Today Russia has alerted over 150,000 soldiers to test their readiness to invade the Ukraine, the Syrian Civil War rages on supported by Russia killing tens of thousands. Iran , once again supported by Russia, is racing to build nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel from the map. The US is committed by treaty to defend South Korea against the nuclear armed North Korea, which just so happen to share the world’s most heavily armed border in the world with over 1.2 million on either side of the border ready to kill each other. The US is also obligated by treaty to defend Japan and all its territory. Recently the Chinese have begun laying claim to Japanese territory. To intimidate the Japanese and America the Chinese have routinely in the last year sent ships and planes to continuously provoke the Japanese. The exact same has happened with the Philippines, which just so happens to have a treaty with the US.
None of the above even mentions the ongoing battle with islamic extremists around the globe. On top of all this current Sec. Def. Hagel has admitted that the US stands to lose military dominance if investments aren’t made to ensure continued US technological advantages. However in spite of everything I just listed, what can only be described as a world spinning out of control, this administration has decided to make drastic cuts to the American military. In essence we are communicating are lack of resolve and weakness to our many adversaries around the globe. Unfortunately for us and the world as a whole they are listening.
Vladimir Putin once again the president of Russia recently spoke to Russian diplomats and was reported to have said that the West was in decline. He also went on to point out that the decline of the West was much more than just the current Euro crisis. Even though Putin had his own reasons for talking about the decline of the West, such as trying to make himself look better, the fact of the matter is that irregardless of his reasons he is essentially correct. The West for all its talk on Syria and Iran and what needs to be done in both places is beginning to find that nobody is listening. Why should Russia take us seriously when they know we are broke and there is no stomach for another military adventure. We keep telling everyone what they should do but they know now that they do not have to listen anymore.
With news of the arrival of more American combat power to the Persian Gulf today coupled with Iran flexing its own military muscle via missile launches suffice it to say the situation in the gulf is heating up. As we reported last month the US has sent more US Airforce fighter planes to the gulf to include the f-22 and the f-15c. Now word came today that the US had sent additional mine sweepers to the gulf bringing the total to 8. Mine sweepers may not sound like much but in any future conflict with Iran they will be key because one of Iran’s first moves will be to mine the area to prevent oil from getting to market, just as they did in the late 1980’s. Also the US has sent a first of its kind of ship that will act as a floating staging base for all kinds of operations like minesweeping, surveilance, launching spec ops teams and so forth. For its part Iran demonstrated its ability today to use longer range missiles to hit US bases in the region. The question now becomes should we go to war with Iran how effective will missile defense systems be in countering Iranian missiles?
The Obama administration’s much touted “reset” with Russia that began in 2009 has finally and unequivocally revealed itself to be a total disaster, literally this president has been played for a fool and people have noticed. The idea behind “reset” was to wipe the slate clean with Russia in an attempt to gain their help in the UN Security Council so the West could confront Iran diplomatically instead of militarily. Any rational human being remotely interested in foreign policy knew it was doomed to fail. In fact, the only really legitimate argument that could be made in support of it would have been that it had to be tried to see if it was at all possible to avoid war with Iran over their pursuit of the bomb. Most would still have believed it was doomed to fail but at least the one last try argument to prove to the world we are not insane war mongerers made some sense. The problem has been that even though the Obama administration has been faced with near overwhelming evidence that Russia was not really going to help with Iran the Obama administration has continued along with “reset” for three and half years with no change in sight.
It’s not just Iran where this has become a problem, the Russians emboldened by America’s weakness under Obama have challenged the US in Syria, Georgia, Eastern Europe and so forth. Syria just happens to be the latest in a long string of black eyes for the US courtesy of the Russians. The most disturbing fact about Syria is that this administration actually seems surprised by Russian intransigence there. Until Obama realizes that Putin is not a willing partner but is instead the head of state of a country that is determined to undermine US policy at every possible turn he will never get anywhere with the Russians.
In a very informative article over at www.foreignpolicy.com by Steve Levine entitled The Coming Oil Crash he details the problems petro states like Russia, Iran, and Venezuela among others face with the recent fall in oil prices. The article gives estimates on what each state needs the price of a barrel of oil to be to balance their budgets. Russia, for example, is said to require a price of $110 per barrel to stay in the black, oil was going for around $96 a barrel on Monday. In fact many of the other petro states are in a similar position to Russia, so our gain is their pain so to speak. Many analysts expect the pain to go up for the petro states for the obvious reasons: global economic slowdown reducing demand, US and Canadian shale oil deposits, and Saudi Arabia insisting on producing 10 million barrels a day when all they appear to be doing is hurting themselves by producing so much.
All of the reasons seem to make sense except for the Saudis, why on earth would they purposely drive down the price of oil when all it does is take money out their own pockets? Well, that is where it gets interesting. According to the article the Saudis are intentionally trying to drive the price of oil down for several different reasons. First, they believe cheaper oil will help the global economy weather this rough patch. They also apparently liked all the prestige they gained by driving down the price of oil in the late 90’s during the Asian financial crisis. Second, they feel threatened(the original article used the word terrified to describe how they felt) by the shale oil deposits in the US and Canada. They recognize that shale oil is harder and more expensive to obtain than normal liquefied deposits. Because of that oil has to be at a certain price to make going after shale oil worth it. Last but certainly not least, the Saudis are trying to impose their will on both Russia and Iran on two key issues. The first would be Iran’s attempt to get the bomb. The Saudis and Iran are natural competitors because one is Sunni and the other is Shia. The Saudis feel that a nuclear armed Iran would be unacceptable so they are purposely driving down the price of oil to put the squeeze on Iran to force them to give up the pursuit of the bomb. The second issue is with Russia blocking a deal being made on Syria. The Saudis once again feel they can pressure Russia into playing ball on Syria by driving down the price of oil. It will be interesting to see how long and how painful the Saudis are willing to make this. As the article points out they have one of the largest financial reserves in the world at around $700,000,000,000 so suffice it to say that they can keep this up for some time. If I was Russia and Iran I would be worried.
The world today has not been in a state of flux this great since the collapse of the Soviet Union about 20 years ago. The difference between now and then was unquestioned American power militarily, economically, and politically. Today that is no longer the case and the world is worse off for it. In reality the danger to the world has not been this great since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963.
Threats Of War
1. From the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons to near civil war in Syria the middle east could explode in a major war drawing in outside powers like the US that could have disastrous consequences for the entire globe.
2. The Arab Spring has resulted in a change of leadership in key countries that have left many guessing what those nations (think Egypt) strategic direction will become. This level of doubt has added a new twist to the problems of thinking through a potential crisis in the region. Just like a free market economy despises uncertainty in policy so does the strategic thinker. Uncertainty in a country’s geo-political thinking leaves its neighbors only able to guess and make assumptions with all the consequences that entails.
3. Mexico is fighting an insurgency every bit as lethal as that in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only difference is that we share a large unguarded border with this failed state. The threat from the flow of illegal drugs and possible terrorist infiltration cannot be underestimated. The www.latimes.com did a story in June of 2011 (over a year ago) that said 34,000 had already died as a result of the military crack down against drug gangs, it hasn’t gotten any better since then either. Although the mexican economy is doing well the possibility that this violence will ultimately collapse Mexican authority over large parts of their own territory cannot be ruled out.
4. Tensions in Asia continue to rise as China begins to flex its muscles by attempting to enforce its disputed territorial claims throughout the region.
5. Iraq today still struggles with severe violence as the government attempts to finish off the insurgency there.
6. Afghanistan at best can only be described as a long work in progress. Which, oh by the way, has to be finished off by Afghans. Who wants to wager what the outcome will be once US troops leave by 2o14.
7. Nations like China, Russia, Iran, and Syria seem to be working in informal cooperation against the United States. Although the US could counter each country individually or even in groups of two, when they all align against America it would be near impossible for America to impose its will on a situation like the insurgency in Syria. Right now you have China and Russia actively working against the US administration via the UN Security Council to prevent Washington from resolving the situation. With Europe consumed by the Euro nightmare the United States now truly stands alone against a powerful informal alliance of countries that do not share western values, and are actively working to undermine western strategic goals in the middle east and beyond.
1. All eyes towards Europe for in spite of continued European attempts to blame America the Europeans have managed to design and implement the biggest threat to the global economy since communism. They did such a bad job engineering the institutions and laws governing the Euro that its collapse seems all but guaranteed, and it almost makes you wonder if they intended for this to happen from the beginning. An outright collapse of the Euro would throw the global economy in turmoil and set off a chain of events so destructive that it would take a generation for the world to recover.
2. Unfortuanately the problems facing the Euro also weigh on the UK, US, and Japan among others. The difference at least for now is that these countries have the proper institutions and laws in place to attempt to deal with the problem in a reasonable manner.
3. The entire global economy appears to slowing down all at the same time including the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) which were partly responsible for helping to prop up the global economy during the 2008 meltdown. If everybody slows down at once where will the help come from this time?
As the world hurdles towards darkness one has to wonder if this madness can be stopped? I am sure that many of the situations can be managed to outcomes that are not so catastrophic, but the original idea in the first paragraph of massive change and imminent danger to global order should not be underestimated. The challenges are as great as they are numerous, although some challenges (perhaps Afghanistan) will appear as less important if others play out in dire fashion. The two that I feel are the most worrisome; the Euro, and Iran are also the two most likely to come to a head in the near future. Both of these situations are real and will be resolved one way or another. The Euro will either collapse dragging down the world economy with it or the Europeans will take the necessary steps in fixing the Euro. Iran will either get the bomb and begin to act even more belligerent, or the US and Israel will strike Iran to try to prevent this. The problem is that a strike will only delay Iran, the only way to prevent them from getting the bomb is to end the regime. Unfortunately after the debacle in Iraq no one has the stomach for that kind of action so it will be interesting to see what happens. Either way both of these issues will be resolved in the near future for better or worse.