Friday, December 28, 2018, 07:11 (GMT+7)
A snapshot of the world’s political-military situation in 2018

The world in 2018 has witnessed many major events reflecting the state of instability, insecurity and inconstancy due to the global rapid, complex and unpredictable changes, in which the strategic competition between America, China, and Russia has acted as the deciding factor in the global political and military situation.

The two world orders collide with each other intensely

Since taking office, US President Donald Trump has indirectly admitted that the US status as the unique superpower in the world has been undermined, and that America no longer acts as a unique polar in the unipolar world order which had been formed since the end of the Cold War. “To make America great again”, in September 2018, at the UN General Assembly Meeting, the US President officially announced his objection to globalization, expressed his support for nationalism, and stressed that only American State could guarantee a solid foundation for the American people’s happiness and prosperity. However, it doesn’t mean that America would give up its ambition to gain the all-round initiative in acting as the unique polar in the world. According to the US National Security Strategy released in late 2017, America is entering the era of global-scale competition in the economic, scientific-technological, political, and military fields, considering Russia and China as hostile countries which are destroying the world order controlled by Washington. Meanwhile, Russia and China resolutely oppose the unipolar world order and strive for a multipolar world order based on the principle of equality with respect for all countries no matter how big or small, rich or poor, powerful or weak they are. Thus, despite being continuously sanctioned by America and Western countries, Russia always regards them as its partners and continues to pursue dialogue policy and maintain cooperation with those countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect. In the mean time, China is implementing its strategy of “Belt and Road” in a bid to establish a world order based on the “Beijing consensus”, in which all countries cooperate with one another for development and prosperity. Thus, the collision between those two world orders will be the prevailing trend not only in the foreseeable future but also throughout the 21st Century.

Moves of the competition between America and China

Since his presidential campaign, US President Donald Trump has said that he couldn’t call China by any other name but “America’s rival”. After more than 1 year of observation and probe, in early 2018, US President Donald Trump launched a comprehensive competition campaign against China on many “front lines”. Commercially, until late 2018, America has imposed a 10% tax on goods imported from China which have been worth nearly 200 billion USD and might be 500 billion USD in the future. It is explained that this move by America is aimed at re-establishing the balance of trade between the two countries after the US trade deficit of 335 billion USD in late 2017. The head of the White House has also ordered the signing of bilateral free-trade agreements with countries (first and foremost Canada and Mexico) under the condition that signatories would be prohibited from signing any free-trade agreement with China. Economically, America has sought to foil Beijing’s strategic plan of “Made in China until 2025”. Politically, America has adjusted its global strategy, “pivoting” from Asia-Pacific to Indo-Pacific in order to contain China’s “Road and Belt” strategic plan. Militarily, America has sought to prevent China from acquiring Russia’s most advanced weapons, while establishing the US Space Force in response to China’s ambition to militarize the outer space. Moreover, America has asked China to join Russia and several other countries in negotiating a global deal on medium-range nuclear missiles as it believes that Beijing has thousands of missiles of this type which are aiming at the US military bases in Northeast Asia and East Asia. The US National Defense Authorization Act 2019 proposes measures to force China to stop its construction of infrastructure on the islands of Truong Sa archipelago and withdraw all weapons and equipment from this area within 4 years. According to experts, the competition between America and China is similar to the “Cold War”, in which America strives to force China to change its development model. It is worth noting that this strategy is strongly supported by the Republican Party, the Democratic Party and even the American people.

US President Donald Trump signs the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)
for Fiscal Year 2019 (photo: Reuters)

In response to that strategy, at the Conference on supporting medium and small enterprises on November 1st 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping stated that China would never change its model of socialist market economy regardless of any external force. Thus, the competition between America and China will last long, no matter who the US President is, and will directly shape the world’s political complexion in the 21st Century.

The increased tension between America and Russia

In 2018, the strategic competition between America and Russia has been escalated to the highest level ever since the end of the Cold War. It is believed that the reason for this state of confrontation is the severe political struggle within America between the anti-Russian force and those who hope to improve the US relations with this arch-rival. In spite of the fact that the US President regarded the results of the meeting with his counter-partner in Helsinki as “historic significance”, the US Congress continued to impose the strictest sanctions ever on Russia, alleging that “Russia invaded Ukraine” and “Russia supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Government, and even proposing an act considering Russia as “a state sponsor of terrorism”. Moreover, US President Donald Trump announced that America would unilaterally withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty as Russia (former Soviet Union) did not respect this Treaty.

Meanwhile, Russia believed that America did not base on the situation and continued to execute its strategies unilaterally and absurdly. More specifically, it continued to expand the NATO and deploy its military bases close to Russia’s border; unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty which it had signed with the Soviet Union in 1972 and built a missile defence system in the Europe in a bid to readily stage pre-emptive strikes on the targets in Russia’s territory. Thus, Russia warned that America was pushing the world into an extremely dangerous new arms race which could even make the Europe the battlefield of a nuclear war. Russian President stated that Russia would never stage a war, but it would be prepared to give appropriate response to the enemy if being attacked. He also gave a warning that if a nuclear war happened, it would be a catastrophe for the whole world in which Russian people would be just victims and go to heaven like martyrs while invaders would die without an opportunity to regret. Leaders of many other countries called for the calmness of both Russia and America, adding that the two countries should maintain dialogues to handle the crisis between the two sides, first and foremost repel the risks of a nuclear war.

A fundamental change in the political-military complexion of the Middle East

According to experts, in 2018, the political-military complexion in the Middle East has been decided by the two main elements, namely the war on terror in Syria and the impacts made by the US withdrawal of the Iran Nuclear Deal. In this regard, the war in Syria is the centrepiece of the Greater Middle East Project by America. When the “Arab Spring” broke out in the Middle East – North Africa in 2011, America used the pretext of “anti-terrorism” for its military intervention in Syria in a bid to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Government and establish a pro-US political regime. However, with the support of Russia, Iran and the Hezbollah, Syrian Government’s Army defeated the Self-Proclaimed Islamic State (IS), liberated over 90% of Syria’s territory, and prepared a campaign to liberate the last den of terrorists in the province of Idlib. Victories over the IS have brought America’s Greater Middle East Project to the brink of collapse, and America won’t have any reason for its military presence in Syria. As a result, America and its allies, particularly the UK, France, and Israel have hurriedly deployed a powerful military force to the region in preparation for attacks if the campaign to liberate Idlib has been launched. To weaken its adversaries, America unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal and imposed sanctions on Iran in order to force this country to stop its support for Syria. Regardless of sanctions by America, Iran stated that it would continue to maintain its legal military presence in Syria to join Russia in wiping out terrorism. That situation could make Syria become the battlefield of the military confrontation between Russia, Syria and Iran as one side and America and its allies as the other side, possibly leading to a large-scale war in the Middle East and even all over the world. Against that backdrop, Russia and Turkey reached a breakthrough agreement on a ceasefire and the establishment of a demilitarized zone in Idlib. On October 27th 2018, the quadrilateral summit between Russia, France, Germany and Turkey discussed the political solutions to Syria. After over 7 years of the US military intervention in Syria, there has been a basic change in the political-military situation in the region and this country.

A major shift on the Korean Peninsula

In 2018, the world has witnessed 3 Inter-Korean Summits which have created a breakthrough change in the Korean Peninsula’s political situation. North Korea and South Korea decided to restore and strengthen the comprehensive and basic relations for the sake of co-prosperity and unification; confirmed the principle of self-determination of the two countries; reduced the military tension in an effort to remove the risk of a war. At the same time, the two sides decided to transform the demilitarized zone into a zone of peace and cooperation to establish a long-lasting, sustainable mechanism and strive for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. On the basis of those encouraging results, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had a historic meeting on June 12th 2018, in which the two sides reached a deal on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. However, to achieve the ultimate goal, relevant parties will have to undergo a long route.

To conclude, the world’s political-military situation in 2018 has both positive and negative developments, which lays a foundation for a better prospect in 2019 and beyond. However, building a world of peace and development will greatly depend on the effort made by all countries, particularly major powers.

Sr. Col. Le The Mau

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