The strategic situation at the turn of the year

Lothar Rühl


2009 was a year of misty horizons - and thus the strategic forward look at 2010 has also remained disguised until the late autumn of an eventful year. The main reason for this has been the unconquered worldwide economic crisis and its direct reason, the crisis of the global financial system with its dysfunctionally reacting institutions, which mainly emerged as a crisis of international financial capitalism. The system crisis and the global downswing lasted for the whole of 2009, although temporarily softened on the surface and somewhat cleared up at the end of the year. The distortions in world trade, in international shipping and aviation, for industry and energy industry, the decline of the various markets during the twelve months between October 2008 and October 2009, which had been caused by it, lasted all over the year. An assessment of the power potentials and relative strength of the single powers within an international comparison for a correlation of powers thus was only possible with reservation, because the financial, economic and social-political consequences in the individual countries were not obvious for the following years. With this reservationChinaandIndiago on to appear to be the two powers with the relatively least losses caused by the present crisis, and to have the best growth prospects. This also applies to their military and defence spendings, although they increasingly depend on oil and gas imports fromRussiaor the Middle East, from Africa andLatin America. In all Western countries and inRussiait became clear that the financial resources of the nations were reduced to a critical extent, and that the military spendings - especially armament projects - would have to be either slashed or financed by further depts. As a consequence massive pressure on the military budgets in the foreseeable future emerged. As there have not many savings been possible in the conventional armament for theUSAand the other NATO nations as long as the war inAfghanistanwith decisive international involvement has lasted, the emphasis of the discussions fell on nuclear disarmament, although the possible cost savings in the nuclear armouries cannot make a significant difference. NATO is faced with a challenge in all strategic directions aroundEuropeand on all possible new fronts. On the whole all conflicts in the world have remained basically unchanged. The answer to the question of how long this phase of delay in the strategic developments of 2009 would last was hidden in the mists of war at the turn of the year. This also applies to the Near East and to the Horn of Africa withSomaliaand grand style piracy. In this context it was remarkable, but not surprising, that neither the summer war of 2008 in Georgia nor Israel’s Gaza war at the turn of the year in Palestine resulted in any significant decisions, but rather in clear - although not lasting - advantages for the military superior and politically more resolute sides: Russia and Israel. As for the rest, the situations remain as before.