Last year will go down in history as the year in which a pandemic was defeated and old international conflicts were revived.
At the end of last year, the international situation was turbulent. Although the year started on an optimistic note after overcoming the Covid-19 pandemic, that was quickly overshadowed by the Russia-Ukraine war, increasing tensions between China and Taiwan, North Korea’s nuclear tests, a new wave of migrations and a global economic crisis.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 of last year started a devastating war, with 7 million refugees; almost 7 million internally displaced persons; hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, among them hundreds of children; thousands of houses, other buildings, hospitals, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed; and millions of dollars of losses in agricultural production, which has unleashed a worldwide food crisis. Ukraine is paying a very high price for the legitimate defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian expansionist ambitions.
This war has set Russia in opposition not only to Ukraine, but also to a Western bloc led by the United States and the European Union that has imposed harsh economic sanctions on Russia. Some experts claim that old tensions from the Cold War are back in play on the international chessboard. On one side, we have Russia threatening the West with nuclear war; on the other, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization that has succeeded in recovering the preeminence it lost with the end of the Cold War. If Russia’s excuse for invading Ukraine was the possibility that it might join NATO, it has produced the opposite effect. Countries that had previously maintained a neutral position, such as Finland and Sweden, are now showing their willingness to become part of NATO.
The conventional war developing in the heart of Europe is not the only thing affecting global security. One of the most significant crises between China and Taiwan in recent years was triggered at the start of August, after the visit to Taiwan by speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi. China mobilized dozens of fighter planes and warships to send toward the Taiwan Strait, and in addition launched numerous missiles. This conflict, which has been going on for 70 years, appears to be getting increasingly tense.
On Dec. 26, Taiwan denounced the presence of 71 Chinese fighter planes in its air defense zone and some five Chinese Army warships close to its territorial sea. This happened after the U.S. Congress on Dec. 23 approved the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023. The act proposes military aid of $10 billion for Taiwan, which China has interpreted as interference in its internal affairs.
The tensions don’t end there. North Korea under Kim Jong Un is disturbing. Last year, he launched more than 60 missiles, twice the number launched by his father and grandfather combined. In addition, he tested a very large intercontinental missile, capable of reaching any point on the planet. This increasingly defiant attitude has triggered tremendous strain and concern in South Korea and Japan.
In response to its neighbor’s provocations, South Korea proposed new sanctions and deployed fighter jets that fired air-to-ground missiles close to North Korean waters. In addition, on Dec. 16 Japan approved its biggest military budget since World War II, doubling its defense spending over the next four years.
There is no doubt that 2022 will go down in history as the year in which a pandemic was defeated and old international conflicts were revived. It could be said that we are entering a new era in the world order, where the increase in tensions among power blocs will establish the dynamics of the international political environment and its decision-making.
On one side are the United States and the European Union, aligned through NATO. On the other side are Russia and China, who are increasingly growing closer to unreliable countries such as North Korea and Iran. Given all this, we might be entering a new arms race where “Si vis pacem para bellum”* is the main premise.
*Editor’s Note: If you want peace, prepare for war.
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