The situation in Asia Pacific remained volatile and uncertain amid “aggressive actions” between China and the United States. China tracked a US Navy warship as it passed through the Taiwan Strait and has its forces in the area on high alert.
Growing rivalry between United States and China for influence in South Asia continued. The paradigmatic case was Sri Lanka, which was warned by the United States against its tightening ties with China. (Sri Lanka is ratcheting up its relationship with China with multibillion-dollar BRI construction projects).
Actions to contain China’s expansion in the Indo-Pacific region continued: 1) India signed with United States a new defense agreement. 2) Japan and Vietnam have agreed to sign a defense deal. 3) The U.S. approved $1.8 billion in new arms for Taiwan. 4) U.S. persuaded Indonesia to align itself more closely to the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
Tensions diminished between China and India related to violent Himalayan border clashes. Senior Indian and Chinese military commanders were hold fresh talks aimed at ending a months-long standoff along their disputed border in Ladakh region.
In the South Caucasus, the fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over the separatist territory of Nagorno-Karabakh resumed, despite ceasefire intended to end heavy fighting over the mountain enclave.
The “changing dynamic” continued in the Middle East when, underpinned by the United States, Sudan normalise ties with Israel, shortly after Bahrain and UAE did.
The viability of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to fade, after Israel announced plans to construct new housing in the West Bank and in Judea and Samaria. UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain condemned Israel’s decision.
In Europe two key countries for both the West and Russia have seen their situation getting worse: Belarus and Ukraine. EU leaders broke a diplomatic deadlock and imposed sanctions on Belarus, while massive marches continue to protest against the President Lukashenko. Ukraine was affected by the worsening situation in Donbas.
Turkey provoked a new crisis in Eastern Mediterranean, with its plans to extend its illegal occupation in part of Cyprus. It is given short after tensions erupted between Greece and Turkey over the eastern Mediterranean’s energy rights.
The conflict between United States and allies and Russia related to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline escalate, after first ones implemented sanctions against companies involved in the construction of the pipeline, in a fresh attempt to prevent the Russia-led gas pipeline project from completing, as the pipeline could potentially deprive U.S. and its allies of billions of dollars.
In Africa, U.S made new attempts to push back Russian and Chinese influence in the continent. Among others, the United States tried to increase cooperation with Egypt to control some of the main joints in the eastern region of Libya, where oil is abundant, and where Russia would be approaching.
Tensions continue to escalate between China and Taiwan, stoked by the United States provocative maneuvers in the region. Tensions also escalate between China and the US over South China Sea issues, while countries in the region are being pressured by the US to pick sides.
India and Japan, two major swing powers in the Asia-Pacific, signed an agreement that shows their strategic convergence in their geopolitical interests in the Indo-Pacific region, with growing concerns about China.
Russia started to increase his homeland’s military presence in the Far East along the border with China and the wider Asia-Pacific, to make contingencies through sufficient military capabilities in a region which could be severely affected because of a potential conflict, mainly due to brewing tensions between the navies of the US and China.
For its part, Germany announced a set of Indo-Pacific policy guidelines, after recognize that the growing strategic uncertainty in the region is likely to have direct impact on Germany’s future security.
With regard to the China´s Belt and Road Initiative in Asia Pacific, Thailand announced in September it will cancel the Kra Canal, that would provided a strategic avenue for the Chinese Navy to dominate the Indian Ocean Region, and cut short oil supply by sea to China, avoiding the crowded Straits of Malacca. The decision is not only a major set-back for China, but a strategic gain for India.
Regarding anti-government protests in Asia Pacific, Thailand and the Special Administrative Region of China -Hong Kong- were affected during September by massive protests. In Hong Kong, protesters took the streets to protest against the government, accused of stalling to avoid the defeat of establishment candidates, and to show their anger at a draconian security law imposed by Beijing that is silencing dissent.
In Thailand, tens of thousands gathered in Bangkok for a major rally demanding the resignation of Thailand’s prime minister and reforms to the monarchy.
During September new clashes broke out between Indian and Chinese troops on their flashpoint Himalayan border in a further escalation of military tension between the nuclear-armed Asian rivals, despite peace talks between China and Indian External Affairs Ministers.
Also in September, Pakistan announced its plans to “provisionally” make the Gilgit-Baltistan region of disputed Kashmir part of the country, feeding Indian apprehensions that it might have to fight a two-front war against both China and Pakistan.
Almost at the same time, India woos Iran to keep China away from Chabahar (which connects India to Afghanistan, where India’s presence is linked to its rivalry with neighboring Pakistan). India has been worried about China gaining foothold in Chabahar, after Iran dropped New Delhi from infrastructure projects and started negotiating a long-term deal with Beijing.
China, for its part, announced that is willing to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan (almost at the same time Afghanistan reaffirmed their need for a new era of bilateral relations with Pakistan, which have often gone through periods of deep mistrust).
The CPEC -$62 billion BRI project aimed to connect China’s Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s Gawadar Port- could be affected by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, a strong ally of al-Qaeda), after the terrorist organization pose threats to projects linked to China’s BRI in northwestern Pakistan, according what some sources informed in September.
China is also concerned about Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan. It will mean a “fundamentalist Islamist theocracy” in control over a strategic territory.
Regarding anti-government protests in countries of South Asia, Pakistan was affected during September by rallies against Prime Minister Imran Khan, calling for Khan’s resignation.
In the South Caucasus, Armenian and Azeri forces exchanged fire over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, rekindling concern over stability in the region, which houses a corridor for pipelines carrying oil and gas to world markets, and has a strategic importance for Azerbaijan and Europe (as it provides energy and transport links to Georgia, Turkey and other countries of Europe for the Azerbaijani oil and gas). The region also maintains the pro-Moscow geostrategic balance in the Southern Caucasus region that straddles Eastern Europe and Middle East. Russia (pro-Armenian) has clashed with Turkey (pro-Azerbaijan) regarding Syria and Libya, but another direct confrontation because of Nagorno-Karabakh seems out of sight, according to several analysts.
UAE and Bahrain sign in September the normalization deal with Israel, sharing an interest in opposing Iran’s influence in the region and, on the other hand, the construction of a land pipeline for oil for shipping from the Mediterranean coast onto Europe and North America, that would be cheaper and safer by bypassing the dangerous and costly Straits of Hormuz and Suez Canal shipping routes. Iran and Turkey are already trying to take a unified stance against the deal. Fractured Palestinian political factions are working diligently in multilateral talks to restore unity.
As for Syria, Russia and the US have strengthened during September their forces in the northeastern, while the Islamic State operations have intensified in the region. Eastern Syria is a strategic region, as it is close to Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and the Mediterranean, in addition to the presence of oil fields.
On the contrary, the United States has decided to reduce troops in Iraq during September. They believed that Iraq local forces alone can prevent the Islamic State from returning. President Trump is also set to announce further troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, in accordance with a bilateral agreement signed with the Taliban.
Further, as usual, the United States announced during September fresh sanctions against Iran.
Regarding anti-government protests in countries of the Middle East, in Israel thousands of demonstrators took to the streets several times demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been indicted for corruption.
During September escalating tensions continue between Turkey and its coastal neighbors Greece and Cyprus over rights to search for energy resources in the region, while announcing the possibility that Russia will hold live-fire naval exercises in the eastern Mediterranean as a message from Moscow that it remains a major regional player in the disputed region. The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (Egypt, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Jordan and Israel) conformed a regional organisation -with France and United States support- that aims to counter Turkish harassment.
Other conflict that continued to plague Europe during September is the one caused by the events in Belarus. The United States and Europe announced they don´t consider Lukashenko the legitimately elected leader of Belarus, and considered sanctions against the country.
Russia issued strong support for beleaguered Belarusian President Lukashenko following weeks of opposition protests. Chinese leaders announced they will seek to protect their country’s BRI investments in Belarus, regardless of how the crisis evolves in that country.
Tags:geopolitical interest, escalation, uncertainty ,security , military tension, strategic regions, balance of power, power balancing, strategic convergence, potential conflicts.