The strategic situation at the turn of the year

Lothar Rühl


The riotous international events of 2017/18 had various front constellations, especially in the Near East, which came into being with the interventions of external powers and which now are cemented and have elucidated the perspectives of conflicts. The political initiatives of individual actors have created perplexity, but have relieved old differences for the time being, giving diplomacy chances like President Trump’s talks overture with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. In this case the rhetoric escalation of reciprocated threats with war and destruction was reversed on the climax of polemics into avowals of mutual esteem. Concerning the matter itself, everything has remained open. A general danger of war did not exist, not even at the climax of rhetoric confrontation. In the autumn of 2018 a second meeting was prepared. The Chinese armament for achieving air and sea superiority in the fringe seas of East Asia with the object of pushing back foreign powers, gaining offshore strongholds in other coastlands or on artificial islands, for a wider military power projection in the Pacific and Indian Ocean, could be neutralized by American escalation domination in a regional conflict. Thus, here is the truth test of the Chinese strategy: If American escalation dominance, powered by firmed second strike capability and reliable ballistic missile defence, is established in the Pacific region as a backing of the tactical-operational offensive capability of the US armed forces in East Asia against the coastal regions of China, Peking will have no real option of war against the USA. On the other hand, the Chinese submarines deployable at the moment lack low-noise propulsion, and the fleet lacks command and control capabilities as well as the organisation for an effective hunting after submarines. The Chinese expansion policy, regardless of its armament, strives for more economic opening of new markets, access to agriculturally useable areas, raw material and energy resources, by invading foreign political economies. Africa and Western Europe are the big target areas. The purpose of the new Chinese “Silk Road” is opening and using these areas for the benefit of the economic development of China, preferably under own control. This expansion has been happening for a long time already. In order to demonstrate the crisis reaction capability of NATO against the enhanced Russian power projections, like in the Baltic Sea or the Arctic Region, thus making them credible again as deterrent with conventional forces, in 2018 NATO called for the first large scale manoeuvre in Norway since 1990, planned with about 45.000 soldiers. The NATO manoeuvre of 2015 had been an intervention exercise, but the new one was an alliance defence exercise, with which the rapid deployability of the allied forces on the Northern flank was to be tested. The US President Donald Trump is in contradiction of his relationship, both with Russia and with China. On the one hand, he strives for an understanding with both of them; on the other hand, he has to react to the challenges of Moscow and Peking with confronting rigorousness. At home he has to prove independent from both the congress and the public. These are the conditions the permanent polarisation in the USA after the end of non-party foreign policy assigns to every president.