Border tensions between Russia and Ukraine, rising China and the Covid pandemic could combine to create a great depression



As the global economy continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, speculation among economists and Wall Street analysts is building that this decade could be a repeat of the prosperity and growth of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ .

But beyond the takeovers in countries like the United States and Australia, driven by billions of dollars in government support, things are much more reminiscent of the economic upheaval and geopolitical mess of the 1930s.

As the pandemic continues to rage across much of the world and people count the cost of its lives, “the times they change,” to quote legendary songwriter Bob Dylan.

After decades of perceived stability after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the pandemic created conditions similar to the early days of the Great Depression across much of the world.

A world in crisis

In the developing world, 134 million people have moved out of the middle class since the start of the pandemic, reversing years of progress in lifting those millions out of poverty.

Entire countries have been plunged into economic or social upheaval. Turkey has seen the value of its currency collapse, the military has seized power in Myanmar and political instability continues to increase across the world.

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The global superpowers are also increasingly pushing their limits in an atmosphere of uncertainty, which is arguably exacerbated by the presence of a new administration in Washington.

From areas of active combat in the disputed Donbass region in eastern Ukraine to escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait, the clatter of the saber and the drums of war seem to grow louder with each passing day.

In recent days, Russian tanks, surface-to-air missile batteries and heavy artillery have continued to move towards the border with Ukraine and the Russian-occupied Crimean territory.

According to US intelligence reports, there are more Russian forces massed at the border than at any time since Russia entered Ukraine in 2014.

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The Russian Navy is also moving landing craft and gunboats to the Black Sea, with the Russian Defense Ministry saying they will participate in upcoming exercises.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, also said there had been a spike in GPS jamming in the region, fueling concerns that a major escalation of the conflict was imminent.

The Belarusian army has also moved its own forces to the border with Ukraine and will conduct large exercises about 30 km from the border.

American-Russian tensions

The rise comes amid statements by President Joe Biden’s administration promising Kiev “unwavering support” from the United States.

In a recent press conference, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took a pretty hard line with his rhetoric about Moscow. “If Russia acts recklessly or aggressively, there will be costs, there will be consequences,” he said.

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What exactly Mr. Biden’s “unwavering support” and Mr. Blinken’s “consequences” would actually mean is very uncertain and open to all kinds of interpretation.

Until recently, US support for Kiev has focused on a limited number of arms shipments by air.

However, late last week Turkish authorities confirmed that two US Navy warships had been cleared through the Black Sea to monitor Russian activity.

Given the ambiguity of the Biden administration’s statements on Ukraine, a group of intelligence veterans have written to the president urging him not to engage in a war with Moscow over Ukraine.

China-Taiwan conflict

Meanwhile, in the Pacific, tensions also continue to mount.

The past few days have seen a record number of Chinese Air Force planes breach the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone, and a Chinese Navy battle group crossed the Miyako Strait into Okinawa, this which prompted Tokyo to scramble fighter jets to intercept and monitor.

Recent footage from the US Navy destroyer USS Mustin showed the warship observing the Chinese Navy aircraft carrier battle group Liaoning – a move analysts say was designed to send a clear message to Beijing .

The USS Mustin was joined in its efforts to keep tabs on the Chinese aircraft carrier by the Japanese destroyer JS Suzutsuki, which was ordered from Tokyo to “gather information and monitor the movements of Chinese ships.”

What all of this could mean for Australia

In our little corner of the South Pacific with our government stimulus-driven economy, it’s easy to think that the global economy is on the right track for recovery and the world is returning to normal.

Australia is once again the outlier, the “lucky country”.

However, if the downside scenarios materialized, Australia’s record-breaking lucky run would likely come to an end. In the event of a conflict between the United States and China, our country’s economy would be decimated, as our number one export destination would become the enemy of our closest ally.

The Australian armed forces would also almost certainly be called upon to join our allies in combat and our military installations would become a key part of Allied logistics in the region.

After that?

The virus continues to decimate economies and stifle recoveries, even in some countries like Chile, where nearly 40% of the population has been vaccinated.

At the same time, discontent with governments continues to grow in much of the world, as countries that do not have the same reach as Australia for a huge stimulus struggle to support their economies harshly. affected.

For the first time since the early days of the Great Depression, almost every country in the world faces a difficult path to one degree or another.

While things will turn out for the better can never be ruled out, historically times of widespread economic upheaval and high levels of discontent with governments can prove difficult to say the least.

As the superpowers deploy their military might and shake their sabers, it is clear that the post-Cold War world of unchallenged American supremacy has come to an end.

What the rest of the decade has in store no one can really know, but one thing is certain: “the times when they change”.

Tarric Brooker is a freelance journalist and social commentator | @AvidCommentator


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