Shifting Security Concerns: A Snapshot from the Munich Security Index 2024

China and Russia no longer perceived as top security threats, research finds

A recent study indicates a shift in Western public perception of security threats, with concerns pivoting towards non-traditional risks like mass migration and radical Islam rather than China and Russia.

Despite lingering worries about traditional hard security risks, such as those posed by Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, overall concern has decreased since then.

This disparity between public sentiment and political agendas underscores the challenges facing world leaders gathering at the Munich Security Conference, where discussions will encompass escalating tensions in conflicts like Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas, NATO expansion, and the potential return of Donald Trump to the White House.

China and Russia no longer perceived as top security threats, research finds

The Munich Security Index 2024 reveals broad alignment among Western respondents on medium-term economic and geopolitical risks, with many foreseeing the ascendance of China and other Global South powers over the next decade.

Conversely, concerns persist about stagnation or decline in Western powers. While Russia was considered a top threat in the G7 nations last year, perceptions have shifted, with only citizens of the UK and Japan still viewing Moscow as a significant risk.

Similarly, China’s perceived threat level has decreased in five G7 countries, although Chinese respondents see other nations as increasingly threatening, particularly the US.

Across all surveyed countries, worries about non-traditional risks have intensified, encompassing environmental threats, mass migration spurred by conflict or climate change, and organized crime.

The Israel-Hamas conflict contributed to a notable rise in concerns about radical Islam, particularly in Europe and North America. Cybersecurity issues also ranked high, notably in China and the US, reflecting heightened tensions in their technological competition.

The Munich Security Index report, titled “Lose-Lose?” warns of a shift away from global cooperation towards transactional, protectionist policies, potentially leading to lose-lose dynamics in various policy fields and regions.

The report highlights the risk of democratic backsliding, societal polarization, and rising right-wing populism, particularly amidst the current “super election cycle.” It warns that the potential re-election of Trump as US president could further erode trusted cooperation among democratic states, citing his recent statement suggesting encouragement of Russian attacks on NATO allies.

These trends, exacerbated by extreme liberalism and a focus on relative gains, threaten international cooperation and global stability. The report urges concerted efforts to address these challenges and reverse the trend toward fragmentation and conflict.

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