January 20, 2014

Distinctive Features of the Development of the Geopolitical Situation in the World in 2013. Part 3

Peculiarities of the development of the situation in other regions of the world-2

 

Middle East and North Africa

The development of the events in the region was complicated and multifaceted primarily due to all sorts of socio-economic, political, ethnic and religious conflicts being unsettled. However, it should be noted that in solving of the Iranian nuclear problem there were some positive changes.

The most problematic country in the Middle East remained Syria, where an armed conflict between the government and opposition does not stop. In August 2013 the situation worsened due to use of chemical weapons on Syrian territory. In these circumstances, the USA and its allies decided to enhance pressure on Syria, showing their willingness to interfere into the current events. Soon the situation was resolved thanks to the compromise reached between the USA and Russia, which agreed to transfer Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles under the control of the international community for their liquidation. Under the control of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, started transportation from Syria of chemical weapons and their destruction on a special ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

In parallel, was being prepared the second International Conference, where had to be determined ways out from the Syrian conflict.

But this does not exhaust the Syrian problems. After all, positions of the government and the opposition forces of Syria are still far from conciliation. Besides, among the opponents of the Syrian government increases the number of radical Islamists. The list of disagreements on the Syrian issue between Western countries and Russia does not decrease either.

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Markedly has changed the situation in Egypt, the confrontation between the Islamists and the secular population had lasted for a long time. It actually began in early July 2013, when the military leadership of Egypt ousted from the leadership the ruling alliance, led by the Islamist party “Muslim-Brotherhood” and President M. Mursi, and instead appointed a temporary authorities (including Interim President A. Mansur), who became the head of democratic reforms (adopting also some amendments to the Constitution of Egypt). Among the principal of such changes was prohibition of activities of “Muslim-Brotherhood” in the country. Was also prohibited to create political parties on religious basis. The leaders of the Egyptian Islamists ignore this prohibition and gather supporters at protests, which often turn into massive clashes with police and supporters of secular political forces. Tensions in Egypt are also aggravated by terrorist activities of Islamic extremist groups which got activated in the North of Sinai.

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No less confusing events are observed in other countries of the region, particularly in Iraq, where the armed confrontation between local Shiites, Sunnis and members of other religious groups was provoked by the intention of the Shiite leadership of the country to monopolize power; in Libya, where armed clashes were caused by the never-ending feud between members who used to be part of rebel groups, and separatism in the Eastern and Southern regions of the country; in Lebanon — because of the relentless conflict between supporters and opponents of the current regime and opposition forces of Syria; in Yemen, where armed clashes were caused by deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the country and inter-religious conflict between Shiites and the Salaphites.

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As for the positive regional factor in the development of the situation, it was the resumption of negotiations between Iran and the “International Six” on the settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue. At the talks in October 2013, the Foreign Minister of Iran proposed a phased implementation of the plan for solving the problem, which provides maximum openness of Tehran's works on the nuclear issue and cessation of uranium enrichment up to a certain level in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions and recognition of the IRI’s right to implement a peaceful nuclear program. Iran's leadership even launched a number of initiatives, in particular relating to negotiations with the United States and resumption of diplomatic relations with Great Britain.

In general, the reaction of the United States and other Western countries to Tehran's initiative was positive, and they have not ruled out the possibility of easing the sanctions imposed against Iran. However, as Iran continues to enrich uranium, these sanctions are not canceled. But even these aforementioned positive developments in the negotiation process reduce tensions around Iran and help improve security in the region.

 

Asia-Pacific Region

The main aspect in the development of the situation in the region is new sources of tension and potential conflicts in the Asia-Pacific region against the background of rivalry between the USA and China.

First of all here are meant contradictions between the PRC and a number of APR countries, particularly Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, claiming the island territories in the South China and East China seas. Their confrontation escalated after the new state leadership of the PRC at the beginning of 2013 began to more firmly defend Chinese interests, including in matters of disputed islands.

During the year this was clearly seen in the confrontation between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands(Chinese name Diaoyu Islands) in the East China Sea. Justifying their right to insular areas, both countries tried to resort to military force, which under certain circumstances could have escalated into a regional armed conflict. By the way, the United States supports Japan as one of its main allies in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Another factor in the Asia-Pacific Region is the relentless tension over North Korea (DPRK). This problem has a long history, but in the first half of 2013 it got considerably more complicated in connection with the North Korean nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, as well as due to its threats to use nuclear weapons against the USA military facilities and against South Korea. In response, the United States, South Korea, Japan and their allies strengthened the grouping of their troops in the APR, and held a few demonstrative military trainings.

In the second half of 2013 on the Korean Peninsula took place some positive changes. Under the pressure from the international community, the DPRK leadership agreed to suspend its works on creation nuclear weapons, to sit down at the negotiating table with the “International Six” and discuss the national nuclear program, as well as to examine the conditions of signing a peace treaty with South Korea (RK). The work of the joint economic zone on the border between the DPRK and the RK also resumed.

But these positive developments have not improved the state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula, even because the confrontation between the DPRK and South Korea and the United States continues, and North Korea will not stop its work in the nuclear sphere, including on the commissioning of new reactor capacity.

 

Arctic

Facilitating access to the natural resources of the Arctic due to global climate changes explains the increased attention of the leading countries of the world to the region.

The most active position here is that of the Russian Federation, which began a complex of organizational, scientific and technical activities to consolidate the Arctic Shield, which runs from its coast to the North Pole. At the same time Russia is increasing its military presence in the Arctic, renewing and deploying for this purpose new military bases (including air ones).

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The leadership of the United States of America in 2013 adopted a National Arctic Strategy, which involves the activation of the USA's actions on the development of natural resources, development and adoption of appropriate legislative basis.

At the same time, at the beginning of last year, was created a Consultative Forum on the Arctic, with the participation of heads of governments and parliaments of the so-called Nordic Council, which includes Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Chinaalsoshowsits interest to Arctic. It has started creating its own Arctic icebreaker fleet and is reflecting on how to get access to the Russian Northern Sea Route.

 

Other factors of influence on the world and regional processes

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Conflicts took place not only in the Middle East and North Africa. They were also observed in other regions of the world, in the first place — in the Balkans, in Asia and Africa. In particular, most resonant events took place in Kosovo, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and South Sudan and Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, where Ukrainian peacekeepers are fulfilling their tasks.

In the past year the relations between Serbia and Kosovo fundamentally changed. These changes were initiated by the Agreement on the Principles of Normalization of Relations, signed by the above-mentioned sides, enabling Serbia and Kosovo to join the EU and thus to stabilize the situation in the Balkans. At the same time for the implementation of the above-mentioned Agreement, it is necessary to eliminate the contradictions between the leadership of Kosovo and leaders of the Serbian territorial community, relating to the activities of parallel Serbian authorities in Northern regions of the Republic. Also a negative reaction among Albanian and Serb nationalists causes EULEX-Kosovo Mission, responsible for investigating the facts of criminal activity of representatives of the former “Kosovo Liberation Army” and of Serb extremists against Kosovo authorities and international peacekeeping missions.

Even harder, with serious conflicts, events were developing in Asia and Africa. Thus, the situation in Afghanistan was characterized by vigorous activity of radical Islamist forces, headed by the “Taliban” movement, while the number of International Forces (ISAF have to leave the territory of Afghanistan before the end of 2014) was decreasing and there were preparations for the local presidential elections. In this case, at strengthening anti-terrorism measures on the Afghani territory, the local authorities, the US leadership and ISAF Commandment accelerated negotiations with moderate part of talibs on peaceful settlement of the long-standing conflict.

Please note that to resolve the situation in Afghanistan will be extremely difficult because of the intransigence of Islamists, political contradictions in the country, the weakness of Afghanistan's Security Forces, as well as due to the unresolved question of the future American military presence on Afghani territory (as one of the main security guarantees in the country).

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo there was an armed confrontation between government troops (with the support of UN forces) and rebel militias of the “March 23 Movement” (supported by Uganda and Rwanda) for control over Southern regions of the DRC, where there are valuable natural resources (diamonds, uranium, rare earth metals and the like). After a long period of instability, at the end of the year the Armed Forces of the DRC managed to win a decisive victory over the rebels, which predetermined the peace negotiations. The government during this time had regrouped its forces and began an active struggle against other rebels — the “Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda” and “Mai — Mai”.

Significant problems in the relations between Sudan and South Sudan occasionally erupted into armed clashes on the border between the two countries. The parties did not recognize, for example, the results of the referendum on the status of the Abiey state (held in October 2013 at the initiative of local tribes) did not agree with the principles of transporting of South Sudanese oil through Sudan, put forward of mutual accusations of support of illegal armed groups. The situation in the region was destabilized by anti-government protests in Sudan because of some socio-economic problems, the armed stand-off of supporters of the current President of South Sudan S. Kiir and former Vice-President R. Machar.

In contrast to the just mentioned countries, the situation in Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia was relatively stable, with the exception of the tension between them on the border, where illegal armed groups of various rebels were bossing. Trying to neutralize the rebels, subunits of the Armed Forces of Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, with the support of the UN Mission (Ukraine's Armed Forces' helicopters included) conducted special operations in the border areas.

 

Separate sources of the threats of global and regional levels are international terrorism and maritime piracy.

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Last year were fixed active sabotage and terrorist activities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and some other countries. But one of the most resonant events was the capture by Islamic extremists of the shopping center in the capital of Kenya — Nairobi, where at least 60 people were killed and more than 300 civilians were injured, including relatives of the President of the country, citizens of the USA, Canada, China, France and some African countries.

In connection with the intensification of the activities of NATO, the EU and other countries against pirates in the Horn of Africa, in 2013 was observed the movement of the center of piracy to other regions, particularly to the Gulf of Guinea, the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca.

 

All of the above-mentioned processes and events directly affect the national security and interests of Ukraine. First of all, we mean here the change of the balance and disposition of forces in the world and around our state, taking place in the process of formation of a new multi-polar world order. Today, in the current system, apart from Russia, EU/NATO and the United States, a powerful factor of influence in Central and Eastern Europe can also be considered China, whose role in the development of economic and to some extent of political processes in the region is becoming more visible and strengthened. This trend determines diverse consequences for Ukraine, which on the one hand, due to the complicated situation in CEE, where regional rivalry between the leading countries of the world grows, including for the opportunity to have an influence on Ukraine, and on the other — give our state more ability to maneuver in the new system of relations between the West, Russia and China.

Proceeding from this, the main threat to us has remained and will remain further Russia's insistence to resume its influence at the former Soviet territories, primarily — by establishing its full control over Ukraine.