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Tue, Jul

What in the World: Ukraine Conflict, Middle East Tensions, and Olympics Challenges

WORLD WATCH

ONE MAN’S OPINION - I have been meaning to write another article for Citywatch for a couple of months now, but every time I start to pound the keyboard, it seems as if a major new development arises, domestically or internationally.

The savage Hamas attack deflected some of my attention from Ukraine’s fight for freedom.

The Far-Right rumblings in Europe, Trump’s rise in the polls, SCOTUS rulings, the unpredictability of China, and now President Biden’s cognitive challenges.

What is the future of the Olympic Games if the world is in chaos?

Did I mention taxes? OK, that’s my personal distraction plus completing state CPE requirements.

To make matters worse, almost all of the above overlap.

If I were a full-time writer, I’d balance my time and energy and crank out multiple articles per month.

Regardless, allow me to catch up, if in summary depth only.

Ukraine and Russia:

There will be no incentive for negotiations unless either side achieves a major strategic breakthrough. For Russia, this means securing a sizeable chunk of the unoccupied territory of Ukraine. For Ukraine, effectively cutting off Crimea from resupply.

Either scenario is plausible, but it depends on more western equipment and wider targeting discretion for Ukraine. The turmoil in France could adversely impact Ukraine when Marine Le Pen and party chief Jordan Bardella assume office. A Trump victory here at home would further complicate matters for Ukraine.

Russia’s economy could worsen to the point where billionaire oligarchs see their cash flows greatly diminished due to sanctions and an ongoing shift of resources from the private sector to wartime needs – the good old Guns and Butter theory we learned in Economics 101. Not a good trend for Putin. Money talks in Russia, especially depending on whose pockets get stuffed.

Putin may be forced to conduct a wider mobilization, one which would ensnare the educated and elite. These groups have been insulated from the war. Many would try to buy their way out of military service; the others would make unreliable recruits. Overall, broad mobilization would amount to a brain drain devastating to the future sustainability of the Russian economy. That could force the general population to resort to civil disobedience beyond the capabilities of Putin’s FSB to crush.

Gaza and Lebanon:

As long as Iran and its operatives are willing to support Hamas and Hezbollah, there will be no end to hostilities. Even if a ceasefire is signed, followed by a treaty, how long before the Iranian puppets rekindle the conflict? The best Israel can hope for is to decimate the leaders and soldiers of the two terrorist organizations and intercept as much of the military aid flowing into the region. They might be able to keep a lid on the violence, but that means maintaining a heavy presence along the border of Lebanon and within Gaza for a long time. How long can Israel maintain that, especially with international pressure due to mounting civilian casualties?

One cannot fault Israel for invading Gaza, although it is fair game to question some of the IDF’s tactics. Regardless, there is no end game in sight. I believe war between Israel and Iran is inevitable.

China and the South China Sea:

Is China a fair weather friend of Putin? Does it dare to invade Taiwan and suffer massive losses to its military and industrial infrastructure? Would the Chinese civilian population refuse to support a destructive war?

Xi is a businessman in addition to being an autocrat. He’s probably contorted about what to do. The risks are too high for him to engage the US in a war, especially over Taiwan – a nation by itself capable of inflicting pain on China’s military. With the United States firmly behind Taiwan regardless of who wins our presidential elections, China might focus on an end run by upping the pressure on the Philippines.

That country’s military does not come close to matching up with China’s under the best of circumstances and would absolutely have to rely on the United States to defend against a Chinese military incursion against its main islands.

Would the Philippines buckle under China’s persistent violations of maritime law in the South China Sea? China could undercut the Philippines’ sustainability as a nation. Can the United States effectively split its military assets to cover simultaneous Chinese attacks on both of its allies?

There was a time when the Philippines was not a steadfast ally of the United States. In 1991, the Philippines Senate voted not to renew our leases for Clark Air Force Base and the Navy’s Subic Bay facility, both of which were key installations. The existence of these bases was contrary to the wave of Filipino nationalism which took hold at that time.

Relations and military cooperation have improved since, especially after a 2014 defense agreement between our two nations. However, one has to wonder how committed the Philippines government is to the pact. On July 4th, the Philippines announced that the US must withdraw its medium-range missiles because of opposition by China. Not an encouraging sign.

Trump vs Biden:

While Trump currently leads in the polls, how nonpartisan voters feel about the prospects of Biden’s cognitive faculties in the next year or two will drive the outcome. It’s not about the remainder of Biden’s current term, but about whether the President will be fit to lead during a second term. For the present, I believe his adrenaline will kick in during a crisis or other emergency. Think of it like jump-starting a car, but would you want to rely on a car that may need a jump start to get out of your driveway every morning?

The President’s interview with George Stephanopoulos did not move the needle from where it was after the disastrous first debate. If Biden had a competent Vice President, this would not be as big a deal. Having listened closely to Harris’ speeches, interviews, and official statements, I have to wonder how well she grasps the complexities of the world and domestic challenges. She has not demonstrated any executive management skills either.

Biden’s stuck with her, for better or worse, probably the latter.

Trump would be well advised not to go off on tangents and, instead, attempt to project a veneer of statesmanship lest he alienates voters sitting on the fence. Telling lies is not as detrimental to his cause as his mean-spirited, Joseph Goebbels-style rants.

Will America choose a narcissist and a liar, or a candidate tracking toward assisted living?

The Olympics:

Although the future of the Games is the least of the world’s concerns, Los Angeles has much to ponder. Paris is currently gripped by political protests. Things may die down a bit but could easily flare up during the Games. France could need to resort to heavy-handed tactics to suppress them. Not the kind of optics the IOC wants us to see, nor potential future hosts - other than China.

With the world situation worsening and no relief in sight, the 2028 Los Angeles Games may suffer the same fate as the 1940 Games. Holding the Games if the world is suffering from spreading armed conflicts, involving more and more belligerents backed by major powers, will be a hard sell.

California and Los Angeles better plan to deal with possible fallout from either an outright cancellation of the Games or civil unrest. The state and city have more pressing needs requiring an Olympian effort of their own. The sooner we know the fate of the Games, the better we can allocate resources to where they are needed the most. The picture should be clearer by the 2026 Winter Games in Milan. 

(Paul Hatfield is a board member and past president of the Valley Village Residents Association; former Treasurer and board member of Neighborhood Council Valley Village and an Active CPA and Accounting Consultant.)

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