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Competence Centre on Foresight

We foster a strategic, future-oriented and anticipatory culture in the EU policymaking process.

Page | Last updated: 11 Jul 2023

Shift in the geopolitical landscape

The Russian invasion in Ukraine has brought about major changes in Europe and the world, reshaping alliances.

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(© Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash)

Trend: Shift in the geopolitical landscape

A trend indicates a direction of change in values and needs which is driven by forces and manifests itself already in various ways within certain groups in society.

The Russian invasion in Ukraine has brought about major changes in Europe and the world, reshaping alliances. Some EU countries have left their historic neutrality, while NATO welcomes new members or candidates. There is a growing awareness in the EU of the importance of strengthening common defence capabilities and ensuring strategic autonomy for energy and rare resources. Mandatory military service reinstatement could become an answer to growing risk posed by migration and hunger.

World geopolitics are changing. Traditionally committed to a role as the enforcer of geopolitical order, the United States of America (US) is more concentrated on internal policy issues than on foreign policy now. This disengagement of the US allows the rise of other global powers, such as China and Russia, who are competing with and sharing the role of global leader with the US. Among these global changes, the EU is starting to think about defending itself. The EU efforts for a research and development landscape with collaborative industrial action in the defence and aerospace sectors, and the support of the financial tool of the European Defence Fund (EDF), can be considered a breakthrough.

With a changed horizon, other non-military factors have become relevant for geopolitical purposes. These could be identified as ‘Geo-economics’, where the use of economic tools are applied to advance geopolitical objectives. Typical geo-economic instruments include: trade control, investment policy, economic and financial sanctions, energy and commodities, aid policies, data management, communication infrastructures and cyberspace control, but also the management or regulation of migration and the application of restrictive measures against human rights violations.

This Trend is part of the Megatrend Changing security paradigm





Developments happening in certain groups in society that indicate examples of change related to the trend.

Strategic autonomy

Many politicians and analysts have been arguing in recent years that, being highly vulnerable to external shocks, the European Union should boost its ‘strategic autonomy’ and/or develop a higher degree of ‘European sovereignty’. These concepts encompass a greater potential for independence, self-reliance and resilience in a wide range of fields – such as defence, security and trade, as well as in industrial, digital, economic, migration and health policies. Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine gives this issue great urgency. In energy, the European Commission has now published plans to cut EU dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end its reliance on Russian supplies of the fuel well before 2030. And the debate is moving on to ideas and projects involving significantly more integration, solidarity and stronger joint security and defence. The EU’s strategic compass, a medium-term defence and security strategy, is being quickly updated to take into account the biggest armed conflict in Europe since World War II.

Signals of Change: Parliament


Control over food resources

The Russian invasion of Ukraine results in a large number of migrants coming to Europe from Ukraine. Migrants from countries that are already affected by other conflicts and resulting food shortages might follow (such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria and DR Congo).

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has destabilized European energy market, but also affect food supply chains, especially for low and middle-income countries. Ukraine and Russia are important food suppliers for countries that are already food insecure. The Nobel Prize committee acknowledged that “war and conflict can cause food insecurity and hunger, just as hunger and food insecurity can cause latent conflicts to flare up and trigger the use of violence.”

Signals of Change: Bloomberg, WFP, Vox


Sovereignty, and nationalism

Mandatory military service reinstatement was a trend already ongoing among EU member states. Increased in the demand for military preparedness, between EU and NATO, caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, could reinforce this trend, making other Member States to follow this solution.

Mandatory military service represents more than just increasing the number of available human resources. Depending on the age and level of education of conscripted citizens, it could represent a potential source for new profiles and skills that are useful for present day’s military actions, namely skills related to data, IT, autonomous vehicles and technology research.

There is concern that digital platforms foster information-limiting environments, because of the circles created by like-minded people around themselves, where opposing opinions become less visible. This provides a fertile ground for disinformation and radicalisation of opinion. This is also why filter bubbles are considered to be key drivers of political polarization and social fragmentation. However, in the academic community, there is a lack of consensus over the conceptualization, measurement and impact of the filter bubbles and echo-chambers. 

Signals of Change: As, Washington Post, Euractiv



The migration issue and its security consequences will stay a major concern in the coming years. According to the IOM World Migration Report 2020, as of June 2019 the number of international migrants was estimated to be almost 272 million globally, 51 million more than in 2010. Nearly two thirds were labour migrants. International migrants comprised 3.5 per cent of the global population in 2019. This compared to 2.8 per cent in 2000 and 2.3 per cent in 1980.

While many individuals migrate out of choice, many others migrate out of necessity. According to UNHCR, the number of globally forcibly displaced people worldwide was 79.5 million at the end of 2019. Of these, 26 million were refugees.  45.7 million people were internally displaced, 4.2 million were asylum-seekers, and 3.6 million were Venezuelans displaced abroad.

Signals of Change: UN


Militarization of borders

The term “militarization of borders” is at present used in scientific literature to criticize how some borders are not managed by Police but by military personnel with the use of military technologies. The present conflict in Ukraine could modify, at least on the more “sensitive” EU borders, the present situations. Implications arising from conflict situations in the EU include the ole of “civil” law enforcement agencies, the role of Frontex (the EU Agency for the management of the borders), the re-militarisation of the Eastern border, etc.

Signals of Change: NNIRR, Issuu



Interesting questions

What might this trend imply, what should we be aware of, what could we study in more depth? Some ideas:

  • What if smuggling (human beings and goods), trafficking of people and arrival of refugees were not the only risks at our frontiers? Can expect something else?
  • What if an armed force were necessary at the EU?
  • What if ...the war in Ukraine expands?
  • What if Space becomes a wild-west without no rules or governance at all?
  • What if China and Russia neglect international space agreements and occupy the moon?
  • What is Russia's narrative spreads and becomes dominant to countries in Africa and Asia
  • What if huge number of Ukrainians more to Europe settle here?
  • What if some EU MS would have decided to join Russia?
  • What if China and Russia fortify their alliance in the very near future'
  • What if we would have looked to Syria as we are now looking to Ukraine?
  • What if allied countries (EU/NATO) move toward autocracies?