April 18, 2018

Strate­gic Trends 2018


Strate­gic Trends 2018


Strate­gic Trends 2018: The CSS has pub­lished its an­nual analy­sis of ma­jor de­vel­op­ments in world af­fairs. The four top­ics cov­ered in­clude whether or not emerg­ing trends sug­gest the US could be­come a less re­li­able part­ner for Eu­rope; why Rus­sia and China are likely to con­tinue build­ing closer re­la­tions; the po­ten­tial im­pact of en­ergy tech­nolo­gies on in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics; and how re­silience can act as an in­stru­ment of de­ter­rence.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­turns to the White House af­ter ad­dress­ing the Re­pub­li­can Con­gres­sional Re­treat, 1 Feb­ru­ary 2018. Yuri Gri­pas / Reuters

Strate­gic Trends 2018 of­fers a con­cise analy­sis of ma­jor de­vel­op­ments in world af­fairs, with a pri­mary fo­cus on in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity. It pro­vide suc­cinct in­ter­pre­ta­tions of key trends and con­tain nu­mer­ous graph­ics.

Su­per­power Con­strained

In the first chap­ter, Jack Thomp­son looks at the new for­eign pol­icy of the US un­der Pres­i­dent Trump. In his view, the US will re­main the most im­por­tant player in global af­fairs, but is strug­gling to adapt to the evo­lu­tion of the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem and will be more vul­ner­a­ble than ever to changes in the geopo­lit­i­cal land­scape. At the same time, the new ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­pressed am­biva­lence when it comes to play­ing its tra­di­tional role in lead­ing the Lib­eral World Or­der and shows lit­tle will­ing­ness to en­gage in ques­tions of in­ter­na­tional gov­er­nance, which poses new se­cu­rity ques­tions for the Eu­ro­peans.

Room for Ma­neu­ver: China and Rus­sia Strengthen Their Re­la­tions

Man­ag­ing re­la­tions with Rus­sia and China will be among the main chal­lenges that the West will face in the com­ing years. Brian Carl­son ex­am­ines the China- Rus­sia re­la­tion­ship and its ef­fects on world pol­i­tics. The two coun­tries have built an in­creas­ingly close re­la­tion­ship, which is ap­par­ent in arms sales, en­ergy, and co­op­er­a­tion in ad­dress­ing the North Ko­rean nu­clear is­sue. This trend is likely to con­tinue, though the re­la­tion­ship will be in­creas­ingly tilted in China’s fa­vor.

Tech­no­log­i­cal In­no­va­tion and the Geopol­i­tics of En­ergy

China is also an im­por­tant fac­tor in Sev­erin Fis­cher’s chap­ter on the im­pacts of tech­no­log­i­cal change in the en­ergy sec­tor. In his view, China will be the domi­nant player in the world of new and clean tech­nolo­gies, no­tably so­lar and bat­teries. This could be good for de­vel­op­ment goals and lim­it­ing global warm­ing, but not nec­es­sar­ily for the in­flu­ence of the West­ern world in other re­gions. At the same time, the US is re-en­ter­ing the hy­dro­car­bon mar­kets as a sup­plier due to in­creased hy­draulic frac­tur­ing and mix­ing up ex­ist­ing power re­la­tions. In this con­text, the role of in­fra­struc­ture will mas­sively change in the com­ing decades.

Re­silience: The ‘Fifth Wave’ in the Evo­lu­tion of De­ter­rence


Within this chang­ing, and in­creas­ingly com­plex, in­ter­na­tional sys­tem, calls for im­prov­ing na­tional re­silience across dif­fer­ent sec­tors in states and economies are be­com­ing louder. Tim Prior’s chap­ter ex­am­ines the grow­ing fo­cus on resil­ience in West­ern se­cu­rity pol­icy, par­tic­u­larly with re­spect to de­ter­ring asym­metric threats. He ex­plores how sys­temic changes in gov­er­nance arrange­ments, em­body­ing net­worked ap­proaches that match the na­ture of the 21st-cen­tury threat land­scape, could pre­sent ad­van­tages in ad­dress­ing se­cu­rity is­sues in the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem

As has been the trend in recent years, 2017 was characterized by significant changes in international politics, highlighting the growing complexity of the world we live in. Reflections on major developments can be found in the contributions to this year’s “Strategic Trends 2018”. In the first chapter, Jack Thompson looks at the new foreign policy of the US under President Trump. In his view, the US will remain the most important player in global affairs, but is struggling to adapt to the evolution of the international system and will be more vulnerable than ever to changes in the geopolitical landscape. Managing relations with Russia and China will be among the main challenges that the West will face in the coming years. Brian Carlson therefore examines the China-Russia relationship and its effects on world politics. China is also an important factor in Severin Fischer’s chapter on the impacts of technological change in the energy sector. In his view, China will be the dominant player in the world of new and clean technologies, notably solar and batteries. This could be good for development goals and limiting global warming, but not necessarily for the influence of the Western world in other regions. Within this changing international system, calls for improving national resilience across different sectors in states and economies are becoming louder. Tim Prior’s chapter examines the growing focus on resilience in Western security policy, particularly with respect to deterring asymmetric threats.

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