Great Power Conflict and Development of Nuclear Weapons Are the Top Global Concerns for 2023, CFR Survey Finds

Great Power Conflict and Development of Nuclear Weapons Are the Top Global Concerns for 2023, CFR Survey Finds

January 4, 2023 12:48 pm (EST)

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The world took a dangerous turn in 2022. The most concerning scenarios in 2023, according to surveyed experts, are potential flashpoints involving major powers, including a cross-strait crisis around Taiwan, escalation of the war in Ukraine or domestic instability in Russia, and nuclear weapons development by Iran and North Korea.

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The Council on Foreign Relations’ (CFR) fifteenth annual Preventive Priorities Survey, conducted by CFR’s Center for Preventive Action (CPA) every November, asks foreign policy experts to evaluate thirty ongoing or potential violent conflicts based on their likelihood of occurring or escalating this year, as well as their possible impact on U.S. interests.

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The surveyed experts also warn of a growing risk of the United States becoming embroiled in a military confrontation with either China or Russia. Although none of the top contingencies was judged to be very likely in 2023, it is sobering that respondents ranked each as having an even chance of occurring.

“The Joe Biden administration is faced with great power rivalries and nuclear program tensions as it attempts to navigate a dangerous geopolitical landscape. Striking a balance between advocating for U.S. interests and avoiding a confrontation with China or Russia will be the most significant challenge of 2023,” said Paul B. Stares, CPA director and General John W. Vessey senior fellow for conflict prevention. “The Preventive Priorities Survey helps policymakers assess not just the likelihood of conflicts, but also their potential impact on U.S. interests.”

For the first time since the Preventive Priorities Survey began fifteen years ago, the possibility of a foreign terrorist organization inflicting a mass-casualty attack on the United States or a treaty ally was not proposed as a plausible contingency for the coming year. Foreign terrorist-related threats no longer top the survey results, as they did in the years immediately following the 9/11 attacks. The possibility of a highly disruptive cyberattack targeting U.S. critical infrastructure by a state or nonstate actor remains the top homeland security threat.

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View the full results and prior surveys.  

To learn more or to request an interview, please contact the Global Communications and Media Relations team at 212.434.9888 or [email protected].  

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The Preventive Priorities Survey was made possible by a generous grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York.  

CFR’s Center for Preventive Action seeks to help prevent, defuse, or resolve deadly conflicts around the world and to expand the body of knowledge on conflict prevention. Follow CPA on Twitter @CFR CPA.   

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