The COVID-19 pandemic dominated 2020. It slowed supply chains, shuttered businesses, delayed military drills, upended government budgets and further inflamed Sino-U.S. relations.

For this year’s Outlook project, our authors were, understandably, unable to ignore this worldwide event. But the spread of a disease did not distract them from geopolitical affairs.

NATO allies and partners are focused on military interoperability and adding to their arsenal to deter Russian aggression. Russia is responding by prioritizing self-sufficiency within its defense industry as a means of modernizing its forces.

Meanwhile, China and the U.S. continue their trade war — a concern for some Asia-Pacific nations that want to avoid taking sides should conflict break out, and would rather see the two economic powerhouses work together to tackle climate change.

From industry’s perspective, a post-pandemic world must involve financial support from government if businesses are to survive and new jobs created.

Brazil’s Embraer and South Africa’s Paramount Group emphasized in their essays that the defense industry is not only a means by which militaries can grow in strength; rather, these businesses provide scientific and technological advancements that can benefit the civilian world and help humankind fight a common enemy — perhaps the next pandemic.

So what can we predict for 2021? Will relations between traditional adversaries improve, as we’ve recently seen with Israel and its Arab neighbors? Or is the proliferation of cyber weapons, disinformation campaigns and unmanned technology a sign of more trouble to come?

Perhaps NATO’s secretary general put it best: “The only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty itself.”

Chris Martin is the managing editor for Defense News. His interests include Sino-U.S. affairs, cybersecurity, foreign policy and his yorkie Willow.

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