During the next four years, the man who occupies the presidency will face many serious challenges, none of which received any attention during the last election cycle or, bizarrely, any time during the presidential debates.
The American people may pay a high price for the media’s inability to prioritize, engage, and understand foreign affairs and international relations.
This is not a discussion of every foreign policy problem the president will face. The realm of strategic flashpoints is the area least likely addressed by the media since these are long-term strategic issues fundamentally based on geopolitics and astropolitics.
Thus, a brief primer will illustrate the strategic challenges the president will face. These are best exemplified by the potential flashpoints that condense the national security decision process into a short period. Eleven likely flashpoints could erupt during the next four years to some degree or another. Seven of the 10 involve China in a significant way.
The four remaining primarily involve Russia.
The first two Russian flashpoints are the Euro-Russian frontier stretching from Poland to Romania, and the second is the Baltics. These potential eruptions are all within the context that the EU is in directionless chaos. Russia continues to bully the Baltic and utilizes the ethnic Russian population as a potential menace while threatening to use gray-zone-hybrid warfare to destabilize Baltic independence.
They couple this with the Russian Air Force’s continual harassment of NATO forces and airspace. Now that the Baltic states are full partners in NATO, Russia’s attempt to use any type of force or threat of force must be considered an attack on American national interests.
Russia’s shadow is just as dark when it comes to Russia on the eastern European frontier. Russia has attempted to use energy as a weapon and campaigns hard to drive wedges between the east part of NATO and the core western powers. Needless to say, the threat of a “Soviet” style conventional attack has never evaporated.
Finally, we have Russia’s overt use of conventional strength and expansion into the Arctic, setting the stage for major territorial and resource grab.
The Middle East is a perennial hotspot, but it crosses into great power conflict with Russia’s specter. Russia’s power projection into Syria and its unholy relationship with Iran bolsters the two of the three worst regimes on the planet (the third being North Korea, which maintains close ties to the others.) Any calculation for American actions in Syria or Iran must factor in the Russian equation at some level, even if it is actively to ignore it.
The remaining seven flashpoints center on China’s hostile actions. Those don’t consider the tipping point where western nations will no longer take a passive attitude toward China’s human rights abuses. The next three flashpoints all have to do with China’s strategic maneuvering in Asia. China’s march toward hegemony is finding a demonstration in the South China Sea, which at some point could explode into an outright territorial grab beyond what they have done up to this point.
China’s naval actions make all of her neighbors in the Sea of Japan very nervous. China’s continued backing of the totalitarian regime in North Korea allows that regime a free hand to engage in nuclear weapons development and genocide at home and weapons proliferation abroad.
Two other flashpoints are in and around the sub-continent. The Indian Ocean and the Sino-Indian border illustrate India and China’s tension and conflict as India attempts to rebuff an Asia dominated by her enemy.
The 10th flashpoint is exceptionally dangerous. The potential for naval conflict or a maritime dispute that escalates again relates to China’s power projection, with conflict zones in and around the Taiwan and Tsushima straits a possibility.
Finally, and most importantly, is the realm of space power and space economics. The next few years will determine space leadership. China makes a clear bid for space supremacy with concrete policies and advances that will need to be aggressively and vigorously countered. We are the opening act of a real space opera.
All of these potential flashpoints will either not erupt or will be short-lived based on American decisions. America’s role as the dominant world power has created order, stability, and hope. Any American retreat from this role will enhance violence and chaos.