Year Ender 2022: From Policy Paralysis To Bilateral Spat — Conflicts That Defined Geopolitics

International relations have never been like how they are today as each and every decision by one country can have a ripple effect across the globe. Any agreement, trade deal, defence relation, monetary exchange, and many others between any two or more countries impacts the state which is not even involved in the process. The most recent example is the Russia-Ukraine war which, apart from the two countries, has engulfed the entire world into the periphery of an economic slowdown that is looking towards a severe recession.

However, the year 2022 has witnessed more than the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Several countries got involved in bilateral strife over certain issues. These could become a matter of international concern in the future, if not now.

Here are the conflicts that saw some intensity in 2022 and need to be alerted for in 2023:

US-China-Taiwan: The US-China relation has always been a concern for the countries as it tends to determine an axis in sectors like economy and defence among others. The year 2022 witnessed certain ups and downs in their bond following certain sanctions over imports and exports and the blacklisting of Chinese companies among others. However, the prime concern, as always had been, was Taiwan.

Speaker of the US House Of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taiwan in August 2022 which was the highest-level US official meeting in the last 25 years. China held firm that the visit must not be done adding that it would bring severe consequences with it. Pelosi’s visit is seen as a moment of solidarity with Taiwan. Soon after Pelosi concluded her business on the island, China announced a series of military drills around Taiwan as a show of strength and in response to the US decision of visiting Taiwan.

US President Joe Biden had too in one of his addresses made clear that ‘the US will defend Taiwan in scenarios of any military invasion’ hinting towards China’s take on Taiwan.

EU-France-Italy Migrants Crisis: The issue of migrants has been a longing concern for countries across the globe. While India has been reeling from the migrant influx, mostly Rohingya, several other nations seem to be troubled by the phenomena. And it has led to several bilateral contentions which have not even left the highly politically ideated European Union. The most recent one was France and Itlay over a boat of migrants that remained in the Mediterranean Sea for weeks as the two countries battled over words.

An Ocean Viking ship with 230 migrants was denied docking access at Italy port after a country’s newly elected far-right government took charge. France suspended its plan to take in 3,500 refugees currently in Italy after the latter refused to let a migrant rescue ship disembark on its shores, reported BBC.

However, Italy claimed that it has already accepted its share of migrants and hence will not be allowing the ship to release migrants on its shore. According to BBC, the Ocean Viking was one of four charity ships that sailed for Italy with a total of more than 500 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean. Out of 234 migrants, now France has decided to deport 44 after Italy refused to take them.

The issue, which looks bilateral, has engulfed the entire European Union into severe trouble where the European countries are demanding a clear and concise policy over the issue. The EU has been battling the crisis heavily since the 2015-16 migrants influx.

Ethiopia-Eritrea: The military face-off between Ethiopia and Eritrea again made headlines in the world conflicts in 2022. The fight, which was at a halt, renewed around August this year with Ethiopia’s Tigray region claiming that Eritrea launched a full-scale attack along its border.

The Eritreans are fighting alongside Ethiopian federal forces, including commando units, as well as allied militias, Aljazeera reported earlier citing Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The United Nations experts too had said that there were reasonable grounds to believe that “war crimes and crimes against humanity” have been committed by the Ethiopian government in the Tigray region.

US Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Mike Hammer condemned the attack saying, “We have been tracking Eritrean troops’  movement across the border … and we condemn it.” He added, “All external foreign actors should respect Ethiopia’s territorial integrity and avoid fuelling the conflict”, according to Aljazeera.

Tajikistan-Kyrgyzstan: The two nations indulged in a face-off which is, yet again, majorly over the issue of the geography of the entire region. Both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have enjoyed the rights over common resources for a very long time, but the delimitation of the border remains the bone of contention.

According to a report in The Hindu, the current scuffle began on developmental issues like people of both sides planting trees in the disputed area and engaging in frequent fights. Ferghana valley remains a centre of struggle with all three Tajiks, Kyrgyz, and Uzbeks sharing common sociological and economic specificities in the area.

Both countries have accused each other of using weapons and destroying crucial civil infrastructure. The border clashes have killed nearly 100 and over 1,50,000 people have either fled or have been relocated due to the tension that took a violent turn. It was reported that both sides used drones, bombs, and multiple firearms in the tussle.

DRC-Rwanda-Uganda: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda have shared plenty of conflicts and rebel wars with each other and the recent one being the M23 rebel group action that took place in March earlier this year. In short, Rwanda has accused DRC of assisting military groups and trying to topple its government using rebel forces. Whereas DRC alleges Rwanda of violating its sovereignty by supporting the M23 Rebel Group.

It all began in November 2021 when the militant group M23 attacked military positions of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) near the Uganda and Rwanda borders. By March 2022, the group had taken claim of some key territories bordering Uganda and Rwanda. The continuing distrust between the DRC and its neighbours, especially Uganda and Rwanda is the major reason behind the upsurge of the defunct M23 rebel group and the crisis that hit both sides.

Germany-France: The troubles for the European Union have been only mounting with several issues at its bay. The rising bitterness between Germany and France is another such matter at hand. The contention is over several issues that include defence and strategic issues. However, the biggest cause remains the reaction to the Russia-Ukraine war.

The fuel crisis induced by the Ukraine war led to Germany and Spain proposing to build a new gas pipeline across the Pyrenees, which was opposed by French officials. They said that Germany is focusing to replace the shortage of Russian supply instead of focusing energy on France’s nuclear sector, reported Reuters.

Furthermore, Germany’s decision to look towards the US and procure weapons from there instead of Europe has also irked  France.

For its part, France irritated German officials with its opposition to a German and Spanish proposal to build a new gas pipeline across the Pyrenees to replace dwindling Russian supplies, preferring instead to focus energy investment on France’s nuclear sector.

The disagreement over a range of issues has shaken the EU as both Germany and France are the strongest or could be said, prime foundations of the European Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide Dmitry Medvedev even predicted a war between the two nations in 2023.

US-Russia: The military action on Ukraine by Russia drew strong opposition from the West. As known to all, several sanctions were put on Russia by the Western country to weaken it in the war against Russia. US President Joe Biden openly opposed the Russian stance on several occasions during the last 10 months of the war. While making one such strong remark, he said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only person responsible for this mess and he will have to pay for this.

Recently, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the US on his first foreign visit since the war. During his visit, the US announced another tranche of military and other aid to the war-torn nation. The decision received flack from Russia which said that ‘the US is fighting a proxy war with Russia by aiding Ukraine again and again’.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked the most serious crisis in US-Russia relations since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It reached to an extent when the world help onto the possibility of a nuclear war. The threat is not yet diminished completely.

According to Reuters, Russia said the Biden administration was responsible for missile attacks on civilian targets in areas controlled by Russian-backed forces in eastern Ukraine.

The ongoing rivalry is having an impact on several nations and bilateral relations as the matter has now escalated to a point of taking sides.