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4 countries threaten global order; will the US stand in their way?

Global risk analysts warn that authoritarian enemies of America are sidestepping sanctions to coalesce and enhance one another militarily.
Axis of Upheaval
Posted at 8:49 AM, Jun 06, 2024

Earlier this year, Ukraine's security service released video fragments of what it alleged were from a North Korean Hwasong 11 ballistic missile that killed at least three people in Kharkiv.

It was another signal to the White House of a so-called "axis of upheaval" — authoritarian enemies of America coalescing and enhancing one another militarily.

Russia is replenishing its missile stocks with ones made in North Korea. In return, Moscow is believed, by the U.S. intelligence community, to be helping Pyongyang acquire spy satellites and submarines and develop more advanced nuclear missiles.

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Iran is selling Russia missiles and drones to attack Ukraine. In return, Moscow reportedly provides Tehran advanced fighter jets and air defenses.

China, in alleged violation of U.S. sanctions, is transferring microchips and other banned military components to Russia. Moscow reciprocates by helping Beijing with its submarine and anti-ship weaponry programs.

China is also bankrolling the Russian and Iranian weapons spending spree — snubbing sanctions and buying up their oil.

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"I would think of these four countries like giant termites — termites with really big jaws," says Cliff Kupchan, chairman of Eurasia Group, an international political risk consultancy firm. "They are chomping away at the edifice of the international system."

As the U.S. presidential race heats up, voters are being asked to consider whether they want their country to continue to act as an enforcer of international norms and laws.

"The real prize here is the shape and nature of the international system ... for the next couple of decades," says Kupchan.

Eurasia Group's 2024 global risk assessment warns about the Middle East, saying "the region is a tinderbox, and the number of players carrying matches makes the risk of escalation exceptionally high."

Kupchan says Iran came very close to lighting the match in April when it fired more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel. "We got lucky ... we shot them all down," he says. "If that had not happened, we'd be living in a very different world right now."

It will also be a different world if Russia is ultimately rewarded for its war on Ukraine.

A might-makes-right victory would be one for all in the "axis of upheaval."