WASHINGTON _ The next two decades will see a world living with the daily threat of nuclear
war, environmental catastrophe and the decline of America as the dominant
global power, according to a frighteningly bleak assessment by the US
"The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of
conflict over resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by
the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to
nuclear weapons," said the report by the National Intelligence Council, a
body of analysts from across the US intelligence community.
The analysts said that the report had been prepared in time for Barack Obama's
entry into the Oval office on January 20, where he will be faced with some
of the greatest challenges of any newly elected US president.
"The likelihood that nuclear weapons will be used will increase with expanded
access to technology and a widening range of options for limited strikes,"
the 121-page assessment said.
The analysts draw attention to an already escalating nuclear arms race in the
Middle East and anticipate that a growing number of rogue states will be
prepared to share their destructive technology with terror groups. "Over the
next 15-20 years reactions to the decisions Iran makes about its nuclear
programme could cause a number of regional states to intensify these efforts
and consider actively pursuing nuclear weapons," the report Global
Trends 2025 said. "This will add a new and more dangerous dimension to
what is likely to be increasing competition for influence within the
region," it said.
The spread of nuclear capabilities will raise questions about the ability of
weak states to safeguard them, it added. "If the number of nuclear-capable
states increases, so will the number of countries potentially willing to
provide nuclear assistance to other countries or to terrorists."
The report said that global warming will aggravate the scarcity of water, food
and energy resources. Citing a British study, it said that climate change
could force up to 200 million people to migrate to more temperate zones.
"Widening gaps in birth rates and wealth-to-poverty ratios, and the impact
of climate change, could further exacerbate tensions," it said.
"The international system will be almost unrecognisable by 2025, owing to the
rise of emerging powers, a globalising economy, a transfer of wealth from
West to East, and the growing influence of nonstate actors. Although the
United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor, the United
States' relative strength - even in the military realm - will decline and US
leverage will become more strained."
Global power will be multipolar with the rise of India and China, and the
Korean peninsula will be unified in some form. Turning to the current
financial situation, the analysts say that the financial crisis on Wall
Street is the beginning of a global economic rebalancing.
The US dollar's role as the major world currency will weaken to the point
where it becomes a "first among equals".
"Strategic rivalries are most likely to revolve around trade, investments and
technological innovation, but we cannot rule out a 19th-century-like
scenario of arms races, territorial expansion and military rivalries." The
report, based on a global survey of experts and trends, was more pessimistic
about America's global status than previous outlooks prepared every four
years. It said that outcomes will depend in part on the actions of political
leaders. "The next 20 years of transition to a new system are fraught with
risks," it said.
The analysts also give warning that the kind of organised crime plaguing
Russia could eventually take over the government of an Eastern or Central
European country, and that countries in Africa and South Asia may find
themselves ungoverned, as states wither away under pressure from security
threats and diminishing resources..
The US intelligence community expects that terrorism would survive until 2025,
but in slightly different form, suggesting that alQaeda's "terrorist wave"
might be breaking up. "AlQaeda's inability to attract broad-based support
might cause it to decay sooner than people think," it said.
On a positive note it added that an alternative to oil might be in place by