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Document: COVID-19 and the International Security Environment

The following is the Dec. 3, 2021 Congressional Research Service report, COVID-19: Potential Implications for International Security Environment—Overview of Issues and Further Reading for Congress.

From the report

Some observers argue the COVID-19 pandemic could be a world-changing event with potentially profound and long-lasting implications for the international security environment. Other observers are more skeptical that the pandemic will have such effects.

In reports issued in March and April 2021, the U.S. intelligence community provided assessments of the potential impact of the pandemic on the international security environment.

Observers who argue the pandemic could be world-changing for the international security environment have focused on several areas of potential change, including the following, which are listed here separately but overlap in some cases and can interact with one another:

  • world order, international institutions, and global governance;
  • U.S. global leadership and the U.S. role in the world;
  • China’s potential role as a global leader;
  • U.S. relations and great power competition with China and Russia;
  • the relative prevalence of democratic and authoritarian or autocratic forms of government;
  • societal tension, reform, transformation, and governmental stability in various countries;
  • the world economy, globalization, and U.S. trade policy;
  • allied defense spending and U.S. alliances;
  • the cohesion of the European Union;
  • the definition of, and budgeting for, U.S. national security;
  • U.S. defense strategy, defense budgets, and military operations;
  • U.S. foreign assistance programs, international debt relief, and refugee policy;
  • activities of non-state actors;
  • the amount of U.S. attention devoted to ongoing international issues other than the pandemic; and
  • the role of Congress in setting and overseeing the execution of U.S. foreign and defense policy.

Issues for Congress may include whether and how the pandemic could change the international security environment, whether the Biden Administration’s actions for responding to such change are appropriate and sufficient, and what implications such change could have for the role of Congress in setting and overseeing the execution of U.S. foreign and defense policy. Congress’s decisions regarding these issues could have significant implications for U.S. foreign and defense policy.

Download the document here.