Armed conflict, not peace, determined 2022, thanks to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and wars raging elsewhere, from Yemen and Syria to Ethiopia. Meanwhile, internal conflict worsened in several countries, from the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt to Myanmar and Nigeria.
But what has come to the fore is the international fallout from the war in Ukraine, which, contributing to the global energy and food crises, has affected countries around the world.
Will 2023 be a better year for international peace and stability? And is there any prospect that the global energy and food crises will ease and the COVID-19 pandemic will finally be brought under full control?
The disruption in global energy markets, which has driven up energy prices, is largely linked to Europe’s rapid shift away from cheap Russian energy, which has long fueled its growth. Since the account of the European Union 11 percent of global energy consumptionits shift to alternative sources at a time when international supplies of oil and LNG are already tight has a negative global impact.
High energy prices have fueled runaway inflation in many countries. And high inflation, in turn, has caused a cost-of-living crisis. The specter of a global recession looms large in 2023.
Meanwhile, just as the fear of COVID-19 is easing and relative normalcy is returning to daily life, the COVID-19 tsunami in China threatens to spread new strains around the world.
Three years ago, the regime of Chinese President Xi Jinping created a global pandemic with its cover-up and slow response to the COVID-19 outbreak at home. Now, it has put the world at risk again by suddenly abandoning its unsustainable “zero COVID” policy and easing almost all restrictions in one fell swoop, resulting in a massive COVID-19 surge in China that has they revived the fear so that the country could export new variants.
That probability is heightened by another factor: China, instead of containing the current COVID shock within its borders, has just lifted all international travel restrictions for the Chinese, leading to a huge boom in overseas airline ticket sales. country.
This shows how China caused the pandemic: After COVID started within its borders, it allowed residents of Wuhan and other virus-hit areas of Hubei province to travel abroad, but imposed domestic travel restrictions so that they would not take the coronavirus to Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities. In fact, it was only after the Wuhan-linked COVID cases were discovered Thailand AND South Korea than China late RECEIVED his outbreak of the coronavirus through the party-run People’s Daily on January 21, 2020, including an admission of human-to-human spread.
It is a testament to China’s growing power that, without incurring any international cost, it has effectively stymied international investigations into the origins of the COVID-19 virus, including its possible escape from related to the military Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Meanwhile, President Biden’s administration has effectively left China off the hookpartly because US government agencies – from National Institutes of Health to USAID – funded dangerous research on bat coronaviruses at this lab in Wuhan.
More broadly, although 2022 was not a good year for peace, 2023 may not be much better, given the new cold war.
It is worth remembering that competition and conflict are natural in a world in which there is no supranational government to enforce international law or defend weaker states against stronger states. This explains why weak and vulnerable states seek protection by aligning themselves with one great power or another.
The harsh truth about international law is this: international law is powerful against the weak, but powerless against the powerful. The history of the last 25 years alone is replete with examples of great powers conquering small and weak nations, including reducing some of them to failed or failed states.
International conflict often arises when great powers attempt to maximize their security, including by asserting spheres of influence or seeking to contain rival or emerging powers. If a great power perceives that a nation within its traditional sphere of influence is moving into the orbit of a rival power, it will use all means possible to try to reverse that course, as illustrated by the brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
As it seeks to consolidate its holdings in almost one fifth of Ukrainian territory it occupies, Russia has since October fired barrages of missiles and drones at Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, particularly its energy grid, in an apparent strategy to undermine morale by plunging that country into cold and darkness. amid freezing winter temperatures. Ukraine, despite a growing arsenal of advanced Western weapons, including air defense systems, has been unable to stop these debilitating attacksresulting in widespread power outages becoming common.
Meanwhile, in the US, the “save Ukraine” narrative has been eclipsed by the “bleed Russia dry” narrative, which is rooted in the belief that the costs to American taxpayers of providing weapons, battlefield intelligence and other assistance to Ukraine are. dwarf from benefits.
USA led approx 50 billion dollars in aid to Ukraine in 2022, and its new $1.66 trillion spending plan includes 45 billion dollars in additional aid to that country. The help can be massive (ie the biggest US aid to any European nation in more than seven decades), yet its proponents claim that, from a bang-for-the-dollar perspective, it is very cost effective in helping to degrade enemy military capabilities for a single-digit fraction of America’s annual defense budget—without the loss of a single American soldier.
In this light, the war is unlikely to end soon, despite its devastating costs to Ukraine and its people.
Eventually, when Russia and the US both realize that they are unlikely to achieve their primary objectives in Ukraine, a negotiated settlement of the conflict may emerge.
But with the war in Ukraine distracting America from growing strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, the risk is growing that China could move against Taiwan. It is now reported that American intelligence believes that Xi may act against Taiwan before the 2024 US presidential election.
A Chinese attack on Taiwan would likely have a greater global impact than a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
America’s role is essential in preventing a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a technological center with the world’s 22nd largest economy by gross domestic product. However, the new $1.66 trillion spending plan provides only $2 billion for Taiwan (and in loans, not grants), pushing the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), said: “We say we want to meet the China challenge, but then we don’t fund Taiwan in a way that is necessary. .”
Against this backdrop, 2023 is likely to be a challenging year for international peace, especially as the war in Ukraine continues and China continues its expansionism in the Indo-Pacific, including intensifying coercive pressure on Taiwan.
Meanwhile, with politics coming before public health, the threat from the pandemic is not over. It is not known whether COVID-19 had a natural or man-made origin.
As we look forward, the lasting lesson from the failure to discover the genesis of a pandemic that has killed several 6.7 million peopleinvolving more Americans than World War II, is that “benefit of function” research of the kind conducted in Wuhan is the greatest existential threat to humanity ever produced by science—a greater threat than nuclear weapons.
Such research to enhance the virulence or infectivity of pathogens by altering their genetic makeup is ongoing in some laboratories in the West, China and Russia. And it has to stop.
Brahma Chellaney is a geostrategist and author of nine books, including the award-winning Water: Asia’s New Battlefield (Georgetown University Press). Follow him on Twitter @Chellaney.