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Saturday, December 28, 2019, 21:59 (GMT+7)
A snapshot of the world military and political situations in 2019

The world military and political situations in 2019 were very much like those of the early years of the 20th Century which were characterized by the strategic rivalry among major powers, leading to security and political dynamics and changes of the world order.

Main dynamics of the world military and political situations

There were two important events happening in early 2019, namely: the World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland) and the Munich Security Conference (Germany). At the two forums, many speeches shared the same idea that the world is entering an era of major military and political dynamics in the transitioning period from the Third Industrial Revolution to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, resulting in the reordering process of the world socio-political complex with crises in international relations, notably the rivalry between major powers, particularly the U.S., China and Russia. The 2019 Munich Security Conference also stated that the world was witnessing the conflicts of three main trends in building the new world order. While the U.S., as a military and economic superpower, is changing its role from a “global police” to a “world judge” to build a new world order based on Washington-based rules, China is also trying to change the game with the “Beijing Consensus”. Russia, on its side, is striving for a multi-polar equal world where all countries, regardless big or small, rich or poor, weak or strong, are respected.

The world military and political dynamics in 2019 reminded us of early decades of the 20th Century, the transition time between the 2nd Industrial Revolution and the 3rd Industrial Revolution, leading to the 3 major wars, namely: the World War I (1914 – 1918), World War II (1939 – 1945), and the “Cold War” (1945 – 1991 which were all stemmed from the strategic rivalry among majors powers. Similar to the one happening 100 years ago, the present rivalry of the early years of the 4th Industrial Revolution is bringing about major changes in the world military and political complex. Although it is less likely to cause another world war due to the existence of nuclear weapons which can cause a mutual assured destruction, the present rivalry is said to cause a new model of war – “hybrid warfare”.

Hybrid wars of the U.S against Russia and China

Hybrid warfare is a new kind of war in which the involving parties employ both traditional combat strategies and non-traditional ones, such as: trade war, diplomatic war, cyber warfare, the operation of the “fifth column”, etc. In the event of a traditional war, the opponent parties won’t engage directly but through a “proxy war”. A prime example of this is the Syrian War with the participation of over 90 countries in which nearly 60 countries are U.S. allies, 30 belong to a Saudi Arabia-led alliance, and 4 countries are under Russia’s leadership.

In the U.S. – Russia relations, the U.S. is conducting a hybrid war in various fields, such as economy, military, diplomacy, etc. with the aim of dismantling Russia as a sovereign country. Accordingly, in the economic aspects, U.S. continues to impose sanctions and prevent Russia from European gas market. However, Russia still enjoyed steady economic growth and is finalizing the last phase of its “Nord Stream 2” Project. In military domain, in 2019, U.S. officially withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed with the USSR in 1989 and had no intention to negotiate with Russia to lengthen the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty 3 (START-3) which will expire in 2021 in order to drag Russia into a new arms race. In response, Russia claimed that with its defence budget of only one tenth of the U.S., Moscow won’t let itself fall into the new arms race but will carry out asymmetric measures to defeat Washington’s calculations. On Syrian battlefield, in 2019, U.S. could no longer act in the name of “countering terrorism” to overthrow President B. Al Assad. In contrast, Syrian governmental military, with the support of Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah, defeated the terrorists, regained the control over most of its territory, demanded the U.S. withdrawal of troops, and implemented Astana Process. On 7th October 2019, President Donald Trump announced to withdraw U.S. troops out of Eastwestern region of Syria, abandoning Kurdish-led forces who had sided with them in the war to overthrow Syrian President B. al Assad. This move changed the situations in Syrian battlefield in particular, and in the Middle East region, in general. In diplomatic field, U.S. tried to blocked and isolated Russia, but the latter succeeded in maintaining and establishing new relations with several countries in the world, including the U.S. allies, such as: Korea, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia, etc.

In 2019, the hybrid war between U.S. and China continued to escalate. Regarding the trade war, since 10th May 2019, the U.S. increased tariff on Chinese USD-200-bilion goods from 10% to 25%. Moreover, U.S. also threatened to impose a tariff of 25% on the remaining Chinese exports worth at USD 300 billion. In the future, it is very likely that U.S will impose high tariff on the entire Chinese exports to the country which are worth at over USD 500 billion to force China to sign a trade deal in Washington’s favour. Relating to the strategic competition between the China-led “BRI” and U.S-held “Indo-Pacific” Strategies, in 2019, U.S. continued to take measures in the 2019 National Defence Act to counter China’s militarisation on the East Sea where Beijing’s “marine silk road” starts. In military theatre, after withdrawing from the INF, U.S. demanded China to negotiate for the conclusion of a new and more comprehensive treaty. President Donald Trump also threatened to bring his intermediate range missiles to Asia as China is possessing 5,000 ones of such kind and all are being aimed at U.S. military installations and its allies in East Asia.

Experts hold that similar to the Cold War between the U.S. and USSR in the 20th Century, the hybrid wars between the U.S. and Russia and between the U.S. and China will change significantly the world order in the 21st Century. However, while the USSR was defeated in the Cold War, the question of who win or lose these wars is still left unanswered.

Impasse in the hot spots

Since entering the White House, President Donald Trump has often resorted to the “brinkmanship” strategy in the world hot spots to bring about the best outcomes to the U.S.  Accordingly, Donald Trump often pushed the U.S. opponents to the brink of war or put pressure to force them to accept the policies given out by Washington. However, this strategy is running counter the trend of a globalized and deeply-integrated world, hence often heading into deadlock when settling the hot spots.

As far as the North Korean nuclear program is concerned, the Second Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in February 2019 between the U.S and North Korea failed because of the deeply-rooted contradictions between the two countries about the denuclearization process of the later. While Pyongyang persistently demanded the absolute assurance of security and safety from the external intervention and the denuclearisation must be conducted on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis, U.S. insisted on North Korea’s complete abandonment of its nuclear, chemical and biological storage with international inspection before the U.S. removal of sanctions, which means an unconditional surrender to the former.

In the tension with Iran, in 2019, U.S. not only imposed heavy blockage on Tehran but also pushed this country to the brink of war with allegation that Tehran supported terrorism, conducted attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, or even shot down the U.S. RQ-4N unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. However, different from Iraq or Libya, Iran is capable of dealing with the most severe sanctions, even an invasion war. Facing the situation, President Donald Trump had to cancel the military attack into the country, reasoning that he wanted to avoid casualty for civilians. On 10th July 2019, President Donald Trump suddenly expressed his readiness for a negotiation with Tehran without any prerequisite. In response, Iran stated this country will accept U.S. proposal only when U.S. removes the blockage and revive the deal that the P5+1 Group had signed with Iran in 2015.

In the Venezuelan arena, apply the “brinkmanship”, President Donald Trump declared the U.S. readiness for a military intervention to protect the self-claimed President Juan Guaido while resolutely removing the Constitutional President Nicolai Maduro. Nevertheless, this country has much experience in dealing with the U.S. intervention schemes since the late President Hugo Chavez took office in 1999. Moreover, being backed by Russia, China, Cuba and some other countries this time, President N. Maduro has initially neutralised U.S plan, leading to the U.S. acceptance of a negotiation between the Juan Guaido-led opponents and the Pro-Maduro forces for a political solution for the crisis in this country.

As such, the military-political dynamics in 2019 will continue and change fundamentally the world order in the 21st Century because they are not temporary moves but reflects the nature of the transitioning period from the 3rd Industrial Revolution to the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Senior Colonel Le The Mau

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