Three Wars for Tomorrow Morning’s News

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

Middle East
Saudi Arabia vs. Iran
Sunni vs. Shia

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.

War in the Baltic

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.

Coming War in China Seas

Blogger Brian Wang objects to Zeihan’s tone in the video above — as well as to his predictions — and devotes an interesting posting to the topic.

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.

China Will Reclaim Siberia NYT

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.

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5 Responses to Three Wars for Tomorrow Morning’s News

  1. Roy Johnson says:

    For the life of me I still don’t see why Putin and Russia would even be concerned about the Baltic’s. They are small insubstantial countries that are no danger to Russia. Russia is so big, and has so many natural resources that it would be foolish to invade any other country. They have everything they need to be a world super power except the population to support it. I think Putin is far more concerned with the Chinese border than any other. That’s the threat. Not Europe. Most of Europe is doomed anyway with the Conquista from the Middle East. Except for a few ex Warsaw Pact countries.

  2. bob sykes says:

    It is possible that Russia would seek to take Ukraine east of the Dnieper, because there are a substantial number of ethnic Russians there, and they voted overwhelmingly for pro-Russian Yanukovych, the first and last democratically elected Ukrainian president. Western Ukraine has always been the hotbed of anti-Russia sentiment, except maybe Odessa, and it is more Polish, Catholic, and Western than eastern Ukraine. It’s not worth Russia’s effort.

    Closing the Straits of Hormuz is an easy matter, and keeping them closed is easy, too. All it takes is one speed boat firing one RPG into one freighter or tanker, and the maritime insurance companies, like Lloyds, will cancel the insurance on all the commercial shipping in the area. No ship sails without insurance.

    Twenty percent of all the world’s oil comes from the Persian Gulf, and 40% of the EU’s oil does. A significant fraction of American oil production would have to go to Europe, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand to make up the loss, and there would be oil rationing in the US, worse than in WW II. The world economy would likely collapse into depression

    I cannot imagine a greater gift to Russia than war in the Persian Gulf. [Admin: Agreed. Since Russia and Iran are in close collusion, that is a possibility.]

    As long as the Taiwan government does not declare independence, China is content to let the current situation fester. Once China gets naval and air parity with the US, matters might change quickly.

    MacKinder’s theory of the World Island

    The obvious area for Chinese aggression is to the south: Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Viet Nam. The first three are the priority, because China not only gets their resources, it gets control of all the maritime choke points and sea lanes.

    [Admin: Mackinder might disagree with you there. China’s destination according to “world island” is the rich Asian mainland to the north, the “pivot area”.]

  3. Abelard Lindsey says:

    I know all about this as I read the book. A war between Iran and KSA seems likely. I don’t buy into the other two wars.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Good. Predicting the future is hard. Looking backward and seeing that something was “inevitable” is easy. The gut is a bit weak on details and specifics, but since wars and invasions do not take place every day a conservative gut is usually right.

      I understand that your gut is telling you that Russia will not start a war to its west and that China will not forcefully expand its territory. An innocent question: What did your gut tell you about Crimea or Donbass a few hours before the resective Russian invasions there? The war in Donbass never stopped and continues with regular casualties on both sides.

      Other likely wars include a renewal of hostilities between North and South Korea, some kind of war in Latin America (perhaps involving Brazil and Venezuela), more African civil wars, more hostilities between India and Pakistan, proxy wars in the Philippines, and China-instigated hostilities between Japan and North Korea.

      Taiwan is a big fat prize, but China needs to fully digest Hong Kong first, and that will not be as easy as Xi may expect.

  4. djolds1 says:

    Brian Wang’s blog (Next Big Future) is derisively called Next Big China by some of the people who post regularly in his comments section. And not without reason, Wang is a big booster of the inevitable Chinese future. So I take anything Wang says wrt China with several D12 sized chunks of salt.

    The geographic, fracking, and American-domestic legs of the Zeihan analysis seem solid. The weakness in his analysis is the war predictions.

    1) North America was designed by God to conquer the wold in an industrial era;
    2) fracking has broken America’s need to be tied to foreign markets;
    3) a large portion of the American population are tired of the Cold War allies freeloading on a system America spends to maintain.

    Closely linked to “3” but not much mentioned by Zeihan are the populist movements exploding across the North Atlantic. The smallholders have been squeezed by finance capitalism for 50 years and want to rebalance the system with more of the cream redirected to the little guy. That is going to naturally undermine support for the finance-heavy legacy Cold War international system. This disaffected population has been present in America since at least 1992 if not earlier, but in the American political system it took them another 25 years to grow to 25%+1 of the American population – large enough to grab the majority in one of the parties “out of nowhere.” Populist parties have been present in Europe back to at least the mid ’80s.

    American withdrawal for 20 years or so will cause some chaos, but will it cause the general global war Zeihan is predicting? His analysis really relies on a Saudi-Persian war kickstarting the whole cycle of blood.

    Assuming the global trade system breaks down and global oil supply goes to hell because of a Persian Gulf war, motivations for China and Japan to go militant are obvious – simple survival. They must have the fuel and the trade. Russia faces a geographic threat well illustrated on Zeihan’s “Hordelands” map. Russia sits in the middle of the world’s historic invasion superhighway, the steppe and plain from Mongolia to the Bay of Biscay. The only way to be secure is to push out FAR for defense in depth, grab the natural barriers at the peripheries, and fill the gaps. Russian history is tragic and they have motivation to do so. But do they have the resources to pull it off? I do wonder if Russian involvement in Syria is a quiet attempt to provoke regional insecurity and therefore regional war.

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