2017 saw a number of predictions on global security become reality.
Now, with 2017 coming to a close, many people are wondering what 2018’s biggest global threats will be.
The Council on Foreign Relations recently released their list of the top global threats to watch in 2018 and it covers brewing crises around the world.
CFR asked experts to rank 30 ongoing or potential conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring or escalating in the next year. These experts identified eight “top-tier” risks, many of which involve the U.S.
President Donald Trump may have to handle some of these crises next year:
8. Military conflict involving the U.S., North Korea, and its neighboring countries
Not surprisingly, North Korea makes the list.
With Kim Jong Un showing no signs at all of slowing down his missile program, and his increasingly brazen missile tests and strong rhetoric warning of total destruction, the situation on the Korean Peninsula hasn’t been this tense since the 1950’s.
7. An armed confrontation between Iran and the U.S. or one of its allies.
CFR cites Iran’s involvement in regional conflicts and support of militant proxy groups, including the Yemeni Houthis and Lebanese Hezbollah, as a potential source of a confrontation.
Coupled with Iran’s recent announcement that it will support “resistance groups” after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, conflict with Iran seems as possible as ever.
6. A highly disruptive cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure and networks.
Not surprisingly, the CFR believes that cyber attacks against the U.S. require the utmost attention.
This year saw cyber attacks from Iran, North Korea, and Russia against targets like government agencies, banks, and militaries all around the world, and with the NSA coming under a number of high-profile attacks this year, cyber attacks will be something to look out for.
5. A military confrontation between Russia and NATO members.
A confrontation between Russia and NATO members, either deliberate or unintended, never stopped being possible.
Just this year, Russia’s has quietly expanded the border of the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia illegally, and continues to foment the war in Ukraine’s Donbas region that has killed over 10,000 people.
Though these are non-NATO countries, some fear it is only a matter of time before Russia tries to see what it can get away with in Eastern Europe — especially since Syria will no longer be the Russian military’s biggest focus.
4. An armed confrontation over disputed maritime areas in the South China Sea.
Recently, China has become increasingly aggressive against Taiwan — both in terms of actions and rhetoric. It has worried Japan as well.
3. A mass casualty terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or a treaty ally.
CFR notes that the terrorist could be either foreign or homegrown. Lone-wolf style attacks, where the perpetrator has no connection to terrorist organizations apart from an appreciation of the ideology, could also be cause for concern.
This happened as recently as this week, with the attempted pipe bombing in New York City.
2. Intensified violence in Syria as government forces attempt to regain control over territory.
Though the Syrian Civil War seems like it is in an ending phase, with ISIS losing almost all of its territory, it is important to remember that the fight against ISIS was only one part of a war that has killed hundreds of thousands.
CFR notes there are still heightened tensions among external parties to the conflict, including the U.S., Russia, and Iran.
What will happen when the Syrian Arab Army tries to defeat rebels in other parts of the country, as well as what will the Syrian government do about the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, is unknown, as is a potential U.S. response to hostilities.
1. Increased violence and instability in Afghanistan.
CFR is specifically worried about the increasingly strong Taliban insurgency and a potential collapse of the Afghan government. ISIS has also recently made its mark in the country.
The Trump administration appears concerned about developments there and is redeploying thousands of troops to Afghanistan.
Time will tell if the Trump administration’s efforts will help, or just put off a collapse of the Afghan government.