…I am no longer surprised at the absurdity of the reality around us.
The “holy war” against the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the “titanic” efforts of the governments is clearly loosing in favor of the pernicious coronavirus. The side effects of this “war” – the restriction of individual freedoms and rights, the collapse of the economy, the closure of borders, the growth of mistrust and suspicion between people and nations – are two orders of magnitude higher than the damage from the disease itself.
But ultimately, sooner or later human race will come out of the coronavirus deadlock where it has driven itself, spinning the flywheel of information hysteria. And then the realization will come that the old security threats have not disappeared. Moreover, they will be more difficult to address given the aforementioned side effects of the 2020 Pandemic.
Last weekend, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force after it was ratified by 50 UN member states. This is an event of a historical scale. But it passed almost unnoticed against the background of reports from the fronts of the “War on Coronavirus”. Skeptics will say something like “what kind of ban on nuclear weapons can we seriously talk about? The nuclear powers will never give it up!”. Sure, they will be right. But this righteousness contributes to the preservation and even strengthening of the existential threat to the survival of mankind.
I want to focus on two aspects.
First, we see a steady erosion of the international strategic arms control system. Following the ABMD, INF, ‘Clear Sky’ treaties, the key START-III agreement expires soon. If Donald Trump wins the presidential election on November 3, there will be little chance of extending START process. As a result, the activities for limiting and reducing strategic offensive arms, which for 45 years have ensured stability and relative security in the world, will be interrupted.
Unfortunately, this applies not only to a rather formal-bureaucratic negotiation process on arms limitation. On October 14, Washington hosted a regular scheduled meeting of the Defense Secretaries of the United States and the Republic of Korea. Observers noted that for the first time in the past 12 years the phrase that the United States intends to maintain a certain level of military presence in the Republic of Korea has disappeared from the final communiqué of the meeting. The traditional press conference of the two ministers was also canceled. It is known that President Trump seeks to shift the burden of maintaining the forward bases and contingents of the US Armed Forces onto the American allies, as well as to force them to fight in the conflict regions of the world instead of the Americans, or at least pay for these military adventures. “Nothing personal, it’s just about the money”. But such pragmatism tactically can provide additional votes, but in a strategic perspective it can lead to disaster.
Let’s think about how the situation in Northeast Asia will develop if the US curtailed its military presence here. It is highly doubtful that Japan and the Republic of Korea surrounded by “2,5” nuclear powers, will continue to rely on the abstract US nuclear umbrella. With a certain degree of cynicism, it can be argued that the bases and contingents of the US Armed Forces in Japan, South Korea, and even in Europe are needed not so much as a military force, but as hostages in case of a major war. No American president would dare to abandon military intervention in a conflict where the lives of US military personnel who are there with the approval of Congress are threatened. But if they are not there, then the outcome may well be limited to statements of “Atlantic” or, say, “Pacific” solidarity, without concrete actions – why risk the lives of Americans in an “alien” war?
If the negative scenario prevails will Japan and the Republic of Korea resist the temptation to create their own nuclear deterrent assets? Given the huge stocks of plutonium in Japan and the well-known nuclear arms program in Korea, closed (?) more than 30 years ago, such a potential can be created in a matter of months…
Of course, this is a very abstract scenario. But not impossible, unfortunately.
Secondly, the ease and speed of the spread of COVID-19 around the world, as well as the obvious helplessness of the official authorities in the fight against the pandemic, make us think about the threat of bioterrorism in a new way. After all, if a primitive and not particularly lethal coronavirus has caused such shocks, what will happen if a really serious product of genetic engineering appears? Technically and technologically it is quite possible to do this, both covertly and quickly. And we are talking about terrorism. States have long and quite pragmatically abandoned biological weapons, since its military use could have led to uncontrollable consequences, including for their own citizens. But for terrorists such a weapon is just the right choice…
I could specify a number of other potential security threats that we may face literally the day after the “final victory” over the coronavirus. But for now, the above mentioned is probably enough. The team of authors and editors of the Asia-Pacific Journal of Marine Science & Education, which has developed over nine years, prefers publications on the “direct” profile of the Journal. But we also cannot ignore “external” problems. It is difficult to analyze and plan the development processes of the maritime industry and international professional education without taking into account everything that is happening around and directly affects the industry and the region. Perhaps there will be a thematic issue of our magazine in 2021 devoted to the impact of the pandemic on the industry and ways to overcome the crisis in the regional economy. But, our main desire is to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Journal in conditions when the economy is working, the borders are open and people are not afraid to meet and conduct a dialogue with each other.