A serious military confrontation between Russia and NATO member states, a severe crisis in North Korea are among top international concerns for 2017 cited by a new survey of experts. The Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) ninth annual Preventive Priorities Survey together with foreign policy experts identified seven top potential flashpoints for the United States in the year ahead.
The survey, conducted by CFR’s Center for Preventive Action (CPA), asked foreign policy experts to rank conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring or escalating and their potential impact on U.S. national interests.
Among the high likelihood hotspot of tension are:
- increased violence and instability in Afghanistan resulting from a continued strengthening of the Taliban insurgency and potential government collapse
- the intensification of violence between Turkeyand various Kurdish armed groups within Turkey and in neighboring countries
- the intensification of the civil war in Syria resulting from increased external support for warring parties, including military intervention by outside powers
The flashpoints with high impact and moderate likelihood are:
- a deliberate or unintended military confrontation between Russiaand NATO members, stemming from assertive Russian behavior in Eastern Europe
- a severe crisis in North Korea caused by nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) weapons testing, a military provocation, or internal political instability
- a highly disruptivecyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure
- a mass casualty terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland or a treaty ally by either a foreign or homegrown terrorist(s).
Four conflicts were downgraded to lesser priorities in 2017. These include political instability in European Union countries stemming from the refugee crisis, the fracturing of Iraq caused by sectarian violence and the Islamic State, increased tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, and the political breakup of Libya.