We appear to be living in a world where nations are creating crises internally or with other States and no one is truly interested or concerned with the consequences. Some leaders, including President Trump, are among those feeding these fires. So far, no major shooting war has broken out, but that is not to suggest that matters could not rapidly intensify. In addition, no region of the world is exempt.
There is an escalating trade war between the United States and China which was elevated last week to an even more serious level. This is not a military confrontation, but for many sectors of the American and Chinese economies this has grave consequences. In addition, it will have ultimate consequences for consumers in the two nations and throughout the world. The reciprocal tariff increases will not be felt immediately, rather gradually, suggesting that there might be some time for matters to be constructively resolved. The accusatorial nature of the deliberations demonstrates that both countries are engaging in an extremely childish approach to finding a diplomatic and economic solution to a genuine trade problem.
The world recognized the conclusion of the first year following America’s withdrawal from the 5+1 Iran Agreement and the U.S. began tinkering further with its sanctions on global oil purchases from Iran. Meanwhile, Iran commemorated the occasion by announcing its intention to proceed with stockpiling low-enriched uranium and heavy water. Then the U.S. responded by sending the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Group from its maneuvers in the Mediterranean to join the U.S. 5th Fleet already on location in the Red Sea. According to the President this move was in response to intelligence reports that Iran was considering potentially aggressive moves against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. It also provided a further potential strong U.S. presence insuring free access in the Bab el-Mandeb straits in the Gulf of Aden.
The Korean peninsula is a stir after almost two years of quiet. Ten days ago, North Korea launched a new missile which closely resembled a Russian missile design. The sophisticated short-range tactical weapon has a range of 150 miles placing South Korea an easy target. This rocket appears to capable of carrying conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Politically speaking, this action suggests that Kim Jung-un has rebuffed President Trump efforts at de-nuclearizing the North Korean regime. While Trump’s response focused on economic consequences to the North Koreans for continued violations, South Korea and Japan already have raised renewed concerns about what is happening with Trump’s triumphal denuclearizing strategy with North Korea.
Internal fighting over leadership in Venezuela has now reached both a political as well as a military stalemate. In addition, it now includes a potentially very complicated geopolitical standoff. The incumbent President Nicolas Maduro—supported by the Russians—has apparently headed-off the first attempted take-over by Juan Guaido, who is backed by Trump. To date the Venezuelan military has surprised many by remaining loyal to Maduro, but it is a confrontation fraught with potential dangers as economic and humanitarian conditions in Venezuela are deteriorating rapidly. The crisis has evoked a White House threat of a possible U.S. military intervention as well in support of Guaido.
This review considers activities of flashpoints erupting over less than two weeks. It does not include the Ukraine, Yemen, Libya, terrorist operations, and another confrontation in Gaza. In the U.S. there is serious concern that the Trump Administration continues to lack any sort of comprehensive approach to foreign policy; after almost two and a half years in office. This reality will only lead to more maverick operators seeking to disrupt the geo-political order.