Threats loom over free world

Threats loom over free world

“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.”

– Pericles

A year has passed since Russia launched its brutal invasion and escalated the long-standing Russo-Ukrainian War, which began in 2014 with the illegal annexation of Crimea. The past year has been marked by staggering human tragedy, with tens of thousands of lives lost on each side, and a refugee crisis displacing over 8 million people within Ukraine and forcing another 8 million to flee their country in search of safety. The ongoing struggles of the Ukrainian people to survive and gain international support for their defense provides a preview of the type of conflict that will most likely define this century if Russia succeeds in Ukraine.

At the recent Munich Security Conference, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg underscored the importance of recognizing that the “events in Europe today could easily be replicated in Asia tomorrow.” His warning was reinforced by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who dismissed the notion of Taiwan as an independent country, stating that “it was always a part of Chinese territory” and “would never be anything else.” Moreover, recent reports indicate that China is preparing to provide Russia with lethal military aid, adding to the already volatile situation in Ukraine which shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

US and European leadership failure to effectively deter and address rogue nation threats and actions is emboldening authoritarian ambitions

Beyond Europe, several weeks after a Chinese spy balloon completed its mission flying over the United States’ most sensitive military installations, Iran’s 86th Flotilla is operating in South American waters on a mission to circumnavigate the world, and the Russian warship Admiral Gorshkov, carrying advanced hypersonic Zircon missiles, pulled into a port on South Africa’s east coast this week, with a “Z” and “V” crudely painted in white on its blackened smokestack, just like the Russian tanks and artillery pieces that rolled into Ukraine a year ago, to participate in a 10-day naval exercise in the Indian Ocean alongside South African and Chinese warships. Authoritarian cooperation and interoperability aimed at enhancing global power projection capabilities is increasing and operating unchallenged.

At this time of great peril in Europe, as Russian and Iranian military weapons are used daily to indiscriminately kill Europeans, multiple NATO nations continue to fail to honor their treaty obligations for defense expenditures and armed forces readiness. Compounding the severity of this failure of commitment, there is minimal discussion about long-term solutions to deter, counter and neutralize aggression from nations such as Russia, Iran and China, beyond made-for-media soundbites echoing “concern.” The lack of unified and decisive action from NATO and the European Union makes it clear there is much more to be done. A comprehensive strategy that includes enduring economic, diplomatic and military measures to counter these threats is overdue. Unlike during the Cold War, globalization has intertwined economies and created a Western reliance on adversaries, especially China. It’s well passed time to end this dependency and engage in serious efforts to migrate industry and investments away from China.

From NATO and EU reluctance to hold Turkey accountable for occupying European territory and violating sovereignty in the Aegean Sea, to the lack of unity in dealing with Putin and nations that support Russia, to the irresponsible assault on Western energy independence and forfeiture of industrial capacity, to the increased manufacturing reliance on China, and the naivety regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons development program, US and European leadership failure to effectively deter and address rogue nation threats and actions is emboldening authoritarian ambitions and creating the most dangerous challenges to sovereignty, security and peace since World War II.

While the brave fighters in Ukraine courageously stand their ground at great peril, cost and uncertainty against Russian subjugation, US and European leaders are failing to implement coherent energy and effective defense policies. Self-inflicted forfeiture of energy independence, energy policies and goals that increase dependency on resources from adversaries, including Chinese manufacturing and well-intentioned but inadequate “made in China” green energy products will only strengthen adversaries. It’s time for the US and Europe to develop and commit to long-term plans and policies to achieve energy independence to defund Russia, Iran and China’s war machines and ambitions, and show the US and EU are serious about their security, freedom and peaceful future. Otherwise, we will soon find our nations in the same position as Ukraine, each fighting for its own survival against unstoppable authoritarian ambition and aggression.

Commander Demetries Grimes is a combat decorated former US naval officer, aviator and diplomat. He has served as naval attache to Greece and Israel, deputy commander of the US base in Crete, and adviser on Ukraine to NATO’s Maritime Commander in London, UK.

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