Predicting where future wars and conflicts will erupt is a hard game. Notably, in 1914 no observer expected World War I to breakout in Serbia, but it did.
Our modern world is full of trouble spots that could be the starting points for future wars. Frighteningly, few journalists, pundits, and politicians are paying attention to these conflict zones.
Something to remember is that a war’s starting point is rarely the major theater of action. The major battlefields of World War I were in Poland, the Western Front, Russia, Palestine, Italy, Iraq, and Gallipoli. Serbia became a sideshow few people paid attention to by October 1914.
Where will they fight the Next War?
Thus, they probably will fight a war that begins that begins in one of these flashpoints. elsewhere.
My suspicion is cyberspace will be the major battlefield in the next war. Cyberspace will be the principal front because digital warfare is cheap and easy to contain.
For example, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could retaliate for an American defense of Taiwan by launching a cyberattack on the American banking and power systems. Similarly, the US military could respond to a Chinese attack on Taiwan with a cyberattack on China’s rail system.
The trillion dollar question is if they can restrict the war to cyberspace. Remember, the Great Powers of 1914 could not restrict World War I to the Balkans. For example, they could escalate the next war with drone attacks.
Places where the Next War could Start
I think the most obvious danger of war is in Central Asia, in particular Afghanistan.
An important portion of the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative; or New Silk Road, runs straight through the region. The Belt and Road Initiative is a series of rail, highway, sea, and presumably pipeline and cable connections between Europe, India, and China.
Three of the four land routes for the Belt and Road run through Central Asia, with at least one in Afghanistan. The Afghan route follows the historic Silk Road between Europe and Asia.
To build the Belt and Road, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army will need to secure the region. I think that will lead to conflicts with the United States, Russia, and India. First regional governments will try to bring in the US a counterweight to the Chinese. If the US will not come, those governments will turn to India.
Second, the region is historic Russian territory conquered by the armies of Tsar Alexander II. The Russian nationalist President Vladimir Putin or his successors will resist any Chinese or Indian move into the region.
I think a probable scenario is that Putin or his successors will try to bring the USA back into the region as a counterweight to the People’s Republic of China. My suspicion is that Putin or his successors will try to build an alliance with the USA. Remember, Putin already tried that through his relationship with Trump.
The Kremlin needs a US alliance because Russia is poor and weak, and its population is falling fast. In particular, Russia will need US military help to maintain its empire.
The leadership class in the USA loathes Putin. However, there are Christian nationalist elements in the Republican Party who will want an alliance with White Christian Russia. Remember, Trump tried to form such an alliance.
My prediction is that the National Security State in the USA and its neoconservative allies in Congress will try to sabotage the Belt and Road. Other potential Belt and Road opponents include India’s Hindu Nationalist BJP and Iran’s hardliners. I suspect the Ayatollahs will be as hostile to Godless Chinese Communists as they are to American infidels.
The US is pulling out of Afghanistan. US Forces exited Bagram Airfield, their largest base in the country early in July, CBS reports. President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) told reporters US troops will be gone by 31 August 2021, 12 days early.
My suspicion is that within a few years there will be pressure in Washington to arm the Taliban to fight the Chinese menace. Remember, the US armed Afghans to fight the Soviets in the 1980s.
An American Chinese proxy war in Afghanistan could be messy because today’s People’s Republic is far richer and far more capable than the Soviet Union. China is America’s largest trading partner and is on the verge of becoming the world’s largest economy. Notably, the US had a $189.690 billion trade deficit with China in the first five months of 2021, the US Census Bureau estimates.
Moreover, the Centre for Economics and Business Research claims the Chinese economy will be larger than the US economy by 2028. The Centre’s experts think China’s “skilful management of the pandemic” could speed its growth, Reuters reports.
I think the US is not in a position to challenge China now because the US military depends on Chinese industry for hundreds of essential components, Reuters claims. Under the best-case scenario, I think it will take several years for the US to be in a position to challenge the China military.
Consequently, I think the US will make indirect attacks on China. For instance, with cyberwarfare or proxy warfare by guerrillas. Furthermore, I think Central Asia is one of the logical theaters for those attacks.
I think Central America and the Caribbean could be a more dangerous point of conflict than Central Asia. To explain, the Caribbean is a point of conflict few people see coming.
However, one of the Belt and Road Sea Routes goes through the Panama Canal; built by the US government, and the Caribbean. Thus the Belt and Road runs straight through America’s backyard in violation of the Monroe Doctrine.
Notably, this sea route deliberately bypasses the Mainland United States. Conversely, the same route passes close to Hawaii, a US state and naval base.
I think there will be political pressure in the United States and in Latin America to block this effort. The pressure could coincide with growing political unrest and economic chaos in Central and South America.
Central American countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, and El Salvador are being torn apart by growing drug violence. Meanwhile, both Colombia and Venezuela are experiencing massive protests that Aljazeera labels a class war. Recently, the President of Haiti has been assassinated and there have been coup attempts in Venezuela and Bolivia that are reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s.
Latin America’s history shows the region’s political chaos will ensnare China. Chinese involvement will become inevitable if they deploy the PLA’s Navy to protect the Belt and Road corridor through the Panama Canal.
A grave danger will be countries such as Panama and Cuba trying to play the United States and China against each other.
Another conflict area few see coming is South America, particularly Bolivia. One maritime corridor of the Belt and Road runs to Chancay, Peru.
The maritime corridor goes to Chancay to give the People’s Republic access to Bolivia. Bolivia contains one quarter of the world’s lithium supply, including the largest deposit of the mineral.
Lithium is a vital ingredient in the batteries that power electric vehicles. The Chinese government has plans to phase out gas burning cars by 2035 to combat climate change.
Thus, Chinese manufacturers will need enormous of amounts of lithium unless there is a major advance in battery technology. Reuters estimates the Chinese electric vehicle industry will require 800,000 tons of lithium by 2025.
Other countries including Japan, the United Kingdom, and France have similar plans to eliminate fossil-fuel burning vehicles. Hence, whoever controls the lithium could have an enormous amount of power.
Notably, Bolivia suffered a coup in 2019 and there have been allegations of a more recent coup attempt using US mercenaries. Some observers claim the coup was an attempt to keep former President Evo Morales from monopolizing the lithium supply. American leftists blame the US government for the 2019 coup but offer no evidence to prove their allegations.
Moreover, the Bolivian government has arrested former President Jeanine Áñez and several others for their role in the 2019 coup, the BBC reports. I think Lithium causes Bolivia’s chaos.
Notably, Morales’ government chose a Chinese consortium as its “strategic partner” on $2.3 billion in lithium projects in February 2019, Reuters reports. The military overthrew Morales in a November 2019 coup. Under the deal, the Xinjiang TBEA Group Co Ltd owned a 49% stake in a joint project with the Bolivian state lithium company YLB.
“Why China? There’s a guaranteed market in China for battery production,” Bolivian President Evo Morales said on television. Morales was overthrown and is now sulking in exile in Mexico.
Expect to see more conflicts over lithium in Bolivia and elsewhere. Bolivian lithium could become a major flash point, if a direct military alliance between Bolivia and China develops.
Moreover, Peru, the location of China’s lithium port of Chancay, is having a messy presidential election. One candidate Keiko Fujimori refuses to concede citing claims of election fraud, The Washington Post reports.
An American leftist observer; Intercept reporter and The Hill Rising host Ryan Grim, thinks Fujimori “sent up the Bat signal” to get American backing for a coup. Fortunately, American and Chinese observers appear to be ignoring Fujimori, the daughter of Peru’s former dictator.
Therefore, I think some sort of conflict over lithium in South America is probable. Hence, Lithium could be what oil was to the 20th Century, a cause of conflict. However, technological advances and the creation of new types of batteries could make lithium batteries obsolete.
Red Sea/The Suez Canal
The Red Sea is one of the most strategic corridors on Earth. It leads to the Suez Canal, the gateway to the Mediterranean and Europe.
In addition, the Red Sea runs right past Saudi Arabia, home to some of the world’s largest oil reserves and the world’s largest tourist attraction Mecca. A significant portion of China’s $1 billion a day trade with Europe passes through the Red Sea, The Diplomat estimates. Plus, the Koran commands the world’s one billion Muslims to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Predictably, the Chinese have run one of the Belt and Road Maritime Corridors through the Red Sea. Moreover, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s military, has established its first overseas base in Djibouti the entrance to the Red Sea. Notably, a US military base Camp Lemonnier is nearby with 4,000 American troops. There’s also a US drone base in Djibouti.
In addition, Chinese entities have financed Africa’s largest port and a railway to Ethiopia in Djibouti, a former French colony, The Washington Post reports. Moreover, a Chinese telecom company is building a cable that will transmit data from Kenya to Yemen under the Red Sea. In addition, Chinese companies are developing developing a $3.5 billion Djibouti International Free Trade Zone which could become Africa’s largest.
Control of Djibouti could give the Chinese control of the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, Saudi Arabia, and Mecca. That power could be enormous and the United States will not like it.
Expect conflicts between the US and China to develop in the Red Sea. In addition, expect India to get involved soon because Djibouti is on the Indian Ocean.
Conflict could become inevitable because the People’s Liberation Army plans to build and deploy dozens of new warships in the next few years, The Diplomat speculates. Those warships could include destroyers, frigates, and assault carriers. One use for those new ships will be to protect China’s interests in the Red Sea.
The South China Sea
The most publicized flash point is the South China Sea particularly, the Spratly Islands where the PLA has built sea fortifications on territory claimed by the Philippines.
There has also been a lot of speculation about an American response to a Chinese attack on Taiwan. Taiwan is an independent Republic, but the Chinese Communist Party considers it part of their empire. Both Taiwan and the Philippines are US allies. Indeed, the Philippines is a former US Colony.
I think conflict in the South China Sea is improbable because it is the place everybody is watching. Generally, great power conflicts break out in peripheral places where nobody pays attention, such as Bolivia.
One danger here is that the US Navy considers the South China Sea international waters while the Chinese Communist Party considers it Chinese waters. Hence, both the commanders of both navies think they are free to operate in the South China Sea.
Thus, an accident such as a shootout between Chinese and US warships is possible. A grave danger is that US warships are vulnerable to technologies such as drones and missiles. Hence, the Chinese could easily sink most of the US fleet, including aircraft carriers.
One reason I doubt war will break out in the South China Sea is that there are few economic interests there beyond offshore oil. However, a Chinese attack on Taiwan could change everything.
Russia is a poor country with a massive nuclear arsenal, a declining population, and vast natural resources. Parts of Russia are historic Chinese territory.
Russia’s Maritime Province, or Primorsky Krai, was part of China until 1860. Contains the critical port of Vladivostok, for example. The area north of China which includes Primorsky Krai, will be a tempting target for the People’s Republic in the future.
Notably two of the Belt and Road land corridors run across Russian territory. In addition, Russia has many natural resources the Chinese will want. Those include oil, coal, and metals.
We need to fear Russia because declining powers often start wars to protect their positions. For instance, the Austro-Hungarian Empire triggered World War I with its clumsy efforts to maintain hegemony in the Balkans.
Conflict could develop if the Russian Federation collapses or Russia tries to form an American alliance. A major conflict could breakout if the People’s Republic sides with Ukraine its conflict with Russia.
I think Russia is dangerous because it is weak and its government is irrational. One major threat is American cyberwarfare devastating Russia’s defenses and opening the door for Chinese conquest. Remember, Russia is waging cyberwar on the United States, which Americans will respond to at some point.
The strangest conflict could be a Chinese-Alliance against Russia. I think such an alliance is possible because of the hostility much of America’s elite has for all things Russian.To strengthen this alliance, many of America’s leaders have business dealings with Chinese entities.
Space, especially Mars
Conflict could develop on Mars because both Americans and Chinese have designs on the Red Planet.
The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology plans a large scale Earth-to-Mars fleet to colonize the Red Planet, Space.com reports. Similarly, American billionaire Elon Musk plans to build his own fleet of giant rockets he calls Starships to colonize Mars.
Musk’s company SpaceX has the backing of NASA and it is already testing Starships in Texas. Thus Musk could be on a collision course with the Chinese.
Other conflicts could develop over the Moon and orbital space. Notably, there is now a United States Space Force. The Space Force is a military organization designed to wage war in space. Thus, the Pentagon thinks a space war is probable.
Something to remember is that past great power conflicts sometimes spread far beyond the combatants’ homelands. During the Seven Years War in the 18th Century French and British forces fought in India, the Caribbean, and North America. Similarly, in the same conflict the British invaded the Philippines to fight France’s ally Spain. Tellingly, Winston S. Churchill labeled the Seven Years War (the French and Indian War to Americans) “the first world war.”
History shows wars spread to new frontiers such as space and cyberspace. Consequently, war or conflict in space is a possibility. I think a space war is possible because space could be a cheaper and more politically expedient battleground than Earth.
The 21st Century is a Dangerous Place
Therefore, the 21st Century could be a very dangerous place. All peace-loving people need to be on guard because there are many places where war could break out.