shutterstock_186675773When the Iron Curtain fell and the Cold War ended, it appeared that the world would enjoy a period of peace and good will. The Soviet Union dissolved and the nations in its orbit went off on their own, enjoying a taste of freedom. China was in a period of rapid growth, its prosperity tied to its relationship with the advanced Western nations who were buying its products, establishing factories to use its labor, and exporting it technology to modernize every facet of its economy. Seemingly, China and America were locked in an interdependent relationship where the only conflict might be over currency manipulation or other financial issues. And notwithstanding the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, the threat from Al Quaeda seemed minimal and ISIS had not even been born yet.

How the world has changed over the last twenty years, with danger and conflicts challenging the West and the United States from multiple directions and with multiple antagonists. North Korea is threatening the West with nuclear weapons, and it is not known yet if the Iranian nuclear deal with be a success.

However, the most immediate and possibly most dangerous adversary is Vladimir Putin’s Russia. That nation has grabbed the Crimea, instigated a low level war in eastern Ukraine, and has injected Russian planes and troops into Syria in support of the faltering Assad regime. Though supposedly brought in to target ISIS, Russia has been bombing the moderate anti-Assad forces to help Assad’s military regain lost territory. In addition, Russian planes have been testing NATO and American defense reactions by flying close to allied airspace in Europe and Alaska. Their submarines have also intruded into European coastal waters and near vital undersea cables that carry vast amounts of data. Whether or not Putin wants a confrontation, the conduct of his military forces does not generate confidence in the West. Putin has also spoken about upgrading his tactical nuclear weapons.

China has been flexing its muscles as well in ways that are disturbing to its immediate neighbors and to the U.S. and its allies in spite of our economies being tied together. The Chinese government has claimed dominion over the entire South China Sea and the islands within that area in addition to islands in the Sea of Japan. Artificial islands have also been built by China on submerged reefs that can be used for landing strips or military bases. On these issues, China has refused to acquiesce to accepted laws of the sea or to agree to arbitration by an international tribunal. Warnings to the U.S. were given by the Chinese military when an American naval vessel sailed into waters claimed by the Chinese that were previously open to navigation by all ships. Warning was also given when an American plane flew over the contested territory. Whether China will be able to back down on the disputed waters issue and potentially “lose face” remains to be seen. China is rapidly expanding its military under Chairman Xe who has censored Western ideas and kept a tight lid on the Internet and free discourse.

There are also the Islamic radicals that the West has to deal with, both ISIS and Al Qaeda and various offshoots. At the moment, these groups seem most focused on the Middle East and South Asia, but find Western culture and ideas an anathema, with a willingness to kill any Westerners they capture. In reality, Russia and the U.S. could benefit by a combined and coordinated effort against the Islamic extremists in Syria, as Russia has a large Muslim minority and has battled Islamists in Chechnya and Dagestan. Many of the young men from these territories have joined ISIS and would be a significant threat to Russia if they returned home.

However, Putin is not quite rational in his vision of where to lead his country. Instead of concentrating on economic growth and prosperity for his citizens, and an alliance with the West in regards to shared objectives, he appears more interested in asserting Russian power and glory, and supporting a brutal dictator in Syria. His actions in the Ukraine and the resulting sanctions have damaged the Russian economy, even though the Russian population seems to have applauded his moves. Of course, Putin’s control of the media has had a lot to do with the Russian reaction to his exploits.

China also has reasons to join the battle against the Islamists with the U.S. and Russia, given the radicalism that appears to be entrenched in Xinjiang among the Uyghurs. Some of this may be the result of Beijing’s policy of bringing more Han Chinese to reside in Xinjiang, an area that is the Uyghur homeland. Supposedly, the best jobs have also gone to the Han and religious practices by the Uyghurs have been discouraged.

Chairman Xe’s assertion of Chinese sovereignty over waters that are far from the Chinese mainland have raised concern among all seafaring nations as well as China’s neighbors. Whether this will lead to actual conflict between China and the United States when our economies are so intertwined remains an enigma. There are many reasons for both nations to back away from conflict, but rationality does not always reign supreme when glory and “face” are considerations.

Thus, clashes and confrontations are lurking in many areas around the globe that were unseen twenty years ago. The world has become a dangerous place again.

Resurrecting Democracy

www.robertlevinebooks.com

Image by Shutterstock

ROBERT A. LEVINE, TMV Columnist
Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 The Moderate Voice
  • Slamfu

    Of all the dangers listed there the only real ones of significance are Russia and China. Russia got itself a big old bloody nose in Ukraine, trashed it’s own economy, and sent the EU looking for other trading partners and several eastern bloc countries running in NATO’s direction. They are fighting in Syria to keep their port there, but I think Russia’s adventures are being a bit blown out of proportion.

    China is also slowing down and freaking out, but they have been expanding their military by a lot. That being said, their economy is still heavily dependent on trade for it’s GDP and has not yet transitioned to a more self sustaining consumer model. There is only so far they can go in pissing off the rest of the world if they still want to keep things flowing, and there are other nations to go to for manufacturing these days. Frankly I’m surprised Russia and China haven’t teamed up a lot more, as each has a lot to offer the other and they share a border and rivals. It’s a good thing both nations are rife with corruption that makes Wall St look like George Bailey. If they ever get a handle on that and team up for real, I think we’d be in for it.

  • Doom Sternz

    It was a violent, armed coup spearheaded by right sector militants that placed Yatsenyuk into power in the first place, along with the Neo-Nazi political front Svoboda, and paved way for fraudulent elections that predictably yielded a pro-US-EU client regime. From fabricating an “invasion,” to the claims of “threatened” lives, to the labeling of Russians as “subhuman,” Yatsenyuk has recited fully the script of Nazism used to justify its various historical crimes against humanity.

    Kiev’s forces in eastern Ukraine are not fighting an “invasion,” but constitute an invading force themselves, making incursions into eastern Ukraine and holding territory only through unmitigated brutality against local populations clearly collaborating with armed self-defense forces intent on resisting Kiev’s fascist authority.

    Its no coincidence that Victoria Nuland indicated the US had invested $5 billion on a regime change in Ukraine and its no coincidence that the CIA is in Kiev to ensure that the regime change occurs. Its no coincidence that the Rand Corporation documented the necessary steps to genocide the eastern federations prior to the events and its no coincidence that fascist organisations were enlisted to action the genocide.

    Why genocide these federations….To ensure that a pro Russian government is not returned to power in Ukraine.

  • rudi

    The 2013 HUMAN SECURITY REPORT says the world is getting safer.
    http://hsrgroup.org/human-security-reports/2013/overview.aspx

    THE FOCUS OF 2013 HUMAN SECURITY REPORT IS THE GROWING DEBATE OVER WHETHER THE LONG-TERM THREAT OF VIOLENCE—WAR, TERRORISM, HOMICIDE— HAS BEEN DECREASING OR INCREASING WORLDWIDE.

    For some the answer seems clear. In February 2012, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that today’s world has become, “more dangerous than it has ever been.” Similar beliefs are widely held throughout the strategic community. There, however, is little hard evidence to support them.

    During 2012—the most recent year for which there are data—the number of conflicts being waged around the world dropped sharply, from 37 to 32. High–intensity conflicts have declined by more than half since the end of the Cold War, while terrorism, genocide and homicide numbers are also down.

    And this is not simply a recent phenomenon. According to a major 2011 study by Harvard University’s Steven Pinker, violence of all kinds has been declining for thousands of years. Indeed Pinker claims that, “we may be living in the most peaceful era in our species’ existence.”

    The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined has won Pinker widespread critical acclaim for its scope, originality and scholarship. But some of its factual assertions, and the arguments used to support them, have been subject to sustained—and sometimes deeply hostile—criticism.

    Critics have disputed Pinker’s two core assertions—that the current era is unprecedentedly peaceful, and that the earliest human societies had dramatically higher rates of deadly violence than those of today. Against Pinker they argue that the twentieth century was the bloodiest in human history, while the early human societies were extraordinarily peaceful.

  • dduck12

    Good roundup RL.
    As Romney said, and Obama refuted, Russia is the number one danger.
    China is already at war with the U.S. and has made several cyber attacks (as have other smaller entities).

  • Markus

    I know that my view of Russia is in the minority, but here it is. The collapse of the USSR was an immense defeat for Russia and resulted in a historic shrinkage of the territory under Moscow’s rule. The Crimean peninsula was conquered by Muscovy about 900 years ago. Ukraine and Kiev had been conquered 500 years ago. Catherine the Great achieved signal victories over the Turks and grabbed big chunks of Poland 250 years ago. Suddenly, all of that was gone.
    This might have been a good time for NATO to declare victory and pack up. The US, Germany, France, and the UK could have negotiated a 21st century security pact. Instead, NATO moved into the Baltic states and Poland. I think that this was a bitter pill for many Russians including Putin.
    What would be the response of a Russian patriot to these events? I know that Putin is a cynical sneaky SOB, but I understand why he is popular in his country. Also, I sometimes think that the West could have played its hand better. Putting the Russians back against the wall has not been a good move historically.

    • dduck12

      Yup.

    • Slamfu

      It’s not like we invaded them. And those Baltic states and Poland naturally would move away from Russia because they really didn’t like living under the Soviet yoke. You thought they’d be all buddy buddy afterwards? I don’t see how this was putting Russia’s back up to a wall, I think we’ve tried really hard to let bygones be bygones and include Russia in the world.