New Cold War and Taliban takeover among key geostrategic developments of 2021
The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the military coup in Myanmar and a new Cold War, with countries retreating in blocs again, were among the main developments seen in 2021.
As the curtains are set to fall in 2021, experts believe that Russia’s military build-up near Ukraine’s borders, Chinese claims over Taiwan and the South China Sea, coupled with its border standoff with the India, and the deepening of military and diplomatic cooperation between Moscow and Beijing have posed significant challenges to geopolitics.
The developments have also posed significant challenges for the United States’ plans to reaffirm its leadership, which, under new President Joe Biden, has reignited the “Pivot to Asia” strategy by placing more military assets in the Pacific. western. In August, the White House approved the sale of $ 750 million in arms to Taiwan.
In response to these maneuvers, China sent a record number of bombers and fighters to Taiwan’s air defense zone in a display of domination.
According to a report released by the Center for a New American Security, Russia and China have entered into a symbiotic relationship, raising new concerns for the United States and its allies. As Russia buys electronic components and Chinese navel diesel engines to circumvent U.S. sanctions, its missiles and combat technology give Beijing an advantage in the Pacific against the United States.
The possibility and likelihood of a two-war front not only worries India, which has tense borders with Pakistan to the west, but the association of Russia and China is also causing nightmares in the United States. United.
“The greatest risk facing the United States of the 21st century, barring an outright nuclear attack, is a two-front war involving its most powerful military rivals, China and Russia,” wrote one former American diplomat A. Wess Mitchell in the United States. National Interest magazine in August.
In addition, China’s firing of a hypersonic missile that moved five times faster than sound in July not only surprised the Pentagon, but also underscored how quickly Beijing launched a strategic challenge to it. US Army.
– China responds
Responding to China’s growing assertion, Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson jointly announced a new trilateral security partnership named AUKUS in September.
The most important part of the deal was the United States’ commitment to provide Australia with the technology to build eight nuclear-powered submarines. The press release announcing the pact justified it as necessary to âpreserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific regionâ.
The move, however, angered France, which fulminated because AUKUS ended a $ 37 billion deal with Australia in 2016 to build a dozen diesel-electric submarines. As a result, Paris recalled its ambassadors in Canberra and Washington, a gesture unprecedented in bilateral relations with either country.
The build-up of the Russian military near the Ukrainian border prompted Biden to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin by video link. Biden warned Putin that the United States will respond with strong economic and other measures in case Russia invades Ukraine.
But the year 2021 will make history with the dramatic return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan and their bloodless takeover of the capital Kabul in August.
In 2020, former US President Donald Trump struck a deal with the Taliban that required the withdrawal of all US troops by May 1, 2021. Two weeks before that deadline, Biden ordered a full US withdrawal be concluded by September 11 at the latest. 2021 – the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. But surprisingly, the Afghan National Army collapsed and the Taliban invaded the country.
The United States has spent more than $ 2.3 trillion in Afghanistan over two decades, or about $ 300 million a day for 20 years, according to the U.S. think tank Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
– The eviction of democracies and the wave of COVID-19
As a military coup in Myanmar in February toppled the democratically elected fledgling government led by controversial Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, far in Africa, another Nobel Prize-winning politician Abiy Ahmed pledged militarily against the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray. Some 2 million Ethiopians have been displaced.
The nascent democracies in Chad, Mali, Guinea and Sudan have all been overthrown in coups.
While the speed at which COVID-19 vaccines were developed was astonishing, the mutation of the virus and its new variants wreaking havoc across the world was also unprecedented. The delta variant, first identified in December 2020 in India, was more contagious than its predecessors and quickly became the dominant strain worldwide.
So far, up to 3.4 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19 in 2021, according to data tracking website Worldometer. Although COVID-19 was detected in 2019, it turned into a pandemic in 2020, claiming 1.95 million lives that year. In November 2021, South African scientists identified the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus, omicron.
The pandemic has exposed the UN-led world order, which has failed to provide a collective solution to the global problem. Only 4.2% of people in low-income countries received the first dose. In Africa, only 6.3% of people are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data, a monitoring website affiliated with the University of Oxford.
On the climate change front, President Biden has pledged to join the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office, while China has agreed to stop funding coal-fired power plants abroad and that Iceland has opened a facility to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
At the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, called COP26, in Glasgow in November, countries pledged to take action to tackle climate change, including reducing methane emissions.
– Some good news from the Middle East
The May 2021 conflict between Israel and the Palestinian resistance group Hamas made headlines around the world. A report by independent monitoring group Airwars found that the conflict has killed as many as 192 Palestinian civilians and injured hundreds more in 11 days of fighting. Israeli warplanes destroyed the offices of various media, including Al Jazeera and Associated Press.
Two journalists from the Anadolu agency, Mustafa Hassouna and Mohammad al-Aloul, were injured while covering an Israeli strike in the northern Gaza Strip.
The rest of the Middle East has brought good news as tensions between countries diminish. The year began with Saudi Arabia’s reopening of its border with Qatar, ending a three-year diplomatic crisis. Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have also mended broken ties, reflecting new realities emerging in the region. The UAE and Iran are discussing the possibility of normalization, or at least have been in contact to avoid conflict, according to a US-based think tank, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In March, Pope Francis met Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq, the very first meeting between a Pope and a Grand Ayatollah.
Biden’s victory had sparked optimism about the possibility of reviving the Iran nuclear deal three years after Trump resigned from the deal. But it took almost a year to secure modest gains in Vienna in the seventh round of talks. The parties are still far from an agreement.
– Economy contracts
Inflation and the economic downturn continued to hit the world. As demand increased in 2021 with the availability of vaccines, many countries found themselves running out of supplies. Shortages of shipping containers and safeguards at ports around the world have further complicated matters.
In the United States alone, the size of the workforce has shrunk by 5 million people since the start of the pandemic. The supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19, which have contributed to a global spike in inflation, continue to hit countries and could persist for years, according to the CFR.
By Iftikhar Gilani
– The writer is a senior journalist at the Anadolu agency.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Anadolu Agency.