CFR’s Preventive Priorities Survey for 2017 Omits the Main Thing

CFR’s Preventive Priorities Survey for 2017 Fails to Mention the Main Thing


The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), founded in 1921, is a 4,900-member think tank specializing in the United States’ international affairs. Its roster includes senior politicians, business executives, acclaimed journalists, prominent lawyers, leading media figures, renowned scholars and distinguished nonprofit professionals. The CFR is the promotional arm of the establishment. It exerts great influence on foreign policy and the decisions taken by executive officials and congressmen.

On December 13, the Council on Foreign Relations released its annual Preventive Priorities Survey to help policymakers plan for potential contingencies. The document evaluates ongoing and potential violent conflicts and sources of instability based on the impact they would have on US interests as well as their likelihood of occurring in 2017.


«With a new presidential administration assuming office, it is important to help policymakers anticipate and avert potential crises that could arise and threaten US interests. Our annual survey aims to highlight the most likely sources of instability and conflict around the world so that the government can prioritize its efforts appropriately», CPA director Paul B. Stares said.

The paper shows seven potential sources of conflict, the escalation of which may have serious consequences for Washington. The list is headed by a deliberate or inadvertent confrontation between Russia and NATO, caused by the «aggressive behavior» of Russia in Eastern Europe. It seems to be rather symbolic that the Russian Uragan self-propelled multiple rocket launcher system was chosen as an illustration for the announcement of the news about the survey’s release.

The other most serious threats include major crisis in North Korea caused by its testing of nuclear weapons, a devastating cyber-attack on critical infrastructure of the United States, and the terrorist attack on the US or allied countries perpetrated by foreign or domestic terrorists.

The report also mentions the increased instability in Afghanistan, the intensification of the violence between Turkey and various Kurdish armed groups and the escalation of the civil war in Syria, the refugee crisis in Europe, the division of Iraq due to sectarian violence and the Islamic State, increasing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and the political disintegration of Libya, political instability in the Philippines, growing instability and authoritarianism in Turkey, and the spread of civil unrest and ethnic violence in Ethiopia.

Overall, the document evaluates thirty contingencies as a potential threat to stability that may impact America’s interests. Many of them have direct or indirect relation to Russia: Ukraine, Georgia, Syria, cyber-attacks, you name it.

The paper sets priorities but it lacks analysis. There is no explanation why this or that potential threat appeared and what made the problem aggravate. Take the «threat» allegedly coming from Moscow.

ballisticmissiledefenceprogramThe US withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002 to launch the process of arms control erosion. The NATO ballistic missile defense (BMD) program has become the main obstacle on the way to any Russia-NATO agreements to ease tensions in Europe. The US is the driving force behind NATO’s ongoing upgrade of the tactical nuclear arsenal in Europe in open violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968. Washington is deploying its forces near Russia’s borders as part of NATO’s European Reassurance Initiative.

The United States has made a large contribution to the nearing crisis of arms control. Washington has also breached several major arms control agreements, including the INF Treaty.

The Russia’s «assertive» policy has been provoked by NATO’s expansion and rejection of attempts to address vital issues, like the BMD plans.

The terrorist threat became especially acute for the US after the 9/11 tragedy. But Bin Laden, the mastermind behind this heinous crime, was supported by the US along with other extremists fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The attack was a backlash provoked by this policy.

The emergence of the Islamic State group in Iraq was the result of the US invasion in 2003. The refugee flows to Europe are the result of Washington’s support for the «Arab Spring». The instability in Libya was created due to the US-led NATO intervention in 2011 going far beyond the UN resolution 1973.

There is a very important fact the Preventive Priorities Survey failed to mention. Nobody else but the US itself has created the security problems it has to face. And the 115th Congress is trying to make things worse. There is a reason to believe that the president-elect will be able to turn the tide. The first steps he has made prove him to be capable of independent thinking. He appears to be immune to outside influence. His choice of  candidate for the position of Secretary of State confirms the fact. Hopefully, the number of contingencies evaluated by CFR will be reduced after President Trump takes office.


Original article

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About the author

Andrei Akulov is a retired colonel and a Moscow-based expert on international security issues

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