Peering into the Crystal Ball
May 11, 2020
This volume of the Future of Warfare series examines some of the most notable economic trends that could affect U.S. national security: increasing pressure on the global trading system, relative declines in U.S. and allied economic might, the rise of China, the search for new resources, the shrinking defense industrial base, and the decreasing power of U.S. sanctions.
The Changing Global Environment and Its Implications for the U.S. Air Force
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Economic developments, trends, and disputes rarely are the sole cause of wars, but economic conditions can contribute to the risk of war and affect how wars are fought. Medium-term economic trends as of 2018 are raising the risk of war and lowering U.S. ability to win wars decisively, although only modestly. The global trading system is undergoing a period of turbulence, a major competitor—China—is expanding its economic and security reach, and the search for new resources presents a continued uncertainty. At the same time, U.S. and allied economic heft is declining relatively in the world, and with that, U.S. and allied defense industrial bases have consolidated, reducing industry resilience and the ability to replenish arms in times of stress. Furthermore, less economic heft in the world could lessen U.S. ability to attain leverage via sanctions. Despite these trends, the risk that economic conditions or events will spark war by 2030 is small. Nonetheless they add to a background of greater uncertainty of which defense planners need to take account.
Global Economic Trends
Trend 1: Increasing Pressure on the Global Trading System
Trend 2: Relative Declines in U.S. and Allied Economic Might
Trend 3: The Rise of China
Trend 4: The Search for New Resources
Trend 5: The Shrinking Defense Industrial Base
Trend 6: Decreasing Power of U.S. Sanctions
Key Production Lines of Fourth- and Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft
This research was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by the Strategy and Doctrine Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.
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