Thu, Nov 07, 2019 - Page 8 News List

PRC victory not forgone conclusion

By Robert Portada and Uttam Paudel

John Mearsheimer, in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, asserts that all great powers are revisionist to the core, endlessly seeking opportunities to maximize their share of world power.

As the third decade of the 21st century approaches, the great powers of the world are actively testing the tenets of Mearsheimer’s theory.

The withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria, combined with Turkish and Russian military operations to fill the vacuum, is only the latest example of great power initiatives shifting the boundaries that underpin the international sovereign order.

The post-Cold War status quo is no more. Russia has annexed Crimea, India has occupied Kashmir and the US, while reordering its presence in the Middle East, made a crude and unusual offer to purchase Greenland. As great powers advance claims on disputed or coveted territories, the question of China’s willingness to seize Taiwan is again rising to the top of international concerns.

However, a closer look at these events reveals that even as the geopolitical map is redrawn, Taiwan remains surprisingly safe. Indeed, China might have waited too long to make a military claim on it.

Russia and India carried out their respective invasions with shocking efficiency and precision. Taking cover in the dead of night, they marched in their troops and claimed the most cherished possessions their respective historical narratives could arouse.

In February 2014, masked Russian soldiers took over Crimea and consolidated Russian command of Sevastopol. A simultaneous public misinformation campaign allowed Moscow to deny what it was doing as it was doing it.

In March 2014, a quickly organized referendum declared Crimea independent from Ukraine, and gave Russia a pretext to incorporate Crimea and Sevastopol as federal subjects.

Just like that, the spoil of Catherine the Great and Russia’s most important military outpost on the Black Sea was enjoined to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expanding empire.

In August, thousands of Indian soldiers flooded into Kashmir and imposed a curfew. The military systematically shut down Internet access, schools and office buildings.

Although the territory was designated autonomous by Article 370 of the 1950 Indian constitution, a joint legislative and government process swiftly revoked it.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party justified this move based on the historic mandate the party received this year’s general election.

In both cases, constitutional and electoral processes were organized to follow rather than precede the military operations. Just as Russia sought no UN Security Council resolution to support its aggression against Ukraine, India occupied Kashmir before consulting its lawmakers, much less Pakistan or the broader international community.

The only real defense for Crimea or Kashmir was adherence to international norms prohibiting aggressive unilateral military action. Once Russia and India crossed this Rubicon, the disputed territories never stood a chance.

Following the occupation of Kashmir, US President Donald Trump made an unsolicited offer to buy Greenland from Denmark. The suddenness of the proposal, and the juvenile manner by which its rejection led to the cancelation of Trump’s visit to Denmark, led to comedic levels of incredulity from pundits and analysts.

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