Oct 31 02:06 PM US/Eastern
The world faces a growing risk of conflict over the next 20 to 30 years amid an unprecedented transfer of wealth and power from West to East, according to the US intelligence chief.
Michael McConnell, the director of national intelligence, predicted rising demand for scarce supplies of food and fuel, strategic competition over new technologies, and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
"What I'm suggesting -- there's an increased potential for conflict," McConnell said in a speech Thursday to intelligence professionals in Nashville, Tennessee.
"During the period of this assessment, out to 2025, the probability for conflict between nations and within nation-state entities will be greater," he said.
Conditions for "large casualty terrorist attacks using chemical, biological, or less likely, nuclear materials" also will increase during that period, he said.
McConnell described a multi-polar world in 2025 shaped by the rise of China, India and Brazil, whose economies will by then match those of the western industrial states.
"In terms of size, speed, and directional flow, the transfer of global wealth and economic power, now underway, as noted from West to East is without precedent in modern history," McConnell said.
Territorial expansion and military rivalries are not likely but cannot be ruled out, he said.
"We judge these sweeping changes will not trigger a complete breakdown of the current international system, but the next 20 years of transition to a new system are fraught with risks and many, many challenges," he said.
By 2025, China is likely to have the world's second largest economy and to have emerged as a major military power, the largest importer of natural resources and the largest contributor to world pollution.
"China is poised to have more impact on the world over the next 20 years than any other country," he said.
India will have either the third or second largest economy and will press to become "one of the significant poles of this new world," he said.
Russia also will be part of that group but only if it expands and diversifies its economy and integrates it with the world global economy, he said.
"Strategic rivalries are most likely to revolve around trade, demographics, access to natural resources, investments and technological innovation. There will be a struggle to acquire technology advantage as the key enabler for dominance," he said.