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Strategic Trends in 2016 and Beyond

On 20 April, the GCSP held a public discussion on “Strategic Trends in 2016 and Beyond” in partnership with the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich (CSS). This event was held on the occasion of the release of the CSS publication on "Strategic Trends 2016: Key Developments in Global Affairs". Three expert contributors presented their analysis and engaged with the audience in a forward-thinking discussion on the key international security trends.

In association with:
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GCSP - Maison de la Paix

Dr Gustav Lindstrom, Head of the Emerging Security Challenges Programme at GCSP, welcomed the participants and speakers. He introduced the discussion by presenting the five chapters of the seventh issue of this annual publication, namely on the renationalization of European defence cooperation, the European Union in the midst of the refugee crisis, the state of power politics in (Eur)Asia, the renewed importance of nuclear weapons in international affairs, and the current energy world order in flux.

Dr Oliver Thränert, Head of Think Tank at CSS, presented his chapter entitled “A Nuclear World Out of (Arms) Control”. He particularly warned the audience about the increased salience of nuclear weapons coinciding with a lack of political interest in arms control. He expressed deep concerns about the return of nuclear weapons on the US and NATO agendas and the comprehensive modernization of Russian nuclear forces. In addition, Asian nuclear powers (China, India, North Korea and Pakistan) are all modernizing and expanding their arsenals, which might result in growing and dangerous instability in this region. As for the Middle East, Dr Thränert acknowledged that, even if the region seems to be relaxing after the Iran deal, this does not necessarily resolve the Iranian nuclear issue and a potential nuclear arms race in the region is still possible. Dr Thränert reminded the audience that today, the culture of jointly managing the dangers of the nuclear age has become a thing of the past and in order to avoid future nuclear wars, and to create strategic stability, a renaissance of arms control is urgently needed.

Dr Lisa Watanabe, Senior Researcher at CSS and author of the chapter “Borderline Practices – Irregular Migration and EU External Relations” explained how the migration crisis is currently acting as a catalyst for the further externalisation of the EU’s migration management agenda. She argued that ‘outsourcing’ to the periphery the migration management practices is likely to come at a normative price for the EU. Furthermore, Dr Watanabe argued that irregular migration to Europe, which is unlikely to ease anytime soon, will have ramifications for the EU that go beyond the immediate challenges posed to border control-free travel and asylum procedures in the EU. This has highlighted the immediate need to address the root causes of the migration crisis, such as conflict and endemic instability in the neighbourhood. There has already been a great deal of talk; however, she reminded the audience that words needed to be translated into action.

Dr Prem Mahadevan, Senior Researcher at CSS and author of the chapter “Power Politics in (Eur)Asia” discussed the recent and future great power relations in Eurasia. He explained how the current dynamics, and especially the Chinese policy towards maritime disputes in Southeast Asia, have shown remarkable similarities to Russian conduct in Crimea. Dr Mahadevan argued, based on the conviction that Western security efforts are going to remain concentrated against Russia, that recent Chinese actions indicate that they are willing to unilaterally redraw political boundaries. Dr Mahadevan then discussed how the United States and its allies were considering different options to deal with a potential assertiveness from China, from strengthening regional alliances to increasing presence in the region. Dr Mahadevan noted that a key challenge in the region today and for the foreseeable future is a deficiency of trust.

With current and growing global instability and a future that is arguably becoming more uncertain, the discussion demonstrated that it is crucial to discuss key developments that have the potential to shape international peace and security in the coming year and beyond, in order to better prepare for such potential challenges.


If you are interested in learning more about global trends and applying foresight methodologies, please check out our September course on Foresight and Strategic Planning (19-23rd September 2016).

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