The world at war

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

Unless you are totally isolated in a desert island without any means of communication, the ongoing wars in many parts of the world is part of your daily information consumption. By definition we have not reach a World War III situation, as a “World War is an international armed conflict that involves most or all of the world’s major powers”. Russia is already in the Ukraine-Russia War, but the US, China, Great Britain, France, and Japan while already in the periphery of the Israel-Palestine war, the South China Sea/Taiwan skirmishes, the North Korea saber rattling and the Iran provocations, are technically/officially not in armed conflict with any country.

In the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, the NATO countries, which include the US, and the neighboring European countries, are helping Ukraine with armaments and logistics. Russia is being supplied with munitions by North Korea and Iran. This war is on a stalemate after more than a year as both sides will not allow defeat. While this war is taking a toll on the economies of the NATO/European countries and Russia, the coalition countries have better sustaining power than Russia. Unless a negotiated settlement with territorial concessions is reached, this war has the potential to bring in three superpowers into the armed conflict, bringing us closer to World War III.

The Israel-Palestine war does not directly involve a superpower country but the sympathies/supports are visible. While the rationale of this war is partly territorial due to the presence of Israel in a mostly Arab territory, it is more of an ideological/religious war. Escalating this war is disastrous for most of the Arab countries economically. In fact before the attack on Israel by the Hamas, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have started diplomatic discussions with Israel. There is also the realization that a full-scale war in the Arab world is un-winnable. In the recent 300-plus missile and drone attack by Iran on Israel last week, 99% were intercepted by Israel with assistance of the US, Great Britain, and France, and help of some Arab countries. Iran had to tone down its rhetoric with implications of no further escalation. This war is less likely to proceed to a World War III.

The China hegemonic territorial expansion in the Indo-Pacific region will be more likely to lead to a World War III. The claims of China on the territorial islands and waters in the South China Sea encroach on the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesian economic zones as defined by UNCLOS. China’s claims have been invalidated by UNCLOS but China does not accept the UNCLOS decision, and continue to deploy naval vessels on these areas. China is also entering the Taiwanese waters and airspace with impunity, with ongoing threats of invasion to get back Taiwan. The Western European alliance together with the US, Japan, and Australia concerned with the implications of China controlling/obstructing “freedom of navigation” in the seas and in the skies over the South China Sea, are objecting against China’s action and increasing their naval and air assets/capabilities. Together with North Korea entering the fray, an armed conflict in the Indo-Pacific will bring in four superpowers into the conflict which will bring us closer to World War III.

While China will not risk an armed conflict at this time as the balance of forces are not in their favor and their economy is in trouble, they are already engaged in a cyberwar in terms of propaganda, industrial espionage, and computer warfare with other countries. This after stretching their economic clout into developing countries with the “Belt and Road” initiatives, information control and hacking from within and in other countries continues. While the Ukraine-Russia war may lead to World War III, the bigger probability to World War III is really the actions of China in Asia.

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