Speaking at a 2019 Land Investment Expo last month, geopolitical analyst Peter Zeihan predicted a “hot war” along Russia’s western borders, another “hot war” between Saudi-led Sunnis against Iranian-led Shia, and a war for Taiwan and China Sea maritime rights — all three sometime before 2030. He also predicted significant disruption of international shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf and across the Indian Ocean into the China seas — with important economic consequences for East Asian nations such as China, Japan, and Korea.
Shia vs. Sunni: The Middle East Oil War
Zeihan points out that Saudi Arabia has significant populations of Shiite Muslims close enough to important Saudi oil fields to pose a threat to Saudi oil production. At the same time, large numbers of Sunni Arabs live close to Iranian oil pipelines and shipment terminals. If a war broke out between Iran and Saudi Arabia — between Sunni and Shiite — both nations would have to mobilise troops to protect oil production and shipments from their own citizens, as well as to protect them from enemy attack.
Both countries would target the other’s oil refineries and oil shipment terminal facilities with bombs, artillery, and missiles. Most nations in the far east and Europe would suffer crippling energy shortages almost immediately.
As Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia go to war, expect most of the rest of the middle east to take sides and join in. A progression to nuclear war in the middle east would not be beyond ordinary probability.
The Russian Opportunity Presents Itself
If Putin is to reclaim the grand Russian Empire, he will have to take the next good opportunity. A war in the middle east would leave Russia as the largest remaining source of hydrocarbon fuels for Europe. This means that Russia could invade Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic states, without fear of repercussions from the nations of the EU.
As Zeihan sees it, if Russia is going to make a move against the Baltic states and Ukraine, he needs to do it before Russia loses much more military manpower and technical expertise. With Russia’s shrinking demographics, that time should come before 2030.
Putin can hear the clock ticking — he is starting to get beaten by women on the judo mats! Russia is in even worse shape than Putin, so Tsar Vlad knows if he is to make a move it had best be soon. When the war breaks out, Putin will get to know Monsieur Murphy [Ed: Of Murphy’s Law fame] much more intimately.
China’s Opportunity to Seize Taiwan?
With middle eastern oil tied up in the Sunni-Shiite war, China will be desperate for fuel. It will need to grab all the oil fields in the China Seas — but to do that it must open the way for its Navy. For full access to the blue waters of the Pacific, China needs to take Taiwan under its wing. And Taiwan will not go peacefully.
Brian particularly objects to the fact that Zeihan is predicting widespread famine (50 minutes into the video) and starvation across the third world — and in China, as a result of the “3 wars”. Brian points out on his blog that the world can potentially feed 100 billion people without significant famine or hunger. Brian is probably right, but Murphy’s law could easily change everything and make Zeihan’s predictions come true instead.
Brian advises readers to “never go full doomer!” But here at the Al Fin Institutes we also know never to assume that everything will go well indefinitely, without significant hiccups along the way.
What Significance for Europe and the Anglosphere?
If the “3 Wars” occur as predicted, what will be the impact on Europe and the Anglosphere? Obviously parts of Europe will have front row seating for the Russian blitz to the Baltic, and Australia/New Zealand will have a reasonably good view of China’s expansionist push to the East and South for the oil fields.
If Russia triggers NATO in the Baltic region, as things stand all bets are off. And if Putin uses tactical nukes to scare NATO off, the random factor increases.
In the China Seas war for Taiwan and the oil fields beyond, much depends upon the reactions of the US, Japan, South Korea, and the Southeast Asian nations of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. If the US has elected a president Kamala Harris — or someone of similar insubstantiality — China may have a free hand to the entire region. In fact, the election of someone like Kamala Harris as US President would be an urgent goal for nations such China or Russia, which would like a freer hand in territorial issues.
Are These “3 Wars” Likely?
We have just seen a “near war” between India and Pakistan. Such festering hot spots are prevalent in Asia, the middle east, and in the regions of the former Soviet Union. We call these “bloody borders,” where blood is often shed but seldom reported on by mainstream media.
The particular regions that Zeihan focuses upon are certainly sources of instability — war could happen. But will it? I would expect at least one of the three simmering conflicts to erupt into open fighting in the next 5 to 10 years. And it is possible that — in domino fashion — one war could trigger another, triggering the third.
The one most likely to trigger the other two is the middle eastern war — the near-total shutoff of middle eastern oil to East Asia and Europe. Such a war would push China into action, and would give Russia the clout it needed to trigger an imperial war of the “reconquista” variety.
Would China Take Advantage of Russia’s Fixation on the Baltic?
Once China goes to war, the country is likely to strike in multiple locations to take the resources and territory it feels it needs. Russia still owes China a large chunk of territory it seized illegally. China does not forget such things. And China may want more. A lot more.
Putin needs to focus on the big picture, and not go all soft and wobbly on China. Even without some of the old imperial territories, Russia is a big plot of land to defend from all of its many enemies (and frenemies).
If Putin maintains his tunnel vision on the Baltic and Black Sea regions, he is apt to lose more valuable territory in the east than he could possibly gain in the west.
Nothing is certain, but every single day many crucial issues are in the balance, much is at play. Once the balance is tipped toward war, it can be almost impossible to tip the balance back to even.