The year 2022 had its surprises. The war in Ukraine is still raging, and it brought back both the specter of a potential war in Europe and conventional warfare. In 2023, there are several countries that have the potential to become global flashpoints, and they will require close attention.
Ukraine’s war with Russia has been going on since February 2022, but the situation is likely to get worse. According to Reuters, Russia used missiles to bomb several cities in Ukraine on December 29 and continued the attack with Iranian-made drones on December 30.
Russian president Vladimir Putin also increased conscriptions, indicating that he has long-term goals. In addition, Putin bought additional weapons from his allies.
According to the New York Times, Russia bought millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea. Similarly, Russia purchased hundreds of military-grade Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to launch attacks deep within Ukrainian territory, says the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The military ties between Russia and its allies are growing deeper, and there were recent reports of a second deal for hundreds of more UAVs. Axios notes that Iran plans to supply Russia with a limited number of missiles, expecting the war to continue in 2023.
Other countries such as the U.S. are uneasily observing the new partnerships between Russia and her allies. In a December 2022 interview with PBS NewsHour, CIA Director William J. Burns said, “What’s beginning to emerge is at least the beginnings of a full-fledged defense partnership between Russia and Iran, with the Iranians supplying drones to the Russians, which are killing Ukrainian civilians as we speak today, and the Russians beginning to look at ways in which, technologically or technically, they can support the Iranians, which poses real threats to Iran’s own neighborhood, to many of our friends and partners in Iran’s neighborhood as well.”
Putin did not expect his army to perform so abysmally in Ukraine. In 2023, he may double down on his efforts in an attempt to save his legacy and stabilize his regime. NATO Review notes that Putin has mentioned resorting to nuclear weapons in Ukraine, so it is clear that there is potential for the situation in Ukraine to further deteriorate.
Other Global Flashpoints: Serbia and Kosovo
In the Balkans, small things can turn into a global crisis. A seemingly minor disagreement about license plates may become a problem in 2023.
According to the BBC, “Kosovo authorities want the ethnic Serb minority to surrender their Serbian-issued plates. Serbia does not recognise Kosovo’s independence.” BBC also noted that as of November 22, talks mediated by the EU have failed to resolve the conflict.
After Kosovo became independent in 2008, the Serbian community in northern Kosovo has pushed back on the central government in Pristina. The license plate problem is seen by many as an attempt by Pristina to exert domination over Serbian territory.
A country where the majority of the population is Albanian Muslim, Kosovo has dealt with tensions with the small Serbian minority (about 5% of the population) for years. The government in Belgrade has backed up the Serbian community, making this area a possible global flashpoint.
To further complication the situation in Kosovo, there are international NATO peacekeepers in the region, according to CNN. CNN said that NATO “has about 3,700 troops stationed in Kosovo to maintain the peace,” and those troops are prepared to intervene if necessary. In addition, CNN stated, “The European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), which arrived in 2008, still has around 200 special police officers there.”
As history has proven, a war in the Balkans can quickly spill over to other countries. The situation in Kosovo will bear close monitoring.
China and Taiwan Could Also Become Global Flashpoints
China’s tensions with Taiwan have been rising steadily. After Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022 that defied the Chinese government, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is still a possibility.
Recently, Taiwan made a public decision to extend its mandatory military service requirement from four months to one year. This action was meant to increase Taiwan’s level of combat readiness in anticipation of Chinese aggression.
According to National Public Radio, (NPR) Paul Huang, a research fellow at the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation, stated that “we need to build our deterrence, maintain a credible deterrence, which by current situation, Taiwan’s military, I think, is pretty inadequate in terms of organization, its training and leadership.
“And that is something the United States could push Taiwan, because the hardware, they provided. They sold to Taiwan. But those – the software and people, I think that’s what counts.”
The U.S. position in regard to Taiwan demands we all pay close attention to current developments. Ideally, Xi Jinping will see what happened to Putin with Ukraine and learn a valuable lesson.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Iran has internal problems. In addition, the uncertain future of its nuclear deal could also lead to a military flareup.
Close Attention Should Be Paid to Global Flashpoints around the World
The U.S. and its allies need to pay close attention to various global flashpoints. The year 2023 could turn out to be a very complicated year with the potential of destabilization in the countries of Europe, the Far East and the Middle East. Conflicts in these regions could drive global politics and the world economy into a spiral.