WITH President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. opening up nine bases of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to American forces gearing up for possible war with China over Taiwan, the world’s three major regions — Europe, North America and Asia — are now divided into two fiercely armed blocs.
On one side is the West, including the United States-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), plus US allies Japan and Australia. On the other is the “East,” as China, Russia and their allies, like Belarus and North Korea, are sometimes labeled.
Just over a month ago, it seemed that Asia might resist the lure or pressure to join superpower blocs. During his January visits to Beijing and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, President Marcos said the region was under pressure to pick sides in the superpower rivalry, but preferred not to.
But during the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in early February, Marcos took America’s side, granting its request to escalate military deployment in the country with access to nine AFP bases, mostly on Luzon and Palawan — a crucial strategy in Washington’s plan to counter the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), China’s armed forces, in a possible conflict over Taiwan.
US Marines in Okinawa, the Japanese island chain close to Taiwan, have also intensified missile training, while Japan itself has adopted a new defense policy to transform the entire Japan Self-Defense Forces for rapid deployment at home and abroad. And after the recent Marcos visit to Tokyo, a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan is now being discussed.
Add to that last year’s Australia-United Kingdom-US or Aukus pact to arm Australia with American nuclear-powered submarines and long-range cruise missiles, eventually enabling Australian naval vessels to face off with the PLA Navy.
All this comes as NATO and Russia have intensified their face-off in Europe in the Ukraine war, now nearing its first anniversary on February 24. With Moscow’s long-expected new offensive now under way and expected by some experts to crush the Ukrainian Army, the threat of direct NATO-Russia conflict looms.
As if Eurasia and North America in potential conflict weren’t enough to justify world war rumblings, geopolitical analysts are lately watching the docking of a major Russian warship in South Africa and the continent’s leading military power joining naval drills by Russian and Chinese forces. Oh, and Beijing and Moscow have long been building ties with African and Latin American nations on top of their long-standing Middle East ties, especially with adversaries of the West.
Who wins, who loses
With East and West positioning for possible conflict, weapons manufacturers and developers are working triple overtime to ramp up arsenals and mobilize troops. After decades of limited defense budgets, NATO is deliberating how its armies could be quickly armed and expanded for possible war with Russia, which itself has mobilized Europe’s largest army, said to number half a million to 1 million troops.
Now that America and its allies are set to redouble forces in Japan, the Philippines, and the seas around China, expect Beijing to accelerate its arms build-up. Thus, instead of making Asia more secure, America’s move to weaponize the Philippines and revive Japanese force deployment abroad looks set to make the PLA even more powerful and fearsome.
Think hypersonic missiles, stealth aircraft, cyberweapons. You definitely ain’t seen nothing yet. Sure, Uncle Sam will have equally or even more advanced armaments. But that is little comfort to Asian nations, most of which are not under US protection. With rising war and weaponry threats, more of the region may indeed turn to Washington for security, just as Europe is now doing.
And that may well be the big win for the US, whose latest National Security Strategy, published just last October by the White House, explicitly states as its top global priority “Out-Competing China, Restraining Russia.” All Asia and Europe allied under Washington for fear of Beijing and Moscow.
Unable to match China’s trade and financial prowess swaying most developing nations, plus Russia’s cheap energy wooing Europe, America can now vault back into leadership across the Pacific and the Atlantic through its remaining geopolitical advantage: military power. It was of little import during peace, but now with war looming, guns again beat butter.
What can go wrong? Well, World War 3, of course.
With the world’s most powerful militaries set to face off at or within the Ukraine border and across the East China Sea and the South China Sea, war risk cannot but surge in coming months or years. Miscalculations, mistrust, mistakes and other miscues can unleash armies geared up for conflict.
While Europe has long been dependent on a balance of power to keep the peace, Asia was moving toward a different peace paradigm with nations and powers focused on commerce, not competition.
Yes, there were frictions, including Chinese encroachments and actions in the West Philippine Sea. But there seemed to be moves toward peaceful dialogue and resolution.
Until this month. Now, Asia is turning to armed might, just like Europe.
As the Book of Revelation had warned and the big powers are unfolding, the White Horse of Conquest and the Red Horse of War are now riding across the globe (“The Cold War is getting hot. Pray it won’t go global,” https://www.pressreader.com/philippines/manila-times/20220811/281612424175937).
God help us.
Source : The Manila Times