And experts Robert A Manning and Mathew J Burrows have suggested the turmoil would be such that the coming decade will resemble the 1930s. Mr Manning – a resident senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security (SCSS), and Mathew J Burrows, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, also attached to the SCSS, revealed their predictions in an analysis published on the organisation’s website. They wrote: “2019 did not offer any great surprises or ‘Black Swans,’ but the fragile world order did move further down the path of unravelling – 2020 will likely bear more resemblance to the 1930s, as some of the developments which did not reach a denouement in the past year cross the finish line.
Several simmering conflicts, symptoms of a global system under strain from US President Donald J Trump’s ‘anti-globalist’ America First doctrine, could well reach breakpoints in 2020
“Several simmering conflicts, symptoms of a global system under strain from US President Donald J Trump’s ‘anti-globalist’ America First doctrine, could well reach breakpoints in 2020.
“This may include a shift from the mere corroding of multilateral institutions and US alliances toward total dysfunction.”
With North Korea having set a deadline of the end of 2019 for the US to ease sanctions against the Hermit State, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un is widely expected to order fresh missile tests in the New Year which are likely to antagonise US President Donald Trump.
Kim Jong-Un’s threat to step up nuclear tests represents a huge threat, the experts warned
China’s President Xi Jinping
The report says: “Twenty-five years of Denuclearization Diplomacy has run its course, exhausting all genuine possible nuclear-free end states.
“Kim pursues the ‘new path’ he warned of in his end-of-year ultimatum. Kim’s goal is to be a de facto nuclear state like Israel or Pakistan, to be accepted as a normal nation.
“Kim prefers a ‘muddle through’ North Korean model, accelerating cybercrime to accumulate bitcoins and other illicit activities, boosting ties to Russia and China who are eroding sanctions, and incrementally building economic cooperation with South Korea.
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“Trump, feeling humiliated that his bromance was betrayed, has initially pretended that all is well – ‘Kim is my friend’, ‘we’re in no rush’.
“But soon will come the wrath of ‘fire and fury’ threatening confrontation with a serious risk of conflict sparked by miscalculation.”
A connected risk is that posed by unravelling nuclear stability in the wake of the USA’s decision to pull out of 1987’s Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987.
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North Korea’s Supreme leader Kim Jong-Un and US President Donald Trump
The report says: “The United States is ending the architecture of restraint, and starting a Hobbesian world of all-against-all, un-learning the lessons from the Cold War of avoiding an arms race.
“This is happening at a moment when new risks to crisis stability (secure second strikes) are growing from non-nuclear emerging technologies (AI, offensive cyber, anti-space weapons, and hypersonic missiles).
“The nuclear “doomsday” clock stands at two minutes to midnight.”
North Korea nuclear timeline
The world’s economy will also be in the firing line in the 2020s, Mr Manning and Mr Burrows warned, with the possibility of what they term a “China reckoning” and fresh world financial crisis.
They write: “A perfect storm involving a simultaneous slowdown in the three economic centers could catapult the global economy into another deep economic crisis.
“China’s internal contradictions are growing, including massive public, household, and corporate debt (300 percent of gross domestic product), aging demographics (labor shortages, pension, and healthcare demands), and sagging growth (two to three percent in real terms).
The Middle East is a potential flashpoint
“The United States also suffers from growing debt problem at the Federal government level, plus substantial corporate debt at a time of record low interest rates.
“Equally, slowing growth and the EU’s divisions in the wake of its uneven recovery from the 2008 financial meltdown make it an unlikely candidate to pull the world out of a recession.
“This would be more dangerous than 2008, as central bank cooperation and US Congressional action are more problematic.”
Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, in the South China Sea
The Atlantic Council’s top ten risks of the 2020s:
- 2020 elections: Either a victory for Donald Trump or his Democrat challenger is likely to “deepen US political tribalism”.
- Brexit: May result in the break-up of the UK, while a trade deal with the US may be easier said than done.
- The great unravelling: The World Trade Organization (WTO) may become defunct as it is replaced by bilateral and multilateral agreements between individual countries.
- A bifurcated world: The USA and China are likely to find themselves on either side of an ongoing trade conflict.
- North Korean defiance – Kim Jong-Un will seek to stake his country’s claim to be recognised as a nuclear power.
- Nuclear stability unravels -The demise of the INF deal makes a new arms race increasingly likely.
- Demise of US traditional alliance – Mr Trump’s “transactional” approach will pose challenges to alliances such as with Japan.
- Nuclear proliferation – The Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and even Australia may push to become nuclear powers.
- Post-US Middle East – Instability will characterise the region in the post-US era
- Grey Swan – A “perfect storm” involving a simultaneous slowdown in the three economic centres (the US, China and Europe) could “catapult the global economy into another deep economic crisis”.