Three Not So Frozen Conflicts

Barricade line separating interior troops and protesters seen as the conflict develops. Clashes in Kyiv, Ukraine. Events of February 18, 2014.

If anything is going to take your mind off Dominic Cummings and a global pandemic, a reminder that humanity can still annihilate itself the old fashioned way should do it.

Ukraine

Following its annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia has been engaged in a multi-faceted campaign of undermining and delegitimising Kiev’s authority in the Russian speaking areas of Ukraine. Although attention has focused on the Donbass region, Russia has created dozens of separatist groups and militias and helped coordinate their attacks on Ukrainian state forces.

More than 13,000 have died since April 2014. A framework ceasefire deal was agreed in Minsk in February of 2015, but fighting has continued at varying intensities since. The leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, claims Ukrainian troops continue to infiltrate the rebel territory. Ukraine and the West cite the rebels strangely easy access to Russian heavy weaponry and the use of Russian regular army personnel bolstering rebel ranks.

With Russia’s economy taking under the one-two punch of an oil price war with Saudi Arabia and the pandemic, Putin may be tempted to distract Russians with another bout of territorial aggrandisement.

Libya

When Western bombing helped to topple the regime of Colonel Gaddafi in 2011. the world lost an eccentric dictator and gained an oil-rich but institution-poor headache.

The Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Sarri, is officially recognised by the UN but holds little authority outside of Tripoli. Its Islamist leanings have made Western governments wary of overt support.  In Torbruk the Libyan National Army LNA of Field Marshall Haftar, playing on such Western fears, claims to be a bulwark against a new Islamist state on the Mediterranean, but his opponents accuse Haftar of being little more than a military dictator no better than Gaddafi.

Linking sub-Saharan Africa, the Arab world, and the southern entries to Europe, Libya has an outsized importance to any global or regional power. The GNA is backed by Qatar, Italy and most importantly Turkey which recently deployed a military presence in Tripoli. The LNA is supported by Russia, Egypt, the UAE, France, Joran and Saudi Arabia. The lawless situation in the south has proved a boon for countless people smugglers, gun runners, bandits and terror groups.

A sudden push, a lucky break, a palace coup or a virus induced civil disturbance could tip the balance and end the stalemate. But with neither side strong enough to control all of Libya, any sudden change could shatter what remains of the world’s largest failed state.

Indo-Chinese Border

You’ll be forgiven for never having heard of the Line of Actual Control, the demarcation line that separates Indian controlled territory from Chinese controlled territory in the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

On 10th May India reported scuffles between Indian and Chinese soldiers on the north bank of Pangong Tso, and later at Naku La in northern Sikkim. Since then there have reports of further face-offs at the Galwan Riber, Chanh Chenmo River valley, and at Demchok. Both sides have conducted mirror deployments, reluctant to allow the other from gaining any real or perceived local advantage. Official Chinese spokespersons have accused India of trespassing and blocking PLA patrols.

Last week Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was briefed by Army chief General Manoj Naravane on four incursions of Chinese troops vehicles, none of which have withdrawn.

As with all border standoffs, a misinterpretation or miscommunication can cause events on the ground to spiral hours before either government has time to respond. And, like Russia, if either government sense popular unrest brewing, military posturing is a quick unifying tool.

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