Reports

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Framing a sustainable and achievable strategy toward Iran will be a high priority for the next administration. Iran is a country of intrinsic geopolitical consequence. But four decades of estrangement between Washington and Tehran have been costly to regional security, and Iran’s revolutionary leaders still see the United States and its regional friends as adversaries. Efforts to change the fundamental dynamic in US-Iranian relations have faltered over the decades, due to mistrust and misreading of the other’s intentions. The next president has an opportunity to move the US-Iran relationship in a more positive direction, building on the Obama administration’s 2015 achievement of a nuclear agreement.

In the sixth Atlantic Council Strategy Paper, A New Strategy for US-Iran Relations in Transition, Ellen Laipson presents a new strategy to reduce prospects for a military confrontation with Iran; improve the regional security environment by working with trusted partners and with Iran; and, eventually, enable Iran and the United States to build cooperation in diverse areas of shared concern.

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Cloud computing, which relies on automatically available services, including storage, that can be shared among devices, is considered crucial to the digital transformation of industry and the economy. But fundamental questions remain on the role of cloud computing in Europe and the best strategies for fostering the conditions necessary for a barrier-free transatlantic digital economy. Is cloud computing being used to its optimum advantage across Europe, and how does that usage differ from country to country? What are the motivations behind cloud adoption—or behind the failure to adopt? And finally, what effect does the adoption of new forms of digital technology have on small and medium enterprises (SMEs)? Into the Clouds: European SMEs and the Digital Age, authored by Tyson Barker, addresses these and other questions.

 
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Europe suffers from two major handicaps: poor economic growth and high unemployment. In Europe Needs To Trim Its Excessive Fiscal Burden, Anders Åslund argues that Europe needs more structural reforms to solve these problems. Åslund addresses some fundamental questions on excessive fiscal burden: Why have public expenditures become higher in the EU than in other countries at a similar level of economic development? How have varying levels of public expenditures impacted economic growth? What level of public expenditures is desirable and how can the desired level be achieved? 

 

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On October 1, 2016, the Chinese renminbi (RMB) joined the dollar and the euro as one of five official international reserve assets. This is not just a technical development. It has the potential to reshape trade and finance across Latin America, according to a new report by the Atlantic Council's Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. By being able to conduct deals directly in China's currency, the region now enters a new and uncertain financial era ripe with investment opportunities—but also with elevated risks.

 
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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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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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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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