NATO boss: World at historic danger point
Is he right? Tensions with Russia are boiling over as it plans military manoeuvres this week. The nuclear threat from North Korea intensifies. But others say we live in the best of times.
Ukrainian President Pedro Poroshenko has accused Russia of secretly planning a “war of continental proportions”, as thousands of Russian troops, tanks, and aircraft gather for mass training drills in Belarus this week.
Whilst Russia claims it is practising defensive tactics, some think it is actually simulating a huge attack on Eastern Europe. Moscow claims that 13,000 troops will be involved; however, Western leaders expect 100,000 soldiers to descend upon the EU’s Eastern borders.
Russia has also claimed that the exercises will only last one week. However, Poroshenko says that there is “no guarantee” that the troops will leave Belarus, and they could be used to attack Ukrainian territory.
His warning comes after NATO head Jens Stoltenberg, said yesterday that the world is “more dangerous” than at any point in the last 30 years.
While Eastern Europe quakes at the approach of Russian boots, Kim Jong-un has the rest of the world on red alert. Sir Michael Fallon, the UK defence secretary, even implied that North Korea may attack the UK when he said: “London is closer to North Korea and its missiles than Los Angeles.”
Today, across the USA, Americans will fall silent for the anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks. The attack ignited the War on Terror, leading to savage bombardment in the Middle East, and a wave of terror in the streets of Europe. Yet, according to Stoltenberg, even those perils pale in comparison to those of the present.
A generation ago, things were very different. In 1989 the Berlin Wall was torn down. The celebrated historian Frances Fukuyama declared the “end of history” and said the world had reached a state of permanent peace and civilisation.
Raise the alarm
“It only takes one person to make war,” say some. Look in the history books. Wars only happen when powerful individuals lead their people into them. And right now, the balance of power is held by some war-hungry men. Putin has already started several wars. We cannot be sure that Donald Trump’s promise of “fire and fury” was an empty one. And nobody can predict what Kim Jong-un is capable of. It just takes one of them to set off a devastating chain of events. We are in danger.
“There’s far less space for war in the modern world,” argue others. We are more connected than ever and that makes killing each other much more difficult, even impossible. Putin and Kim Jong-un both know that there is more to gain from co-operating with the West than attempting to blow it up. Of course there are still dangers, but overall the world is a safer place than it was a generation ago.
- Should everyone do military service?
- Should nuclear weapons be completely banned?
- Imagine you are going on a march for world peace. Design a placard with a powerful message that you could take with you.
- Compare a map of Europe in 1970 and a map of present day Europe. What new countries are there? Can you work out why the map has changed?
Some People Say...
“The second world war would have happened whether Hitler was alive or not.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- We know that Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, annexing Crimea. We know that the Russian government was very angry when Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined Nato. We also know that North Korea has the capacity to produce a nuclear bomb.
- What do we not know?
- We do not know what Russia’s long term military ambitions in Europe are, and if these latest manoeuvres are preparations for specific operations. We do not know if North Korea has the ability to fix a nuclear device on board an intercontinental ballistic missile, nor what its specific military strategy is.
- North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Established in 1949 and currently made up of 29 Western nations. If one member state is attacked, all others are required to come to its assistance.
- September 11th
- Series of four attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States. Four passenger planes were hijacked; two were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City; one was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, DC; the fourth crashed short of its target.
- War on Terror
- Primarily refers to the US-led invasions of Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003.
- Berlin Wall
- Separated East Germany from West Germany from 1961-1989. East Germany was part of the Warsaw Pact, the Soviet response to NATO.
- End of history
- Argument that after the fall of the Soviet Union, Western style democracy would dominate the world, signalling an end to major international conflict.
- Training exercises
- Known as “Zapad”, held every four years. The 2013 Zapad was followed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
- Cold War
- A period of military rivalry primarily between the USA and the Soviet Union (1947-1991).