Conflicts – local and global – are going to determine the present and the future of the world politics. Such a prediction was made by the writers of the Munich Security Report published before the Munich Security Conference in February. However, as oppose to the Cold War collisions, these conflicts will resemble more closely the world confrontation of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries.
Consequently, the basic concepts of real- and geopolitics have, once again, become relevant not only among the history students studying international relations but also among those who execute these relationships in the real world at the decision-making level.
Among the former USSR countries, the geopolitical view of the world is known as “Eurasianism”. In Kazakhstan, as from the receipt of independence, this view had played the role of the national ideology because it had to do with the most urgent problems of the country. It was inevitable that the economy oriented towards commodities export had to deal with the “classic” geopolitical problems such as the lack of a sea access and the necessity to balance the interests of the neighboring countries. Later on, the more contemporary problems such as the pipeline infrastructure, and the uranium sales geography came into play.
In Russia, up to the end of the 1990s, the geopolitics had remained part of the political salons’ entourage and did not claim its place in the public sphere. At the start of the 2000s, the situation in the world had changed, but not so much in the doctrines and documents.
The Munich report has, in fact, revitalized the concept of geopolitics, and not only because it presupposes the conflict nature of the contemporary civilization but also because it acknowledges the geographic location of the conflict as its determining factor.
An Actual Local Conflict. Syria
The authors believe that the new system of the world order has revealed itself on the Syrian fronts better than anywhere else. And so far, the balance of this system is being formed not to the West’s advantage. Here are some main theses the authors make on the development of the situation.
- Bashar al-Assad has regained control over the four biggest cities in the country. The moderate opposition is seriously weakened as a result of ending the Turkish support. Turkey has chosen to form closer ties with Russia.
- The forces of Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are engaged in the civil war in Yemen.
- Despite the three attempts to seize fire, real peace negotiations are still non-feasible.
- The UN Counsel is paralyzed because of the vetoes imposed by Russia and China.
- Assad is keeping his promise made in June 2016 to free all Syria.
- More than a half of the Syrians are forced to leave their homes.
- By different estimates, 400 thousand people have already been killed.
- The key European players have witnessed the fall of Aleppo with calmness.
This is not a simple list of facts. This is a conceptual view of the situation. The main theoretical conclusion the authors make on the basis of this view is that the “post-West” epoch in the Middle East has already begun.
The Inevitable Conflict of the Future. North Korea
The security threat in South-East Asia is now as high as ever. It is thought that, before the next Communist Party of China’s Congress, Xi Jinping will have toughened the international policy of the country. And all the main topical issues for the Chinese foreign policy – South China Sea, Taiwan, and North Korea – are inevitably leading towards a conflict with the USA.
The US have already made it clear that they are prepared for such a confrontation. The report cites Rex Tillerson’s words: “We are going to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building [in South China Sea] stops…”. China, however, has no intention to succumb to this pressure. Keeping in mind Assad’s case when his days as the Syrian president seemed almost over, China’s logic is quite understandable.
Moreover, the report speaks about the “rebalancing” in the region (yet another realpolitik concept). In essence, this means that some countries in the region are leaning towards alliances with China even though it may worsen their relations with the US. One such example is Australia, a state that is traditionally considered an element of the US influence platform in Pacific Rim. However, the economic interests have won and the Australians do acknowledge their support of the Chinese international initiatives.
President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte is also calling the US-Philippines military agreement into question. Even for the extravagant Philippines leader, this is an unprecedented step. The Philippines received independence from Spain in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War after which, for half a century, the country had been part of the US. Even after gaining formal independence, the Philippines had de facto remained the US military advance post in the region.
In the new situation, Japan and South Korea who are remaining faithful to the US are concerned about the mixed signals sent by Trump Administration. Still, the most “colorful” and hardly predictable player is, undoubtedly, North Korea with its nuclear plans. This state, according to the report’s estimates, will become the most likely trigger of the US-China crisis.
It seems the authors have no doubts that this crisis is going to happen. It is reminiscent of Europe’s attitude towards the Balkans – they expected that it would become a place of the crisis so, when the crisis stroke in 1914, no one was surprised which, in fact, did not help in ending it effectively at all.
The Global Geopolitical Conflict. Arctic Region
Despite the “hot” nature of the regional conflicts, the Arctic Region will soon become a new frontier of the global confrontations. In this prediction, all estimates, without exception, are based on the geopolitical axioms.
First, consider the very statement of the question that comes down to big countries’ competing for accessing resources and to creating new trade routes. In essence, this statement looks like a replica of the 19-th – beginning of the 20th centuries’ agenda. Only, instead of the Arctic Region, in the 19th century, they talked about Africa.
The main cause of the interest to the Arctic Region – the possibility to navigate due to the global warming – is also of curiosity. Here we, again, can see the similarities with another period when Suez and Panama Canals gave the world an opportunity to redraw the political maps. The renewed North Sea Route, by the report’s estimates, will enable suppliers to save about 15 days delivering goods from Asia to Europe. This will inevitably turn it into the main trade route to the Old World.
The authors believe that the new situation will bring Russia up to half a million USD for each tour. Thus, the deep interest of at least two players – the participants of the new transit scheme – is guaranteed. As for the resources, consider that, while the head of ExxonMobile, the new US State Secretary had participated actively in the Arctic oilfield development together with Rosneft.
The analysis presented in the report is a classic example of geopolitics at work because all the listed facts and possibilities are defined not by the nature of the political system in Russia but by the geographic and other factors. A change of power will not have any influence whatsoever on the situation and will not invalidate the conflict. This kind of predetermination was indicative of the geopolitics’ founding fathers. This predetermination, it seems, had played the fatal role in the ineffective attempts to resolve the crises of the past.
The what is to be, will be strategy did not help to find peaceful solutions. In this sense, the geopolitical collisions of the old world differed radically from the 20th century Cold War when the end of the civilization was believed to be an inevitable result of the conflict which, consequently, eliminated the risk of the war. Now this scenario is no longer relevant, but a possibility of fighting for the resources and the influence is allowed for.
…Read the first article of the cycle here: “Закат либерального мира”.