Global Geopolitical Conflicts News Analysis:
PERSPECTIVES AND TRENDS:
During July, several strategic geopolitical centers were the scene of different military maneuvers of different kinds, with varying degrees of intensity and eventual danger of escalation.
In the Pacific and Indian Oceans, US conducted simultaneous naval drills with partners Australia, Japan and India, following the on-off “Quadrilateral” defense arrangement, a concept that envisions establishing an Asian Arc around China.
In the Indian Ocean, India has deployed almost its entire fleet of ships and submarines, likely a clear signal to China. Furthermore, suggests that India is tightening its grip on the crucial Malacca Strait, a development that will surely set off alarm bells in Beijing.
In the disputed South China Sea, the United States and China have simultaneously conducted military exercises, dueling big boat deployments that threaten to tilt the volatile maritime region ever closer to a superpower conflict.
Also in July, Chinese warplanes have violated Taiwan’s airspace on an almost daily basis (in response Taiwan’s defense forces carried out major live-fire drills on the country’s west coast).
With the eastern Mediterranean in mind, the United States is planning to conduct military training with Cyprus related to tensions flared over Turkey’s drilling for gas reserves near Greek islands.
Finally, in the South Caucasus Azerbaijan and Armenia have clashed -also during July- on their border in a new escalation of their long territorial conflict.
What is in dispute?
Indian Ocean: Some 80% of the world’s maritime oil trade flows through three narrow passages of water, known as choke points, in the Indian Ocean. This includes the Strait of Hormuz which provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean. Actually, the Indian Ocean is becoming a pivotal zone of strategic competition, with China investing hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure projects across the region as part of its One Belt One Road initiative. Also important is the increasing role of Russia and Saudi Arabia in the Western Indian Ocean, fact that has gone fairly unnoticed.
South China Sea: bordered by Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, the South China Sea is a critical commercial gateway for a significant portion of the world’s merchant shipping, and contains significant reserves of undiscovered oil and gas. Some countries (like Japan and South Korea) rely heavily on the South China Sea for their supply of fuels and raw materials and as an export route. U.S. also have interests in the South China Sea, tied to economic sea-lanes; defense ties with allies and other security partners; and implications for the global balance of power and influence.
Eastern Mediterranean: linked to vital waterways such as the Suez Canal, the Strait of Gibraltar and the Bosporus, the Eastern Mediterranean is crucial for Middle East, North Africa, West Asia and Southern Europe. Furthermore, is reemerging as a crucial crossroads and becoming a massive hydrocarbon subsea riches, that could turn the region into one of the world’s most important sources of natural gas over the next half-century. Fully exploited, could transform the international energy market, reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. The Eastern Mediterranean is home to the largest offshore natural gas discoveries of this millennium, with prospects for significant additional findings.
South Caucasus: the South Caucasus played an important role in regional geopolitics, because of its special geographical position at the crossroads of Asia, Europe and the Middle East, acquiring also special significance in the post-Soviet period, when significant oil and gas fields were discovered in Azerbaijan and Central Asian countries. Great prospects are opening up in the construction of new gas and oil pipelines from Central Asia and Iran along the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and further to the EU countries.