Publications

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“The world certainly faces challenges, and Global Risks 2035, one of the most important documents about our global future written in recent years, describes this darkness in detail…Reading this Atlantic Council Strategy Paper, and the following two in this series which will outline a strategy for the twenty-first century and how best to implement strategic plans, is where all leaders—including our own—should begin.” 

Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft


What will the world be like in 2035?  The forecast seems dire. In the four years since Global Trends 2030 was published, the biggest change in the world is the increased risk of major conflict. In 2012, a large-scale US/NATO conflict with Russia or China was close to unthinkable. Now, the post-Cold War security order has broken down, and the consequences are immense, potentially threatening globalization.

 

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Executive Summary
In recent decades, Muslims have been debating political and social aspects of their religious teachings in new ways. The religious debates are connected to and sometimes stem in considerable part from underlying political and social trends—demographic shifts; rising education; unaccountable and authoritarian governance; stuttering economic and governmental performance; and corruption. They cannot, however, be wholly reduced to those trends. Religion is not an isolated field, but neither is it simply a mask for other struggles; the terms and outcomes of religious debates matter in their own right.

It is precisely for that reason that the debates are receiving increasing attention not merely from those involved in them but also from non-Muslims in various policy communities. In particular, there is escalating alarm in security-oriented circles that radical individuals and movements, making their arguments in Islamic terms, are threatening global and regional security through terrorism, revolutionary activity, and other forms of political violence.

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In light of a shrinking force structure and limited resources despite increasing global commitments, the report provides a range of recommendations in three distinct time horizons to help Army leaders build the next Army successfully. From the Army Today, 2016-20, the Army of Tomorrow, 2020-25, and the Army of the Day After Tomorrow, 2025-40+, Lieutenant General David Barno (Ret.) and Nora Bensahel offer fresh ideas that spark debate, challenge hoary assumptions, and animate the need for change.

 
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As the war against ISIS renders borders increasingly malleable and further strains relations between Erbil and Baghdad, the likelihood of a declaration of independence from the Kurdistan region of Iraq increases. In this report, Iraqi Kurdistan Oil and Gas Outlook, Global Energy Center senior nonresident fellow John Roberts explores the options for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to capitalized on its oil and natural gas reserves as well as the options that would be available to an independent Kurdistan.

Roberts takes a holistic approach to examining the prospects for exporting Kurdish oil and natural gas. The report offers analysis on the current state of Kurdish oil and gas: KRG relations with Baghdad, Ankara, and Tehran, the fight against ISIS, and current production capabilities. Additionally, Roberts envisions the challenges facing the Kurdish energy sector in the event of an independent Kurdish state. By offering a side-by-side review of the challenges and capabilities facing the KRG in reestablishing profitable production and export of its natural resource reserves, Roberts is able to make constructive recommendations as to how Iraqi Kurdistan should navigate the current turmoil in the region vis-à-vis its natural resources. 

 
Chief among these recommendations is the imperative that the KRG diversify its economy. As an independent Kurdistan or one still loosely affiliated with Baghdad, the ongoing production disruption, as well as the deficit incurred due to years of ongoing conflict amidst low oil prices, makes even a return to full export capacity insufficient to meet the demand of the Kurdistan economy. The Kurdistan Regional Government “is short on money to pay both the energy companies producing the oil on which the government relies for revenues and its own employees…and to cope with the influx of some 1.5 million refugees.” An independent Kurdistan would run the risk of being the world’s youngest rentier state, and an insolvent one at that.

This report offers timely analysis on an important hydrocarbon market and Roberts’ geopolitical analysis of regional relations in respect to the Kurdish government is vital as the Kurds emerge as an ever more defining force in the Middle East. 

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The pace with which Iran’s conventional missile program has been developing in recent years suggests that the country’s missiles could become much more accurate, and thus deadly, within a few years, potentially providing Tehran with a new set of military options and a higher degree of operational flexibility. This would force (and most probably already has forced) the Pentagon to strategize and plan for a range of Iran-related military contingencies in the region like never before. As the utility of Iranian missiles expands beyond deterrence and possibly enters the realm of offense, the likelihood of military crises and kinetic flare ups in the Gulf rises.

 
“Precision Fire: A Strategic Assessment of Iran’s Conventional Missile Program,” authored by Bilal Y. Saab, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, and Michael Elleman, consulting senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, analyzes the political and military challenges posed by Tehran’s potentially more accurate missiles and assesses how Washington and its regional partners could counter Tehran’s likely aims. Zalmay Khalilzad, president of Gryphon Partners and former US permanent representative to the United Nations, US ambassador to Iraq (2005–07), and US ambassador to Afghanistan (2003–05), provides a valuable preface. 

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We are entering a period in which the West’s postwar social welfare system is under growing threat as the global demographic structure is being turned upside down. And it is not just the West, but also China and other middle-income powers who will have to deal with an aging workforce and unsustainable health and pension costs in the next decade. For sub-Saharan African countries whose birthrates remain high, overpopulation carries big costs not only for them, but for the rest of the world, which will depend on them for a growing proportion of the world’s workforce.

In Reducing the Risks from Rapid Demographic Change, Dr. Mathew Burrows explores how longer life expectancies, aging workforces, and high birthrates will affect the future economic growth and development of countries around the world. Using a forecasting model developed by the University of Denver’s Pardee Center for International Futures, this report looks at different future scenarios, and investigates how medical advancements, migration, and unanticipated drops in fertility rates might affect current demographic trends.

 
The report concludes by recommending political and economic measures that can make a critical difference in whether we end up collectively poorer and more unstable, or able to fully enjoy the benefits of growing longevity. It is clear that managing demographic risk will be critical to every country’s future. Not making the right choices now can lessen economic potential for decades. There will be few second chances.

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Iran and Afghanistan have no major territorial disputes, unlike Afghanistan and Pakistan or Pakistan and India. However, a festering disagreement over allocation of water from the Helmand River is threatening their relationship as each side suffers from droughts, climate change, and the lack of proper water management. In “Water Dispute Escalating Between Iran and Afghanistan,” Fatemeh Aman analyzes the issues related to these ancient waterways and lakes that have historic, economic, and national importance for both Iran and Afghanistan.

 
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With the current American election campaign and change in presidential administrations due in January 2017, the debate over appropriate levels of US engagement in an unstable Middle East assumes vital importance. Should a new administration be more proactive in seeking to address threats, resolve conflicts, support allies, and deter foes? Should the new US president be wary about excessive American involvement in complex overseas problems, and focus on other concerns and issues closer to home? What should be done directly by Washington, and what is best addressed by local actors, alliances, and coalitions of the willing? What is the appropriate balance between doing too little and trying to do too much?

 

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Days ahead of the G20 summit in China, the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center today releases Industrial Development in Latin America: What is China’s Role? The report frames the effects of Chinese exports on Latin American deindustrialization using economic modeling on the region’s industrial output. It concludes that if  Latin American countries grant recognition of China as a market economy, the state of Latin American industry will worsen and countries will have diminished capacity to use trade defense measures such as anti-dumping duties.

 

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Colombia is at the brink of a historical moment. With the conclusion of peace negotiations in Havana on August 24, the country is on the verge of signing an accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). While these achievements are a huge breakthrough, the biggest challenge -- the plebiscite -- lies ahead. Recent polls show that large numbers of Colombians are understandably on the fence on whether to vote for or against the peace deal. No Colombian wants the conflict to continue, but many are wary of the terms on which it should end.

In this month's Spotlight, we ask: What are the top four questions Colombians are asking ahead of the upcoming peace plebiscite?

Click here to view the interactive report.