The international system is experiencing a multifaceted rearrangement of the distribution of power and modes of governance. But the rise of geopolitical competition with China and Russia should not obscure the increasing power of nonstate armed actors — militants, militias, and criminal groups — at the expense of the state. This is a dynamic strengthened and shaped by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Focusing on nonstate armed actors and illicit economies is all the more important as they increasingly interact with the new global geopolitical landscape. The decisions the Biden administration will face soon after assuming office about a series of conflicts, nonstate armed actors, and illicit economies will profoundly shape U.S. security, domestic well-being, and international influence.
This series, part of Brookings’s Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors, provides a comprehensive “briefing book” on some of the key issues, new trends, priority areas, and policy toolbox the Biden administration and others should consider in devising responses to conflicts, nonstate armed actors, and illicit economies around the world and in the United States.