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Friday, December 15, 2017, 08:34 (GMT+7)
The world’s political and military situation in 2017

In the past year, besides bright tones, the world’s political and military complexion has still witnessed complex and unpredictable developments. Major powers have adjusted their strategy and competed for one another fiercely. The U.S is faced with a turning-point choice which will have a multidimensional impact on the global situation.

The U.S. choice

It is believed that the US Presidential Election of 2016 is not merely a transfer of power from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, but a choice between the two different roads of development for the United States. 2017 is the first year for the US President Donald Trump to realize his election promises: driving his country into the industrial capitalism road and the world into a multipolar order.

Under the motto “America first”, President Trump has made decisions shocking the US politicians and the international community. He decided to pull the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) on January 23rd 2017; announced the withdrawal of the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015; and threatened to decertify the Nuclear Deal between the P5+1 group and Iran. Those calculated moves have made a huge impact on the whole political and military face in each region and worldwide. Pulling the U.S. out of the TPP, President Trump has put an end to his predecessor’s “rebalance” strategy in the Asia - Pacific region. Meanwhile, the international community, including close allies of the U.S., has voiced their protest against the US break with the Paris Climate Agreement. Furthermore, on November 2nd 2017, the US representative in the United Nations voted against the UN Resolution condemning America’s economic embargo against Cuba while 191 out of 193 UN member states approved. According to political observers, those decisions will further make Washington isolated from the world and lead to negative consequences for global peace, security and cooperation.

Relations among major powers - unpredictable mixture of competition and negotiation

After taking office, instead of boosting relations with Moscow to fight against terrorism as his election  promise, President Trump immediately appointed political figures with anti-Russia bias to the key positions. As a result, the US - Russian relations have become more tense. According to the US political expert, Mr. Stephen Cohen, the US - Russian relations are experiencing the most dangerous moments in history since the World War II in the fronts simultaneously, namely Syria, Europe where NATO’s military bases are being expanded close to Russia’s border, and the  “war of sanctions” against Russia which was legalized into the H.R.3364 Act passed by both the House and the Senate and officially ratified by President Donald Trump on August 2nd 2017, in which sanctions imposed on Moscow were much more severe than the Jackson – Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974 against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Studying the H.R.3364 Act, international political analysts confirm that the document is a “declaration of war towards Russia” or serves as “an action to ignite a new world war”.

Meanwhile, in 2017 the US - Chinese relations witnessed positive changes. From the point of considering China as its potential rival, Washington now wishes to establish a constructive relationship with Beijing. That was clearly expressed in the US President Trump’s first visit to China on November 9th 2017, which was warmly welcomed by Beijing. In Trump’s visit, the two sides signed deals worth 250 billion USD, including those in which China would spend 37 billion USD on 300 Boeing aircraft and invest in the project to build a liquefied natural gas plant in Alaska state, worth 43 billion USD. That deal would create a golden opportunity for the U.S. energy industry as China is the world’s largest importer of liquefied natural gas. Moreover, China would facilitate the US companies’ penetration of this country’s market, and China’s banks would be allowed to operate in the U.S. in return.

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xin Jinping at the Great Hall of the People (Beijing) on November 9th (photo: Reuters)

Political analysts believe that relations among major powers is a matter of paramount importance, which will greatly impact on the world’s and the region’s political and military face. Those will bring mutual benefits and contain an unpredictable mixture of competition and negotiation, particularly in the face of changes of the global situation.

Middle East’s political and military situation has a major change

For decades, the United States has ruled the Middle East’s political and military situation. However, the balance of power among the three major powers, the U.S., Russia and China, is changing. In 2017, there occurred unprecedented geopolitical changes in the Middle East related to a change of role and influence between the U.S. and Russia. Concerning the war on terror in Syria, with the help of Russia, Syrian Armed Forces have liberated most of the country's territory and is annihilating the last remnants of the IS force, creating a favourable condition for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Russia is evidently changing from the building of its strategy in Syria to its deepened cooperation with Turkey and recently Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, China is ready to take the place of the U.S. when necessary and foster its economic and political benefits in this region, though it proactively avoids confrontation or competition with the United States. It is explained that Middle East acts as integral pieces of China’s strategy to boost trade and infrastructure through its “Belt and Road” Initiative. However, the U.S. is still the main factor in this region as it continues to increase the capability of Israel and Arab countries via supply of weapons and security cooperation. Thus, it is thought that Middle East’s political and military situation will continue to experience complex changes.

Afghanistan - an unending flashpoint

 Contrary to his election promises that he would alleviate the US intervention in foreign conflicts, on August 21st 2017, President Donald Trump officially announced the US new strategy in Afghanistan where the United States and NATO has got bogged down for 16 years in the so-called “global war on terror”. Notable points in this strategy are to set no deadline for the U.S. withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan; to warn that Pakistan could become a haven for terrorist militants; to strengthen cooperation with India - the key partner of the U.S. in the security and economic areas; to attach significance to and underline political dialogue; to increase the right of self-determination of the US fighting forces in Afghanistan.

According to political analysts, this strategy will not bring about peace and stability once Afghanistan’s administration could not stand on their own feet in the face of external and internal challenges and threats, or reform the country by their own. Leaders of the Taliban believe that the US new strategy in Afghanistan is neither new nor clear and thus could not help end the most long-lasting war of the U.S. in this South Asian country.

Dramatic and unpredictable developments of the nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula

During the year 2017, the world has witnessed dramatic developments of the nuclear crisis in the Korean peninsula, reaching the peak when the US President Trump addressed at  the UN General Assembly that United States is totally  prepared to take a military option against North Korea; meanwhile, Pyongyang declared that it would attack the U.S. once it is threatened, adding that it would never negotiate with the United States about its possession of nuclear weapons. To prepare national defence, North Korea has repeatedly conducted missile test launch, including long-range one. One question has been raised: who will get the benefit from the North Korea nuclear crisis?

Basing on responses of the related parties, North Korea’s recent missile test launch is of benefit to none of them. However, it is believed that Washington is deliberately worsening this crisis to achieve the goals set in its global strategy for Northeast Asia. More specifically, it takes advantage of the risk of nuclear missiles in the Korean peninsula” to pressure and force China to make concession in the trade war with the United States and compel Japan and South Korea to increase the procurement of the US weapons for the sake of their “self-defence” against North Korea’s attack. Accordingly, Washington is accelerating installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Anti-Missile System (THAAD) in South Korea and about to carry out the same project in Japan, which in fact aims to not only deal with nuclear threats from North Korea, but control Russia’s military bases in the Far East and China’s military operations deeply in its territory as well as neutralize nuclear capability of the two countries. At the same time, it uses the pretext of implementing the resolution of the UN Security Council to impose comprehensive sanctions against North Korea in order to control Russia’s military bases in the Far East. In summary, the only party who gets the benefit from North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues is nobody else but the United States. It means the U.S. will continue to make use of the “gunpowder barrel” in the Korean peninsula to obtain the goals set in its global strategy for Northeast Asia region.

Besides, tensions in relations between Russia and NATO in 2017 continued to escalate, like 'an eye for an eye', via military exercises. Those moves have not only provoked an arms race, but made negative impact on the global and regional security situation.

To conclude, generally speaking, the world’s political and military picture in 2017 has more dark tones than bright ones. Therefore, it is estimated that in 2018 the world’s political and military situation will continue to experience complex and predictable changes. It is expected that countries, especially major power, will strengthen cooperation and deepen strategic trust, on the basis of respect for international law and the UN Charter, to build up the world’s peace, stability and development. Will that expectation be realized? The answer will certainly come in the year 2018.

Ngo Quyen

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