During the last year, we’ve seen threats evolve, even as primary adversaries have remained largely the same. Allies reassessed North Korea from bombastic to hostile, and Russia from meddlesome to disruptive. They cheered success in driving the Islamic State group out of geographic strongholds, only to see the extremist group more effectively use the internet and social media to expand its reach.
It would be false to say the global defense community saw this coming. There’s a sense that some of the defense leaders that contributed Outlook essays this year feel allies aren’t as prepared as they should be to deal with this. That’s particularly true among those from the international community — of which there are many.
And then there’s politics. Allies are beginning to make sense of what Trump’s America First rhetoric actually means, a year into his presidency. Eighteen months after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, other European allies are talking among themselves about potential cooperation, and the EU has firmly planted itself among the influencers of defense investments. And once again, the United States can’t pass a budget. Budget uncertainty remains a top obstacle to progress, and the essays reflect this.
The good news? The essays that fill out this year’s Outlook project do reflect a global understanding of what lies ahead among a pool of individuals who just might be in a position to make some progress.