The draft Global Trends 2030 report states that “the risks of interstate conflict are increasing,” partly because “the next 15-20 years will see a wider spectrum of more accessible instruments of war.”  How will this broadening of the spectrum affect how different states approach military competition and conflict?  What will be the impact on the global balance of military power?  The draft report outlines several ongoing competitions – including “anti-access vs. access” and “nuclear disfavor vs. nuclear renaissance” – relevant to the ability of the United States to project force and protect its friends and allies.  This week the blog’s attention turns to the trends underlying these competitions and their implications over the next two decades.

We will hear from a variety of subject matter experts based in the United States and other countries.  All of the contributors will respond to the question of how the diffusion of conventional precision strike capabilities and potential further nuclear proliferation are likely to affect the security environment of 2030.    Some posts will focus on the conventional dimension, and others on the nuclear side; still others will attempt a synthesis, analyzing how conventional and nuclear trends may interact.  Contributors will offer their perspectives as experts on a particular country, military service branch, or domain of conflict.

How should we knit together these contributions into an understanding of the net impact on the security environment?  Integration is more an art than a science.  It is difficult enough to forecast how trends based purely on material factors may interact or be disrupted, but in the case of the future security environment, we are dealing with factors of organizational and strategic culture that, together with technological capacity, will shape how military force is conceived and employed from country to country, in peacetime, during a crisis, or in war.  Unfortunately, there is no simple formula or established methodology for anticipating the outcome of the interaction of the various capabilities and concepts of operation that different states will adopt.  We must also acknowledge that the diffusion of conventional precision strike and nuclear proliferation are not the only trends relevant to the future security environment.  Still, they are at least among the dominant factors that will shape the outcome of military competition and conflict in the coming decades. Even if we can’t give a definitive answer to questions such as how the United States will project power or extend deterrence to friends and allies in 2030, the importance of the subject compels us to do our best to begin to outline the dominant alternative possibilities.