Ignoring the real and present danger of war

Ignoring the real and present danger of war

European headlines and television have been dominated by the Greek crisis, but there are much bigger global problems facing us, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.

In superstitious societies, people are not allowed to talk about some dangers in case their conversation might be heard by 'the demons'. This can mean that people are not prepared to face danger.

Similarly, in today’s world some people in politics, society and the media try to avoid using the term war although it can become reality very quickly. The only sustainable way to protect ourselves from war is to recognise the reality of war and create a strong defence.

China held live-fire exercises involving ships, aircraft and land-based forces in the Yellow Sea last week. It also carried out a drill to simulate the re-supply of missiles in a combat environment.

A 3,000 metre airstrip is close to completion on an artificial island created by China in the disputed Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea. China claims authority over most of the strategically important South China Sea which is an important shipping route for trade.

The new airstrip allows China's air force to operate across Southeast Asia.

This is a small but important step in China's general military efforts and serves to confirm China's claim on the waters of the Yellow Sea in the north and the South China Sea in the south.

It also sends a message to nations off the Chinese coast and in Southeast Asia - Japan and South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam – that China wants to be recognised as a regional hegemonic power.

This is where China's interests clash with those of the US.

At the same time, China has announced a comprehensive surveillance programme on its own territory. Such programmes can be symptoms of a regime fearing its own population and/or preparation for armed conflict. Regimes which fear their own people can easily become aggressive in their foreign relations and take refuge in armed responses.

America’s armed forces globally are far superior to China’s. But this is a global perspective and does not reflect China’s regional superiority. This is exacerbated by US engagements across the world and, although the pivot is on Asia, the US cannot avoid involvement in other hot spots.

But while China rattles its sabre, Russia is also re-arming and flexing its military muscles in its own backyard.

Worrying facts emerged last week due to Russia's inability to recognise the rights of self-determination of former Soviet Union countries such as Ukraine, the Baltics, Georgia and Moldova.

Russian courts are reviewing whether the independence of the Baltics was legal. This reawakens the spectre of Crimea's annexation. Deliveries of natural gas, essential for Ukraine's economy, were stopped in order to hamper Ukraine's independence.

This almost belligerent behaviour is not the first concern of the US at the moment.

Hot spots in North Africa and the Middle East, and the shaky India-Pakistan-China situation, are adding to tensions and instability, exacerbated by Europe's weakness.

The largest danger facing the world today is China-US relations in the Pacific. Other global hot spots tie up US military capacity while any new conflict breaking out could easily trigger a chain-reaction leading to war.

Related reports:

Threat of war edges closer to Europe

The return of the Cold War

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