russia, India, and China, absent major shocks. The 2025 report, however, assesses the
likelihood of major discontinuities to be high, emphasizing that “no single outcome seems
preordained” and that the next 20 years of transition toward a new international system are
fraught with risks, such as a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and possible interstate conflicts
over resources.
The scenarios in both reports address the future of globalization, the future structure of the
international system, and the dividing lines among groups that will cause conflict or
convergence. In both reports, globalization is seen as a driver so pervasive that it will reorder
current divisions based on geography, ethnicity, and religious and socio-economic status.
challenges without concerted efforts by their
More Change than Continuity
The rapidly changing international order at a
time of growing geopolitical challenges
increases the likelihood of discontinuities,
shocks, and surprises. No single outcome
seems preordained: the Western model of
economic liberalism, democracy, and
secularism, for example, which many
assumed to be inevitable, may lose its
luster—at least in the medium term.
In some cases, the surprise element is only a
matter of timing: an energy transition, for
example, is inevitable; the only questions are
when and how abruptly or smoothly such a
transition occurs. Other discontinuities are
less predictable. Recognizing that what may
seem implausible today could become
feasible or even likely by 2025, we have
looked at a number of single development
“shocks.” Examples include the global
impact of a nuclear arms exchange, a rapid
replacement for fossil fuels, and a
“democratic” China.
New technologies could provide solutions,
such as viable alternatives to fossil fuel or
means to overcome food and water
constraints. A critical uncertainty is whether
new technologies will be developed and
commercialized in time to avert a significant
slowdown in economic growth owing to
resource constraints. Such a slowdown would
jeopardize the rise of new powers and deal a
serious blow to the aspirations of those
countries not yet fully in the globalization
game. A world in which shortages
predominate could trigger behaviors different
from one in which scarcities are overcome
through technology or other means.
Alternative Futures
This study is organized into seven sections
that examine:
• The Globalizing Economy.
• Demographics of Discord.
• The New Players.
• Scarcity in the Midst of Plenty.
• Growing Potential for Conflict.
• Will the International System Be Up to
the Challenges?
• The US in a Power-sharing World.
As with our previous works, we will describe
possible alternative futures that could result
from the trends we discuss.4 We see the next
15-20 years as one of those great historical
turning points where multiple factors are
likely to be in play. How such factors
intersect with one another and the role of
leadership will be crucial to the outcome.
In constructing these scenarios, we focused on
critical uncertainties regarding the relative
importance of the nation-state as compared
with nonstate actors, and the level of global
cooperation. In some of the scenarios, states
are more dominant and drive global
dynamics; in others, nonstate actors, including
religious movements, nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs), and super-empowered
4 See Global Trends 2015, A Dialogue About the
Future with Nongovernment Experts, National
Intelligence Council, December 2000; and Mapping
the Global Future: Report of the National
Intelligence Council’s 2020 Project, National
Intelligence Council, December 2004. The reports can
be found at trends 2015.html and respectively.
individuals play more important roles. In
some of the scenarios, key players interact in
competing groups, through partnerships and
cross-border affiliations. Other scenarios
envision more interaction as autonomous
players operate independently and sometimes
conflict with one another.
In all the fictionalized scenarios, we highlight
challenges that could emerge as a result of the
ongoing global transformation. The scenarios
present new situations, dilemmas, or
predicaments that would cause upheavals in
the global landscape, leading to very different
“worlds.” None of these is inevitable or even
necessarily likely; but, as with many other
uncertainties, they are potential gamechangers.
A World Without the West. In this world,
described in a fictional letter from a future
head of the Shanghai Cooperation
Organization (SCO), new powers supplant the
West as the leaders on the world stage. The
US feels overburdened and withdraws from
Central Asia, including Afghanistan; Europe
will not step up to the plate and take the lead.
Russia, China, and others are forced to deal
with the potential for spillover and instability
in Central Asia. The SCO gains ascendance
while NATO’s status declines. Anti-China
antagonism in the US and Europe reaches a
crescendo; protectionist trade barriers are put
in place. Russia and China enter a marriage
of convenience; other countries—India and
Iran—rally around them. The lack of any
stable bloc—whether in the West or the non-
Western world—adds to growing instability
and disorder, potentially threatening
October Surprise. In this world, depicted in a
diary entry of a future US President, many
countries have been preoccupied with
achieving economic growth at the expense of
safeguarding the environment. The scientific
community has not been able to issue specific
warnings, but worries increase that a tipping
point has been reached in which climate
change has accelerated and possible impacts
will be very destructive. New York City is hit
by a major hurricane linked to global climate
change; the NY Stock Exchange is severely
damaged and, in the face of such destruction,
world leaders must begin to think about
taking drastic measures, such as relocating
parts of coastal cities.
BRICs’ Bust-Up. In this world, conflict
breaks out between China and India over
access to vital resources. Outside powers
intervene before the conflict escalates and
expands into a global conflagration. The
clash is triggered by Chinese suspicion of
efforts by others to threaten Beijing’s energy
supplies. Misperceptions and miscalculations
lead to the clash. The scenario highlights the
importance of energy and other resources to
continued growth and development as a great
power. It shows the extent to which conflict
in a multipolar world is just as likely to occur
between rising states as between older and
newer powers.
Politics is Not Always Local. In this world,
outlined in an article by a fictional Financial
Times reporter, various nonstate networks—
NGOs, religious groups, business leaders, and
local activists—combine to set the
international agenda on the environment and
use their clout to elect the UN Secretary
General. The global political coalition of
nonstate actors plays a crucial role in securing
a new worldwide climate change agreement.
In this new connected world of digital
communications, growing middle classes, and
transnational interest groups, politics is no
longer local and domestic and international
agendas become increasingly interchangeable.
Long-Range Projections: A Cautionary Tale
In the 20th century, experts forecasting the next 20 years—roughly the time frame of this study—
often missed major geopolitical events, basing their predictions largely on linear projections
without exploring possibilities that could cause discontinuities. Before WW I, while tensions
between European “great powers” were on the rise, few had an inkling of major changes in the
offing, from the extent of mutual slaughter to the downfall of age-old empires. In the early
1920s, few envisioned the lethal situation about to unfold, ushered in by the Great Depression,
Stalin’s gulags, and an even more bloody world war encompassing multiple genocides. The
postwar period saw the establishment of a new international system—many of whose
institutions—the UN and Bretton Woods—remain with us. Although the bipolar and nuclear age
did not lack war and conflict, it did provide a stable framework until the collapse of the Soviet
Union. The development of a globalized economy in which China and India play major roles
has opened a new era without clear outcomes.
Lessons from the last century, however, appear to suggest:
• Leaders and their ideas matter. No history of the past hundred years can be told without
delving into the roles and thinking of such leaders as Vladimir Lenin, Josef Stalin, Adolf
Hitler or Mao Zedong. The actions of dominating leaders are the hardest element to
anticipate. At several junctures in the 20th century, Western experts thought liberal and
market ideas had triumphed. As demonstrated by the impacts of Churchill, Roosevelt, and
Truman, leadership is key even in societies where institutions are strong and the maneuvering
room for wielding personal power is more constrained.
• Economic volatility introduces a major risk factor. Historians and social scientists have
discovered a strong correlation between rapid economic change—both positive and
negative—and political instability. The massive dislocation and economic volatility
introduced by the end of the “first” globalization in 1914-1918 and the rise of protectionist
barriers in the 1920s and 1930s, combined with the lingering resentments over the Versailles
peace settlement, laid the groundwork for WW II. The collapse of multinational and ethnic
empires—begun after WW I and continuing with the end of the colonial empires in the post-
WW II period—also unleashed a long series of national and ethnic conflicts that reverberates
today. Today’s globalization also has spurred the movement of people, disrupting traditional
social and geographic boundaries.
• Geopolitical rivalries trigger discontinuities more than does technological change.
Many stress the role of technology in bringing about radical change and there is no question
it has been a major driver. We—as others—have oftentimes underestimated its impact.
However, over the past century, geopolitical rivalries and their consequences have been more
significant causes of the multiple wars, collapse of empires, and rise of new powers than
technology alone.
In terms of size, speed, and directional flow,
the global shift in relative wealth and
economic power now under way—roughly
from West to East—is without precedent in
modern history. This shift derives from two
key sources. First, sustained increases in oil
and commodity prices have generated
windfall profits for the Gulf states and
Russia.. Second, relatively low labor costs
combined with certain government policies
have shifted the locus of manufacturing and
some service industries to Asia. Strong
global demand for these products has made
for wide economies of scale margins across
Asia, particularly in China and India. These
shifts in demand and supply are deep and
structural, which suggests that the resulting
transfer of economic power we are witnessing
is likely to endure. These shifts are the
driving force behind globalization that—as
we underlined in our Mapping the Global
Future report—is a meta-trend, transforming
historic patterns of economic flows and
underlying stocks, creating pressures for
rebalancing that are painful for both rich and
poor countries.
“In terms of size, speed, and directional
flow, the global shift in relative wealth and
economic power now under way—roughly
from West to East—is without precedent in
modern history.”
Although this transfer is not zero-sum, early
losers such as most of Latin America (with
the exception of Brazil and a few others) and
Africa are receiving neither a stake in the
initial asset transfer nor any significant
inbound investment from the recipient
countries. Certain industrialized states such
as Japan also appear increasingly challenged
by inchoate financial links among these
emerging markets. The US and Eurozone are
receiving much of this emerging market
liquidity, but whether they will benefit
relative to their current position depends on
several factors, including the ability of
Western countries to reduce oil consumption
and demand, the ability of these states to
capitalize on a favorable export climate in
sectors of comparative strength, such as
technology and services, and the domestic
policies of recipient states, particularly on
issues of monetary policy and openness to
foreign investment.
Back to the Future
Asia’s economic powerhouses—China and
India—are restoring the positions they held
two centuries ago when China produced
approximately 30 percent and India 15
percent of the world’s wealth. China and
India, for the first time since the 18th century,
are set to be the largest contributors to
worldwide economic growth. These two
countries will likely surpass the GDP of all
other economies except the US and Japan by
2025, but they will continue to lag in per
capita income for decades. The years around
2025 will be characterized by the “dual
identity” of these Asian giants: powerful, but
many individual Chinese or Indians feeling
relatively poor compared to Westerners.
Growth projections for Brazil, Russia, India,
and China have them collectively matching
the original G-7’s share of global GDP by
2040-2050. According to these same
projections, the eight largest economies in
2025 will be, in descending order: the US,
China, India, Japan, Germany, the UK, and
France, and Russia.
China, especially, has emerged as a new
financial heavyweight, claiming $2 trillion in
foreign exchange reserves in 2008. Rapidly
developing countries, including China and
Russia, have created sovereign wealth funds
(SWFs)5 with the aim of using their hundreds
5 Sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) constitute capital
generated from government surpluses and invested in
private markets abroad. Since 2005, the number of
of billions of dollars’ worth of assets to
achieve higher returns to help them weather
economic storms. Some of these funds will
return to the West in the form of investments,
thereby promoting greater productivity and
economic competitiveness. However, foreign
direct investment (FDI) by emerging powers
in the developing world is increasing
A generation of globally competitive
companies is emerging from the new powers,
helping to further solidify their position in the
global marketplace; from Brazil in
agribusiness and offshore energy exploration;
Russia in energy and metals; India in IT
services, pharmaceuticals, and auto parts; and
China in steel, home appliances, and
telecommunications equipment. Of the top
100 new global corporate leaders from the
non-OECD world listed in a 2006 report from
The Boston Consulting Group, 84 were
headquartered in Brazil, Russia, China and
Growing Middle Class
We are witnessing an unprecedented moment
in human history: never before have so many
been lifted out of extreme poverty as is
happening today. A stunning 135 million
people escaped dire poverty between 1999
and 2004 alone—more than the population of
Japan and almost as many as live in Russia
states with SWFs has grown from three to over 40, and
the aggregate sum under their control from around
$700 billion to $3 trillion. The range of functions
served by SWFs also has expanded, as many of the
states that created them recently have done so out of a
desire to perpetuate current account surpluses, or to
cultivate intergenerational savings, rather than to buffer
commodity market volatility. Should current trends
hold, SWFs will swell to over $6.5 trillion within five
years, and to $12-15 trillion within a decade, exceeding
total fiscal reserves and comprising some 20 percent of
all global capitalization.
Over the next several decades the number of
people considered to be in the “global middle
class” is projected to swell from 440 million
to 1.2 billion or from 7.6 percent of the
world’s population to 16.1 percent, according
to the World Bank. Most of the new entrants
will come from China and India.
• However, there is a dark side to the global
middle class coin: continued divergence
at the extremes. Many countries—
especially the landlocked and resourcepoor
ones in Sub Saharan Africa—lack
the fundamentals for entering the
globalization game. By 2025-2030, the
portion of the world considered poor will
shrink by about 23 percent, but the
world’s poor—still 63 percent of the
globe’s population—stand to become
relatively poorer, according to the World
State Capitalism: A Post-Democratic
Marketplace Rising in the East?
The monumental achievement of millions
escaping extreme poverty underpins the rise
of new powers—especially China and India—
on the international scene but does not tell the
whole story. Today wealth is moving not just
from West to East but is concentrating more
under state control. In the wake of the 2008
global financial crisis, the state’s role in the
economy may be gaining more appeal
throughout the world.
With some notable exceptions like India, the
states that are beneficiaries of the massive
shift of wealth—China, Russia, and Gulf
states—are non-democratic and their
economic policies blur distinctions between
public and private. These states are not
following the Western liberal model for selfdevelopment
but are using a different
model—“state capitalism.” State capitalism
is a loose term to describe a system of
economic management that gives a prominent
role to the state.
Others—like South Korea, Taiwan, and
Singapore—also chose state capitalism as
they initially developed their economies.
However, the impact of Russia, and
particularly China, following this path is
potentially greater given their weight on the
world stage. Ironically, the major
enhancement of the state role in Western
economies now under way as a result of the
current financial crisis may reinforce the
emerging countries’ preference for greater
state control and distrust of an unregulated
These states typically favor:
• An Open Export Climate. Given the
wealth flowing into these states, their
desire for a weak currency despite strong
domestic economic performance requires
heavy intervention in currency markets,
leading to heavy official asset
accumulation, typically until now in the
form of US Treasury bonds.
1 0
Globalization at Risk with the 2008 Financial Crisis?
As with most of the trends discussed in this report, the impacts from the financial crisis will
depend heavily on government leadership. Proactive fiscal and monetary policies probably will
ensure the current panic and likely deep national recessions will not turn into an extended
depression, although reduced economic growth could slow globalization’s pace, increasing
protectionist pressures and financial fragmentation.
The crisis is accelerating the global economic rebalancing. Developing countries have been hurt;
several, such as Pakistan with its large current account deficit, are at considerable risk. Even
those with cash reserves—such as South Korea and Russia—have been severely buffeted; steep
rises in unemployment and inflation could trigger widespread political instability and throw
emerging powers off course. However, if China, Russia, and Mideast oil exporters can avoid
internal crises, they will be in a position to leverage their likely still sizeable reserves, buying
foreign assets and providing direct financial assistance to still-struggling countries for political
favors or to seed new regional initiatives. In the West, the biggest change—not anticipated
before the crisis—is the increase in state power. Western governments now own large swaths of
their financial sectors and must manage them, potentially politicizing markets.
The crisis has increased calls for a new “Bretton Woods” to better regulate the global economy.
World leaders, however, will be challenged to renovate the IMF and devise a globally
transparent and effective set of rules that apply to differing capitalisms and levels of financial
institutional development. Failure to construct a new all-embracing architecture could lead
countries to seek security through competitive monetary policies and new investment barriers,
increasing the potential for market segmentation.
• Sovereign Wealth Funds (SWFs) and
Other State Investment Vehicles. Having
amassed huge assets, Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) and Chinese officials have
increasingly used various forms of
sovereign investment. States entering
private markets are doing so partly for the
prospect of higher return. SWFs are the
most widely publicized
but only one of many sovereign
investment vehicles.
• Renewed Efforts Toward Industrial
Policy. Governments that highly manage
their economies often have an interest in
industrial policy. China, Russia, and the
Gulf states have state plans to diversify
their economies and climb the valueadded
ladder into high technology and
service sectors. The significant difference
between today’s efforts and those of
earlier periods, however, is that these
states now directly own the economic
wherewithal to implement their plans and
need not rely on incentivizing parties or
luring foreign capital.
• Rollback of Privatization and the
Resurgence of State-Owned Enterprises
(SOEs). In the early 1990s, many
economists predicted that SOEs would be
a relic of the 20th century. They were
wrong. SOEs are far from extinction, are
thriving, and in many cases seek to
1 1
expand beyond their own borders,
particularly in the commodities and
energy sectors. SOEs, especially national
oil companies, are likely to attract
investment for the surfeit of ready capital
that these states are accumulating. Much
like SWFs, SOEs serve a secondary
function as pressure valves, helping to
relieve inflation and currency appreciation
pressures. They also can act as vehicles
for increased political control. To the
extent state-owned firms reach across
state borders, they may become vehicles
for geopolitical influence, particularly
those dealing in key strategic resources
such as energy.
The increasing role of the state as a player in
emerging markets has contrasted until
recently with nearly opposite trends in the
West, where the state has struggled to keep
pace with private financial engineering, such
as derivatives and credit swaps. The seeds of
this capital market’s depth and complexity
date to the 1980s but grew with rising asset
prices and bull markets from the 1990s until
recently. The financial engineering—based
upon a magnitude of leverage unthinkable
even a decade ago—in turn has injected an
unprecedented degree of risk and volatility
into global markets. Greater controls and
international regulation—a possible outcome
of the current financial crisis—could change
this trajectory, although a gap on the role of
the state in the economy is likely to remain
between the West and the rapidly emerging
economic powers.
Bumpy Ride in Correcting Current Global
The refusal of emerging markets to allow
currency appreciation despite booming
economies, together with the willingness of
the US to incur greater sums of debt, has
created a mutually supporting, albeit
ultimately unsustainable cycle of imbalances.
Indeed, the Wall Street events of 2008 mark
the opening chapters of a larger story of
rebalancing and course correction from these
imbalances. The righting of these imbalances
will be bumpy as the global economy moves
into realignment. The difficulties of global
economic policy coordination—in part a
byproduct of the growing political and
financial multipolarity—increase the chances
of a bumpy ride.
One of the following developments or a
combination could cause an adjustment: a
slowdown in US consumption and an
attendant increase in the US savings rate, and
an increase in demand from emerging Asian
markets, particularly China and India.
Whether imbalances stabilize or rebound out
to 2025 depends in part on the particular
lessons that the emerging powers choose to
draw from the financial crisis. Some may
interpret the crisis as a rationale for hoarding
yet more in the way of a cushion, while
others—in understanding that few if any
emerging economies were immune from the
widespread downturn—could come to regard
the stockpiling of reserves as less of a
Major financial disruptions and the needed
economic and political readjustments have
often spread beyond the financial arena.
History suggests that this rebalancing will
require long-term efforts to establish a new
international system. Specific problems to be
overcome include:
• Greater Trade and Investment
Protectionism. Increasingly aggressive
foreign acquisitions by corporations based
in the rapidly emerging economies—
many will be state-owned—will raise
political tensions, potentially creating a
public backlash in countries against
foreign trade and investment. The
perception of uneven benefits from
1 2
globalization in the US may fuel
protectionist forces.
• An Accelerated Resource Grab. The new
powers increasingly will have the means
to acquire commodities in an effort to
ensure continued development. Russia,
China, and India have linked their national
security to increased state control of and
access to energy resources and markets
through their state-owned energy firms.
Gulf states are interested in land leases
and purchases elsewhere to ensure
adequate food supplies.
• Slowing Democratization. China,
particularly, offers an alternative model
for political development in addition to
demonstrating a different economic
pathway. This model may prove
attractive to under-performing
authoritarian regimes, in addition to weak
democracies frustrated by years of
economic underperformance.
• The Overshadowing of International
Financial Institutions. Sovereign wealth
funds have injected more capital into
emerging markets than the IMF and
World Bank combined, and this trend
could even continue with unwinding
global imbalances. China already is
beginning to couple SWF investment with
direct aid and foreign assistance, often
directly outbidding the World Bank on
development projects. Such foreign
investment by newly rich states such as
China, Russia, and the GCC states will
lead to diplomatic realignments and new
relationships between these states and the
developing world.
• A Decline in the Dollar’s International
Role. Despite recent inflows into dollar
assets and the appreciation of the dollar,
the dollar could lose its status as an
unparalleled global reserve currency by
2025, and become a first among equals in
a market basket of currencies. This may
force the US to consider more carefully
how the conduct of its foreign policy
affects the dollar. Without a steady
source of external demand for dollars, US
foreign policy actions might bring
exposure to currency shock and higher
interest rates for Americans.
Growing use of the euro is already evident,
potentially making it harder for the US in the
future to exploit the unique role of the dollar
in international trade and investment to freeze
assets and disrupt the financial flows of its
adversaries, such as it recently has
accomplished with financial sanctions against
the leadership in North Korea and Iran.
Incentives and inclinations to move away
from the dollar will be tempered, however, by
uncertainties and instabilities in the
international financial system.
Multiple Financial Nodes
Anchored by the US and EU in the West,
Russia and the GCC states in Central Asia
and the Middle East, and China and
eventually India in the East, the financial
landscape for the first time will be genuinely
global and multipolar. Insomuch as the recent
financial crisis heightens interest in less
leveraged finance, Islamic finance may also
see a boost. While such a global and
multipolar financial order signals a relative
decline for US power and a likely increase in
market competition and complexity, these
downsides are likely to be accompanied by
many positives. Over time, and as they
develop, these multiple financial centers may
create redundancies that help insulate markets
against financial shocks and currency crises,
quelling their effects before global contagion
takes hold. Similarly, as regions become
more invested in their financial epicenters,
incentives to preserve geopolitical stability to
1 3
Science and Technology Leadership: A Test for the Emerging Powers
The relationship between achievements in science and technology and economic growth has
been long established, but the path is not always predictable. More significant is the overall
effectiveness of a nation’s National Innovation System (NIS)—the process by which intellectual
concepts are moved toward commercialization for the benefit of a national economy. According
to a NIC-contracted global survey of scientific experts, the United States currently boasts a
stronger innovation system than the developing economies of China and India.
• The idea of an NIS was first developed in the 1980s as an aid to understanding how some
countries were proving better than others at turning intellectual concepts into commercial
products that would boost their economies. The NIS model is evolving as information
technology and the effect of increased globalization (and multinational corporations)
influence national economies.
According to the NIC-commissioned study, nine factors can contribute to a modern NIS: fluidity
of capital, flexibility of the labor pool, government receptivity to business, information
communication technologies, private sector development infrastructure, legal systems to protect
intellectual property rights, available scientific and human capital, marketing skills, and cultural
propensity to encourage creativity.
China and India are expected in 10 years to achieve near parity with the US in two different
areas: scientific and human capital (India) and government receptivity to business innovation
(China). China and India will narrow significantly but not close the gap in all remaining factors.
The United States is expected to remain dominant in three areas: protection for intellectual
property rights, business sophistication to mature innovation, and encouragement of creativity.
Companies in China, India, and other major developing countries have unique opportunities to
be the first to develop a host of emerging technologies. This is especially the case in those
instances where companies are building new infrastructure and not burdened by historical
patterns of development. Such opportunities include distributed electrical power generation,
development of clean water sources, and the next generation of Internet and new information
technologies (such as ubiquitous computing and the Internet of Things—see the foldout). Early
and significant adoption of these technologies could provide considerable economic advantage.
shelter these financial flows will increase.
History suggests, however, that such a
redirection toward regional financial centers
could soon spill over into other areas of
power. Rarely, if ever, have such “financiers
of last resort” been content to limit their
influence to strictly financial realms. Interregional
tensions could divide the West with
the US and EU having increasingly divergent
economic and monetary priorities,
complicating Western efforts to lead and
jointly grow the global economy.
Diverging Development Models, but for
How Long?
The state-centric model in which the state
makes the key economic decisions and, in the
case of China and increasingly Russia,
democracy is restricted, raises questions about
the inevitability of the traditional Western
recipe—roughly liberal economics and
1 4
democracy—for development. Over the next
15-20 years, more developing countries may
gravitate toward Beijing’s state-centric model
rather than the traditional Western model of
markets and democratic political systems to
increase the chances of rapid development
and perceived political stability. While we
believe a gap will remain, the enhanced role
of the state in Western economies may also
lessen the contrast between the two models.
In the Middle East, secularism, which also has
been considered an integral part of the
Western model, increasingly may be seen as
out of place as Islamic parties come into
prominence and possibly begin to run
governments. As in today’s Turkey, we could
see both increased Islamization and greater
emphasis on economic growth and
“China, particularly, offers an alternative
model for political development in addition
to demonstrating a different economic
The lack of any overarching ideology and the
mix-and-match of some of the elements—for
example Brazil and India are vibrant market
democracies—means the state-centric model
does not yet constitute anything like an
alternative system and, in our view, is
unlikely ever to be one. Whether China
liberalizes both politically and economically
over the next two decades is a particularly
critical test for the long-term sustainability of
an alternative to the traditional Western
model. Although democratization probably
will be slow and may have its own Chinese
character, we believe the emerging middle
class will press for greater political influence
and accountability of those in charge,
particularly if the central government falters
in its ability to sustain economic growth or is
unresponsive to growing “quality of life”
issues such as increasing pollution or the need
for health and education services. The
government’s own efforts to boost S&T and
establish a “high tech” economy will increase
incentives for greater openness to develop
human capital at home and attract expertise
and ideas from outside.
Historical patterns evinced by other energy
producers suggest deflecting pressures for
liberalization will be easier for Russian
authorities. Traditionally, energy producers
also have been able to use revenues to buy off
political opponents; few have made the
transition to democracy while their energy
revenues remain strong.
A sustained plunge in the price of oil and gas
would alter the outlook and increase prospects
for greater political and economic
liberalization in Russia.
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Latin America: Moderate Economic Growth, Continued Urban Violence
Many Latin American countries will have achieved marked progress in democratic consolidation
by 2025, and some of these countries will have become middle income powers. Others,
particularly those that have embraced populist policies, will lag behind—and some, such as
Haiti, will have become even poorer and still less governable. Public security problems will
continue to be intractable—and in some cases unmanageable. Brazil will become the leading
regional power, but its efforts to promote South American integration will be realized only in
part. Venezuela and Cuba will have some form of vestigial influence in the region in 2025, but
their economic problems will limit their appeal. Unless the United States is able to deliver
market access on a permanent and meaningful basis, the US could lose its traditionally privileged
position in the region, with a concomitant decline in political influence.
Steady economic growth between now and 2025—perhaps as high as 4 percent—will fuel
modest decreases in poverty levels in some countries and a gradual reduction of the informal
sector. Progress on critical secondary reforms, such as education, regressive tax systems, weak
property rights, and inadequate law enforcement will remain incremental and spotty. The
relative growing importance of the region as a producer of oil, natural gas, biofuels, and other
alternative energy sources will spur growth in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, but state
ownership and political turmoil will impede efficient development of energy resources. The
economic competitiveness of Latin America will continue to lag behind Asia and some other fast
growing areas.
Population growth in the region will be relatively moderate, but the rural poor and indigenous
populations will continue to grow at a faster rate. Latin America will have a graying population
as the growth rate of adults aged 60 and over rises.
Parts of Latin America will continue to be among the world’s most violent areas. Drug
trafficking organizations, sustained in part by increased local drug consumption, transnational
criminal cartels, and local crime rings and gangs, will continue to undermine public security.
These factors, and persistent weaknesses in the rule of law, will mean that a few small countries,
especially in Central America and the Caribbean, will verge on becoming failed states.
Latin America will continue to play a marginal role in the international system, except for its
participation in international trade and some peacekeeping efforts.
US influence in the region will diminish somewhat, in part because of Latin America’s
broadening economic and commercial relations with Asia, Europe, and other blocs. Latins, in
general, will look to the United States for guidance both globally and for relations with the
region. An increasingly numerous Hispanic population will ensure greater US attention to, and
involvement in, the culture, religion, economics, and politics of the region.
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Women as Agents of Geopolitical Change
Economic and political empowerment of women could transform the global landscape over the
next 20 years. This trend already is evident in the area of economics: The explosion in global
economic productivity in recent years has been driven as much by fostering human
resources—particularly through improvements in health, education, and employment
opportunities for women and girls—as by technological advances.
• The predominance of women in Southeast Asia’s export manufacturing sector is a likely key
driver of that region’s economic success; women agricultural workers account for half the
world’s food production—even without reliable access to land, credit, equipment, and
• Over the next 20 years the increased entry and retention of women in the workplace may
continue to mitigate the economic impacts of global aging.
Women in much of Asia and Latin America are achieving higher levels of education than
men, a trend that is particularly significant in a human capital-intensive global economy.
• Demographic data indicate a significant correlation between a higher level of female literacy
and more robust GDP growth within a region (e.g., the Americas, Europe, and East Asia).
Conversely, those regions with the lowest female literacy rates (southern and western Asia;
the Arab world; and Sub-Saharan Africa) are the poorest in the world.
• Improved educational opportunities for girls and women also are a contributing factor to
falling birth rates worldwide—and by extension better maternal health. The long-term
implications of this trend likely include fewer orphans, less malnutrition, more children in
school, and other contributions to societal stability.
Although data on women’s political involvement are less conclusive than those regarding
economic participation, political empowerment of women appears to change governmental
priorities. Examples as disparate as Sweden and Rwanda indicate that countries with
relatively large numbers of politically active women place greater importance on societal
issues such as healthcare, the environment, and economic development. If this trend continues
over the next 15-20 years, as is likely, an increasing number of countries could favor social
programs over military ones. Better governance also could be a spinoff benefit, as a high
number of women in parliament or senior government positions correlates with lower corruption.
Nowhere is the role of women potentially more important for geopolitical change than in the
Muslim World. Muslim women do far better assimilating in Europe than their male relatives,
partly because they flourish in the educational system, which facilitates their entry into jobs in
information or service industries. Sharply declining fertility rates among Muslims in Europe
demonstrate this willingness to accept jobs outside the home and a growing refusal to conform to
traditional norms. In the short term, the decline of traditional Muslim family structures may help
explain the openness of many young Muslim men to radical Islamic messages. However, in
(Continued on next page…)
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rearing future generations, women might help show the way to greater social assimilation and
reduce the likelihood of religious extremism. The impact of growing numbers of women in the
workplace may also have an impact outside Europe. The modernizing countries of the Islamic
Mediterranean have close ties to Europe, to which these countries have sent many migrants.
Migrants return to visit or resettle and bring with them new ideas and expectations. These
Islamic countries also receive foreign influences from European mass media, through satellite
dishes and the Internet.
Higher Education Shaping the Global Landscape in 2025
As global business grows increasingly borderless and labor markets more seamless, education
has become a key determinant of countries’ economic performance and potential. Adequate
primary education is essential, but the quality and accessibility of secondary and higher
education will be even more important for determining whether societies successfully graduate
up the value-added production ladder.
The US lead in highly skilled labor will likely narrow as large developing countries, particularly
China, begin to reap dividends on recent investments in human capital, including education but
also nutrition and healthcare. India faces a challenge because inadequate primary education is
widespread in the poorer regions and top-flight educational institutions cater to a relatively
privileged few. Funding as a proportion of GDP has grown to around 5 percent in most
European countries, although few European universities are rated as world class. Spending on
education in the Arab world is roughly on par with the rest of the world in absolute terms and
surpasses the global mean as a percentage of GDP, lagging only slightly behind OECD highincome
countries. UN data and research findings by other institutions suggest, however that
training and education of Middle Eastern youth is not driven by the needs of employers,
especially for science and technology. There are some signs of progress.
The US may be uniquely able to adapt its higher education and research system to rising global
demand and position itself as a world education hub for the growing number of students that will
enter the education market out to 2025. Although further opening of US classrooms and
laboratories could mean greater competition for US students, the US economy would likely
benefit because companies tend to base their operations near available human capital. Continued
export of US educational models with the building of US campuses in the Middle East and
Central Asia could boost the attractiveness and global prestige of US universities.
1 8
1 9
Trends in birth, death, and migration are
changing the absolute and relative size of
young and old, rural and urban, and ethnic
majority and minority populations within and
among emerging and established powers.
These demographic reconfigurations will
offer social and economic opportunities for
some powers and severely challenge
established arrangements in others. The
populations of more than 50 countries will
increase by more than a third (some by more
than two-thirds) by 2025, placing additional
stresses on vital natural resources, services,
and infrastructure. Two-thirds of these
countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa; most of
the remaining fast-growing countries are in
the Middle East and South Asia.
Populations Growing, Declining, and
Diversifying—at the Same Time
World population is projected to grow by
about 1.2 billion between 2009 and 2025—
from 6.8 billion to around 8 billion people.
Although the global population increase is
substantial—with concomitant effects on
resources—the rate of growth will be slower
than it was, down from levels that added 2.4
billion persons between 1980 and today.
Demographers project that Asia and Africa
will account for most of the population
growth out to 2025 while less than 3 percent
of the growth will occur in the “West”—
Europe, Japan, the United States, Canada,
Australia, and New Zealand. In 2025,
roughly 16 percent of humanity will live in
the West, down from the 18 percent in 2009
and 24 percent in 1980.
• The largest increase will occur in India,
representing about one-fifth of all growth.
India’s population is projected to climb by
around 240 million by 2025, reaching
approximately 1.45 billion people. From
2009 to 2025, Asia’s other giant, China, is
projected to add more than 100 million to
its current population of over 1.3 billion.
(See graphic on page 22.)
• In aggregate, the countries of Sub-Saharan
Africa are projected to add about 350
million people during the same period,
while those in Latin America and the
Caribbean will increase by about 100
• Between now and 2025, Russia, Ukraine,
Italy, almost all countries in Eastern
Europe, and Japan are expected to see
their populations decline by several
percent. These declines could approach or
exceed 10 percent of the current
populations in Russia, Ukraine, and a few
other Eastern European countries.
• The populations of the US, Canada,
Australia, and a few other industrial states
with relatively high immigration rates will
continue to grow—the US by more than
40 million, Canada by 4.5 million, and
Australia by more than 3 million.
By 2025, the already diverse array of national
population age structures promises to be more
varied than ever, and the gap between the
youngest and oldest profiles will continue to
widen. The “oldest” countries—those in
which people under age 30 form less than
one-third of the population—will mark a band
across the northern edge of the world map. In
contrast, the “youngest” countries, where the
under-30 group represents 60 percent of the
population or more, will nearly all be located
in Sub-Saharan Africa. (See maps on page
2 0
2 1
The Pensioner Boom: Challenges of Aging
Population aging has brought today’s
developed countries—with a few exceptions
such as the US—to a demographic “tipping
point.” Today, nearly 7 out of every 10
people in the developed world are in the
traditional working years (ages 15 to 64)—a
high-tide mark. This number has never
before been so high and, according to experts,
in all likelihood will never be so high again.
In almost every developed country, the period
of most rapid growth in the ratio of seniors
(age 65 and older) to the working-age
population will occur during the 2010s and
2020s, boosting the fiscal burden of old-age
benefit programs. By 2010, there will be
about one senior for every four working-age
people in the developed world. By 2025, this
ratio will have climbed to one to three, and
possibly higher.
• Japan is in a difficult position: its
working-age population has been
contracting since the mid-1990s and its
overall population since 2005. Today’s
projections envision a society in which, by
2025, there will be one senior for every
two working-age Japanese.
• The picture for Western Europe is more
mixed. The UK, France, Belgium, the
Netherlands, and the Nordics will likely
maintain the highest fertility rates in
Europe but will remain below two
children per woman. In the rest of the
region, fertility probably will stay below
1.5 children per woman, on par with Japan
(and well below the replacement level of
2.1 children per woman).
Large and sustained increases in the fertility
rate, even if they began now, would not
reverse the aging trend for decades in Europe
and Japan. If fertility rose immediately to the
replacement level in Western Europe, the
ratio of seniors to people in their working
years would continue to rise steadily through
the late 2030s. In Japan, it would continue to
rise through the late 2040s.
The annual level of net immigration would
have to double or triple to keep working-age
populations from shrinking in Western
Europe. By 2025, non-European minority
populations could reach significant
proportions—15 percent or more—in nearly
all Western European countries and will have
a substantially younger age structure than the
native population (see page 20). Given
growing discontent with current levels of
immigrants among native Europeans, such
steep increases are likely to heighten tensions.
The aging of societies will have economic
consequences. Even with productivity
increases, slower employment growth from a
shrinking work force probably will reduce
Europe’s already tepid GDP growth by 1
percent. By the 2030s, Japan’s GDP growth
is projected to drop to near zero according to
some models. The cost of trying to maintain
pensions and health coverage will squeeze out
expenditures on other priorities, such as
Persistent Youth Bulges
Countries with youthful age structures and
rapidly growing populations form a crescent
stretching from the Andean region of Latin
America across Sub-Saharan Africa, the
Middle East and the Caucasus, and then
through the northern parts of South Asia. By
2025, the number of countries in this “arc of
instability” will have decreased by 35 to 40
percent owing to declining fertility and
maturing populations. Three quarters of the
three dozen “youth bulge countries” projected
to linger beyond 2025 will be located in Sub-
Saharan Africa. The remainder will be
2 2
located in the Middle East and scattered
across Asia and among the Pacific Islands.
• The emergence of new economic tigers by
2025 could occur where youth bulges
mature into “worker bulges.” Experts
argue that this demographic bonus is most
advantageous when the country provides
an educated work force and a businessfriendly
environment for investment.
Potential beneficiaries include Turkey,
Lebanon, Iran, and the Maghreb states of
North Africa (Morocco, Algeria and
Tunisia), Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile,
Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
• The current youth bulges in the Maghreb
states, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iran will
diminish rapidly but those in the West
Bank/Gaza, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia
and adjacent Afghanistan and Pakistan
will persist through 2025. Unless
employment conditions change
dramatically, youth in weak states will
continue to go elsewhere—externalizing
volatility and violence.
The populations of already parlous youthbulge
states—such as Afghanistan,
Democratic Republic of Congo (DROC),
Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen—are
projected to remain on rapid-growth
trajectories. Pakistan’s and Nigeria’s
populations are each projected to grow by
about 55 million people. Ethiopia and DROC
will likely add about 40 million each, while
the populations of Afghanistan and Yemen
are projected to grow more than 50 percent
larger than today’s. All will retain age
structures with large proportions of young
2 3
The Impact of HIV/AIDS
Neither an effective HIV vaccine nor a selfadministered
microbicide, even if developed
and tested before 2025, will likely be widely
disseminated by then. Although prevention
efforts and local behavioral changes will
depress infection rates globally, experts
expect HIV/AIDS to remain a global
pandemic through 2025 with its epicenter of
infection in Sub-Saharan Africa. Unlike
today, the vast majority of people living with
HIV will have access to life-extending antiretroviral
• If prevention efforts and effectiveness
remain at current levels, the HIV-positive
population is expected to climb to around
50 million by 2025—up from 33 million
today (22 million in Sub-Saharan Africa).
In this scenario, 25 million to 30 million
people would need anti-retroviral therapy
to survive during 2025.
• In another scenario assuming fully scaledup
prevention by 2015, the HIV-infected
population would peak and then fall to
near 25 million worldwide by 2025,
bringing the number needing antiretroviral
therapy to between 15 and 20
million people.
adults, a demographic feature that is
associated with the emergence of political
violence and civil conflict.
Changing Places: Migration, Urbanization
and Ethnic Shifts
Moving Experiences. The net migration of
people from rural to urban areas and from
poorer to richer countries likely will continue
apace in 2025, fueled by a widening gap in
economic and physical security between
adjacent regions.
• Europe will continue to attract migrants
from younger, less developed, and faster
growing African and Asian regions
nearby. However, other emerging centers
of industrialization—China and southern
India and possibly Turkey and Iran—
could attract some of this labor migration
as growth among their working-age
populations slows and wages rise.
• Labor migration to the United States
probably will slow as Mexico’s industrial
base grows and its population ages—a
response to rapid fertility declines in the
1980s and 1990s—and as competing
centers of development arise in Brazil and
the southern cone of South America.
Urbanization. If current trends persist, by
2025 about 57 percent of the world’s
population will live in urban areas, up from
about 50 percent today. By 2025, the world
will add another eight megacities to the
current list of 19—all except one of these
eight will be in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Most urban growth, however, will occur in
smaller cities of these regions, which are
expanding along highways and coalescing
near crossroads and coastlines, often without
formal sector job growth and without
adequate services.
Identity Demography. Where ethno-religious
groups have experienced their transition to
lower birth rates at varying paces, lingering
ethnic youth bulges and shifts in group
proportions could trigger significant political
changes. Shifts in ethno-religious
composition resulting from migration also
could fuel political change, particularly where
immigrants settle in low-fertility
industrialized countries.
• Differing rates of growth among Israel’s
ethnic communities could abet political
shifts in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament).
2 4
By 2025, Israeli Arabs, who currently
comprise a fifth of the population, will
comprise about a quarter of Israel’s
expected population of nearly 9 million.
Over the same period, Israel’s ultraorthodox
Jewish community could nearly
double, becoming larger than 10 percent
of the population.
• Irrespective of their political status in
2025, the populations of the West Bank,
currently about 2.6 million people, and
Gaza, now at 1.5 million, will have grown
substantially: the West Bank by nearly 40
percent; Gaza by almost 60 percent. Their
combined population in 2025—still
youthful, growing, and approaching 6
million (or exceeding that figure,
according to some projections)—promises
to introduce further challenges to
institutions hoping to generate adequate
employment and public services, maintain
sufficient availability of fresh water and
food, and achieve political stability.
A number of other ethnic shifts between now
and 2025 will have regional implications. For
example, growing proportions of Native
Americans in several Andean and Central
American democracies are likely to continue
to push governments in those countries
toward populism. In Lebanon, ongoing
fertility decline in the Shiite population,
which currently lags ethnic neighbors in
income and exceeds them in family size, will
bring about a more mature age structure in
this community—and could deepen Shiite
integration into the mainstream of Lebanese
economic and political life, easing communal
Western Europe has become the destination
of choice for more than one million
immigrants annually and home for more than
35 million foreign born—many from Muslimmajority
countries in North Africa, the Middle
East, and South Asia (see box on page 25).
Immigration and integration politics, and
confrontations with Muslim conservatives
over education, women’s rights, and the
relationship between the state and religion are
likely to strengthen right-of-center political
organizations and splinter the left-of-center
political coalitions that were instrumental in
building and maintaining Europe’s welfare
By 2025, international migration’s human
capital and technological transfer effects will
begin to favor the most stable Asian and Latin
American countries. Although the emigration
of professionals probably will continue to
deprive poor and unstable countries across
Africa and parts of the Middle East of talent,
the likely return of many wealthy and
educated Asian and Latin Americans from the
US and Europe will help boost the
competitiveness of China, Brazil, India, and
Demographic Portraits: Russia, China,
India, and Iran
Russia: A Growing Multiethnic State?
Currently a country with around 141 million
people, Russia’s demographically aging and
declining population is projected to drop
below 130 million by 2025. The chances of
stemming such a steep decline over this
period are slim: the population of women in
their 20s—their prime childbearing years—
will be declining rapidly, numbering around
55 percent of today’s count by 2025.
Russia’s high rate of male middle-age
mortality is unlikely to change dramatically.
Muslim minorities that have maintained
higher fertility will comprise larger
proportions of the Russian population, as will
Turkic and Chinese immigrants. According
to some more conservative projections, the
Muslim minority share of Russia’s population
will rise from 14 percent in 2005 to 19
2 5
Muslims in Western Europe
Western Europe’s Muslim population currently totals between 15 and 18 million. The largest
proportions of Muslims—between 6 and 8 percent—are in France (5 million) and the
Netherlands (nearly 1 million), followed by countries with 4 to 6 percent: Germany (3.5 million),
Denmark (300,000), Austria (500,000), and Switzerland (350,000). The UK and Italy also have
relatively large Muslim populations, 1.8 million and 1 million respectively, though constituting
less overall proportions (3 percent and 1.7 percent respectively). If current patterns of
immigration and Muslim residents’ above-average fertility continue, Western Europe could have
25 to 30 million Muslims by 2025.
Countries with growing numbers of Muslims will experience a rapid shift in ethnic composition,
particularly around urban areas, potentially complicating efforts to facilitate assimilation and
integration. Economic opportunities are likely to be greater in urban areas, but, in the absence of
growth in suitable jobs, the increasing concentration could lead to more tense and unstable
situations, such as occurred with the 2005 Paris surburban riots.
Slow overall growth rates, highly regulated labor markets, and workplace policies, if maintained,
will make it difficult to increase job opportunities, despite Europe’s need to stem the decline of
its working-age population. When coupled with job discrimination and educational
disadvantage, these factors are likely to confine many Muslims to low-status, low-wage jobs,
deepening ethnic cleavages. Despite a sizeable stratum of integrated Muslims, a growing
number—driven by a sense of alienation, grievance, and injustice—are increasingly likely to
value separation in areas with Muslim-specific cultural and religious practices.
Although immigrant communities are unlikely to gain sufficient parliamentary representation to
dictate either domestic or foreign policy agendas by 2025, Muslim-related issues will be a
growing focus and shaper of the European political scene. Ongoing societal and political tension
over integration of Muslims is likely to make European policymakers increasingly sensitive to
the potential domestic repercussions of any foreign policies for the Middle East, including
aligning too closely with the US on policies seen as pro-Israeli.
percent in 2030, and 23 percent in 2050. In a
shrinking population, the growing proportion
that are not Orthodox Slavs will likely
provoke a nationalist backlash. Because
Russia’s fertility and mortality problems are
likely to persist through 2025, Russia’s
economy—unlike Europe’s and Japan’s—will
have to support the large proportion of
Antique China? By 2025, demographers
expect China to have almost 1.4 billion
people, nearly 100 million above its current
population. The advantageous condition of
having a relatively large working population
and small proportions of both old-age and
childhood dependents will begin to fade
around 2015, when the size of China’s
working-age population will start to decline.
Demographic aging—the onset of larger
proportions of retirees and relatively fewer
workers—is being accelerated by decades of
policies that have limited childbirth and by a
tradition of early retirement. By opting to
slow population growth dramatically in order
to dampen growing demand for energy, water,
2 6
and food, China is hastening the aging of its
population. By 2025, a large proportion of
China’s population will be retired or entering
retirement. Although China may over time
reverse its restrictive policies on childbearing
to achieve birth cohorts more closely
balancing infant girls and boys, marriage-age
adults in 2025 will still experience a
significant male-dominated imbalance that
will create a large pool of unmarried males.
Two Indias. India’s current fertility rate of
2.8 children per woman masks vast
differences between the low-fertility states of
South India and the commercial hubs of
Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata on the one hand,
and the higher rates of populous states in the
so-called Hindi-speaking belt across the
north, where women’s status is low and
services lag. Largely owing to growth in
India’s densely populated northern states, its
population is projected to overtake China’s
around 2025—just as China’s population is
projected to peak and begin a slow decline.
By then, India’s demographic duality will
have widened the gap between north and
south. By 2025, much of India’s work force
growth will come from the most poorly
educated, impoverished, and crowded districts
of rural northern India. Although North
Indian entrepreneurial families have lived for
decades in southern cities, the arrival of
whole communities of Hindi-speaking
unskilled laborers looking for work could
rekindle dormant animosities between India’s
central government and ethno-nationalist
parties in the South.
Iran’s Unique Trajectory. Having
experienced one of the most rapid fertility
declines in history—from more than six
children per woman in 1985 to less than two
today—Iran’s population is destined for
dramatic changes by 2025. The country’s
politically restless, job-hungry youth bulge
will largely dissipate over the next decade,
yielding more mature population and work
force growth rates comparable to current rates
in the US and China (near 1 percent per year).
In this time frame, the working-age
population will grow large relative to
children, creating opportunities to accumulate
savings, better educate, and eventually to shift
to more technical industries and raise living
standards. Whether Iran capitalizes on this
demographic bonus depends on the country’s
political leadership, which at present is
unfriendly to markets and private businesses,
unsettling for investors, and more focused on
oil revenues than on broader job creation.
Two additional demographic near-certainties
are apparent: first, despite low fertility, Iran’s
population of 66 million will grow to around
77 million by 2025. Second, by then, a new
youth bulge (an echo produced by births
during the current one) will be ascending—
but in this one, 15-to-24 year olds will
account for just one-sixth of those in the
working age group compared to one third
today. Some experts believe this echo bulge
signals a resurgence of revolutionary politics.
Others speculate that, in the more educated
and developed Iran of 2025, young adults will
find career and consumption more attractive
than extremist politics. Only one aspect of
Iran’s future is sure: its society will be more
demographically mature than ever before and
strikingly different than its neighbors.
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2 8
2 9
By 2025, the United States will find itself in
the position of being one of a number of
important actors on the world stage, albeit
still the most powerful one. The relative
political and economic clout of many
countries will shift by 2025, according to an
International Futures model measuring GDP,
defense spending, population, and technology
for individual states (see graphic on page
28).6 Historically, emerging multipolar
systems have been more unstable than bipolar
or even unipolar ones; the greater diversity
and growing power of more countries
portends less cohesiveness and effectiveness
for the international system. Most emerging
powers already want a greater say and, along
with many Europeans, dispute the notion of
any one power having the right to be a
hegemon. The potential for less cohesiveness
and more instability also is suggested by the
relatively steeper declines in national power
of Europe and Japan.
Although we believe chances are good that
China and India will continue to rise, their
ascent is not guaranteed and will require
overcoming high economic and social
hurdles. Because of this, both countries are
likely to remain inwardly focused and per
capita wealth will lag substantially behind
Western economies throughout the period to
2025 and beyond. Individuals in these
emerging economic powerhouses are likely to
feel still poor in relation to Westerners even
though their collective GDP increasingly will
outdistance those of individual Western
states. For Russia, remaining in the top tier
where it has been since its remarkable
resurgence during the late 1990s and early
part of the 21st century may be extremely
6 National Power scores are the product of an index
combining the weighted factors of GDP, defense
spending, population, and technology. Scores are
calculated by the International Futures computer model
and are expressed as a state’s relative share
(percentage) of all global power.
difficult. Demography is not always destiny,
but diversifying the economy so that Russia
can maintain its standing after the world
transitions away from dependence on fossil
fuel will be central to its long-term prospects.
Europe and Japan also will be confronting
demographic challenges; decisions taken now
are likely to determine their long-term
Although the rise of no other state can equal
the impact of the rise of such populous states
as China and India, other countries with
potentially high-performing economies—Iran,
Indonesia, and Turkey, for example—could
play increasingly important roles on the world
stage and especially for establishing new
patterns in the Muslim world.
“Few countries are poised to have more
impact on the world over the next 15-20
years than China.”
Rising Heavyweights: China and India
China: Facing Potential Bumps in the
Road. Few countries are poised to have more
impact on the world over the next 15-20 years
than China. If current trends persist, by 2025
China will have the world’s second largest
economy and will be a leading military
power. It could also be the largest importer of
natural resources and an even greater polluter
than it is now.
• US security and economic interests could
face new challenges if China becomes a
peer competitor that is militarily strong as
well as economically dynamic and energy
The pace of China’s economic growth almost
certainly will slow, or even recede, even with
additional reforms to address mounting social
pressures arising from growing income
disparities, a fraying social safety net, poor
business regulation, hunger for foreign
3 0
energy, enduring corruption, and
environmental devastation. Any of these
problems might be soluble in isolation, but
the country could be hit by a “perfect storm”
if many of them demand attention at the same
time. Even if the Chinese Government can
manage to address these issues, it will not
have the ability to assure high levels of
economic performance. Most of China’s
economic growth will continue to be
domestically driven, but key sectors rely on
foreign markets, resources, and technology as
well as globalized production networks. As a
result, China’s economic health will be
affected by that of other economies—
particularly the United States and the EU.
In addressing these challenges, Chinese
leaders must balance the openness necessary
to sustain economic growth—essential to
public tolerance for the Communist Party’s
monopoly of political power—against the
restrictions necessary to protect that
monopoly. Facing so many social and
economic changes, the Communist Party and
its position are likely to undergo further
transformations. Indeed, Communist Party
leaders themselves talk openly about the need
to find new ways to retain public acceptance
of the Party’s dominant role. So far, however,
these efforts do not appear to include opening
the system to free elections and a free press.
Moreover, barring the “perfect storm”
described above, we do not foresee social
pressures forcing real democracy in China by
2025. That said, the country could be moving
toward greater political pluralism and more
accountable governance.
Chinese leaders could, however, continue
managing tensions by achieving significant
growth without jeopardizing the Party’s
political monopoly, as they have for the past
three decades. Although a protracted slump
could pose a serious political threat, the
regime would be tempted to deflect public
criticism by blaming China’s woes on foreign
interference, stoking the more virulent and
xenophobic forms of Chinese nationalism.
• Historically, people who become
accustomed to rising living standards react
angrily when their expectations are no
longer met, and few people have had
grounds for such high expectations as do
the Chinese.
• China’s international standing is based
partly on foreigners’ calculations that it is
“the country of the future.” If foreigners
treat the country less deferentially,
nationalistic Chinese could respond
India: A Complicated Rise. Over the next
15-20 years, Indian leaders will strive for a
multipolar international system, with New
Delhi as one of the poles and serving as a
political and cultural bridge between a rising
China and the United States. India’s growing
international confidence, derived primarily
from its economic growth and its successful
democratic record, now drives New Delhi
toward partnerships with many countries.
However, these partnerships are aimed at
maximizing India’s autonomy, not at aligning
India with any country or international
India probably will continue to enjoy
relatively rapid economic growth. Although
India faces lingering deficiencies in its
domestic infrastructure, skilled labor, and
energy production, we expect the nation’s
rapidly expanding middle class, youthful
population, reduced reliance on agriculture,
and high domestic savings and investment
rates to propel continued economic growth.
India’s impressive economic growth over the
past 15 years has reduced the number of
people living in absolute poverty, but the
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growing gap between rich and poor will
become a more important political issue.
We believe Indians will remain strongly
committed to democracy, but the polity could
become more fragmented and fractious, with
national power being shared across successive
political coalitions. Future elections are likely
to be multi-sided affairs yielding awkward
coalitions with unclear mandates. The
general direction of India’s economic
policymaking is unlikely to be reversed, but
the pace and scale of reform will fluctuate.
Regional and ethnic insurgencies that have
plagued India since independence are likely to
persist, but they will not threaten India’s
unity. We assess New Delhi will remain
confident that it can contain the Kashmiri
separatist movement. However, India is
likely to experience heightened violence and
instability in several parts of the country
because of the growing reach of the Maoist
Naxalite movement.
Indian leaders do not see Washington as a
military or economic patron and now believe
the international situation has made such a
benefactor unnecessary. New Delhi will,
however, pursue the benefits of favorable US
ties, partly, too, as a hedge against any
development of hostile ties with China.
Indian policymakers are convinced that US
capital, technology, and goodwill are essential
to India’s continued rise as a global power.
The United States will remain one of India’s
largest export destinations, the key to
international financial institutions such as the
World Bank and foreign commercial lending,
and the largest source of remittances. The
Indian diaspora—composed largely of highly
skilled professionals—will remain a key
element in deepening US-Indian ties. The
Indian market for US goods will grow
substantially as New Delhi reduces
restrictions on trade and investment. India’s
military also will be eager to benefit from
expanded defense ties with Washington.
Indian leaders, however, probably will avoid
ties that could resemble an alliance
“Russia has the potential to be richer, more
powerful, and more self-assured in
2025….[but] multiple constraints could limit
Russia’s ability to achieve its full economic
Other Key Players
Russia’s Path: Boom or Bust. Russia has the
potential to be richer, more powerful, and
more self-assured in 2025 if it invests in
human capital, expands and diversifies its
economy, and integrates with global markets.
On the other hand, multiple constraints could
limit Russia’s ability to achieve its full
economic potential. Chief among them are a
shortfall in energy investment, key
infrastructure bottlenecks, decaying education
and public health sectors, an underdeveloped
banking sector, and crime and corruption. A
sooner-than-expected conversion to
alternative fuels or a sustained plunge in
global energy prices before Russia has the
chance to develop a more diversified
economy probably would constrain economic
Russia’s population decline by 2025 will
force hard policy choices. By 2017, for
example, Russia is likely to have only
650,000 18-year-old males from which to
maintain an army that today relies on 750,000
conscripts. Population decline also could take
an economic toll with severe labor force
shortages, particularly if Russia does not
invest more in its existing human capital,
rebuild its S&T base, and employ foreign
labor migrants.
If Russia diversifies its economy, it could
develop a more pluralistic, albeit not
3 2
democratic, political system—the result of
institutional consolidation, a rising middle
class, and the emergence of new stakeholders
demanding a greater voice.
A more proactive and influential foreign
policy seems likely, reflecting Moscow’s
reemergence as a major player on the world
stage; an important partner for Western,
Asian, and Middle East capitals; and a leading
force in opposition to US global dominance.
Controlling key energy nodes and links in the
Caucasus and Central Asia—vital to its
ambitions as an energy superpower—will be a
driving force in reestablishing a sphere of
influence in its Near Abroad. Shared
perceptions regarding threats from terrorism
and Islamic radicalism could align Russian
and Western security policies more tightly,
notwithstanding disagreements on other
issues and a persisting “values gap.”
The range of possible futures for Russia
remains wide because of starkly divergent
forces—liberal economic trends and illiberal
political trends. The tension between the two
trends—together with Russia’s sensitivity to
potential discontinuities sparked by political
instability, a major foreign policy crisis, or
other wild cards—makes it impossible to
exclude alternative futures such as a
nationalistic, authoritarian petro-state or even
a full dictatorship, which is an unlikely but
nevertheless plausible future. Less likely,
Russia could become a significantly more
open and progressive country by 2025.
Europe: Losing Clout in 2025. We believe
Europe by 2025 will have made slow progress
toward achieving the vision of current leaders
and elites: a cohesive, integrated, and
influential global actor able to employ
independently a full spectrum of political,
economic, and military tools in support of
European and Western interests and universal
ideals. The European Union would need to
resolve a perceived democracy gap dividing
Brussels from European voters and move past
the protracted debate about its institutional
The EU will be in a position to bolster
political stability and democratization on
Europe’s periphery by taking in additional
new members in the Balkans, and perhaps
Ukraine and Turkey. However, continued
failure to convince skeptical publics of the
benefits of deeper economic, political, and
social integration and to grasp the nettle of a
shrinking and aging population by enacting
painful reforms could leave the EU a hobbled
giant distracted by internal bickering and
competing national agendas, and less able to
translate its economic clout into global
The drop-off in working-age populations will
prove a severe test for Europe’s social welfare
model, a foundation stone of Western
Europe’s political cohesion since World
War II. Progress on economic liberalization
is likely to continue only in gradual steps until
aging populations or prolonged economic
stagnation force more dramatic changes—a
crisis point that may not hit before some time
in the next decade and might be pushed off
even further. There are no easy fixes for
Europe’s demographic deficits except likely
cutbacks in health and retirement benefits,
which most states have not begun to
implement or even to contemplate. Defense
expenditures are likely to be cut further to
stave off the need for serious restructuring of
social benefits programs. The challenge of
integrating immigrant, especially Muslim,
communities will become acute if citizens
faced with a sudden lowering of expectations
resort to more narrow nationalism and
concentrate on parochial interests, as
happened in the past.
3 3
Europe’s strategic perspective is likely to
remain narrower than Washington’s, even if
the EU succeeds in making reforms that
create a “European President” and “European
Foreign Minister” and develops greater
institutional capacity for crisis management.
Divergent threat perceptions within Europe
and the likelihood that defense spending will
remain uncoordinated suggest the EU will not
be a major military power by 2025. The
national interests of the bigger powers will
continue to complicate EU foreign and
security policy and European support for
NATO could erode.
The question of Turkey’s EU membership
will be a test of Europe’s outward focus
between now and 2025. Increasing doubts
about Turkey’s chances are likely to slow its
implementation of political and human rights
reforms. Any outright rejection risks wider
repercussions, reinforcing arguments in the
Muslim world—including among Europe’s
Muslim minorities—about the incompatibility
of the West and Islam. Crime could be the
gravest threat inside Europe as Eurasian
transnational organizations—flush from
involvement in energy and mineral
concerns—become more powerful and
broaden their scope. One or more
governments in Eastern or Central Europe
could fall prey to their domination.
Europe will remain heavily dependent on
Russia for energy in 2025, despite efforts to
promote energy efficiency and renewable
energy and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Varying levels of dependence, differing
perspectives on Russia’s democratic maturity
and economic intentions, and failure to
achieve consensus on Brussels’ role are
hampering nascent efforts to develop common
EU polices on energy diversification and
security. In the absence of a collective
approach that would reduce Russia’s
leverage, this dependence will foster constant
attentiveness to Moscow’s interests by key
countries, including Germany and Italy, who
see Russia as a reliable supplier. Europe
could pay a price for its heavy dependence,
especially if Russian firms are unable to fulfill
contract commitments because of
underinvestment in their natural gas fields or
if growing corruption and organized criminal
involvement in the Eurasian energy sector
spill over to infect Western business interests.
Japan: Caught Between the US and China.
Japan will face a major reorientation of its
domestic and foreign policies by 2025 yet
maintain its status as an upper middle rank
power. Domestically, Japan’s political,
social, and economic systems will likely be
restructured to address its demographic
decline, an aging industrial base, and a more
volatile political situation. Japan’s decreasing
population may force authorities to consider
new immigration policies like a long-term
visa option for visiting workers. The
Japanese, however, will have difficulty
overcoming their reluctance to naturalize
foreigners. The aging of the population also
will spur development in Japan’s healthcare
and housing systems to accommodate large
numbers of dependent elderly.
The shrinking work force—and Japan’s
cultural aversion to substantial immigrant
labor—will put a major strain on Japan’s
social services and tax revenues, leading to
tax increases and calls for more competition
in the domestic sector to lower the price of
consumer goods. We anticipate continued
restructuring of Japan’s export industries,
with increased emphasis on high technology
products, value-added production, and
information technologies. The shrinking of
Japan’s agricultural sector will continue,
perhaps down to just 2 percent of the labor
force, with a corresponding increase in
payments for food imports. The working-age
population, declining in absolute numbers,
3 4
includes a large number of unemployed and
untrained citizens in their late teens and 20s.
This could lead to a shortage of white collar
With increasing electoral competition, Japan’s
one-party political system probably will fully
disintegrate by 2025. The Liberal Democratic
Party may split into a number of contending
parties, but it is more likely that Japan will
witness a continual splitting and merging of
competing political parties, leading to policy
On the foreign front, Japan’s policies will be
influenced most by the policies of China and
the United States, where four scenarios are
• In the first scenario, a China that
continues its current economic growth
pattern will be increasingly important to
Japan’s economic growth, and Tokyo will
work to maintain good political relations
and increase market access for Japanese
goods. Tokyo may seek a free trade
agreement with Beijing well before 2025.
At the same time, China’s military power
and influence in the region will be of
increasing concern to Japanese
policymakers. Their likely response will
be to draw closer to the United States,
increase their missile defense and antisubmarine
warfare capabilities, seek to
develop regional allies such as South
Korea, and push for greater development
of international multilateral organizations
in East Asia, including an East Asian
• In a second scenario, China’s economic
growth falters or its policies become
openly hostile toward countries in the
region. In response, Tokyo would likely
move to assert its influence, in part by
seeking to rally democratic states in East
Asia, and in part by continuing to develop
its own national power through advanced
military hardware. Tokyo would assume
strong support from Washington in this
circumstance and would move to shape
political and economic forums in the
region to isolate or limit Chinese
influence. This would cause states in the
region to make a difficult choice between
their continued unease with Japanese
military strength and a China that has the
potential to dominate nearly all nations
near its borders. As a result, Japan might
find itself dealing with an ad-hoc nonaligned
movement of East Asian states
seeking to avoid being entrapped by either
Tokyo or Beijing.
• In a third scenario, should the United
States’ security commitment to Japan
weaken or be perceived by Tokyo as
weakening, Japan may decide to move
closer to Beijing on regional issues and
ultimately consider security arrangements
that give China a de facto role in
maintaining stability in ocean areas near
Japan. Tokyo is highly unlikely to
respond to a loss of the US security
umbrella by developing a nuclear
weapons program, short of clearly
aggressive intent by China toward Japan.
• A fourth scenario would see the United
States and China move significantly
toward political and security cooperation
in the region, leading to US
accommodation of a Chinese military
presence in the region and a
corresponding realignment or drawdown
of US forces there. In this case, Tokyo
almost certainly would follow the
prevailing trend and move closer to
Beijing to be included in regional security
and political arrangements. Similarly,
others in the region, including South
Korea, Taiwan, and ASEAN members
likely would follow such a US lead,
putting further pressure on Tokyo to align
3 5
its policies with those of the other actors
in the region.
Brazil: Solid Foundation for an Enhanced
Leadership Role. By 2025 Brazil probably
will be exercising greater regional leadership,
as first among equals in South American fora,
but aside from its growing role as an energy
producer and its role in trade talks, it will
demonstrate limited ability to project beyond
the continent as a major player in world
affairs. Its progress in consolidating
democracy and diversifying its economy will
serve as a positive regional model.
The country’s maturing commitment to
democracy is on a secure footing with fair and
open electoral processes and smooth
transitions having become routine. The
current President, Lula da Silva, has a strong
socialist orientation and has pursued a
moderate policy course domestically and
internationally, setting a positive precedent
for his successors. Brazilian views about the
importance of playing a key role as both a
regional and world leader have largely
become ingrained in the national
consciousness and transcend party politics.
Economically, Brazil has established a solid
foundation for steady growth based on
political stability and an incremental reform
process. The growing consensus for
responsible fiscal and monetary policy is
likely to lessen the disruptions from crises
that have plagued the country in the past.
Dramatic departures from the current
economic consensus in Brazil, either a radical
turn toward a free-market and free tradeoriented
economic model or a heavy-handed
statist orientation, appear to be unlikely by
Brazil’s recent preliminary finds of new,
possibly large offshore oil deposits have the
potential to add another dynamic to an already
diversified economy and put Brazil on a more
rapid economic growth path. The oil
discoveries in the Santos Basin—potentially
holding tens of billions of barrels of
reserves—could make Brazil after 2020 a
major oil exporter when these fields are fully
exploited. Optimistic scenarios, which
assume a legal and regulatory framework
attractive to foreign investment, project oil
rising to a 15 percent share of GDP by 2025;
even then, petroleum would only complement
existing sources of national wealth.
“The oil discoveries in the Santos Basin—
potentially holding tens of billions of barrels
of reserves—could make Brazil after 2020 a
major oil exporter…”
Progress on social issues, such as reducing
crime and poverty, will likely play a decisive
role in determining Brazil’s future leadership
status. Without advances in the rule of law,
even rapid economic growth will be undercut
by the instability that results from pervasive
crime and corruption. Mechanisms to
incorporate a growing share of the population
into the formal economy also will be needed
to buttress Brazil’s status as a modernizing
world power.
Up-and-Coming Powers
Owing to the large populations and expansive
landmasses of the new powers like India and
China, another constellation of powerhouses
is unlikely to erupt on the world scene over
the next decade or two. However, up-andcoming
developing states could account for
an increasing proportion of the world’s
economic growth by 2025. Others also will
play a dynamic role in their own
Indonesia, Turkey and a post-clerically run
Iran—states that are predominantly Islamic,
but which fall outside the Arab core—appear
well-situated for growing international roles.
A growth-friendly macro-economic policy
3 6
climate would allow their natural economic
endowments to flourish. In the case of Iran,
radical political reform will be necessary.
Indonesia’s performance will depend upon
whether it can replicate its success at political
reform with measures to spur the economy.
In the past decade, Indonesians have
transformed their once-authoritarian country
into a democracy, turning the vast archipelago
into a place of relative calm where support for
moderate political solutions is strong,
separatist movements are largely fading away,
and terrorists, finding little public support, are
increasingly found and arrested. With
abundant natural resources and a large
population of potential consumers (it is the
world’s fourth most populous country),
Indonesia could rise economically if its
elected leaders take steps to improve the
investment climate, including strengthening
the legal system, improving the regulatory
framework, reforming the financial sector,
reducing fuel and food subsidies, and
generally lowering the cost of doing business.
Looking at Iran—a state rich in natural gas
and other resources and high in human
capital—political and economic reform in
addition to a stable investment climate could
fundamentally redraw both the way the world
perceives the country and also the way in
which Iranians view themselves. Under those
circumstances, economic resurgence could
take place quickly in Iran and embolden a
latent cosmopolitan, educated, at times
secular Iranian middle-class. If empowered,
this portion of the population could broaden
the country’s horizons, particularly eastward
and away from decades of being mired in the
Arab conflicts of the Middle East.
Turkey’s recent economic track record of
increased growth, the vitality of Turkey’s
emerging middle class and its geostrategic
locale raise the prospect of a growing regional
role in the Middle East. Economic
weaknesses such as its heavy dependence on
external energy sources may help to spur it
toward a greater international role as Turkish
authorities seek to develop their ties with
energy suppliers—including close neighbors
Russia and Iran—and bolster its position as a
transit hub. Over the next 15 years, Turkey’s
most likely course involves a blending of
Islamic and nationalist strains, which could
serve as a model for other rapidly
modernizing countries in the Middle East.
3 7
Global Scenario I: A World
Without the West
In this fictionalized account, the new powers
supplant the West as leaders on the world
stage. This is not inevitable nor the only
possible outcome of the rise of new states.
Historically the rise of new powers—such as
Japan and Germany in the late 19th and early
20th centuries—presented stiff challenges to
the existing international system, all of which
ended in worldwide conflict. More plausible
in our minds than a direct challenge to the
international system is the possibility that the
emerging powers will assume a greater role in
areas affecting their vital interests,
particularly in view of what may be growing
burden fatigue for Western countries.
Such a coalition of forces could be a
competitor to institutions like NATO, offering
others an alternative to the West. As detailed,
we do not see these alternative coalitions as
necessarily permanent fixtures of the new
landscape. Indeed, given their diverse
interests and competition over resources, the
newer powers could as easily distance
themselves from each other as come together.
Although the emerging powers are likely to
be preoccupied with domestic issues and
sustaining their economic development,
increasingly, as outlined in this chapter, they
will have the capacity to be global players.
Preconditions for this scenario include:
• Lagging Western growth prompts the US
and Europe to begin taking protectionist
measures against the faster-growing
emerging powers.
• Different models of state-society
relationships help underpin the powerful
(albeit fragile) Sino-Russia coalition.
• Tensions between the principal actors in
the multipolar world are high as states
seek energy security and strengthened
spheres of influence. The Shanghai
Cooperation Organization (SCO),
especially, seeks reliable and dependable
clients in strategic regions—and Central
Asia is in both Russia’s and China’s
3 8
3 9
4 0
4 1
The international system will be challenged
by growing resource constraints at the same
time that it is coping with the impact of new
players. Access to relatively secure and clean
energy sources and management of chronic
food and water shortages will assume
increasing importance for a growing number
of countries during the next 15-20 years.
Adding well over a billion people to the
world’s population by 2025 will itself put
pressure on these vital resources. An
increasing percentage of the world’s
population will be moving from rural areas to
urban and developed ones to seek greater
personal security and economic opportunity.
Many—particularly in Asia—will be joining
the middle class and will be seeking to
emulate Western lifestyles, which involve
greater per capita consumption of all these
resources. Unlike earlier periods when
resource scarcities loomed large, the
significant growth in demand from emerging
markets, combined with constraints on new
production—such as the control exerted now
by state-run companies in the global energy
market—limits the likelihood that market
forces alone will rectify the supply-anddemand
The already stressed resource sector will be
further complicated and, in most cases,
exacerbated by climate change, whose
physical effects will worsen throughout this
period. Continued escalation of energy
demand will hasten the impacts of climate
change. On the other hand, forcibly cutting
back on fossil fuel use before substitutes are
widely available could threaten continued
economic development, particularly for
countries like China whose industries have
not yet achieved high levels of energy
efficiency. Technological advances and
policy decisions around the world germane to
greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15
years are likely to determine whether the
globe’s temperature ultimately rises more
than 2 degree centigrade—the threshold at
which effects are thought to be no longer
Food and water also are intertwined with
climate change, energy, and demography.
Rising energy prices increase the cost for
consumers and the environment of industrialscale
agriculture and application of
petrochemical fertilizers. A switch from use
of arable land for food to fuel crops provides
a limited solution and could exacerbate both
the energy and food situations. Climatically,
rainfall anomalies and constricted seasonal
flows of snow and glacial melts are
aggravating water scarcities, harming
agriculture in many parts of the globe.
Energy and climate dynamics also combine to
amplify a number of other ills such as health
problems, agricultural losses to pests, and
storm damage. The greatest danger may arise
from the convergence and interaction of many
stresses simultaneously. Such a complex and
unprecedented syndrome of problems could
overload decisionmakers, making it difficult
for them to take actions in time to enhance
good outcomes or avoid bad ones.
The Dawning of a Post-Petroleum Age?
By 2025 the world will be in the midst of a
fundamental energy transition—in terms of
both fuel types and sources. Non-OPEC
liquid hydrocarbon production (i.e., crude oil,
natural gas liquids, and unconventionals such
as tar sands) will not be able to grow
commensurate with demand. The production
levels of many traditional energy producers—
Yemen, Norway, Oman, Colombia, the UK,
Indonesia, Argentina, Syria, Egypt, Peru,
Tunisia—are already in decline. Others’
production levels—Mexico, Brunei,
Malaysia, China, India, Qatar—have
flattened. The number of countries capable of
meaningfully expanding production will
decline. Only six countries—Saudi Arabia,
Iran, Kuwait, the UAE, Iraq (potentially), and
4 2
Russia—are projected to account for 39
percent of total world oil production in 2025.
The major producers increasingly will be
located in the Middle East, which contains
some two-thirds of world reserves. OPEC
production in the Persian Gulf countries is
projected to grow by 43 percent during 2003-
2025. Saudi Arabia alone will account for
almost half of all Gulf production, an amount
greater than that expected from Africa and the
Caspian area combined.
A partial consequence of this growing
concentration has been increased control of
oil and gas resources by national oil
companies. When the Club of Rome made its
famous forecast of looming energy scarcities,
the “Seven Sisters” still had a strong influence
on global oil markets and production.7
Driven by shareholders, they responded to
price signals to explore, invest, and promote
technologies necessary to increase production.
By contrast, national oil companies have
strong economic and political incentives to
limit investment in order to prolong the
production horizon. Keeping oil in the
ground provides resources for future
generations in oil states that have limited their
economic options.
The number and geographic distribution of oil
producers will decrease concurrent with
another energy transition: the move to
cleaner fuels. The prized fuel in the shorter
term likely will be natural gas. By 2025,
consumption of natural gas is expected to
grow by about 60 percent, according to
DoE/Energy Information Agency projections.
Although natural gas deposits are not
necessarily co-located with oil, they are
7 The “Seven Sisters” refers to seven Western oil
companies that dominated mid-20th century oil
production, refining, and distribution. With the
formation and establishment of OPEC in the 1960s and
1970s, the Western oil companies’ influence and clout
highly concentrated. Three countries—
Russia, Iran, and Qatar—hold over 57 percent
of the world’s natural gas reserves.
Considering oil and natural gas together, two
countries—Russia and Iran—emerge as
energy kingpins. Nevertheless, North
America (the US, Canada, and Mexico) is
expected to produce an appreciable
proportion—18 percent—of total world
production by 2025.
“Aging populations in the developed world;
growing resource constraints in energy,
food, and water; and worries about climate
change are likely to color what will continue
to be an historically unprecedented age of
Even though the use of natural gas is likely to
grow steadily in absolute terms, coal may be
the fastest growing energy source despite
being the “dirtiest.” Rising prices for oil and
natural gas would put a new premium on
energy sources that are cheap, abundant, and
close to markets. Three of the largest and
fastest-growing energy consumers—the US,
China, and India—and Russia possess the
four largest recoverable coal reserves,
representing 67 percent of known global
reserves. Increased coal production could
extend non-renewable carbon-based energy
systems for one or even two centuries. China
will still be very dependent on coal in 2025
and Beijing is likely to be under increasing
international pressure to use clean
technologies to burn it. China is overtaking
the US in the amount of carbon emissions it
puts in the atmosphere despite its much
smaller GDP.
The use of nuclear fuel for electrical power
generation is expected to expand, but the
increase will not be sufficient to fill growing
demand for electricity. Third-generation
nuclear reactors have lower costs of power
4 3
generation, improved safety characteristics,
and better waste and proliferation
management features than previous reactor
designs. Third-generation nuclear reactors
are economically competitive at present
electricity prices and are beginning to be
deployed around the world. Although most
nuclear power plants are currently in
industrialized countries, growing demand for
electricity in China, India, South Africa and
other rapidly growing countries will increase
the demand for nuclear power.
The supply of uranium, which is the principal
feedstock for nuclear power, is unlikely to
limit the future deployment of nuclear power.
Available uranium is likely to be sufficient to
support the expansion of nuclear energy
without reprocessing well into the second half
of the century. If uranium should prove to be
in short supply, reactors capable of breeding
nuclear fuels, along with recycling of used
fuels, could continue to support the global
expansion of nuclear energy.
However, because of its infrastructure
requirements, concern over proliferation of
nuclear expertise and material, and
uncertainty over licensing and spent fuel
4 4
Timing is Everything
All current technologies are inadequate for replacing traditional energy architectures on the scale
needed, and new energy technologies probably will not be commercially viable and widespread by
2025 (see foldout). The present generation of biofuels is too expensive to grow, would further boost
food prices, and their manufacture consumes essentially the same amount of energy they produce.
Other ways of converting nonfood biomass resources to fuels and chemical products should be more
promising, such as those based on high-growth algae or agricultural waste products, especially
cellulosic biomass. Development of clean coal technologies and carbon capture and storage is
gaining momentum and—if such technologies were cost-competitive by 2025—would enable coal to
generate more electricity in a carbon-constrained regulatory environment. Long-lasting hydrogen
fuel cells have potential, but they remain in their infancy and are at least a decade away from
commercial production. Enormous infrastructure investment might be required to support a
“hydrogen economy.” An Argonne National Laboratory study found that hydrogen, from well to
tank, is likely to be at least twice as costly as gasoline.
Even with the favorable policy and funding environment that would be needed for biofuels, clean
coal, or hydrogen, major technologies historically have had an “adoption lag.” A recent study found
that in the energy sector, it takes an average of 25 years for a new production technology to become
widely adopted. A major reason for this lag is the need for new infrastructure to handle major
innovation. For energy in particular, massive and sustained infrastructure investments made for
almost 150 years encompass production, transportation, refining, marketing, and retail activities.
Adoption of natural gas, a fuel superior to oil in many respects, illustrates the difficulty of a transition
to something new. Technologies to use natural gas have been widely available since at least the
1970s, yet natural gas still lags crude oil in the global market because the technical and investment
requirements for producing and transporting it are greater than they are for oil-based fuels.
Simply meeting baseline energy demand over the next two decades is estimated to require more than
$3 trillion of investment in traditional hydrocarbons by companies built up over more than a century
and with market capitalizations in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Because a new form of energy
is highly unlikely to use existing infrastructure without modifications, we expect any new form of
energy to demand similarly massive investment.
Despite what are seen as long odds now, we cannot rule out the possibility of a transition by 2025
that would avoid the costs of an infrastructure overhaul. The greatest possibility for a relatively
quick and inexpensive transition during that period comes from better renewable generation sources
(photovoltaic and wind) and improvements in battery technology. With many of these technologies,
the infrastructure cost hurdle for individual projects would be lower, enabling many small economic
actors to develop their own energy transformation projects that directly serve their interests—e.g.,
stationary fuel cells powering homes and offices, recharging plug-in hybrid autos, and selling energy
back to the grid. Also, energy conversion schemes—such as plans to generate hydrogen for
automotive fuel cells from electricity in a homeowner’s garage—could avoid the need to develop
complex hydrogen transportation infrastructure. Similarly, non-ethanol biofuels derived from
genetically modified feed stocks may be able to leverage the considerable investment in liquid
petroleum transport and distribution infrastructure.
4 5
processing, expansion of nuclear power
generation by 2025 to cover anywhere near
the increasing demand would be virtually
impossible. The infrastructure (human and
physical), legal (permitting), and construction
hurdles are just too big. Only at the end of
our 15-20 year period are we likely to see a
serious ramp up of nuclear technologies.
The Geopolitics of Energy
Both high and low energy price levels would
have major geopolitical implications and,
over the course of 20 years, periods of both
could occur. DoE’s Energy Information
Administration and several leading energy
consultants believe higher price levels are
likely, at least to 2015, because of plateauing
supply and growing demand. These causes
are unlike the case in 1970s and early 1980s
when high oil prices were caused by an
intentional restriction in supply. Even with
the overall secular rise in energy costs, prices
well below $100 a barrel are periodically
likely with the expected increased volatility
and need not come about as a result of
technological breakthroughs and rapid
commercialization of a substitute fuel.
Plausible scenarios for a downward shift and
change in market psychology include slowing
global growth; increased production in Iraq,
Angola, Central Asia, and elsewhere; and
greater energy efficiencies with currently
available technology.
“With high prices, major exporters such as
Russia and Iran would have the financial
resources to increase their national
Even at prices below $100 a barrel, financial
transfers connected with the energy trade
produce clear winners and losers. Most of the
32 states that import 80 percent or more of
their energy needs are likely to experience
significantly slower economic growth than
they might have achieved with lower oil
prices. A number of these states have been
identified by outside experts as at risk of state
failure—the Central African Republic,
DROC, Nepal, and Laos, for example. States
characterized by high import dependence, low
GDP per capita, high current account deficits,
and heavy international indebtedness form a
particularly perilous state profile. Such a
profile includes most of East Africa and the
Horn. Pivotal yet problem-beset countries,
such as Pakistan, will be at risk of state
With higher prices, more stable countries fare
better but their prospects for economic growth
would drop somewhat and political turbulence
could occur. Efficient, service-sector oriented
OECD economies are not immune but are
harmed the least. China, though cushioned by
its massive financial reserves, would be hit by
higher oil prices, which would make lifting
millions more out of poverty more difficult.
China also would need to mine and transport
more domestic coal, build more nuclear
power plants, and seek to improve energy
end-use efficiencies to offset the higher priced
With high prices, major exporters such as
Russia and Iran would have the financial
resources to increase their national power.
The extent and modalities of steps to increase
their power and influence would depend on
how they used their profits to invest in human
capital, financial stabilization, and economic
infrastructure. Judicious application of
Russia’s increased revenues to the economy,
social needs, and foreign policy instruments
would likely more than double Russia’s
standing as measured by an academic national
power index.
A sustained plunge in oil prices would have
significant implications for countries relying
on robust oil revenues to balance the budget
or build up domestic investment. For Iran, a
4 6
Winners and Losers in a Post-Petroleum World
We believe the most likely occurrence by 2025 is a technological breakthrough that will provide
an alternative to oil and natural gas, but implementation will lag because of the necessary
infrastructure costs and need for longer replacement time. However, whether the breakthrough
occurs within the 2025 time frame or later, the geopolitical implications of a shift away from oil
and natural gas will be immense.
• Saudi Arabia will absorb the biggest shock, as its leaders will be forced to tighten up on the
costs of the royal establishment. The regime could face new tensions with the Wahabi
establishment as Riyadh seeks to promote a series of major economic reforms—including
women’s full participation in the economy—and a new social contract with its public as it
tries to institute a work ethic to accelerate development plans and diversify the economy.
• In Iran, the drop in oil and gas prices will undermine any populist economic policies.
Pressure for economic reform will increase, potentially putting pressure on the clerical
governing elite to loosen its grip. Incentives to open up to the West in a bid for greater
foreign investment, establishing or strengthening ties with Western partners—including with
the US—will increase. Iranian leaders might be more willing to trade their nuclear policies
for aid and trade.
For Iraq, emphasis on investing in non-oil sectors of its economy will increase. The smaller Gulf
states, which have been making massive investments designed to transform themselves into
global tourist and transport hubs, are likely to manage the transition well, bolstered by their
robust sovereign wealth funds (SWFs). Across the Arab world, SWFs are being deployed to
develop non-oil sectors of the economy in a race against oil as a diminishing asset.
Outside the Middle East, Russia will potentially be the biggest loser, particularly if its economy
remains heavily tied to energy exports, and could be reduced to middle power status. Venezuela,
Bolivia, and other petro-populist regimes could unravel completely, if that has not occurred
beforehand because of already growing discontent and decreasing production. Absent support
from Venezuela, Cuba might be forced to begin China-like market reforms.
Early oil decline states—those exporters which had peaked or were declining as is currently the
case with Indonesia and Mexico—may be better prepared to shift the focus of their economic
activities and diversify into non-energy sectors.
4 7
FOLDOUT 427436
4 8
4 9
5 0
5 1
drop in oil prices to the $55-60 range or
below would put significant pressure on the
regime to make painful choices between
subsidizing populist economic programs and
sustaining funding for intelligence and
security operations and other programs
designed to extend its regional power. The
notion that state-dominated economies,
apparently able to achieve economic growth
absent political freedoms or a fully free
market, are a credible alternative to Western
notions of free markets and liberal democracy
could be badly dented, particularly since
history suggests the US and other Western
states adapt more quickly and effectively to
unexpected changes in energy markets.
Under any scenario energy dynamics could
produce a number of new alignments or
groupings with geopolitical significance:
• Russia, needing Caspian area natural gas
in order to satisfy European and other
contracts, is likely to be forceful in
keeping Central Asian countries within
Moscow’s sphere, and, absent a non-
Russia-controlled outlet, has a good
chance of succeeding.
• China will continue to seek to buttress its
market power by cultivating political
relationships designed to safeguard its
access to oil and gas. Beijing’s ties with
Saudi Arabia will strengthen, as the
Kingdom is the only supplier capable of
responding in a big way to China’s
petroleum thirst.
• Beijing will want to offset its growing
reliance on Riyadh by strengthening ties
to other producers. Iran will see this as an
opportunity to solidify China’s support for
Tehran, which probably would strain
Beijing’s ties to Riyadh. Tehran may also
be able to forge even closer ties with
• We believe India will scramble to ensure
access to energy by making overtures to
Burma, Iran, and Central Asia. Pipelines
to India transiting restive regions may
connect New Delhi to local instabilities.
Water, Food, and Climate Change
Experts currently consider 21 countries with a
combined population of about 600 million to
be either cropland or freshwater scarce.
Owing to continuing population growth, 36
countries, home to about 1.4 billion people,
are projected to fall into this category by
2025. Among the new entrants will be
Burundi, Colombia, Ethiopia, Eritrea,
Malawi, Pakistan, and Syria. Lack of access
to stable supplies of water is reaching
unprecedented proportions in many areas of
the world (see map on page 55) and is likely
to grow worse owing to rapid urbanization
and population growth. Demand for water for
agricultural purposes and hydroelectric power
generation also will expand. Use of water for
irrigation is far greater than for household
consumption. In developing countries,
agriculture currently consumes over 70
percent of the world’s water. The
construction of hydroelectric power stations
on major rivers may improve flood control,
but it might also cause considerable anxiety to
downstream users of the river who expect
continued access to water.
“Experts currently consider 21 countries,
with a combined population of about 600
million, to be either cropland or freshwater
scarce. Owing to continuing population
growth, 36 countries, home to about 1.4
billion people, are projected to fall into this
category by 2025.”
The World Bank estimates that demand for
food will rise by 50 percent by 2030, as a
result of growing world population, rising
affluence, and shifts to Western dietary
preferences by a larger middle class. The
5 2
Two Climate Change Winners
Russia has the potential to gain the most from
increasingly temperate weather. Russia has
vast untapped reserves of natural gas and oil
in Siberia and also offshore in the Arctic, and
warmer temperatures should make the
reserves considerably more accessible. This
would be a huge boon to the Russian
economy, as presently 80 percent of the
country’s exports and 32 percent of
government revenues derive from the
production of energy and raw materials. In
addition, the opening of an Arctic waterway
could provide economic and commercial
advantages. However, Russia could be hurt
by damaged infrastructure as the Arctic
tundra melts and will need new technology to
develop the region’s fossil energy.
Canada will be spared several serious North
American climate-related developments—
intense hurricanes and withering heat
waves—and climate change could open up
millions of square miles to development.
Access to the resource-rich Hudson Bay
would be improved, and being a circumpolar
power ringing a major portion of a warming
Arctic could be a geopolitical and economic
bonus. Additionally, agricultural growing
seasons will lengthen, net energy demand for
heating/cooling will likely drop, and forests
will expand somewhat into the tundra.
However, not all soil in Canada can take
advantage of the change in growing season,
and some forest products are already
experiencing damage due to changes in pest
infestation enabled by warmer climates.
global food sector has been highly responsive
to market forces, but farm production
probably will continue to be hampered by
misguided agriculture policies that limit
investment and distort critical price signals.
Keeping food prices down to placate the
urban poor and spur savings for industrial
investment has distorted agricultural prices in
the past. If political elites are more worried
about urban instability than rural incomes—a
safe bet in many countries—these policies are
likely to persist, increasing the risk of tight
supplies in the future. The demographic trend
for increased urbanization—particularly in
developing states—underscores the likelihood
that failed policies will continue.
Between now and 2025, the world will have
to juggle competing and conflicting energy
security and food security concerns, yielding
a tangle of difficult-to-manage consequences.
In the major grain exporters (the US, Canada,
Argentina, and Australia), demand for
biofuels—enhanced by government
subsidies—will claim larger areas of cropland
and greater volumes of irrigation water, even
as biofuel production and processing
technologies are made more efficient. This
“fuel farming” tradeoff, coupled with periodic
export controls among Asian producers and
rising demand for protein among growing
middle classes worldwide, will force grain
prices in the global market to fluctuate at
levels above today’s highs. Some economists
argue that, with international markets settling
at lower grain volumes, speculation—invited
by expectations of rising fuel costs and more
erratic, climate change-induced weather
patterns—could play a greater role in food
A consortium of large agricultural
producers—including India and China, along
with the US and EU partners—is likely to
work to launch a second Green Revolution,
this time in Sub-Saharan Africa, which could
help dampen price volatility in worldwide
grain markets. By 2025, increases in African
grain yields probably will be substantial, but
the increases will be confined principally to
states in the southern and eastern regions of
the continent, which will have deepened trade
and security relations with East and South
5 3
Strategic Implications of an Opening Arctic
Estimates vary as to when the Arctic is likely to be ice free during the summer. The National
Snow and Ice Data Center suggests a seasonally ice-free Arctic by 2060; more current research
suggests the date could be as soon as 2013. The two most important implications of an opening
Arctic are improved access to likely vast energy and mineral resources and potentially shorter
maritime shipping routes.
Transiting the Northern Sea Route above Russia between the North Atlantic and the North
Pacific would trim about 5,000 nautical miles and a week’s sailing time off a trip compared with
use of the Suez Canal. Voyaging between Europe and Asia through Canada’s Northwest
Passage would trim some 4,000 nautical miles off of a trip using the Panama Canal.
Resource and shipping benefits are unlikely to materialize by 2025. The US National Petroleum
Council has said that some of the technology to exploit oil from the heart of the Arctic region
may not be ready until as late as 2050. Nonetheless, these potential riches and advantages are
already perceptible to the United States, Canada, Russia, Denmark, and Norway—as evidenced
by the emergence of competing territorial claims, such as between Russia and Norway, and
Canada and Denmark.
Although serious near-term tension could result in small-scale confrontations over contested
claims, the Arctic is unlikely to spawn major armed conflict. Circumpolar states have other
major ports on other bodies of water, so the Arctic does not pose any lifeblood blockade dangers.
Additionally, these states share a common interest in regulating access to the Arctic by hostile
powers, states of concern, or dangerous nonstate actors; and by their shared need for assistance
from high-tech companies to exploit the Arctic’s resources.
The greatest strategic consequence over the next couple of decades may be that relatively large,
wealthy, resource-deficient trading states such as China, Japan, and Korea will benefit from
increased energy resources provided by any Arctic opening and shorter shipping distances.
Asian states. Elsewhere south of the Sahara,
civil conflict and the political and economic
focus on mining and petroleum extraction are
likely to foil most of the consortium’s
attempts to upgrade irrigation and rural
transportation networks and to extend credit
and investment, allowing population growth
to outpace gains in agricultural productivity.
In addition to the currently projected
scarcities of freshwater and cropland, the UK
Treasury-commissioned Stern Report
estimates that by the middle of the century
200 million people may be permanently
displaced “climate migrants”—representing a
ten-fold increase over today’s entire
documented refugee and internally displaced
populations. Although this is considered high
by many experts, broad agreement exists
about the risks of large scale migration and
the need for better preparation. Most
displaced persons traditionally relocate within
their home countries, but in the future many
are likely to find their home countries have
diminishing capabilities to accommodate
them. Thus the number of migrants seeking
to move from disadvantaged into relatively
privileged countries is likely to increase. The
largest inflows will mirror many current
migratory patterns—from North Africa and
Western Asia into Europe, Latin America into
the US, and Southeast Asia into Australia.
5 4
Over the next 20 years, worries about climate
change effects may be more significant than
any physical changes linked to climate
change. Perceptions of a rapidly changing
environment may cause nations to take
unilateral actions to secure resources,
territory, and other interests. Willingness to
engage in greater multilateral cooperation will
depend on a number of factors, such as the
behavior of other countries, the economic
context, or the importance of the interests to
be defended or won.
Many scientists worry that recent assessments
underestimate the impact of climate change
and misjudge the likely time when effects will
be felt. Scientists currently have limited
capability to predict the likelihood or
magnitude of extreme climate shifts but
believe—based on historic precedents—that it
will not occur gradually or smoothly. Drastic
cutbacks in allowable CO2 emissions
probably would disadvantage the rapidly
emerging economies that are still low on the
efficiency curve, but large-scale users in the
developed world—such as the US—also
would be shaken and the global economy
could be plunged into a recession or worse.
5 5
5 6
Sub-Saharan Africa: More Interactions with the World and More Troubled
In 2025, Sub-Saharan Africa will remain the most vulnerable region on Earth in terms of
economic challenges, population stresses, civil conflict, and political instability. The weakness
of states and troubled relations between states and societies probably will slow major
improvements in the region’s prospects over the next 20 years unless there is sustained
international engagement and, at times, intervention. Southern Africa will continue to be the
most stable and promising sub-region politically and economically.
Sub-Saharan Africa will continue to be a major supplier of oil, gas, and metals to world markets
and increasingly will attract the attention of Asian states seeking access to commodities,
including China and India. However, despite increased global demand for commodities,
increased resource income may not benefit the majority of the population or result in significant
economic gains. Poor economic policies—rooted in patrimonial interests and incomplete
economic reform—will likely exacerbate ethnic and religious divides as well as crime and
corruption in many countries. Ruling elites are likely to continue to accrue greater income and
wealth, while poverty will persist or worsen in rural areas and sprawling urban centers. The
divide between elite and non-elite populations is likely to widen, reinforcing conditions that
could generate divisive political and religious extremism.
By 2025, the region’s population is expected to reach over one billion, notwithstanding the
effects of HIV/AIDS. Over one-half of the population will be under age 24, and many will be
seeking economic opportunity or physical safety via out-migration owing to conflict, climate
change, or widespread unemployment. The earliest global effects of climate change, including
water stress and scarcity, will begin to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.
Today almost one-half (23 of 48) of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are classed as
democracies, and the majority of African states are on a democratic path, but the most populous
states in the region and those with high population growth could backslide.
Although Africa is already assuming more of its own peacekeeping responsibilities, the region
will be vulnerable to civil conflict and complex forms of interstate conflict—with militaries
fragmented along ethnic or other divides, limited control of border areas, and insurgents and
criminal groups preying on unarmed civilians in neighboring countries. Central Africa contains
the most troubling of these cases, including Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Central
African Republic, and Chad.
In contrast to other regions of the world, African attitudes toward the US will remain positive,
although many African governments will remain critical of US policies on issues like the Middle
East, Cuba, and global trade. Africa will continue to push for UN reform and for permanent
representation on the UN Security Council.
5 7
Global Scenario II: October
In the following fictionalized account, global
inattention to climate change leads to major
unexpected impacts, thrusting the world into a
new level of vulnerability. Scientists are
currently uncertain whether we already have
hit a tipping point at which climate change
has accelerated and whether there is little we
can do—including reducing emissions—that
will mitigate effects even over the longer
term. Most scientists believe we will not
know whether we have hit a tipping point
until it is too late. Uncertainties about the
pace and specific vulnerabilities or impacts
from climate change are likely to persist over
the next 15-20 years even if our knowledge
about climate change deepens, according to
many scientists.
An extreme weather event—as described in
this scenario—could occur. Coping with the
greater frequency of such events, coupled
with other physical impacts of climate change
such as growing water scarcities and more
food crises, may preoccupy policymakers
even while options for solving such problems
dwindle. In this example, relocating the New
York Stock Exchange to a less vulnerable
location is considered, but serious
consideration also would be given to
relocating other institutions to ensure
continuity of operations. Although this
scenario focuses on an event that occurs in the
US, other governments have been caught by
surprise with different types of environmental
disasters and have suffered a loss of standing.
Mitigation efforts—further cutbacks in carbon
emissions—are unlikely to make any
difference, at least in the short run, according
to this account. Such a world involving
potentially major dislocations could threaten
both developed and developing countries.
Preconditions assumed in this scenario
• Nations adopt a “growth-first” mentality
leading to widespread environmental
neglect and degradation.
• Governments, particularly those lacking
transparency, lose legitimacy as they fail
to cope with environmental and other
• Despite significant technological progress,
no technological “silver bullet” is found to
halt the effects of climate change.
• National solutions to environmental
problems are short term and inadequate.
5 8
5 9
6 0
6 1
We now assess the potential for conflict—
both interstate and intrastate—over the next
15-20 years to be greater than we anticipated
in Mapping the Global Future, particularly in
the greater Middle East. Large parts of the
region will become less volatile than today
and more like other parts of world, such as
East Asia, where economic goals
predominate, but other portions of the region
remain ripe for conflict. The combination of
increasingly open economies and persistently
authoritarian politics creates the potential for
insurgencies, civil war, and interstate conflict.
By 2025, Iran’s nuclear ambitions are likely
to be clear in one way or the other and the
region will either be swept up in an arms race
or have found another way to try to establish
regional security. Although we believe the
appeal of al-Qa’ida and other international
terrorist groups will diminish over the next
15-20 years, pockets of support will remain,
ensuring a continuing threat, particularly as
lethal technology is expected to become more
A Shrinking Arc of Instability by 2025?
In our previous study, Mapping the Global
Future, we assessed that those states most
susceptible to conflict are in a great arc of
instability stretching from Sub-Saharan Africa
through North Africa, into the Middle East,
the Balkans, the Caucasus, and South and
Central Asia, and parts of Southeast Asia.
Today, parts of this arc are experiencing
increasing economic activity, including
moderate to high levels of GDP growth, slow
but perceptible economic reform, improved
regulatory performance, deepening financial
markets, high levels of outside and intraregional
investment and related technology
transfers, and development of new trade
corridors. In the medium-to-longterm,
increased rates of growth are likely to be
sustained if energy prices remain high, but not
so high that they depress growth in other
regions. Awareness of increasing
vulnerability to systemic changes in world
energy markets also may act as a goad to
further economic reform, including greater
diversification in energy-rich states.
For regimes, managing economic change will
involve a delicate balancing act between the
imperatives of fostering economic growth and
maintaining authoritarian rule. Although
some regimes may succeed, the odds are that
only one or two will become genuine
democracies and one or two will end up with
civil disorder and conflict because rulers
miscalculate the tradeoffs or take gambles
that don’t pay off.
Growing Risk of a Nuclear Arms Race in
the Middle East
A number of states in the region are already
thinking about developing or acquiring
nuclear technology useful for development of
nuclear weaponry. Over the next 15-20 years,
reactions to the decisions Iran makes about its
nuclear program could cause a number of
regional states to intensify these efforts and
consider actively pursuing nuclear weapons.
This will add a new and more dangerous
dimension to what is likely to be increasing
competition for influence within the region,
including via proxies—Shia in Iran’s case and
Sunnis for most of its neighbors—and a
competition among outside powers anxious to
preserve their access to energy supplies and to
sell sophisticated conventional weaponry in
exchange for greater political influence and
energy agreements.
Not Inevitable… Historically, many states
have had nuclear weapons ambitions but have
not gone the distance. States may prefer to
retain the technological ability to produce
nuclear weapons rather than to develop actual
weapons. Technological impediments and a
desire to avoid political isolation and seek
greater integration into the global economy
6 2
A Non-nuclear Korea?
We see a unified Korea as likely by 2025—if
not as a unitary state, then in some form of
North-South confederation. While diplomacy
working to end North Korea’s nuclear
weapons program continues, the final
disposition of the North’s nuclear
infrastructure and capabilities at the time of
reunification remain uncertain. A new,
reunified Korea struggling with the large
financial burden of reconstruction will,
however, be more likely to find international
acceptance and economic assistance by
ensuring the denuclearization of the
Peninsula, perhaps in a manner similar to
what occurred in Ukraine post-1991. A
loosely confederated Korea might complicate
denuclearization efforts. Other strategic
consequences are likely to flow from Korean
unification, including prospects for new levels
of major power cooperation to manage new
and enduring challenges, such as
denuclearization, demilitarization, refugee
flows, and financing reconstruction.
could motivate Tehran to forego nuclear
weaponization. However, even an Iranian
capacity to develop nuclear weapons might
prompt regional responses that could be
If Iran does develop nuclear weapons, or is
seen in the region as having acquired a latent
nuclear weapons capability, other countries in
the region may decide not to seek a
corresponding capability. It is more likely,
however, that a few of Iran’s neighbors will
see Iran’s development of nuclear weapons or
a latent weapons capability as an existential
threat or as resulting in an unacceptable,
fundamental shift of power in the region, and
therefore will seek offsetting capabilities.
Security guarantees from existing nuclear
powers that regional states find credible may
be regarded by them as a sufficient offset to
an Iranian nuclear weapons capability, but it
could be a tall order to expect such guarantees
to satisfy all of those concerned about a
nuclear Iran.
…But Potentially More Dangerous than the
Cold War. The prospect that nuclear
weapons will embolden Iran, lead to greater
instability, and trigger shifts in the balance of
power in the Middle East appears to be the
key concern of the Arab states in the region
and may drive some to consider acquiring
their own nuclear deterrent. Iran’s growing
nuclear capabilities are already partly
responsible for the surge of interest in nuclear
energy in the Middle East, fueling concern
about the potential for a nuclear arms race.
Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain,
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Libya are or have
expressed interest in building new nuclear
power facilities. Future Iranian
demonstrations of its nuclear capabilities that
reinforce perceptions of its intent and ability
to develop nuclear weapons potentially would
prompt additional states in the region to
pursue their own nuclear weapons programs.
“We see a unified Korea as likely by 2025—
if not as a unitary state, than in some form
of North-South confederation.”
It is not certain that the type of stable
deterrent relationship that existed for most of
the Cold War would emerge naturally in the
Middle East with multiple nuclear-weapons
capable states. Rather than episodes of
suppressing or shortening low-intensity
conflicts and terrorism, the possession of
nuclear weapons may be perceived as making
it “safe” to engage in such activities, or even
larger conventional attacks, provided that
certain redlines are not crossed. Each such
incident between nuclear-armed states,
however, would hold the potential for nuclear
6 3
The continued spread of nuclear capabilities
in the greater Middle East, where several
states will be facing succession challenges
over the next 20 years, also will raise new
concerns over the capacity of weak states to
maintain control over their nuclear
technologies and arsenals. If the number of
nuclear-capable states increases, so will the
number of countries potentially willing to
provide nuclear assistance to other countries
or to terrorists. The potential for theft or
diversion of nuclear weapons, materials, and
technology—and the potential for
unauthorized nuclear use—also would rise.
Finally, enough countries might decide to
seek nuclear weapons capabilities in reaction
to an Iranian capability that countries beyond
the region would begin pursuing their own
nuclear weapons programs.
New Conflicts Over Resources?
The rising energy demands of growing
populations and economies may bring into
question the availability, reliability, and
affordability of energy supplies. Such a
situation would heighten tensions between
states competing for limited resources,
especially if accompanied by increased
political turbulence in the Middle East and a
general loss of confidence in the ability of the
marketplace to satisfy rising demands.
National companies could control the lion’s
share of the world’s hydrocarbon resources,
leading to a further blending of energy-state
relationships and geopolitical concerns.
Perceptions of energy scarcity will drive
countries to take actions to assure their future
access to energy supplies. In the worst case
this could lead to interstate conflicts if
government leaders deem assured access to
energy resources to be essential to
maintaining domestic stability and the
survival of their regime. However, even
actions short of war will have important
geopolitical implications as states undertake
strategies to hedge against the possibility that
existing energy supplies will not meet rising
demands. Energy security considerations are
already driving countries such as China and
India to purchase equity stakes in energy
fields, and evolving competitions are
increasingly being supported by military
capabilities leading to the potential for
heightened tensions and even conflict.
Energy-deficient states may employ transfers
of arms and sensitive technologies and the
promise of a political and military alliance as
inducements to establish strategic
relationships with energy-producing states.
• Central Asia has become an area of
intense international competition for
access to energy. Although Russia and
China currently are working cooperatively
to reduce the leverage of outside powers,
especially the United States, competition
between the two in Central Asia could
escalate if in the future Russia seeks to
interfere with China’s relations in the
region or China becomes more aggressive
in obtaining its access to energy supplies
in parts of the former Soviet Union.
• The future development of novel drilling
techniques may create new opportunities
to find and exploit previously unexplored
ultra-deep oil fields. Such fields,
however, may be located in areas of
contested ownership, such as Asia or the
Arctic, creating the potential for conflict.
6 4
Middle East/North Africa:
Economics Drives Change, but with Major Risk of Turmoil
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will remain a geopolitically significant region in
2025, based on the importance of oil to the world economy and the threat of instability. The
region’s future will depend on how leaders manage oil windfalls, demographic changes, pressure
for political change, and regional conflicts.
In a positive scenario in which economic growth becomes increasingly rooted and sustained,
regional leaders will choose to invest in the region; implement economic, educational, and social
policies that encourage more growth; move forward with political reform that empowers
moderate—and probably Islamic—political parties; work to settle regional conflicts; and
implement security agreements that help prevent future instability.
• In a more negative scenario, leaders will fail to prepare their growing populations to
participate productively in the global economy, authoritarian regimes will hold tightly to
power and become more repressive, and regional conflicts will remain unresolved as
population growth strains resources.
Demographically, a number of Middle Eastern and North African countries are positioned where
Taiwan and South Korea were before their takeoff in the 1960s and 1970s. Over the next 15 or
so years, the proportion of the economically active populations (ages 15-64) in countries like
Egypt will exceed that of the economically dependent population by a much greater amount than
in any other region. This differential provides an opportunity to accelerate economic growth if
governments put appropriate economic and social policies in place. Prospects are best in the
North African and Gulf states.
• Foreign investment—much of it originating from within the region—will increase integration
between Arab economies and drive private-sector development. The most promising
industries for job growth are likely to be in services, putting the region on a different
developmental path than East Asia.
• To maximize growth potential, MENA governments will need to improve their educational
systems to produce a more technically skilled work force and encourage citizens accustomed
to public sector jobs to accept the demands and volatility of the private sector. (East Asian
economies prospered because of sustained government efforts to improve rapidly the quality
of the work force through universal education and by developing export industries.)
In other regions, integrating young adults into the work force—coupled with a declining birth
rate and shrinking youth bulge—has provided an opening for democratization. Social scientists
have found that, as an increasing proportion of the population had a stake in the system, formerly
authoritarian states like South Korea and Taiwan felt they could experiment with political
liberalization. An important cluster of North African countries—Algeria, Libya, Morocco,
Egypt, and Tunisia—has the potential to realize such a demographic-democratic nexus in the
period to 2025, but it is unclear whether these authoritarian regimes will exploit these
opportunities to liberalize. (Continued on next page…)
6 5
A Two-Tier Muslim World? Although the Western paradigm separating religious and secular
authority may still be less compelling to Muslim publics, a greater emphasis on economics and,
most importantly, greater participation of women in the work force may spur new forms of
progressive Islam. This does not mean that extremist strands will disappear; in the short term
they might benefit from unease over the changing role of women and alternative family models.
But over time, lower fertility promotes religious and political stability and, if secularization in
southern Europe is a guide, modernized versions of Islam could take root by 2025.
The channeling of political dissent into Islamic discourse—a variant of the global revival of
religious identity in the aftermath of the Cold War—and states’ efforts to manipulate Islamic
currents will reinforce the dominance of Islam in Middle Eastern politics and society in 2025.
As a result, pressures for greater political pluralism are likely to produce a bigger role for Islamic
political parties and a re-thinking of how Islam and politics should interact and influence each
other, with considerable political and social turmoil generated in the process.
Even as some states may liberalize, others may fail: youth bulges, deeply rooted conflicts, and
limited economic prospects are likely to keep Palestine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and
others in the high-risk category. Spillover from turmoil in these states and potentially others
increases the chance that moves elsewhere in the region toward greater prosperity and political
stability will be rocky. The success of efforts to manage and resolve regional conflicts and to
develop security architectures that help stabilize the region will be a major determinant of the
ability of states to grow their economies and pursue political reform.
Resolution of the Syrian and Palestinian conflicts with Israel, in particular, would broaden the
ideological and political discourse within secular and Islamic circles, undermine a traditional
pretext for maintaining large militaries and curtailing freedoms, and help defuse sectarian and
ethnic tensions in the region.
Iran’s trajectory is also likely to have lasting regional impacts—for good or ill. Iran’s fractious
regime, nationalist identity, and ambivalence toward the United States will make any transition
from regional dissenter toward stakeholder perilous and uneven. Although Iran’s aims for
regional leadership—including its nuclear ambitions—are unlikely to abate, its regional
orientation will have difficulty discounting external and internal pressures for reform. An
Iranian perception of greater shared interests with the West in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example,
and sustained progress on Arab-Israeli peace that weakens Iranian-Syrian ties and accommodates
or sidelines Iran’s sub-state allies would provide security incentives and pressures on Iran to
adjust its regional role. A political consensus within Iran to develop further its significant
economic potential—fueled potentially by a sustained popular backlash against corruption and
economic mismanagement and a fall in energy rents—could provide an additional push to shift
Iran’s factional politics to the left and an incentive for Iran to adjust its policies with a view
toward easing US and international sanctions.
6 6
Energy Security
Other possible examples of the militarization of
energy security include:
States using their control of energy
resources as weapons of political coercion
and influence. Russia is seeking to position
itself to control energy supply and related
transportation networks from Europe to East
Asia. This would enable Moscow to use its
control over energy flows to promote Russian
interests and influence.
Threats posed by terrorism and piracy to
energy production and transit. Public
statements by al-Qa’ida leaders indicate
terrorists are interested in striking Persian
Gulf oil facilities. The protection of energy
pipelines, facilities, and shipping from
terrorist attacks will be a key security concern
and mission for military forces.
Domestic instability, insurgencies, and
conflict within strategic energy-producing
and exporting states. Ethnic and political
violence and criminal activity currently
threaten a large portion of Nigeria’s oil
production. State failure in a key energy
producing country may require military
intervention by outside powers to stabilize
energy flows.
Concerns about assuring future access to
energy supplies also are fostering increased
naval competition. Despite the growing
number of pipeline projects, in 2025 Asian
countries will remain dependent on sea
transfers of energy from suppliers in the
Middle East. This is raising concerns about
the future of maritime security in a zone
extending from the Persian Gulf to East and
Southeast Asia. Maritime security concerns
are providing the rationale for a series of
naval buildups and modernization efforts in
the region, such as China’s and India’s
development of “blue-water” naval
capabilities, to protect critical economic
assets and secure access to energy resources.
Other national navies in the Middle East and
Asia will not be able to replace the US Navy’s
role in protecting strategic sea lines of
communication in 2025, but the buildup of
regional naval capabilities could lead to
increased tensions, rivalries, and
• Growing concerns over maritime security
may create opportunities for multinational
cooperation in protecting critical sea
lanes. Mutual suspicions regarding the
intentions behind naval build-ups by
potential regional rivals or the
establishment of alliances that exclude
key players would, however, undermine
efforts for international cooperation.
• A naval arms race in Asia may emerge in
response to China’s further development
of naval power projection. A naval arms
race might also be spurred by “antiaccess”
capabilities—such as attack
submarines and long-range antiship
missiles—that become widely viewed as
efforts by Beijing to extend its political
influence in the region and to deter
attempts to cut off China’s seaborne
energy supplies by threatening mutual
disruption of sea trade.
Climate change is unlikely to trigger
interstate war, but it could lead to increasingly
heated interstate recriminations and possibly
to low-level armed conflicts. With water
becoming more scarce in several regions,
cooperation over changing water resources is
likely to be increasingly difficult within and
between states, straining regional relations.
Such regions include the Himalayan region,
which feeds the major rivers of China,
Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh; Israel6
Another Use of Nuclear Weapons?
The risk of nuclear weapon use over the next 20 years, although remaining very low, is likely to
be greater than it is today as a result of several converging trends. The spread of nuclear
technologies and expertise is generating concerns about the potential emergence of new nuclear
weapon states and the acquisition of nuclear materials by terrorist groups. Ongoing low-intensity
clashes between India and Pakistan continue to raise the specter that such events could escalate
to a broader conflict between those nuclear powers. The possibility of a future disruptive regime
change or collapse occurring in a nuclear weapon state such as North Korea also continues to
raise questions regarding the ability of weak states to control and secure their nuclear arsenals.
In addition to these longstanding concerns, new political-military developments could further
erode the nuclear “taboo.” The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran spawning a nuclear arms race in
the greater Middle East will bring new security challenges to an already conflict-prone region,
particularly in conjunction with the proliferation of long-range missile systems. Furthermore,
future acquisition of nuclear weapons by states with weak command and control procedures and
safeguards increases the probability of accidental or unauthorized nuclear use.
Future asymmetries in conventional military capabilities among potential rivals might tempt
weak states to view nuclear weapons as a necessary and justifiable defense in response to the
threat of overwhelming conventional attacks. In such cases, the defending power might try to
limit the potential for escalation by employing a nuclear weapon test to signal resolve and deter
aggression or by confining the use of nuclear weapons to the defense of its own territory.
Options for limited physical destruction attacks such as those that use very low-yield weapons or
high-altitude nuclear blasts designed to disrupt an enemy’s information networks and systems via
an electromagnetic pulse effect could further erode the taboo against nuclear weapon use and
prompt reassessments of the vulnerabilities of modern conventional military forces.
If nuclear weapons are used destructively in the next 15-20 years, the international system will
be shocked as it experiences immediate humanitarian, economic, and political-military
repercussions. How the world would respond over the long-term to another use of nuclear
weapons would, however, likely depend on the context in which such weapons were used.
Prevailing perceptions regarding whether the use of a nuclear weapon was justified, the level of
destructiveness it created, and the future utility of nuclear weapons would drive global reactions
regarding counterproliferation and nuclear disarmament.
• A terrorist use of a nuclear weapon or an escalating conflict between two nuclear powers,
such as India and Pakistan, would graphically demonstrate the danger of nuclear weapons,
prompting calls for global nuclear disarmament and energizing counterproliferation and
counterterrorism measures.
A successful nuclear weapon test or use of a nuclear weapon by a state to deter or halt a
conventional attack might, on the other hand, enhance the perception of the utility of nuclear
weapons in defending territorial sovereignty and increase pressures for proliferation in countries
that do not possess a strong conventional military or security guarantees.
(Continued on next page…)
6 8
In either case, a future use of nuclear weapons probably would bring about significant
geopolitical changes as some states would seek to establish or reinforce security alliances with
existing nuclear powers and others would push for global nuclear disarmament. In Europe, for
example, divisions could emerge between some countries in Western Europe that support nuclear
disarmament and those of Eastern Europe that still might fear Russia’s nuclear arsenal.
Palestinian Territories; along the Jordan River
(Israel-Jordan) and the Fergana Valley of
Central Asia. Such dire scenarios are not
inevitable even with worse-than-anticipated
climate change impacts, however. Economic
development, the spread of new technologies,
and robust new mechanisms for multilateral
cooperation to deal with climate change may
foster greater global collaboration.
Terrorism: Good and Bad News
Terrorism is unlikely to disappear by 2025,
but its appeal could diminish if economic
growth continues and youth unemployment is
mitigated in the Middle East. Economic
opportunities for youth and greater political
pluralism probably would dissuade some from
joining terrorists’ ranks, but others—
motivated by a variety of factors, such as a
desire for revenge or to become “martyrs”—
will continue to turn to violence to pursue
their objectives.
“For those terrorist groups active in 2025,
the diffusion of technologies and scientific
knowledge will place some of the world’s
most dangerous capabilities within their
• In the absence of employment
opportunities and legal means for political
expression, conditions will be ripe for
disaffection, growing radicalism, and
possible recruitment of youths into
terrorist groups.
• Terrorist and insurgent groups in 2025
will likely be a combination of
descendants of long-established groups—
that inherit organizational structures,
command and control processes, and
training procedures necessary to conduct
sophisticated attacks—and newly
emergent collections of the angry and
disenfranchised that become selfradicalized.
As long as turmoil and societal disruptions,
generated by resource scarcities, poor
governance, ethnic rivalries, or environmental
degradation, increase in the Middle East,
conditions will remain conducive to the
spread of radicalism and insurgencies. Future
radicalism could be fueled by global
communications and mass media. Increasing
interconnectedness will enable individuals to
coalesce around common causes across
national boundaries, creating new cohorts of
the angry, downtrodden, and disenfranchised.
In some situations these new networks could
act as forces for good by pressuring
governments through non-violent means to
address injustice, poverty, the impacts of
climate change, and other social issues. Other
groups, however, could use networks and
global communications to recruit and train
new members, proliferate radical ideologies,
manage their finances, manipulate public
opinion, and coordinate attacks.
6 9
Why al-Qa’ida’s “Terrorist Wave” Might Be Breaking Up
As al-Qa’ida celebrates its 20th birthday, most experts assert that the struggle against it will
continue indefinitely, the so called “long war.” Other experts who have studied past “waves” of
terrorism believe that al-Qa’ida is an “aging” group by terrorist standards and suffers from
strategic weaknesses that could cause it to decay into marginality, perhaps shortening the
lifespan of the Islamic terrorist wave.
A wave of terror is a cycle of activity—which can last up to 40 years—characterized by
expansion and contraction phases: rise, floodtide of violence, and ebb. The wave of terror
concept was developed by UCLA Professor David C. Rapoport and provides a basis for the
comparative analysis of terrorist movements. In each wave, similar terrorist activities occur in
many countries, driven by a common vision—such as anarchism, Marxism, nationalism, or
Islamic extremism. Terrorist groups who form the crest of each wave usually dissolve before
the entire wave does, and their decay contributes to the breaking of the wave. Al-Qa’ida’s
weaknesses—unachievable strategic objectives, inability to attract broad-based support, and selfdestructive
actions—might cause it to decay sooner than many people think.
Research indicates that terrorists’ strategic objectives fail on two fronts. Objectives that pose a
threat to the existing political order court tough counterterrorism measures, while objectives that
are seen as neither achievable nor relevant to solving problems have little appeal to elites or the
general populace. The two primary strategic aims of al-Qa’ida—the establishment of a global
Islamic caliphate and the removal of US and Western influence so that “apostate” regimes can be
toppled—are clearly threats to many existing Muslim governments and are resulting in stronger
counterterrorism measures.
• There is little indication that the vast majority of Muslims believe that such objectives are
realistic or that, if they could come to pass, would solve the practical problems of
unemployment, poverty, poor educational systems, and dysfunctional governance.
Despite sympathy for some of its ideas and the rise of affiliated groups in places like the
Mahgreb, al-Qa’ida has not achieved broad support in the Islamic World. Its harsh pan-Islamist
ideology and policies appeal only to a tiny minority of Muslims.
• According to one study of public attitudes toward extremist violence, there is little support
for al-Qa’ida in any of the countries surveyed—Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The report also found
that majorities in all Arab countries oppose jihadi violence, by any group, on their own soil.
• Al-Qa’ida is alienating former Muslim supporters by killing Muslims in its attacks. Recent
scholarly research indicates that terrorist groups that kill civilians seldom accomplish their
strategic goals. Although determining precisely the number of Muslims worldwide who have
died in al-Qa’ida attacks is difficult, examination of available evidence suggests that at least
40 percent of the victims have been Muslims.
(Continued on next page…)
7 0
The roughly 40-year cycle of terrorist waves suggests that the dreams that inspire terrorist group
members’ fathers to join particular groups are not attractive to succeeding generations. The
prospect that al-Qa’ida will be among the small number of groups able to transcend the
generational timeline is not high, given its harsh ideology, unachievable strategic objectives, and
inability to become a mass movement.
In relying almost exclusively on terrorism as a means to achieve its strategic objectives, rather
than transforming into a political movement like Hizbollah or Hamas, al-Qa’ida is using a
stratagem that rarely is successful. Recent academic research indicates that only 6 percent of
terrorist groups active in the last 40 years have achieved their proclaimed strategic objectives.
Al-Qa’ida’s lack of success in executing attacks against the “far enemy” could portend a period
of operational futility leading to increased frustration, decreased organizational élan, and
inability to attract new members.
Because history suggests that the global Islamic terrorist movement will outlast al-Qa’ida as a
group, strategic counterterrorism efforts will need to focus on how and why a successor
terrorist group might evolve during the remaining years of the “Islamic terrorist wave.”
On a positive note, support for terrorist
networks in the Muslim world appears to be
declining. To succeed, terrorist groups need a
large number of passive supporters who
sympathize with terrorists’ objectives.
Reducing those numbers is key to lessening
the appeal within societies. Analysis of
terrorists’ communications among themselves
indicates they see themselves in a “losing”
battle with Western materialistic values.
Surveys and analysis of jihadist websites
indicate growing popular dissatisfaction with
civilian casualties—particularly of fellow
Muslims—caused by terrorist actions.
For those terrorist groups active in 2025, the
diffusion of technologies and scientific
knowledge will place some of the world’s
most dangerous capabilities within their
reach. The globalization of biotechnology
industries is spreading expertise and
capabilities and increasing the accessibility of
biological pathogens suitable for disruptive
attacks. Radiological and chemical weapons
may also be used by terrorists or insurgents
seeking an advantage against opposing
security or military forces and to create mass
casualties. The proliferation of advanced
tactical weapons will increase the potential
that they will be used by terrorists. Improved
anti-tank guided missiles and other manportable
weapon systems, thermobaric and
other advanced explosives, and the spread of
cheap sensors and robotics that could be used
to create more capable improvised explosive
devices illustrate this danger.
Some governments will likely respond to
increasing terrorism and internal threats by
expanding domestic security forces,
surveillance capabilities, and the employment
of special operations-type forces.
Counterterrorism and counterinsurgency
missions increasingly will involve urban
operations as a result of greater urbanization.
Governments, citing the need for enhanced
internal security and their desire to control the
influx of unwanted refugees and immigrants,
may increasingly erect barricades and fences
around their territories to inhibit access.
Gated communities will continue to spring up
7 1
The Changing Character of Conflict
Conflict will continue to evolve over the next 20 years as potential combatants adapt to advances
in science and technology, improving weapon capabilities, and changes in the security
environment. Warfare in 2025 is likely to be characterized by the following strategic trends:
The Increasing Importance of Information. Advances in information technologies are enabling
new warfighting synergies through combinations of advanced precision weaponry, improving
target and surveillance capabilities, enhanced command and control, and the expanding use of
artificial intelligence and robotics. Future proliferation of long-range precision weapons will
permit a growing number of states to threaten rapid destruction of an adversary’s critical
economic, energy, political, and military and information infrastructures. The growing
importance of information technologies as an enabler of modern warfighting capabilities will
make information itself a primary target in future conflicts. By 2025 some states probably will
deploy weapons designed to destroy or disable information, sensor, and communication
networks and systems including anti-satellite, radiofrequency, and laser weapons.
The Evolution of Irregular Warfare Capabilities. The adoption of irregular warfare tactics by
both state and nonstate actors as a primary warfighting approach in countering advanced
militaries will be a key characteristic of conflicts in 2025. The spread of light weaponry,
including precision tactical and man-portable weapon systems, and information and
communication technologies will significantly increase the threat posed by irregular forms of
warfare over the next 15-20 years. Modern communication technologies such as satellite and
cellular phones, the Internet, and commercial encryption, combined with hand-held navigation
devices and high-capacity information systems that can contain large amounts of text, maps, and
digital images and videos will greatly enable future irregular forces to organize, coordinate, and
execute dispersed operations.
The Prominence of the Non-military Aspects of Warfare. Non-military means of warfare, such
as cyber, economic, resource, psychological, and information-based forms of conflict will
become more prevalent in conflicts over the next two decades. In the future, states and nonstate
adversaries will engage in “media warfare” to dominate the 24-hour news cycle and manipulate
public opinion to advance their own agenda and gain popular support for their cause.
The Expansion and Escalation of Conflicts Beyond the Traditional Battlefield. Containing the
expansion and escalation of conflicts will become more problematic in the future. The
advancement of weapons capabilities such as long-range precision weapons, the continued
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the employment of new forms of warfare such
as cyber and space warfare are providing state militaries and nonstate groups the means to
escalate and expand future conflicts beyond the traditional battlefield.
within many societies as elites seek to insulate
themselves from domestic threats.
Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq: Local
Trajectories and Outside Interests
Developments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and
Iraq will critically affect regional stability, if
not the global order. By 2025, the trajectories
of these three states probably will have
diverged sharply.
In 2025, Afghanistan may still evince
significant patterns of tribal interaction and
conflict. With the exception of the Taliban
interlude, Afghanistan has not experienced
strong central authority; centrifugal forces are
likely to remain strong even if Kabul
increases its sway.
• Western-driven infrastructure, economic
assistance, and construction are likely to
provide new stakes for local rivalries
rather than the basis for a cohesive
Western-style economic and social unity.
• Globalization has made opium
Afghanistan’s major cash crop; the
country will have difficulty developing
alternatives, particularly as long as
economic links for trade with Central
Asia, Pakistan, and India are not further
Tribal and sectarian disputes probably will
continue to arise, be fought out, and shift
constantly in Afghanistan as the various
players realign themselves. Outsiders will
choose between making temporary alliances
to destroy terrorist enemies, gain access to
local resources, and advance other immediate
interests or more ambitious—and costly—
The future of Pakistan is a wildcard in
considering the trajectory of neighboring
Afghanistan. Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier
Province and tribal areas probably will
continue to be poorly governed and the source
or supporter of cross-border instability. If
Pakistan is unable to hold together until 2025,
a broader coalescence of Pashtun tribes is
likely to emerge and act together to erase the
Durand Line,8 maximizing Pashtun space at
the expense of Punjabis in Pakistan and Tajiks
and others in Afghanistan. Alternatively, the
Taliban and other Islamist activists might
prove able to overawe at least some tribal
In Iraq, numerous ethnic, sectarian, tribal,
and local notables will compete to establish
and maximize areas of political and social
authority, access to resources, and to control
the distribution of those resources through
their patronage networks.
• By 2025 the government in Baghdad
could still be an object of competition
among the various factions seeking
foreign aid and pride of place, rather than
a self-standing agent of political authority,
legitimacy, and economic policy.
What happens in Iraq will affect neighbors as
well as internal contestants. Iran, Syria,
Turkey, and Saudi Arabia will have
increasing difficulty staying aloof. An Iraq
unable to maintain internal stability could
continue to roil the region. If conflict there
breaks into civil war, Iraq could continue to
provide a strong demonstration of the adverse
8 The Durand Line is the border between Pakistan and
Afghanistan—an artificial division that the Afghan
Government does not recognize.
End of Ideology?
We judge that ideological conflicts akin to the Cold War are unlikely to take root in a world
where most states will be preoccupied with the pragmatic challenges of globalization and
shifting global power alignments. The force of ideology is likely to be strongest in the Muslim
world—particularly the Arab core where Islam’s diverse expressions will continue to influence
deeply social norms and politics as well as serve as a prism through which individuals will
absorb the economic and cultural forces of globalization. Increasing religious observance and
the failures of secular Arab nationalism will leave Islamic political and social movements best
positioned to assert ideological influence over governments and publics in much of the Muslim
world over the next 15-20 years.
The ensuing Islamic discourse will be increasingly fluid as the clerical leadership detaches from
established seats of learning and traditions of jurisprudence and asserts its own interpretations of
the Quran and the Hadith (oral tradition). The trend toward bypassing tradition, aided by the
spread of media technologies, will encourage the spread of Salafism (reverence for the earliest
period in Islam), including its most radical forms, which risks undermining Western allies in the
Muslim world, especially in the Middle East. Nonetheless, the dispersal of religious authority
into networks of like-minded thinkers also could set the stage for a revival of innovative
perspectives on Islam’s relationship to the modern world and provide a counterweight to the
radical trend.
The direction of Islam’s internal ideological struggle will be determined primarily by local
conditions. In countries where economic and demographic trends are favorable and publics and
governments opt for the benefits of globalization, there will be strong incentives to revive and
broaden Islamic teachings that promote a culture of innovation, scientific learning, political
experimentation, and respect for religious pluralism. In those countries that are likely to struggle
with youth bulges and weak economic underpinnings—such as in Afghanistan, Nigeria,
Pakistan, and Yemen—the radical Salafi trend is likely to gain traction.
consequences of sectarianism to other
countries in the region. Alternatively, a stable
Iraq could provide a positive example of
economic growth and political development.
• All players will look to the United States
to guarantee stability, but Tehran will
continue to fear US designs for Iran’s own
regime and sovereignty.
• Public opinion polls likely will continue
to suggest popular adherence to being
“Iraqi,” but the persistence of competing
security systems, social organizations, and
economic subsistence networks will
animate robust local and sectarian
The Sunnis will have an interest in the central
state only if it provides them with what they
judge to be an adequate share of resources
largely generated outside their areas of
control. Absent this satisfaction, agitation by
Sunni jihadists, tribal leaders, and other
notables could remain a destabilizing factor.
In addition, any significant increase in the
number of Iraqi Sunnis emigrating to Jordan
and Syria could jeopardize the stability of
those countries.
Shi’a, flush with their newfound primacy,
have historically been divided, and personal
rivalries among the Sadrs, Hakims, and other
Shi’a notables are likely to continue to color
politics in this community. Tribes of mixed
Sunni-Shi’a ethnicity could serve as an
integrating intercommunal glue, but only if
economic development leads to a more
transparent and trustworthy central
administration and national system for
material production and distribution.
Development of a well-integrated national
army would be an important factor in
maximizing prospects for a more
functional Iraqi state. This would require
replacing the current tribal and sectarian
loyalties of officers and troops with a
much more robust sense of corporate élan
and national purpose.
Potential Emergence of a Global Pandemic
The emergence of a novel, highly transmissible, and virulent human respiratory illness for which
there are no adequate countermeasures could initiate a global pandemic. If a pandemic disease
emerges by 2025, internal and cross-border tension and conflict will become more likely as
nations struggle—with degraded capabilities—to control the movement of populations seeking to
avoid infection or maintain access to resources.
The emergence of a pandemic disease depends upon the natural genetic mutation or reassortment
of currently circulating disease strains or the emergence of a new pathogen into the human
population. Experts consider highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strains, such as H5N1,
to be likely candidates for such a transformation, but other pathogens—such as the SARS
coronavirus or other influenza strains—also have this potential.
If a pandemic disease emerges, it probably will first occur in an area marked by high population
density and close association between humans and animals, such as many areas of China and
Southeast Asia, where human populations live in close proximity to livestock. Unregulated
animal husbandry practices could allow a zoonotic disease such as H5N1 to circulate in livestock
populations—increasing the opportunity for mutation into a strain with pandemic potential. To
propagate effectively, a disease would have to be transmitted to areas of higher population
Under such a scenario, inadequate health-monitoring capability within the nation of origin
probably would prevent early identification of the disease. Slow public health response would
delay the realization that a highly transmissible pathogen had emerged. Weeks might pass
before definitive laboratory results could be obtained confirming the existence of a disease with
pandemic potential. In the interim, clusters of the disease would begin to appear in towns and
cities within Southeast Asia. Despite limits imposed on international travel, travelers with mild
symptoms or who were asymptomatic could carry the disease to other continents.
Waves of new cases would occur every few months. The absence of an effective vaccine and
near universal lack of immunity would render populations vulnerable to infection.a In this worstcase,
tens to hundreds of millions of Americans within the US Homeland would become ill and
deaths would mount into the tens of millions.b Outside the US, critical infrastructure degradation
and economic loss on a global scale would result as approximately a third of the worldwide
population became ill and hundreds of millions died.
a US and global health organizations currently are working to develop vaccines that may prevent or
mitigate influenza pandemics. A breakthrough in the next several years could reduce the risk posed by
pandemic influenza during upcoming decades.
b How fast a disease spreads, how many people become sick, how long they stay sick, the mortality rate,
and the symptoms and after-effects will vary according to the specific characteristics of whatever
pathogen is responsible for a pandemic. This scenario posits plausible characteristics that fall within a
range of possibilities for these variables.
Global Scenario III: BRICs’
In this fictionalized scenario, Chinese fears of
disruption of China’s energy supplies spark a
clash with India. With increasing resource
constraints likely out to 2025, disputes over
resources appear to us to be a growing
potential source of conflict. The sense of
vulnerability is heightened by the dwindling
number of energy producers and increasing
concentration in unstable regions such as the
Middle East. A world in which there are
more confrontations over other issues—such
as new trade barriers—is likely to increase the
potential for any dispute to escalate into
conflict. As outlined in this scenario,
misperceptions—along with miscommunications—
could play as important a role
as any actual threats. Also illustrated by this
scenario is the competition by rising powers
for resources. Both China and India—though
rich in coal—have limited and dwindling oil
and gas reserves and must rely on foreign
sources. In thinking about the increased
potential for conflict in this multipolar world,
we need to keep in mind the scope for the
emerging powers to clash with one another.
Preconditions underpinning this scenario
• A steady period of growth has slowed as
states struggle to cope with energy and
resource shortages, which are particularly
acute in the Asian economies.
• A rise in nationalist sentiments occurs
with the intense energy competition in this
zero-sum world.
• A balance of power emerges that
resembles a 21st century replay of the
years before 1914.
The trend toward greater diffusion of
authority and power occurring for a couple
decades is likely to accelerate because of the
emergence of new global players, increasingly
ineffective institutions, growth in
regional blocs, advanced communications
technologies, and enhanced strength of
nonstate actors and networks.
• By 2025, nation-states will no longer be
the only—and often not the most
important—actors on the world stage and
the “international system” will have
morphed to accommodate the new reality.
But the transformation will be incomplete
and uneven. Although states will not
disappear from the international scene, the
relative power of various nonstate
actors—including businesses, tribes,
religious organizations, and even criminal
networks—will grow as these groups
influence decisions on a widening range
of social, economic, and political issues.
The growing multiplicity of actors could
strengthen the international system by filling
gaps left by aging post-World War II
institutions, but it also has the potential to
further fragment the existing system and to
impede international cooperation. The
diversity in both types and kinds of actor
increases the likelihood of fragmentation over
the next two decades given the apparently
waning ability of legacy international
institutions to address new transnational
Multipolarity without Multilateralism
In such a world, we are unlikely to see an
overarching, comprehensive, unitary approach
to global governance. Current trends suggest
that global governance in 2025 will be a
patchwork of overlapping, often ad hoc and
fragmented efforts, with shifting coalitions of
member nations, international organizations,
social movements, NGOs, philanthropic
foundations, and companies.
• This fragmentation of interests and actors
will further erode prospects for the United
Nations to strengthen consensus among its
members for effective multilateral
action—particularly within the current or
an expanded Security Council—or for
sustaining broader reforms of the UN
• This multipolarity is also unlikely to
include a single dominant nation-state
with the overwhelming power and
legitimacy to act as the agent of
institutional overhaul. (See below for
discussion of the role of the US.)
Most of the pressing transnational problems—
including climate change, regulation of
globalized financial markets, migration,
failing states, crime networks, etc.—are
unlikely to be effectively resolved by the
actions of individual nation-states. The need
for effective global governance will increase
faster than existing mechanisms can respond.
Leaders will pursue alternative approaches to
solving transnational problems—with new
institutions, or more likely, many informal
groupings. Recent trends suggest that
existing multilateral institutions—which are
large and cumbersome—will have difficulty
adapting quickly enough to undertake new
missions, accommodate changing
memberships, and obtain necessary resources.
NGOs and philanthropist foundations—
concentrating on specific issues—increasingly
will be a part of the landscape but are likely to
be limited in their ability to effect change in
the absence of concerted efforts by
multilateral institutions or governments.
Quests for greater inclusiveness—to reflect
the emergence of newer powers—may make
it harder for international organizations to
tackle transnational challenges. Respect for
the dissenting views of member nations will
continue to shape the agenda of organizations
and limit the kinds of solutions possible.
Large and enlarging organizations—from the
UN General Assembly to NATO and the
EU—may find the challenges to be
particularly difficult. There is unlikely to be
any effort to “zero base” the international
organizational structure such that some
organizations go away or are reinvented.
Effective action also may be impeded by the
existence of too many institutions—many of
which have declining purpose—with limited
legitimacy and effectiveness. This is likely to
apply across the board, from Western-driven
institutions to those of the historic Third
We anticipate that arms races, territorial
expansion, and military rivalries that
characterized late 19th century multipolarity
will be less significant in the emerging one,
but we cannot rule out such possibilities. For
most countries, strategic rivalries are likely to
revolve around trade, investment, technology
innovation, and acquisition. However,
increasing worries about resources—such as
energy or even water—could easily put the
focus back on territorial disputes or
unresolved border issues.
Asia is one region where the number of such
border issues is particularly noteworthy or, in
the case of Central Asia, where large deposits
of energy resources increase the potential for
a repeat of the 19th century’s “Great Game”
with outsiders contending for the exclusive
right to control market access. The fact that a
number of countries may experience a sharp
fall in national power if alternatives for fossil
fuel are developed quickly injects a
potentially dangerous risk of instability. As
the national power of China, India, and others
grows, smaller countries in the neighborhood
may seek outsiders’ protection or intervention
in a balancing effort.
How Many International Systems?
The emerging powers, particularly China and
India, have a shared interest in maintaining a
stable and open order, but they espouse
different “means.” Their spectacular
economic success has been achieved with an
economic model that is at odds with the
West’s traditional laissez faire recipe for
economic development. As we have seen,
climate change, energy, and other resource
needs are likely to be more problematic for
what many see as their primary goal of
continued economic development. Given
these differing perspectives, the question
arises as to whether the new players—and
their alternative approaches—can be melded
with the traditional Western ones to form a
cohesive international system able to tackle
the increasing number of transnational issues.
While sharing a more state-centric view, the
national interests of the emerging powers are
diverse enough, and their dependence on
globalization compelling enough, that there
appears little chance of an alternative bloc
forming among them to directly confront the
more established Western order. The existing
international organizations—such as the UN,
WTO, IMF, and World Bank—may prove
sufficiently responsive and adaptive to
accommodate the views of emerging powers,
but whether the emerging powers will be
given—or will want—additional power and
responsibilities is a separate question. Indeed
some or all of the rising powers may be
content to take advantage of the institutions
without assuming leadership burdens
commensurate with their status. At the same
time, their membership does not necessarily
have to involve heavy responsibilities or
burden-sharing, allowing them to pursue their
goals of economic development. For some,
the fact that agreement on new permanent
Greater Regionalism—Plus or Minus for Global Governance?
One exception to the trend toward greater multipolarity with less multilateralism may occur on a
regional level in Asia. Greater Asian integration, if it occurs, could fill the vacuum left by a
weakening multilaterally based international order but could also further undermine that order.
In the aftermath of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, a remarkable series of pan-Asian ventures—
the most significant being ASEAN + 3—began to take root. Although few would argue that an
Asian counterpart to the EU is a likely outcome even by 2025, if 1997 is taken as a starting point,
Asia arguably has evolved more rapidly over the last decade than the European integration did in
its first decade(s). In the economic realm, extra-regional players such as the US will continue to
be a significant part of the 2025 Asian economic equation. However, movement over the next 15
years toward an Asian basket of currencies—if not an Asian currency unit as a third reserve—is
more than a theoretical possibility.
• Such a development would be in part an effort by Asians to insulate themselves from
financial volatility outside their region, facilitate economic integration, and to achieve greater
representation at the global table.
• Aspects of Asian regionalism that are difficult to quantify include the growing habits of
cooperation, buoyant confidence, frequency of encounters by a host of high-level officials
and the cultural diffusion that is bridging historical and political differences and is
engendering a new sense of community.
Asian regionalism would have global implications, possibly sparking or reinforcing a trend
toward three trade and financial clusters that could become quasi-blocs (North America, Europe,
and East Asia).
Establishment of such quasi-blocs also would have implications for the ability to achieve future
global World Trade Organization agreements and regional clusters could compete in the setting
of trans-regional product standards for IT, biotech, nanotech, intellectual property rights, and
other “new economy” products.
An Asian regional energy posture could set the terms for the rest of the world. Some two-thirds
of Mideast oil exports go to Asia, and some 70 percent of Asian imports are from the Middle
East. This pattern is likely to intensify. Whether this nexus is primarily commercial—
complementary investments and military sales—or acquires an increasingly political/strategic
character could determine the character of the international system.
• As stated, in the worst case—absent greater regional cooperation—concern over oil supply
routes could lead to a China-Japan-India naval arms race.
Developments in the security realm—where Asian integration is currently weakest and where
trends toward competition and hedging persist—could dilute regionalism. Whether and how
Korea is reunified and the status of its nuclear program, and whether Taiwan’s relationship to the
Mainland moves toward conflict or is resolved peacefully, will be key factors shaping regional
(Continued on next page…)
dynamics. Current trends suggest traditional security concerns are declining in importance but
may be replaced by new issues, such as competition over resources. Managing and adjusting to a
transition to a reunified Korea could expand the Six-Party talks into a mechanism that features
new levels of cooperation among the US, Japan, and China.
Whether greater or lesser integration occurs also depends largely on the future character of Sino-
Japanese ties. This is the first time in modern history that China and Japan have been major
regional and global actors at the same time. A key question is whether they can transcend
historical suspicions and compete peacefully. Peaceful resolution of the Korea and Taiwan
disputes and a Franco-German type entente between China and Japan would sharply diminish the
regional desire for a US “offshore” balancer role. However, US allies and security partners in
the region will not trade in the US balancing role for any collective regional security
arrangement until the political and economic consequences of China’s rise become better known.
members of the Security Council appears
remote even over the next 15-20 years
provides an additional excuse to forego a
global role which could come at the expense
of domestic goals. One large uncertainty is
whether the political will exists to reshape the
international system to offer the emerging
powers enough responsibility for them to
shoulder more global burdens.
“Most experts…do not expect the rising
powers to challenge or radically alter the
international system…”
Most experts—US and foreign—we consulted
do not expect the rising powers to challenge
or radically alter the international system as
did Germany and Japan in the 19th and early
20th centuries. The emerging powers will
have a high degree of freedom to “customize”
their political and economic policies rather
than fully adopting Western norms. Because
of their growing geopolitical clout, domestic
markets, and roles in global resource
extraction, manufacturing, finance, and
technology, the rising powers are also likely
to want to preserve their policy freedom to
maneuver and will want others to carry the
burden of dealing with global challenges such
as terrorism, climate change, proliferation,
and energy security. Russia’s and China’s
resource nationalism and state capitalism
underpin, for example, their elite-based
politics and limit their willingness to
compromise on major international economic
issues such as trade, energy, finance, or
climate change.
• Others, such as India, lack strategic
economic and political visions and do not
possess domestic grassroots support for
deep economic liberalization. Many
global issues require sacrifices or abrupt
changes to these countries’ development
plans, another reason for them to prefer to
be bystanders rather than leaders in a
multilateral system.
A World of Networks
In response to likely deficits in global
governance, networks will form among states
and nonstate actors focused on specific issues.
These networks will operate to pursue
convergent goals and interests, including a
genuine intent to solve problems, business
self-interest, moral grounds, and the desire of
international organizations and NGOs to be
relevant to the problems facing a changing
world. In some cases, the nucleus of an issue
network will be a national or international
commission or body of experts—unelected
but with substantial clout—to report on or
oversee some aspects of governance, trade, or
other issues. Current examples of such
networks include the Financial Stability
Forum, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership
Forum, and the International Partnership for
the Hydrogen Economy.
Issue groups likely will help develop and
diffuse standards and regulations for various
realms, including information technology
(IT), regulatory regimes, and management of
the “new post-industrial economy.” For some
kinds of issues, the networks likely will
provide the basis for agreement among
nation-states. With the groundwork done in
informal contexts, nation-states will be able to
adopt problem-solving measures, gaining
legitimacy and sometimes taking credit for
initiatives, while avoiding the stigma of
solutions being imposed by external
international organizations. The numbers and
types of NGOs could well explode by 2025.
Low entry costs, low overhead, and the
capacity of individuals and groups to affiliate
with each other using the Internet will
facilitate such collectives.
In addition to such issue groups, a new set of
social actors—super-empowered individuals
and even criminal networks—increasingly
will influence outcomes. These elites are
empowered by their wealth and an array of
national and transnational contacts—
oftentimes spanning businesses, governments,
international organizations, and NGOs. Using
their broad contacts and multiple national
identities, they help leverage “transnational”
outcomes across national and organizational
“Although religious groups have been a
great beneficiary of globalization, religion
also has the potential to be a primary vehicle
for opposition to that same modernizing
A Growing Role for Religion. Religionbased
networks may be quintessential issue
networks and overall may play a more
powerful role than secular transnational
groupings in exerting influence and shaping
outcomes in the period out to 2025. Indeed,
we could be entering a new age of clerical
leadership in which religious leaders become
major power brokers in resolving future
international disputes and conflicts.
• Rich rewards in power and influence
already fall to those religious
entrepreneurs and televangelists who span
the two hemispheres, the Global South
and North—Amir Khalede for Muslims
and Matthew Ashimolowo or Sunday
Adelaja for Christians. Khalede’s website
is the third most popular Arabic website in
the world (al-Jazeera’s is number one).
Within the Christian tradition, the emergence
of whole new patterns of authority and
leadership across the Global South entails
autonomous ministers and religious
entrepreneurs, whose activities reap high
status and great wealth. Before 2025, some
evangelists and megachurch preachers
probably will seek to become the leaders of
nations, especially if those countries have
been economically devastated during a global
Although religious groups have been a great
beneficiary of globalization, religion also has
the potential to be a primary vehicle for
opposition to that same modernizing process.
Religious structures can channel social and
political protest, especially for those who lack
the means of communication and influence
Proliferating Identities and Growing
One aspect of the growing complexity of the
international system is that no single political
identity—such as the conflation of citizenship
and nationality—is likely to be dominant in
most societies by 2025. Class struggles will
matter as much as religion and ethnicity. The
Internet and other multi-media will enable the
revitalization of the reach of tribes, clans, and
other fealty-driven communities. Explosive
urbanization will facilitate the spread of these
identities and increase the likelihood of
clashes between groups. The increasing
numbers of migrants moving to cities from
rural areas will coalesce in neighborhoods
settled by previous co-ethnics or will find
themselves targeted for recruitment by gangs
and more complex criminal structures. As
these communities coalesce and become
“self-governing” or sometimes co-opted by
organized crime groups, state and local
government will face “no-go” areas in many
large cities as has already happened in cities
like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
Although inherited and chosen layers of
identity will be as “authentic” as conventional
categories of citizenship and nationality, one
category possibly will continue to stand out.
Islam will remain a robust identity. Sectarian
and other differences within Islam will be a
source of tension or worse. The challenge of
Islamic activism could produce a more
intense backlash of Christian activism.
Nigeria, Ethiopia, and other places in Africa
will remain battlegrounds in this sectarian
struggle. In 2025, notions of multiethnic
integration and the value of “diversity” could
face a combination of challenges from
nationalists, religious zealots, and perhaps
some version of a revived Marxist and other
class-based or secular ideology.
available to social elites. This is relevant
because many of the economic trends that will
dominate the next two decades have the
potential to drive social fragmentation and
popular resentment, including the growing
gaps between rich and poor, the urban and
rural gulfs in India and China, the vast
disparities between nations and regions
advantaged or left behind by modernization,
and between states able to manage the
consequences of globalization and those with
governments unable to do so. Religious
activists can draw on sacred texts and long
historical tradition to frame popular
grievances in terms of social justice rhetoric
and egalitarianism.
If global economic growth did suffer a severe
reverse—akin to the Indonesian crisis of the
late 1990s but on a worldwide scale—
religiously based rural insurgencies and ethnic
struggles probably would ensue in a number
of countries including Brazil, India, China,
and in much of Africa. If even the
moderately severe projections of climate
change are correct, the impacts could spur
religious conflict through large sections of
Africa and Asia. Among the countries at
greatest risk of such conflict and scapegoating
of minority communities are a number of
predominantly Muslim countries with
significant Christian minorities (Egypt,
Indonesia, and Sudan); predominately
Christian states with substantial Muslim
minorities (e.g., DROC, Philippines, and
Uganda) or finely balanced between Christian
and Muslim (Ethiopia, Nigeria, and
If religious structures offer vehicles to resist
globalization, they also help people cope with
those same forces, enhancing social stability
and economic development. Without
religious safety nets, the degree of chaos and
fragmentation in developing nations would be
Future of Democracy: Backsliding More Likely than Another Wave
We remain optimistic about the long-term prospects for greater democratization, but advances
are likely to slow and globalization will subject many recently democratized countries to
increasing social and economic pressures that could undermine liberal institutions.
• Ironically, economic setbacks could enhance prospects for movement toward pluralism and
greater democratization in China and Russia. The Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy
increasingly rests on its ability to ensure greater material wealth for Chinese society.
Resentment of elite corruption is already on the rise but may overwhelm the regime in event
of a serious economic crisis. The government’s standing in Russia would be similarly
challenged if living standards fell dramatically.
• Elsewhere surveys have shown democracy having taken root, particularly in Sub-Saharan
Africa and Latin America, where opinion views it positively independent of any material
benefits. Still, nascent democracies have historically been shown to be unstable to the extent
that they lack strong liberal institutions—especially rule of law—which can help support
democracy during economic downturns. Case studies suggest widespread corruption is
especially threatening because it undermines faith in democratic institutions.
• As we have suggested elsewhere in the text, the better economic performance of many
authoritarian governments could sow doubts among some about democracy as the best form
of government. The surveys we consulted indicated that many East Asians put greater
emphasis on good management, including increasing standards of livings, than democracy.
Elsewhere even in many well-established democracies, surveys show growing frustration
with the current workings of democratic government and questioning among elites over the
ability of democratic governments to take the bold actions necessary to deal rapidly and
effectively with the growing number of transnational challenges.
far worse. As predominantly rural societies
have become more urban over the last 30 or
40 years, millions of migrants have been
attracted to larger urban complexes without
the resources or infrastructures to provide
adequate healthcare, welfare, and education.
The alternative social system provided by
religious organizations has been a potent
factor in winning mass support for religion.
This holds across faiths.
The weaker the state and its mechanisms, the
more critical the role of religious institutions
and the stronger the appeal of religious
ideologies, usually of a fundamentalist or
theocratic nature.
A “Shadow” International System by 2025?
Further fragmenting the international system
is the threat posed by growing transnational
criminal networks in managing the world’s
resources—especially global energy,
minerals, and other strategic markets—in
addition to their traditional involvement in
international narcotics trafficking. Increased
demand for energy worldwide provides
opportunities for criminals to expand their
activities through direct ties to energy
suppliers and leaders of countries where
suppliers are located. With energy supplies
increasingly concentrated in countries with
poor governance, longstanding practices of
corruption, and an absence of the rule of law,
the potential for penetration by organized
crime is high.
• The illicit activities of organized crime in
the energy sector provide affiliated
companies with an unfair competitive
advantage in the global energy market.
• Over time, given their far-reaching
tentacles into government offices and
corporate board rooms, criminals may be
in a position to control states and
influence market actions, if not foreign
policies. For many resource-rich
countries, energy revenues provide the
basis for the whole economy and energy
policies are a key consideration in foreign
policy decisions.
• The likelihood of penetration by criminal
networks is probably greatest in Eurasian
markets where organized crime has been
an institutionalized part of the political
and economic environment and where
over time organized crime figures have
evolved into influential businessmen and
become valuable partners for corrupt
• As Russian and Eurasian suppliers capture
a larger and larger portion of the energy
markets in Europe and Asia, we expect
these organized crime networks to expand
their operations, fostering greater
corruption and manipulation of foreign
policies to their advantage.
Global Scenario IV: Politics Is
Not Always Local
In this fictionalized scenario, a new world
emerges in which nation-states are not in
charge of setting the international agenda.
The dispersion of power and authority away
from nation-states has fostered the growth of
sub-national and transnational entities
including social and political movements.
Growing public concerns about
environmental degradation and government
inaction come together in this example to
“empower” a network of political activists to
wrest control of the issue out of country-level
officials in capitals. Global communications
technology enables individuals to affiliate
directly with identity-driven groups and
networks that transcend geographic
boundaries. Environmentalism is an issue for
which there is a widespread confluence of
interests and desires.
Preconditions for this scenario include:
• National governments’ relevance and
power lessens in an increasingly
decentralized world.
• Diasporas, labor unions, NGOs, ethnic
groups, religious organizations, and others
acquire significant power and establish
formal and informal relationships with
• Communications technology permits
ubiquitous and constant integration into
identity networks.
The United States will have greater impact
on how the international system evolves over
the next 15-20 years than any other
international actor, but it will have less power
in a multipolar world than it has enjoyed for
many decades. Owing to the relative decline
of its economic, and to a lesser extent,
military power, the US will no longer have
the same flexibility in choosing among as
many policy options. We believe that US
interest and willingness to play a leadership
role also may be more constrained as the
economic, military, and opportunity costs of
being the world’s leader are reassessed by
American voters. Economic and opportunity
costs in particular may cause the US public to
favor new tradeoffs.
Developments in the rest of the world,
including internal developments in a number
of key states—particularly China and
Russia—are also likely to be crucial
determinants of US policy. A world of
relatively few conflicts with other major
powers would smooth the way toward
development of a multipolar system in which
the US is “first” among equals. In the end,
events will shape the parameters of US
foreign policy. Contingencies—such as the
use of nuclear weapons or WMD terrorism—
could convulse the entire international system
and refocus the US role.
Demand for US Leadership Likely to
Remain Strong, Capacities will Shrink
Despite the rise in anti-Americanism over the
past decade, the US is still likely to continue
to be seen as a much-needed regional balancer
in the Middle East and in Asia. A recent
survey (see box on pages 95-96) indicates
growing unease with China’s rise among its
neighbors and, in many regions, a leveling off
of antagonism, if not some improvement in
attitudes toward the United States. In
addition to its increasing economic power,
China’s military modernization program is a
growing source of concern to its neighbors.
The level of concern may rise even if Asia’s
security improves, for example, with a PRCTaiwan
accommodation, though in such an
eventuality the opposite reaction is also
possible. In the Middle East, a nuclear Iran
would increase pressure for extension of a US
security umbrella to Israel and other states.
“Developments in the rest of the
world…particularly [in] China and Russia—
are also likely to be crucial determinants of
US policy.”
Other states will continue to seek US
leadership on the newer “security” issues,
such as climate change. For example, many
countries view US leadership as critical to
encouraging major developing countries like
China and India that are emitters of
greenhouse gasses to take on serious
commitments to reduce carbon emissions in a
post-2012 emissions control regime. Most
G-77 countries realize they are absorbing
environmental harm from polluters and are
not averse to the US intervening with Beijing.
Further, others will seek US leadership on
countering WMD proliferation by taking steps
to dissuade interest in WMD, strengthening
nonproliferation regimes, preventing
acquisition of WMD and associated expertise
and technology, rolling back or eliminating
WMD in countries of concern, fostering
deterrence in the use of WMD, and mitigating
the consequences of WMD use.
New Relationships and Recalibrated Old
An increasingly multipolar world suggests a
greater number of actors—including
influential nonstate ones—with whom the US
and other powers will have to contend.
Descent into a world in which mercantilism
and resource nationalism become the
overriding modus operandi for others
probably would narrow the number of US
partners, increasing the risks of tensions, if
not confrontation among the powers in such a
zero-sum world. On the other hand, a world
of continuing prosperity would enhance
prospects for greater burden-sharing and steps
towards revitalization of multilateralism and
global institutions.
During the period out to 2025, China and
India are likely to remain status quo powers
focused on their own development, drawing
benefits from the current system and not too
eager for the US or others to seek radical
changes to the international order until
Beijing and New Delhi judge that they are in
a better position to help set the new rules of
the road.
Although the emerging powers will want to
preserve ample leeway and autonomy to exert
regional influence independent of the United
States, their relationships with the US are
likely to deepen if their plans for greater
economic development remain on track.
Economic collapse, especially in China’s
case, could lead to a nationalistic upsurge and
increased tensions with foreign powers,
including the United States.
Europe will face difficult domestic challenges
that could constrain its ability to play a larger
global role, especially in the security realm.
A sense of increased threat—whether from
terrorism or a resurgent Russia—could
change the European calculus on the need for
more defense spending and greater capacity
for unified action. Growing interest in
Maghreb and Middle East economic and
social developments increases the potential
for Europe to play a stabilizing role similar to
what it accomplished with enlargement to the
East. Japan, to keep pace with China, may
increase its political and security role in the
region. We expect other countries, such as
Brazil, to assume more expansive regional
roles and to increase their involvement on
certain key global issues such as trade and
climate change.
Current trends suggest Russia has a more
immediate interest in directly challenging
what it sees as a US-dominated international
system than do other rising powers. A more
diversified economy, development of an
independent middle class, and reliance on
foreign technological expertise and
investment for development of its energy
resources could change that trajectory,
however. An earlier-than-anticipated move
away from fossil fuels also could undercut
Russia’s recent resurgence.
In the Middle East, where the US is likely to
remain the dominant external actor, current
trends suggest a greater role for Asian states
which are reinforcing their growing economic
links with stronger political ties. Asian
powers—in addition to European ones—
could seek or be drawn into roles in any
future international security effort in the
Middle East. The role of NGOs will grow
commensurate with the increase of
humanitarian needs owing to climate change.
In turn, the international community,
including the US, will become more
dependent on NGOs to shoulder the burden of
humanitarian relief.
Less Financial Margin of Error
The dollar is vulnerable to a major financial
crisis and the dollar’s international role is
likely to decline from that of the unparalleled
“global reserve currency,” to something of a
first among equals in a basket of currencies
by 2025. This could occur suddenly in the
wake of a crisis, or gradually with global
rebalancing. This decline will entail real
tradeoffs and force new, difficult choices in
the conduct of American foreign policy.
Anti-Americanism on the Wane?
America’s reputation abroad has fluctuated over the decades—from the Ugly American of the
1950s to the widespread international protests over Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s to antinuclear
activism in Europe in the 1980s. Anti-Americanism has experienced an upsurge during
this decade. Between 2002 and 2007, the US image became less favorable in 27 of 33 countries
polled. Attitudes critical of the United States can be parsed into two basic categories:
• “Transitory criticism” fueled by disagreements with specific aspects of the United States that
can change with time, such as its foreign policies.
• “Anti-Americanism” reflecting deep and undifferentiated antipathy toward most aspects of
the United States.
To the extent that certain aspects of American life—for example, its political system, people,
culture, S&T, education, and business practices—are seen abroad as admirable, perceptions of
the United States will be complex, keeping views flexible and open to revision. The downward
trajectory of America’s reputation suggested above may have bottomed out. Polling in 2008 by
Pew’s Global Attitudes Project found US favorability ratings up in 10 of the 21 countries for
which trend data are available. Looking ahead, what regional drivers and dynamics might be
pivotal for encouraging such a turnaround?
Europe/Eurasia. In contrast to regions more uniformly pro- or anti-American, Europe/Eurasia
tends to hold more volatile views of the US. The views of Western Europeans appear to be
buoyed to the extent that the United States, its key allies, NATO, and the EU deepen practical
multilateral approaches to international problems. The views of Central and East Europeans,
who are traditionally favorable toward the United States, probably will recede over time to the
West European norm. No single set of US actions will reassure all states of the former Soviet
Union, but avoiding a heavy movement of military assets into Moscow’s perceived Near Abroad
would stave off the tensest of relations with Russia.
Near East/South Asia. Societies most hostile to the United States are found in the Islamic
Middle East, as well as Pakistan and North Africa. India is an important exception. Drivers for
turning around the US image include a strong commitment to significant progress on
Israel/Palestine, disentangling anti-terrorism from a perceived war on Islam, and seeking to
provide aid to needy citizens in addition to military-security elites. To the extent Iran is
perceived to be a dangerous revisionist power, people and states in the region will tend to view
US military capability positively.
Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa continues to harbor goodwill toward the United States. Publics in
Sub-Saharan Africa tend to find American lifestyles and standards of living enviable. If
AFRICOM, the new US military command, does not present an overly militarized face to
citizens in African countries, and humanitarian and economic developmental aid continues, the
surveys suggest African opinion about the United States will remain favorable.
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East/Southeast Asia: Views of the United States in this region are relatively positive. Despite
China’s economic growth, and nascent Asian integration, US “soft power” still eclipses China’s.
The United States will continue to be looked to as a reliable security partner in Northeast Asia,
and to a lesser extent in Southeast Asia. Public perceptions are at risk of downward swings in
China, depending on portrayals of the United States in the country’s official media.
Latin America: On balance, views of the United States are fairly favorable and stable, much
more so in Central America, but less so in the Andean region. Some level of migration to the
United States for jobs and subsequent remittance of earnings back to Latin America will be a
key. Also important will be the degree to which US and Latin interests are viewed as shared,
especially on multilateral tasks such as interdicting illegal drug supplies and combating
organized crime and gangs.
Aggregating across regions, what does the tally sheet of factors affecting anti-Americanism look
like out to 2025? First, factors favorable to the United States:
• Many state leaders and publics are distrustful of vast power itself, independent of the owner.
As China becomes more powerful, some wariness will be displaced onto Beijing, and the
United States’ own function as a counterweight will become more appreciated.
• The US is benefiting from a likely turn in the battle of ideas. First, and foremost, support for
terrorism has declined dramatically over the last few years in many Muslim countries. Fewer
Muslims now consider suicide bombing justifiable, and confidence in Usama Bin Ladin has
• As big emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere grow, globalization will less often be
equated with Americanization. As traditional ways of life are upset around the globe,
unwanted foreign ideas and customs will appear more the product of modernity than of
American sprawl.
Potentially unfavorable would be perceived slowness in tackling pressing transnational problems
such as global climate change, food security, and energy security. A currently indeterminate
factor will be the effect of increasingly pervasive mobile telephony, Internet connectivity, and
direct satellite media on how individuals around the world receive their images of the United
States. On balance, however, major trends suggest that anti-Americanism is declining.
• The dollar’s global reserve status confers
privileges on the US including insulation
from risk of currency shocks, which
enables lower interest rates, while a steady
source of outside demand for US dollars
affords the US a unique ability to run
large fiscal account deficits without
reproach from the global economy.
Enjoyed by the US for more than 60 years,
these privileges have perhaps so permeated
US thinking as to go unnoticed. While total
loss of reserve status is unlikely, the dollar’s
decline may force the US into difficult
tradeoffs between achieving ambitious
foreign policy goals and the high domestic
costs of supporting those objectives. In the
face of higher interest rates, higher taxes, and
potential oil shocks, the US public would
have to weigh the economic consequences of
taking strong military action, for example.
The impact on others desirous of a stronger
US role could be equally great if the US
would decline or be unwilling to take action.
In addition, US financial dependence on
external powers for fiscal stability may curtail
US freedom of action in unanticipated ways.
More Limited Military Superiority
In 2025, the US will still retain unique
military capabilities, especially its ability to
project military power globally, that other
nations will continue to envy and rely on to
secure a safer world. The United States’
ability to protect the “global commons” and
ensure the free flow of energy could gain
greater prominence as concerns over energy
security grow. The US also will continue to
be viewed as the security partner of choice by
many states confronted with the rise of
potential hostile nuclear powers. Although
the emergence of new nuclear-weapon states
may constrain US freedom of action, US
military superiority in both conventional and
nuclear weapons and missile defense
capabilities will be a critical element in
deterring openly aggressive behavior on the
part of any new nuclear states. The US will
also be expected to play a significant role in
using its military power to counter global
“Anticipated developments in the security
environment leading to 2025 may raise
questions about traditional US advantages in
conventional military power.”
However, potential US adversaries will
continue to try to level the playing field by
pursuing asymmetrical strategies designed to
exploit perceived US military and political
vulnerabilities. In the future, advanced states
might engage in counterspace strikes, network
attacks, and information warfare to disrupt US
military operations on the eve of a conflict.
Cyber and sabotage attacks on critical US
economic, energy, and transportation
infrastructures might be viewed by some
adversaries as a way to circumvent US
strengths on the battlefield and attack directly
US interests at home. In addition, the
continued proliferation of long-range missile
systems, anti-access capabilities, and nuclear
weapons and other forms of WMD might be
perceived by potential adversaries and US
allies alike as increasingly constraining US
freedom of action in time of crisis despite US
conventional military superiority.
• Traditional US allies, particularly Israel
and Japan, could come to feel less secure
in 2025 than they do today as a result of
emerging unfavorable demographic trends
within their respective countries, resource
scarcities, and more intensive military
competitions in the Middle East and East
Asia, especially if there is also doubt
about the vitality of US security
Surprises and Unintended
As we have made clear throughout this
volume, the next 15-20 years contain more
contingencies than certainties. All actors—
not just the United States—will be affected by
unforeseen “shocks.” For various reasons the
US appears better able than most to absorb
those shocks, but US fortunes also ride on the
strength and resiliency of the entire
international system, which we judge to be
more fragile and less prepared for the
implications of obvious trends like energy
security, climate change, and increased
conflict, let alone surprises.
While, by their nature, surprises are not easily
anticipated, we have tried through the
scenarios to lay out possible alternative
futures and each is suggestive of possible
changes in the US role.
A World Without the West. In this scenario
the US withdraws and its role is diminished.
In dealing with unstable parts of the world in
its neighborhood like Afghanistan, China, and
India, the Central Asians must form or bolster
other partnerships—in this case the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization. The fragmentation
and breakdown of the global order into
regional and other blocs—while not on the
scale of US-Soviet bipolar split—probably
would usher in an era of slower economic
growth and globalization, less effective action
on transnational issues like climate change
and energy security, and the potential for
increased political instability.
October Surprise. The lack of effective
management of the tradeoffs among
globalization, economic growth, and
environmental damage is shared widely
among more players than the US. Implicit in
the scenario is the need for better US
leadership and stronger multilateral
institutions if the world is to avoid even more
devastating crises. The results of
miscalculation on the part of others—such as
the Chinese—have significant political costs,
which probably would make it more difficult
for the US and others to put together a plan
for more sustainable economic development,
including conflicts among the major powers.
BRICs’ Bust-Up. In this scenario, growing
great power rivalries and increasing energy
insecurity lead to a military confrontation
between India and China. The US is
perceived by Beijing as favoring India to
China’s detriment. Great power war is
averted, but the protagonists must rely on a
third party—in this case Brazil—to help
reconstitute the international fabric. Given
the BRICs’ disarray, the United States’ power
is greatly enhanced, but the international
system is in for a bumpy ride as the military
clash leads to internal upheavals increasing
nationalist fervor.
Politics Is Not Always Local. On some
issues, such as the environment, a seismic
shift in government versus nonstate actor
authorities has occurred. For the first time, a
coalition of nonstate actors is seen by a large
number of electorates as better representing
“planetary” interests and, in this scenario,
governments must heed their advice or face
serious political costs. This may not always
be the case since on other more traditional
national security issues, national, ethnic, class
and other differences are likely to re-emerge,
undercutting the clout of transnational
political movements. The US, like other
governments, must adapt to the changing
political landscape.
Leadership Will Be Key
As we indicated at the beginning of the study,
human actions are likely to be the crucial
determinant of the outcomes. Historically, as
we have pointed out, leaders and their ideas—
positive and negative—were among the
biggest game-changers during the last
century. Individually and collectively over
the next 15-20 years, leaders are likely to be
crucial to how developments turn out,
particularly in terms of ensuring a more
positive outcome. As we have emphasized,
today’s trends appear to be heading toward a
potentially more fragmented and conflicted
world over the next 15-20 years, but bad
outcomes are not inevitable. International
leadership and cooperation will be necessary
to solve the global challenges and to
understand the complexities surrounding
them. This study is meant as an aid in that
process: by laying out some of the alternative
possibilities we hope to help policymakers
steer us toward positive solutions.