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Top ten notable military events of the world in 2019

The year 2019 marked the transitional period of the world order from “unipolarity” to “multipolarity,” both creating opportunities and posing challenges for small countries’ defence of independence and self-reliance. The following outstanding military events selected by the National Defence Journal will give us a basic description of the world scene in 2019.

1. The collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) put the world into a new-style arms race

Cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California by America on August 18th (photo: VNA)

On August 2nd 2019, America announced its withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between this country and the Soviet Union. Also, it would not negotiate with Russia for extending the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START III) which expires in 2021. That is a risky step creating a gap in the system for controlling the short medium-range and intermediate-range weapons (500km-5,500km), particularly the nuclear ones, posing a threat to the world’s security and stability. According to experts, together with the withdrawal from the INF, in the upcoming time, the discontinuity in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty will put the two nuclear powers into a military confrontation like the early 1970s. While Russia announced that it would be ready to negotiate with America for maintaining the INF, Washington declined. Certainly, Moscow ended its compliance with the Treaty.

2. Turning point in the Syrian war

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart at the press conference in Sochi on October 22nd (photo: Reuters)

After nearly 9 years of the “Arab Spring” which led to the bloody civil war in Syria, a new order in this country was set in 2019. With the active support from Russia’s army, the Syrian Government’s Army gradually repelled combatants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the armed opposition groups to retake most of the Syrian territory. It was thought to enable President Bashar al-Assad to gradually consolidate his power and end the civil war. However, on October 7th 2019, the U.S. suddenly withdrew its troops from Northeastern Syrian, providing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Turkey to launch the “Peace Spring” operation against the Kurdish troops and people in this region. This operation was supported by Russia as Moscow signed an agreement with Ankara to establish a “buffer zone” in Syria. That was a diplomatic victory by Russian President Vladimir Putin, which allowed Russia to act as a mediator and bring it a new status in the Middle East.

3. US-Iran brinkmanship

Iran’s new-generation centrifuge for uranium enrichment (photo: VNA)

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal was seen as a historic turning point and a key to “defusing” tension in the Middle East after many years; however, it is now “hanging by a thread.” After more than 1 year since the U.S. withdrew from the JCPOA, the Middle East has fallen into tension and brinkmanship. America both imposed sanctions and intensified military pressure on Iran, while Tehran blamed other signatories for not sticking to the JCPOA. Consequently, in late 2019, Iran resumed uranium enrichment and increased its stockpile of enriched uranium up to 500 kilograms. According to arms experts, in order to possess a unit of nuclear weapon, Tehran would need more time, from a few months to a year. Without efforts made by relevant parties to avoid the collapse of the JCPOA, it would be really hard to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons and the likelihood of a military confrontation between Iran and the U.S. would be greater. After the drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, Washington accused Tehran of masterminding these attacks and deploying thousands of its troops to the Strait of Hormuz, adding that America “locked and loaded.” In response to the U.S., Iran announced that it had not been involved in the attacks, and that it was ready for a total war.

4. The deadlock in the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula

US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un at the 2nd Summit on February 27th (photo: VNA)

After 8 months since the first Summit held in Singapore, US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un continued to have a 2-day meeting (February 27th and 28th, 2019) in Hanoi to discuss the nuclear issue. In spite of the fact that the meeting was believed to settle the differences unresolved by the previous one, disagreements on the methods of North Korea’s denuclearisation and America’s breakage of its sanctions made the Second Summit held in Hanoi unable to achieve the results as expected. On October 5th 2019, the U.S. and North Korea resumed working-level negotiations to step up the implementation of the agreement signed in Singapore. Nevertheless, these negotiations ended in deadlock again.

5. Hong Kong was shaken by protest wave

A protest by hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people against the Extradition Bill to mainland China on June 9th (photo: Wochit)

On June 9th 2019, the Fragrant Harbour was rocked by a protest wave with the estimated participation of over 1 million citizens against the Extradition Bill to mainland China. Under the pressure of public opinion, Chinese Government and Hong Kong authority withdrew this controversial bill; however, the protest wave continued to happen, which led to instability within the society and the special administrative region’s economic downturn for the first time over the past 10 years. On November 20th 2019, The “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” was passed by the United States House of Representatives, with 417 votes for and 1 against. According to this Act, the United States Department of State and other agencies shall conduct an annual review to determine whether changes in Hong Kong's political status (its relationship with mainland China) justify changing the unique, favorable trade relations between the U.S. and Hong Kong. This bill also imposes sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong. The reason for the US House’s ratification of this Act is that Washington always supports those who love and fight for freedom in Hong Kong.

6. Crisis in Latin America

Mr. Evo Morales arriving in Mexico as a political refugee on November 12th (photo: Getty Images)

It is clear to see that in Latin America, instability and chaos occur in small and poor countries, namely Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras, as well as in large countries, such as Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. Moreover, Argentina and Brazil, two of the developed and stable countries in this region, now face the risk of instability. Typical example was the failed coup staged by the opposition in Venezuela. More seriously, the political upheaval in Bolivia (November 2019) forced Evo Morales, who had continuously been the President of Bolivia for 14 years, to resign and flee to Mexico. In spite of having a high human development index and top GPD per capita income in Latin America, Chile is now confronted with the largest wave of chaos since 1990. The increase in public transport fares and electricity prices in early October 2019 is thought to be the direct reason for demonstrations leaving at least 20 people dead and thousands of others injured. Chile’s Government had to hold a referendum on the new constitution. Instability and even crises in this region are believed to derive from difficulties in socio-economic development that many other countries around the world are experiencing. Besides, the impacts made by the competition between major powers for gaining influence have also worsened the scene in Latin America which is often considered America’s “backyard.”

7. The stalemate in the Middle East’ peace process

A protest march by the Palestinian people against America’s Middle East Peace Plan in Ramallah city, West Bank on June 25th (photo: VNA)

In 2019, the White House officially initiated the Middle East Peace Plan, also known as the “Deal of the Century.” According to Washington, this deal will be signed by three sides, namely Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), and the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas. According to this deal, a state named “New Palestine” will be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, except for the territories already occupied by Israel; no military force will be allowed in New Palestine except for the police provided with small arms and light weapons; Jerusalem will be the capital city of both Israel and New Palestine under the former’s administration; Israel will be responsible for ensuring New Palestine’s security. Experts believe that America is contemplating redrawing the Middle East map and going against the United Nations’ standpoint and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 which is aimed at establishing two states and restoring the status quo of the border between Israel and Palestine like before 1967. Thus, the US Deal of the Century is thought to push the Middle East into an impasse.

8. The NATO’s rifts from within

Leaders at the NATO Summit in London on December 4th (photo: VNA)

Despite the fact that it has been established and existed for 70 years, the NATO was unable to find a collective voice in many issues in 2019. It should be noted that after the NATO’s annual meeting in late 2018, US President Donald Trump said that NATO was obsolete and threatened to withdraw America from this military alliance unless members of the alliance would increase their financial contributions. Meanwhile, France and Germany expressed their concern over the NATO’s role in the troop deployment in the Middle East, relations with Arab countries, military confrontation with Russia, and Turkey’s purchase of S-400 missiles from Russia. In early November 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron did not hesitate to say that this military alliance was “brain-dead” and expressed hope that the European Union would build its own military force rather than depend on the US “security umbrella” and the NATO. That situation forced this military alliance to reconsider its status in a world of constant changes.

9. Russian deployment of S-400 missile defence systems in the Arctic

Russia’s S-400 missile system (photo: RT)

In early December 2019, Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Moiseyev, commander of Russia’s Northern Fleet revealed that Russia’s air defence missile forces in the Arctic were being rearmed comprehensively. Russia’s most advanced S-400 air defence missile systems would be provided for the forces in the Arctic in order to establish an air defence “dome” and prevent the intrusion of any enemy weapon, such as aircraft, cruise missile, and even ballistic missile. This is Russia’s latest step in response to the Western countries’ military build-up in the region which is rich in natural resources and holds a position of strategic importance. Earlier, Russia had provided more than 1,000 units of modern weapons, including 5 warships, 7 logistics vessels, 9 aircraft, and 10 early-warning radar systems for its Northern Fleet. Russian Ministry of Defence stated that building the forces in the Arctic was part of a master plan aimed at enhancing the combat capacity in the strategic directions of Western and Northwestern Russia. However, Russia’s move could make the arms race in this region more intense.

10. The IS is still a threat to the world security

Late leader of the IS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (photo: CBS News)

In late 2019, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) suffered a tremendous loss as its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed. This is a remarkable advance in the fight against the IS in particular and the war on terror by the U.S. and its allies. However, according to experts, the death of the IS leader does not mean the eradication of terrorism or extremism. In other words, leaders of the IS could be annihilated, but IS and its “phantom” will still obsess people in many countries. More importantly, the new IS leader, Abdullah Qardash, is thought to be much crueller than Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the former is an expert in studying and formulating the IS’ brutal policies. In fact, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has appointed Abdullah Qardash to be in charge of Islamic affairs instead of himself since August 2019. It can’t be denied that the IS will continue pose a threat to the world’s security in the upcoming time.

National Defence Journal

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