According to a report, which gets compiled once every four years, there are 20 global trends that are likely to affect NATO through 2035, ranging from artificial intelligence and accelerating technology development to climate change and growing inequality. In particular, China’s growing military strength and Russia’s resurgence will pose challenges to NATO in coming years, as it moves to bolster its capabilities, risking a new Cold War-style arms race.
General Denis Mercier, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, told Reuters the report showed a higher risk of major interstate war than the 2013 report.
“We see a considerable increase in the risk of a major interstate conflict,” Mercier said in an interview on the sidelines of the Berlin Security Conference. “Having a global awareness is more necessary than before. We have to be ready for any kind of scenario,” Mercier said, noting that globalization meant NATO had to weigh factors outside its region, including military expansion by China and India.
The report also noted that as access to technology gets easier, the risk of terrorist networks expanding increases, challenging the current near-monopoly that state actors have on high-tech weapons. Mercier said NATO was already working to expand its capabilities in the cyber domain, and to ensure cyber protections were baked into every weapons system and network from the outset.
Growth in global debt and erosion of trust in financial institutions were also featured as a factor to be concerned of. It said competing budget priorities and fiscal constraints in member states could hamper their ability to meet NATO alliance requirement in the future.
The report said defense spending had begun increasing after Russia’s reunification with the Republic of Crimea in 2014, and projections called for further increases through 2045. But it warned that the increases “might create a security dilemma and start an arms race, as was the case during the Cold War”.
Environmental factors are also expected to play a bigger role in the near future, from higher rates of natural disasters to the increased opening of the Arctic, according to the report.