28th May 2015
The ‘war’ word is being increasingly heard as Europe, Russia, China and the United States adopt provocative postures
IS the world going mad? Military posturing is quietly reaching new extremes in Europe, the Mediterranean and the South China Sea. And the provocative bluster has just reached new heights.
The source was anonymous. But the mouthpiece has a measure of credibility. High profile military analyst and former US Naval War College lecturer John Schindler tweeted last week: “Said a senior NATO (non-US) GOFO to me today: ‘We’ll probably be at war this summer. If we’re lucky it won’t be nuclear.’ Let that sink in.”
The warning comes as Europe engages in some of its biggest ever war games — right on Russia’s front door. It’s a deliberate ploy, intended to remind Moscow of the consequences of its duplicitous invasion of Ukraine.
Half a world away, the “w” word was mentioned again yesterday. This time in an editorial by a Chinese state controlled paper. Said the Global Times: “If the United States’ bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a US-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea.”
It came as China’s government effectively declared a “no fly zone” over the disputed waterway after warning the US over its “provocative” aerial reconnaissance of several islands.
Yesterday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman issued a formal protest at the United States’ actions in challenging its territorial clams.
“We urge the US to correct its error, remain rational and stop all irresponsible words and deeds,” Hua Chunying said. “Freedom of navigation and overflight by no means mean that foreign countries’ warships and military aircraft can ignore the legitimate rights of other countries as well as the safety of aviation and navigation.”
It represents a distinct hardening of China’s attitude towards the rising clamour of international protest.
Until recently it had been ignoring military overflights of these islands by the US and other regional nations.
China is maintaining its stance that its aggressive construction work on disputed islands in South-East Asia is no different to building highways or public facilities anywhere else on the mainland. Such is its determination that these disputed territories are its own.
Combined, the increasingly threatening talk is causing many to take notice: High-profile US Billionaire investor George Soros told the World Bank last week: “If there is conflict between China and a military ally of the United States, like Japan, then it is not an exaggeration to say that we are on the threshold of a third world war,”
POWER POSTURING RAMPS UP
Early in May, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation began one of its largest ever war-games. The naval anti-submarine exercise was designed to send a message after a series of aggressive Russian submarine incursions into the territorial waters of Baltic States such as Latvia, Finland and Sweden.
Last month, a number of Baltic State defence ministers issued a statement condemning Russia’s activities, once again declaring its old Cold War enemy their “biggest threat to security”.
Russia retaliated by highlighting the deepening relationship between neutral Finland and Sweden with NATO was a “special concern”.
Some 18 warships and submarines took part in the oddly named exercise, “Dynamic Mongoose”. It involved 10 NATO members and the otherwise neutral Sweden.
It came just weeks after NATO members — including Britain — sent tanks and troops to conduct live-fire exercises with Estonia: Once again an act designed to send a signal to Russia — keep your hands off the Baltic States. The tiny Baltic state separated from the former Soviet Union in 1991.
This week saw the launch of a third major NATO military exercise: Combat jets from the US, UK, Germany, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands have gathered in Finland, Norway and Sweden for extensive Arctic combat drills over 12 days.
Russia has not been idle in its response. It has teamed up with ally China to conduct war-games in the Mediterranean Sea. The 10-day operation ended last week after the two world powers boldly displayed their warship muscle in the equivalent of Western Europe’s backyard ‘swimming pool’.
SIMMERING TENSIONS BOIL OVER
Despite decades of complaint from Vietnam, the Philppines, Taiwan and Malaysia, the United States has only now begun loudly proclaiming its protests over China’s expansion within the disputed South China Sea.
It’s in response to a sudden surge of expensive and extensive land reclamation projects.
They’re incredible engineering achievements. Rocky shoals and tidal sandbanks are being built up into full-blown artificial islands — 809 hectares worth, in all. And these islands appear intended to house extensive military bases.
Yesterday, Chinese officials responded to US military overflights and a probing visit by one of its warships.
“For a long time, the US military has been conducting close-in surveillance of China and the Chinese military has been making such necessary, legal and professional response — why did this story suddenly pop up in the past weeks?” Senior Colonel Yang Yujun commented yesterday.
“Has the South China Sea shrunk?”
“Some people have been intentionally and repeatedly hyping this topic. Their purpose is to smear the Chinese military and dramatise regional tensions. And I’m not ruling it out that this is being done to find an excuse for certain country to take actions in the future.”
The Chinese-government newspaper The Global Times was even more blunt.
“We do not want a military conflict with the United States, but if it were to come, we have to accept it,” an editorial reads.
“The intensity of the conflict will be higher than what people usually think of as ‘friction’.”
Another newspaper, The People’s Daily, editorialised last September that Beijing should prepare itself for a third world war arising out of the standoff between the United States and Russia over Ukraine.
Meanwhile Billionaire George Soros explained his fears over the South China Sea tensions to the World Bank. If China’s economy continues to falter, he said last week, “there is a real danger that China will align itself with Russia politically and militarily, and then the threat of third world war becomes real.”
He was arguing for China to be allowed to join the IMF’s international currency market to allow the Yuan to compete with the US dollar.