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The most worrying world conflicts in 2017, ranked by foreign-policy experts

  • Akshat Rathi
By Akshat Rathi

Senior reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

President-elect Donald Trump is weeks away from becoming the world’s most powerful man, and there are plenty of potential catastrophes and threats to US interests he will have to tackle once he takes office.

Just what kind of crises will top the next US president’s priority list? The annual Preventative Priorities Survey conducted by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) asked 7,000 US government officials, foreign-policy experts, and academics to give some answers on the likelihood of conflicts and their potential impacts on the US.

Among the 2,000 answers received, CFR experts narrowed the list down to 30 and asked these experts to prioritize them. Below are the results of the survey published this month:

🏆 Tier 1


Likelihood: Moderate; Impact: High

  1. A serious military confrontation between Russia and a member of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
  2. A severe crisis in North Korea involving nuclear or inter-continental missiles
  3. A cyber attack on US infrastructure
  4. A terrorist attack on US soil

Likelihood: High; Impact: Moderate

  1. Increased violence and instability in Afghanistan
  2. Increased violence between Turkey and various Kurdish forces
  3. Intensification of the Syrian civil war

🏅 Tier 2


Likelihood: Low; Impact: High

  1. Armed confrontation between China and Japan in the East China Sea
  2. Armed confrontation between China and one of the many claimants in the South China Sea

Likelihood: Moderate; Impact: Moderate

  1. Political instability in the EU caused by the influx of refugees with increased risks of terrorist attacks or violence against migrants
  2. Military confrontation between India and Pakistan
  3. Further fracturing of Iraq caused by the Islamic State
  4. Heightened tension between Israel and Palestine
  5. Continued political fracturing in Libya
  6. Increased internal violence in Pakistan
  7. Growing political instability in the Philippines
  8. Increased political instability in Turkey
  9. Increased violence in Ukraine
  10. Intensified civil war in Yemen

Likelihood: High; Impact: Low

  1. Deepening economic crisis and political instability in Venezuela

🎖 Tier 3


Likelihood: Moderate; Impact: Low

  1. Intensification of political crisis in Burundi
  2. Growing political instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo
  3. Growing civil unrest and ethnic violence in Ethiopia
  4. Increased violence and political instability in Nigeria
  5. Continued al-Shabab attacks in Somalia
  6. Intensification of the civil war in South Sudan
  7. Political instability in Thailand
  8. Widespread unrest and violence in Zimbabwe

Likelihood: Low; Impact: Low

  1. Political instability in Colombia following the collapse of the peace agreeement
  2. Military conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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