Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
December 31, 2023
The following opinion piece is a typical reflection of Great Britain, unfortunately the sun has set a while ago. Their observations are not necessarily inaccurate, but the tone or the focus are misleading.
The war in Ukraine is a proxy war stoked by the US and fully supported by the West, including Britian of course. The goal is to degrade Russia and Putin in the land of Ukraine, while the US and his allies will only provide military hardware and some cash. But Ukraine’s allies in this war will not be directly involved means “no boots” on the ground of Ukraine. It looks like Putin underestimated the resolve of Ukrainians in the early stage of the war, but the west, including Britian, also overestimated their unprecedented sanctions against Russia. The net result is a stalemate at best in Ukraine, worse Ukraine is in a disadvantage: the war may end in 2024! China may be the only major power who can piece together a cease fire.
The Israel-Hamas war is turning into a big disaster for both Israel and Hamas. It is difficult to pin the blame on Iran for instigating this proxy war. Because Israel’s military actions in Gaza strip are determined to wipe out Hamas, no matter how long or how devastating! Israel will face international isolation and jihad terrorists for decades.
But the world in 2024 will face more dangerous challenges, where the Great Britian does not have any role to play:
- The US election while both leading candidates, Biden, and Trump, are labeled as “threat to Democracy.” If so, would Britain be ready to be the beacon of global democracy in 2025?
- DPRK is proven to be a nation equipped with nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles, her threat reaches out to the world, including England. Does Britian have any suggestions?
- The Indo-Pacific region, many consider it is a powder-keg, how Britian will enhance her peace efforts for the region?
2024 will be a critical year for the West and the world
Sun, December 31, 2023 at 2:00 PM PST
The new year dawns with the West being drawn in the direction that every diplomatic sinew has been straining to avoid – direct conflict with either Russia or Iran, or both. The relentless Russian air and missile attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine seem designed to demoralise its people just as the West is cooling in its support almost two years after the invasion.
However, the Ukrainians are now seemingly taking the fight into Russia, shelling the frontier city of Belgorod, with the loss of at least 20 lives. This was the first serious attack on Russian territory and drew a ferocious response from the Kremlin. Moscow’s request for a UN security council meeting to discuss the strike when their forces are pounding civilian targets in Ukraine on a daily basis is an insult to any concept of international law.
But whatever the justification for a cross-border incursion, the West has been desperate to avoid such an eventuality, especially if the weapons used were supplied by Nato. It marks an expansion of the conflict in a direction not easily controlled.
On this day two years ago, Western leaders and analysts were trying to discern whether Russia really was going to invade, having massed troops on the border with Ukraine. Many thought it was a bluff, but we now know that Russian president Vladimir Putin was deadly serious and on the verge of a miscalculation of historic proportions. He believed Ukraine would swiftly succumb to overwhelming force, Russian troops would occupy Kyiv and install a puppet regime, and the West’s impotence would be exposed for the world to see.
That it did not turn out that way owes a great deal to the extraordinary courage of the Ukrainian people. It was also made possible by considerable military and financial aid from Nato as the war rapidly turned into a proxy conflict between Russia and the West.
But early assumptions that the economic squeeze on Russia would strangle its economy and force Putin out of the Kremlin proved wide of the mark. He has tapped into a deep well of Russian victimhood to sustain support for his so-called “special military operation.”
As the West’s promise to back Ukraine “for as long as it takes” begins to fray at the edges, Putin will sense that his earlier calculation of waning interest abroad is beginning to show dividends. Sanctions have not brought Russia to its knees nor triggered a coup. Will 2024 see Nato back away further, especially in a US election year?
Matters are complicated by the spreading war in the Middle East. The West has been desperate to see this confined to an Israeli-Hamas fight, but the longer it goes on, with untold suffering in Gaza, the greater the likelihood that it will spread.
This is also a proxy conflict: the main protagonist is Iran, which sponsors and funds terror groups throughout the region, from Hamas in Gaza, to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi militia in Yemen. The latter have been threatening shipping in the Red Sea heading for the Suez Canal with drones and hijackings. Three Houthi boats attempting to intercept a container ship were sunk by the US navy in a legitimate act under international law against piracy in a vital shipping lane.
Western leaders must now contemplate a direct assault on Houthi positions inside Yemen to destroy its command and control structure, though this is something Saudi Arabia has been trying to do unsuccessfully for years.
The real command and control is in Tehran, which not only bankrolls these groups but continues to develop its nuclear programme in a flagrant breach of non-proliferation agreements. The country it threatens most directly is Israel, which the ayatollahs have long threatened to wipe off the map.
So far, Iran has stayed at one remove from the mayhem it is causing. The next stage may be to unleash Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is far better armed than Hamas – with thousands of rockets aimed at Israel, and battle-hardened militias.
The diplomatic and military conundrum at the start of this year, therefore, is whether it will be possible to continue taking a stand against Russia and Iran without triggering a direct conflict with either or both. As a nuclear power, Russia will persist in making dark threats about the consequences of Western involvement, while Iran will continue its nuclear programme until it has the bomb as well.
Moreover, the threats to world trade pose a challenge to China, whose goods are being held up by Iranian-backed action. Beijing should use its influence on both Moscow and Tehran to stop their adventurism. It cannot be in China’s interest to see it continue.
Russia and Iran are working together to undermine the West because democracies are vulnerable to public opinion and they sense that a year of elections will see its resolve weaken. The world is potentially facing its most critical year since the end of the Cold War and arguably since 1945. The autocrats must be faced down or the outlook is bleak indeed.