The United States of America, under Donald Trump, is opening two fronts simultaneously to take on what it sees as rogue regimes; one in Syria and the other in North Korea. The fact that both these nations are linked to one or another major geopolitical superpower — Syria with Russia and North Korea with China — gives a lethal edge to the US moves against the two mighty nations. While both these nations are patently wrong in many ways, there is little optimism about the US interventions making a positive difference to the situations.
The action of the Trump administration to militarily retaliate against Syria, after news broke of a chemical attack the regime of Bashar al Assad made on a local population, was both swift and surprising. It marked a major departure from the patience with which the past US administrations looked at Syria and the humanitarian crisis there.
What existed there recently was an understanding between Russia — close ally of the Assads for generations — and the US to find a negotiated settlement to the demand for a regime change. This patience was also in the context of the sway of the ISIS militants in major swathes of Syria.
Common understanding was that the first priority of both the US and Russia as also Assad was to neutralise the militants/terrorists. As of now, Syria is vertically divided into three parts — one region with the ISIS, another with the rebels fighting Assad, and the third with Assad. The issue is ticklish and handing of it requires both patience and perseverance.
Innocent civilians are the unfortunate victims in all instances. Fact remains that American interventions — interferences, rather — as always, have only worsened situations in the Middle East and beyond, including in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan where regime changes were effected through US military engagement.
It is predictable that the same fate awaits Syria if the Trump administration goes ahead with its military intervention plans. As of now, Syria has been put on notice, and the tenuous US-Russian understanding in tackling militants in the disturbed country has been broken. More of US intervention in Syria can set the Russians in a confrontation course with the Americans. The future would be unpredictable if two strong leaders — Putin and Trump — lock horns.
With Trump opening another front in North Korea, a rogue nation that the successive US administrations tackled with care, China is on the alert. There is no existence for North Korea without the moral and material backing from China; and the two are like bread and cheese.
North Korea’s frequent threats of nuclear and missile attacks against the US cannot be ignored. At the same time, if the American design is to militarily take on North Korea, it poses a threat to China as well. For, if the present regime of Kim Jong Un is made to fall, the resultant chaos would lead to a refugee flow to China.
This could be a justification for China to step into the US-Korea conflict. Also, if a pro-US government is installed in North Korea with help from South Korea, China faces the grim prospect of Americans breathing down their neck and right at the southern border.
Thus, if Trump takes the fight forward in Syria and North Korea, chances are that both Russia and China may open a united front against the US, creating a scenario worse than that of the Cold War era. Although this may sound immature and far-fetched at this moment, nothing is impossible in today’s world.
With Russia and China having their own problems between themselves on the eastern Chinese border, they have generally kept a distance from each other. Trump’s planned offensives could force the two large nations to bury their hatchets for now, which could be a major diplomatic setback for the US.
This could force cynics to surmise that a return to a geopolitical scenario worse than the Cold War era is a distant possibility. All the same, what cannot go unnoticed is the nerve on the part of the new US administration to face up to situations, unlike the sleepy responses of the Obama era.