Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) strike by the United States on ISIS terrorists in Afghanistan has triggered suggestions that a second round of the Cold War is set to begin. Particularly as the new US President, Donald Trump, seems to be brash, abrasive and capable of taking action without thinking of consequences.
In fact, the Second Cold War, or Cold War-II, has been in the making due to the rise of Islamic terrorism from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the Middle East, drawing inevitable military interventions by the major powers. Then there is Russia's anger at the US-led bombings in Syria where it wants President Bashar Assad to stay, and China's attempts to annex most of the South China Sea and also the acquisition of Pakistan's Arabian Sea port of Gwadar for 40 or more years, as a strategic naval base with its operational Command and Control lying with Beijing.
Russia, China Up The Ante Against the US
Both Russia and China have stepped up military movements on land, air and sea, particularly around US allies like Japan.
The official Russian news agency Sputnik is steadily issuing hard-hitting statements against the US, particularly against Trump, and has let it be known that Russian strategic bombers like Tu-95 are flying near the US and Western countries, and battle ships are out in the Pacific near Japan and South Korea.
North Korea, China’s second military ally after Pakistan, has warned again of destroying the US with long-range nuclear missiles, and the US has vowed to penalise if it conducts another nuclear or missile test. As it happens, it may be remembered, Islamabad got its missile technology from Pyongyang in exchange for nuclear weapons tech, apparently with blessings from Beijing.
US, Western and Afghan forces have had a tough time in fighting the Islamic terrorists who hide in, and operate from the deep caves in the mountains.
The terrorists conduct guerrilla strikes from these caves and move back in and, according to reports from Washington, the commander of the US and international forces in Afghanistan General John Nicholson had been considering the use of America's biggest non-nuclear bomb, the MOAB, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast, for some time.
In military terms, this was the right and appropriate weapon to demolish the deep caves and kill everyone in them – reportedly about a hundred at that time – by burning up the oxygen.
A Dangerous Game of One-Upmanship
Nonetheless, the use of this MOAB, technically designated GBU 43/B, has proved to be earth-shattering in the global canvas of power play. To Russia and China, and those opposed to the US, this indicates an aggressive willingness on the part of Trump to execute some threats he has been making.
Surprisingly, more than China, it is Russia which is challenging the US with rhetoric and news reports of its new military innovations like making the world’s biggest nuclear submarine, and supplying new air defence missiles like the S400, or still newer, to Syria.
As for Gwadar, and the string of naval facilities China is creating in the Indian Ocean, the implications are enormous. For China, Gwadar will now be The Pivot of its Look West strategy; it will be the second non-regional, non-Indian Ocean power after the US to be there, not just for oil and trade but to play a dominant role in the warm waters of the ocean and beyond.
As against the two former players in Cold War-I, the United States and the Soviet Union, this time there are three, and although Russia may have more military muscle in terms of equipment, China will be far better placed to deliver its arsenal thanks to its emerging Gwadar military base, some 70 submarines, three (including those planned) aircraft carriers, and a large fleet of ships that should bunker in Gwadar as a home port.
China has purchased some 5,000 acres of real estate in and around Gwadar, and for all practical purposes, it will be a Chinese Foreign Territory.
The implications are not only enormous but ominous. Cold War-II will be bitter, and more threatening to humanity than Cold War I.
Gulshan Luthra is Editor of India Strategic defence magazine and website. The opinions expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Published in an arrangement with IANS)