Tensions between neighbouring states and global powers is an age-old phenomenon. Historic grievances, national security needs and the lure of power all conspire to hold back the dream of world peace. With everything else going on in 2020, however, it would be nice if world leaders could all just get along…
Russia vs NATO
In 2014, as the Winter Olympics were finishing up in the Black Sea town of Sochi, Russia was preparing to pull-off its biggest geopolitical maneuver since the end of the cold war. In a matter of weeks, the Crimean Peninsula would be taken from Ukraine and pro-Russian forces would flood into the Ukrainian borderlands that connected to the old motherland. Since the major victory, Russia has continued to push its borders and influence west as a direct countermove to NATO's push East. With former Soviet states from the Baltics to the Balkans looking to align with the EU and NATO, Russian power has been at risk of evaporating; and it has a growing need to maintain influence in politics and trade (especially gas and oil) with the west. This has caused serious conflict in Ukraine, as well as proxy wars in the Middle East and an explosion in cyber hostilities. Together, Russia and NATO allies harbour enough nuclear weaponry to destroy human life on earth, so it is a good idea for tensions along Russia's land and sea borders to remain controlled.
China vs India
As with Russia, China is keen to solidify its borders and geographical defenses. The 2 largest countries on the Eurasian continent have plenty of land and natural resources to protect, whilst also needing to keep a lid on successionist movements in their extreme borderlands. China has been very busy in securing land borders and increasing the role of Beijing in potentially volatile areas (e.g. Hong Kong and Xinjiang). It is also seeking to gain control of disputed territories in India, which has obviously led to strong push-back from Asia's second most populous nation. Strong Chinese-Pakistani relations have also not helped the situation, with India countering by building ties with Japan.
South China Sea
China also has two main maritime border issues at play - the East China Sea dispute with Japan and the South China Sea territory grab with ASEAN nations. The former is likely to continue to slowly simmer for the foreseeable future, however, China's aggression with the latter has been a key worry for the global community. Of note is China's reclamation work on smaller islands in the middle of the sea and also off the coast of the Philippines. Whilst, China's primary aim might be to secure its access through ASEAN waters, the South China is also likely to hold plenty of resources in the sea and below the seabed.
The 5 major powers of the Middle East - Egypt, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey - all have their own agendas and are on constant high alert. The nexus of the issue seems to be tensions regarding what a two-state solution in Palestine looks like, but there are a myriad of other economic and ethnic considerations that continue to make 'peace in the Middle East' just out of reach. The end of the planet's reliance on oil is not likely to help the situation.
There are many other points of contention around the world that could also lead to large scale military action. North Korea seems perpetually volatile, whilst the current US regime's global stance seems just as worrying. Of course, perhaps rallying against a common foe - in this case, a global pandemic - might help to bring us all together?
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