Yesterday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned that the world was becoming a much more dangerous place in the world. In an interview, he admitted, “It is more unpredictable, and it’s more difficult because we have so many challenges at the same time. We have proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in North Korea, we have terrorists, instability, and we have a more assertive Russia,”
His last point of a more assertive Russia comes just a few days before Russia plans to deploy over 100,000 troops around its border with Europe in one of the biggest military exercises since the Cold War, all without the supervision required by international agreement. In fact, ever since the Cold War, none of Russia’s military exercises have been done under the scrutiny of the outside world which leaves open many questions as to the capabilities, strength and tactics of the new Russian forces. The fact that NATO has been considered obsolete by Donald Trump has only served to frustrate many in NATO, especially when Trump indicated that the USA would not defend its allies unless it paid more in their militaries, as agreed.
Trump has changed his tone on NATO but it is the Russian connection and praise of Putin that irks many in Europe. To Americans, it is an enemy country, but to Europe, it is a clear and present threat. The Russian Bear is right on Europe’s doorstep and the tactics of divide and conquer are working far better than many in Europe would like to admit. It’s no surprise that Putin favoured both Brexit in Britain and Donald Trump in the USA since both events served to highlight divisions and stirred up ill-feelings between all parties.
Then we have North Korea and the growing tensions as Kim Jong-Un flaunted both international law and Trump’s red lines to build his own nuclear arsenal to secure his own power. Everything short of military force has failed to stop or deter North Korea which leaves the tantalising question as to whether the only option is indeed the military one. The outcome of such a conflict depends very much on whether China would defend North Korea, on who strikes first and where, how much resistance North Korea puts up and so on. The big question is, will North Korea deploy its own nuclear bombs during the conflict?
Donald Trump’s response to North Korea has been terrifying, promising ‘fire and fury’ to North Korea, disparaging China for their apparent lack of involvement and their mixed message concerning South Korea, promising support before threatening to tear up their biggest trade agreement with them. The military option, considered unthinkable during the Bush and Obama years, is now a widely-discussed topic which is bad enough in itself.
Worldwide instability and global terrorism are one of the biggest threats and yet one of the most difficult to analyse. On the one hand, you have the confusing and messy civil war in Syria and the various terrorist groups like ISIS while on the other hand, you have the homegrown domestic terrorism ranging from lone wolf attacks inspired by al-Qaeda and ISIS to the far-right rallies and occasional bombings and car attacks. Regardless of their ideas, the aim of any terror attacks is to spread fear and uncertainty, to violently oppose the state and divide people to the point where internal conflict is inevitable.
The world has become a much more dangerous place, mostly because the free nations of the world are faced difficult problems with few concrete solutions. The ability for these problems to converge all at once is perhaps the biggest obstacle, followed closely by the fact that the most powerful leader in the free world, the President of the United States, seems determined to make everything that much worse.
It’s worth nothing that Jens Stoltenberg, a Norwegian journalist and politician, began his career well into the Cold War which had reached a new peak of paranoia and uncertainty. He, like many of his peers and elders, went through a strange limbo of wondering whether nuclear war between the USA and the USSR would ever break out, as it almost did several times. He has seen the Cold War at its height and then seen the world move on after the USSR collapsed. When a man of his experience is concerned, we should be listening.
Like many of us, Jens Stoltenberg is worried about the safety of our planet and he’s right to be concerned. We should be as well.