A World at Risk
The world faces the possibility of a Third World War, a worst-case scenario that could destroy the earth and its human inhabitants. Unlike in 1945, when the United States was the only country with nuclear weapons, in 2022 a total of seven nations (the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea) have acknowledged having such weapons (and Israel is widely believed to have them), a global total of around 13,000 nuclear warheads.
On Aug. 15, the journal Nature Food published a study that concluded that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan would kill an estimated 2 billion people worldwide, and 5 billion (nearly 2 out of 3 human beings) would die in case of an all-out nuclear war between Russia and the United States. Most of those deaths would be from starvation caused by a nuclear winter resulting from soot accumulation in the atmosphere blocking sunlight.
But let's set aside the madness of a nuclear circular firing squad going off and focus on the three most volatile areas of conflict and potential conflict: the ongoing war in Ukraine, the potential of war over Iran's nuclear program and the potential for conflict in Taiwan if the Chinese were to attack it.
Putin has demonstrated that he is unstable and unpredictable, and there is no telling whether he will go through with his threats of going nuclear. Just this week, he issued another televised nuclear war warning. "This is not a bluff," he said. Even when his troops were on the offensive, he was thinking and acting like a cornered wild beast; he is not likely to back away voluntarily and be satisfied with the status quo antebellum.
The status quo antebellum is even less acceptable to Ukrainians, who have endured systematic brutality (murder, torture and rape of civilians) at the hands of barbarous Russian invaders. Ukrainians rightfully want to restore their borders to pre-2014, which means regaining control of Crimea. And then there would be reparations to indemnify and help reconstruct the country.
The first three weeks of September have proven disastrous for the Russian military as Ukraine launched successful dual counteroffensives to recapture Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south. Russian forces have lost vast extensions of territory on both fronts. On Sept. 10, Ukrainian forces recaptured the railway hub city of Izum, an advance that New York Times reporters saw as "igniting a dramatic new phase" in the war. It is premature to suggest that these victories mark a turning point, but mighty Russia is currently on the run.
There are intelligence reports that Russia is running out of ammunition and weapons, and that it may have enough for six more months. Some reports claim that Putin's Russia made a deal to purchase artillery weapons and shells from fellow dictator, North Korea's Kim Jong Un.
He is also running out of fresh troops, announcing this week the activation of 300,000 reservists. Crowds of demonstrators immediately gathered in Moscow with chants of "no to war" and "send Putin to the trenches." The announcement has produced a mass exodus of Russians to bordering countries Finland and Georgia, and even Mongolia.
I still hold on to the belief, as I wrote shortly after Putin announced his "special military operation," that this will not end well for him and his oligarchs, and that as I foresaw in March, "whether in absentia or in person, alive or posthumously, Putin and his generals will eventually be tried for war crimes."
On another front, despite advances in U.S.-Iranian nuclear negotiations this summer, there are some areas of concern, including increased tensions and a confrontation between the U.S. and Iranian-backed militias in Syria. Iranian-backed militias targeted U.S. forces on Aug. 15, and the United States responded two weeks later, launching air attacks against areas controlled by those militias. Iran is also supplying Russia with advanced drone technology.
But precisely this week, tens of thousands of Iranian women and men have taken to the streets in protest of the killing of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini apparently at the hands of the regime's so-called morality police. Is this Iran's George Floyd moment?
With regards to China, a historical perspective reminds us that the Chinese have, for decades, followed a strategy of "peaceful" or "silent" rise, seeking to reestablish themselves as an economic superpower.
While Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders see gaining control over Taiwan as necessary and a matter of national honor, they remain rational global players who are unwilling to risk China's massive worldwide investments and access to the United States and Europe's markets.
It is telling that China is not openly selling weapons to its Russian ally. And all saber rattling aside, China's policy toward Taiwan echoes John Quincy Adam's early 19th-century Cuba "ripe fruit" policy: Why shake the mandarin tree when the laws of political and physical gravitation will eventually land Taiwan on Chinese ground?
Luis Martinez-Fernandez is the author of "Revolutionary Cuba: A History" and "Key to the New World: A History of Early Colonial Cuba." Readers can reach him at LMF_Column@yahoo.com. To find out more about Luis Martinez-Fernandez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www. creators.com.Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate Inc.