2023: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

The world is entering a new era of great-power competition. As U.S. policymakers look ahead, it pays to know what global threats to anticipate. Every January, the Council on Foreign Relations publishes a survey that analyzes the conflicts most likely to occur in the twelve months ahead and rates their potential impact on the United States. But can the country prepare itself for mass immigration, cyberwarfare, and nuclear tensions while still cooperating with adversaries on global issues such as climate change?

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Molly McAnany - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Paul B. Stares
    General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action

Show Notes

As tensions between great powers continue to escalate, the prospect of widespread conflict—and the subsequent impact on international security, the global economy, and climate change—looms over the year ahead. The Council on Foreign Relations’ annual Preventive Priorities Survey asks foreign policy experts to evaluate the U.S. ramifications of thirty global conflicts. 


China’s desire to reclaim Taiwan and Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine are chief among their concerns. Meanwhile, countries including Iran and North Korea continue to covet nuclear weapons, unrest churns in Latin America, and U.S. officials are scrambling to prepare a contingency plan for a coordinated cyberattack. 


Whether or not these threats will be borne out in 2023 depends on how global leaders navigate this new era of great-power competition. 



Read the full 2023 Preventive Priorities Survey.

Check out the Center for Preventive Action’s Global Conflict Tracker.



From CFR


Manjari Chatterjee Miller, J. Andrés Gannon, Inu Manak, Ebenezer Obadare, and Christopher M. Tuttle, “Visualizing 2023: Trends to Watch


Richard Haass, “What in the World Will Happen in 2023?


Robert D. Blackwill, “Policy Prescriptions for U.S.-China Relations,” Asia Unbound and The U.S. Pivot to Asia and American Grand Strategy


Scott A. Snyder, “How a New U.S.-South Korea Deal Can Deter the North Korean Nuclear Threat


Stephen Sestanovich, “Who are Russia's War Hawks, and Do They Matter?



From Our Guest


Conflicts to Watch in 2023,” CFR.org


Paul B. Stares, Preventive Engagement: How America Can Avoid War, Stay Strong, and Keep the Peace, Columbia University Press



Read More


Ankit Panda, “Seoul’s Nuclear Temptations and the U.S.-South Korean Alliance,” War on the Rocks


Ethan Bronner, “How Israel and Iran Attack Each Other While Avoiding All-Out War,” Bloomberg


Gustav Gressel, “The Second Year of Russia’s War: Scenarios for the Ukraine Conflict in 2023,” European Council on Foreign Relations


Joy Dong, “China’s Internet Censors Try a New Trick: Revealing Users’ Locations,” New York Times


Tony Bradley, “New Report Highlights Concerning Trends for Cyberwarfare,” Forbes



Watch and Listen


What to Worry About in 2023,” CFR.org

West Africa

West Africa is losing many of its best and brightest. Across the region, doctors, lawyers, and engineers are leaving, depriving some of the world’s youngest countries of the minds they need to develop sustainably. At the same time, coups have rocked the nearby Sahel, threatening to create a corrosive cycle of instability. Can West Africa quell the tide of emigration?

Maternal and Child Health

In the past thirty years, sixty countries have expanded access to abortion care as an underpinning of maternal health. The 2022 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade made the United States the fourth country ever to decrease access to abortion—and the world took notice. Some countries have since reinforced protections for abortion care, while others have moved to further restrict it.


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