by Raffaele Crocco

As the war in Ukraine enters its 100th week, the intricate global risk game is unfolding with escalating complexity. The conflict has sparked a wider clash with potential repercussions in every corner of the globe. A week ago we identified the main players. On one side are the ‘pro-Americans’, led by the United States, a powerhouse commanding 25% of the global economy, and supported by allies such as the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, Ukraine, Israel and a few other nations. On the other side are the ‘alternatives’, led by China, which alone accounts for 18% of the world economy, and aligned with the BRICS Countries, now expanded to 11, along with Russia and various nations in the Americas, Africa and Asia. These formations aspire to control the entire planet. The ‘alternatives’ are in fierce competition with the ‘pro-Americans’ for world domination, pursuing aggressive economic policies and attempting to replace the dollar in world trade with a new currency.

This real and intense military competition goes beyond the war in Ukraine, which serves as the old table of confrontation. The new theatres involved are Gaza, the Red Sea and, under the surface, Africa. Discussing Ukraine in isolation no longer makes sense; it is now an integral part of broader and more complex narratives. Each ongoing conflict appears to be interconnected and offers insights into the wider global confrontation. Understanding the current scenario and discerning future trajectories is crucial.

An examination of the military dynamics in Ukraine reveals a scenario in which little is changing in strictly military terms. Both armies are holding their positions and offensives are failing to gain any significant strategic advantage. Observers claim that the war is undeniably wearing down Kyiv more than Moscow. In the immediate future, many analysts expect a reduction in military aid, first from the European Union and then from the United States. The Pentagon’s admission this week that it is running out of money to supply Kyiv with military equipment suggests a shift is imminent. In the medium term, a prognosis emerges – a Russian victory heralding the end of the war, with territorial losses and diminished sovereignty for Kyiv and potential economic benefits for the United States.

A triumphant Russia would cement its role as a continental leader in Europe, strategically positioned on NATO’s doorstep. It could also pave the way for alternative trade routes between Asia and Europe – the Silk Road by land, initiated by Beijing in 2013 and now under construction, and the Arctic route by sea, which takes advantage of climate change and melting ice in the north to make travel between Asia and Europe 40% cheaper.

This potential shift in trade dynamics could diminish the importance of the Suez Canal and trigger a contemporary battle in the Red Sea. Here, the Shia Houthis, allied to Iran and a member of Brics, are blocking the passage of merchant ships from nations allied to Israel, in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians. The immediate military response of the US and Europe is to deploy a mixed fleet to patrol the sea and conduct constant air strikes over Yemen to destroy Houthi positions. In a single day, on 24 January, for example, two merchant ships were attacked off the Yemeni coast, prompting eight separate US and British air strikes against Houthi targets. The reality is that disrupted or endangered maritime traffic is likely to incur significant costs, particularly for Europeans who rely heavily on these routes for raw materials.

This complex geopolitical chess game extends its influence to other regions – Syria, Iraq and Pakistan – with significant consequences for civilian populations. In Gaza, the Israeli police operation has resulted in significant casualties, with more than 25,000 dead and almost 65,000 injured. Similarly, in Ukraine, humanitarian organisations report increasing risks for the most vulnerable, especially the elderly, who are forced to endure unacceptable living conditions. Unfortunately, there are no visible solutions on the horizon. The new global war game has just begun.

On the cover photo, the conflicts in the world told by the Atlas of Wars and Conflicts in the World