Global Economic Trends and the Future of Warfare: The Changing Global Environment and Its Implications for the U.S. Air Force
RAND Corporation Santa Monica United States
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Economic developments, trends, and disputes rarely cause wars, but they can affect the risk of war and how wars are fought. This report focuses on six economic trends that could influence the future of war 1. increasing pressure on the global trading system 2. relative declines in U.S. and allied economic might 3. the rise of China 4. the search for new resources 5. the shrinking defense industrial base 6. the decreasing power of U.S. sanctions. We consider these issues within roughly a ten-year time frame, through 2030, to coincide with two U.S. Department of Defense planning cycles. Economic-related risk of major war is rising and expected to continue doing so through 2030 at the same time, economic factors are lowering the ability of the United States and its allies to win such a war decisively. Although the trend lines are negative in terms of both risk and capability, the expected change in future risk levels is small. The United States and its partners likely will remain not only the dominant economic powers through 2030 but also the dominant military powers. Nonetheless, the economic trends we discuss do elevate the risk of war and could lead to greater U.S. vulnerability. Rising global protectionism and falling support for truly multilateral trade and investment openness increase tensions among nations. The rise of China as an economic power and other changes to the global economy and security environment have introduced new stresses that great powers have not dealt with for generations. Oil has sparked war and will remain important to the global economy. In addition, technological change has increased demand for new resources, and nations are still trying to ensure that they can easily access those resources to fuel their economies although this demand is unlikely to increase the risk of war, it does increase global economic uncertainty.
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