Are we destined for war?

Zokhri Idris is a Ph.D. Senior Fellow at Rabdan Academy, United Arab Emirates. Even without a full-scale military conflict, he says South-East Asia's recovery is still not at its full pace, and it is facing a wide gap of income distribution.

DURING an interview with European media, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned Europe that war is no longer a concept of the past.

He subsequently tweeted on X, “the post-war epoch is gone. We are living in new times: in a pre-war epoch. This is why Nato and solidarity between Europe and America are more important than ever before.”

Those who subscribe to the Copenhagen Securitisation Process extrapolate higher European securitisation from such statements.

Tusk’s statement is understood to be about the 39-minute intrusion of a Russian missile into Polish airspace on March 24, while attacking Ukraine.

Even without considering the intrusion incident, the prospect of military conflict in Europe continues to grow, parallel to the Russo-Ukraine conflict.

It is clear that the prolonged conflict in Ukraine has multiplied anxiety in neighbouring regions, which has led to statements from political leaders (like Tusk) warning of war.

Many have talked about the war in Ukraine, but the truth is, we are still nowhere near to its conclusion. The ever-pertinent question that security researchers are trying to solve — when will this conflict end, and how it will turn out.

We predict that the Ukrainian conflict will prolong and intensify.

In Ukraine, several blackouts have occurred, and could result in severe environmental disasters if hydroelectric power plants are targeted.

Many have raised concerns that as the war in Ukraine intensifies, there is a risk of escalation beyond Ukraine even though Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied there will be military conflicts with Nato countries.

It is unlikely that a ceasefire or diplomatic outcome will occur, but there will be a long-term political, economic and military separation between Russia and the Western bloc.

What should be noted (in the development of the Ukrainian conflict) this year is the US presidential election (on Nov 5) and its outcome. Both former presidents (Biden and Trump) are running for the Oval Office this time around.

The South China Sea (SCS) is also prone to escalation of tensions.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have rapidly increased during Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. administration.

There are growing tensions between Manila and Beijing over the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, a submerged reef in the Spratly Islands. In 1999, the Philippines intentionally grounded its World War II landing ship in order to indicate Philippine territorial waters.

China is also claiming the area within the nine-dash line without showing any signs of backing down.

Senator Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and Taiwan’s presidential election on Jan 13 this year have increased the strategic complexity of SCS securitisation.

The presence of the Chinese naval fleet surrounding the island, especially since Pelosi’s visit, has raised concerns in surrounding countries such as Japan, South Korea, and South-East Asia.

The Philippines-China responses have brought the tension closer to South-East Asian countries. Due to the way the Philippines (as a state actor) constructs regional security perceptions and behaviours, they deepen regional complexity.

The management of the conflict by China and the Philippines will equally determine whether securitisation achieves maximum escalation or de-escalation.

Similar to Europe, the prospect of Asian security remains bleak for the rest of 2024. However, the likelihood of it escalating to war is low as both see the economic prospects of the South China Sea and the need to maintain it as an economic route for global trade.

Asean’s GDP remained resilient last year, with a 3% increase in Q4 and ending with an average 3.7% growth for the entire 2023. Strong domestic demand, stable employment prospects and easing prices and recovery in services sector (especially tourism), demonstrated its resilience to the Ukraine-Russo conflict and US-China rivalry.

This momentum is forecast to continue this year but there is some pessimism.

South-East Asia are already suffering with geopolitics within and beyond the region. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand recorded a slowdown in 2023, although economies have rebounded from the pandemic era.

The gradual reopening of China has shown growth in trade and manufacturing, but the pace cannot balance the repercussions of tight financial and interest regulations, the Ukrainian conflict, and US-China rivalry. Even without a full-scale military conflict, South-East Asia is already on a difficult path. Its recovery is still not at its full pace, and it is facing a wide gap of income distribution.

This will certainly be felt by the middle income group and those who are living below the national poverty line — 21.5% in Cambodia, 9.5% in Indonesia, 18.3% in Lao PDR, 6.2% in Malaysia, 24.8% in Myanmar, 18.1% in the Philippines, 6.8% in Thailand and 4.2% in Vietnam.

This article first appeared in Star Biz7 weekly edition.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!


Next In Business News

Oil gains 1% on hopes of firmer demand
JPMorgan investors weigh CEO Dimon’s strategy, succession plan
Muhibbah rides on Cambodian tourism uptick
Feytech gears up for expansion to meet growing demand
Ready to rise up the ranks again
SC working overtime to combat spread of scams
Russia and Malaysia sign tax agreement
GDP up 4.2% in 1Q24
Chinese firms invest in ‘green’ jet fuel

Others Also Read