Geopolitical tensions are rising while three of the world’s most powerful leaders are flexing muscles in different continents. Adding fuel to fire is Russia’s Vladimir Putin daring America’s Donald Trump, whose own “America First” policy is about to impact world trade, even perhaps trigger a global trade war, as he plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium. Elsewhere, China’s Xi Jinping is about to convert his presidential term into a lifetime innings in power. We’ve reason to fear that the year we have just stepped into will develop into a fiercely contentious one. A recrudescence of a cold war on top of a trade war shattering a tenuous peace, already threatened by many conflicts worldwide, besides terrorism, is a distinct possibility.
Mr Putin sparked last week’s international discomfort with talk of “doomsday” strategic weaponry that can’t be intercepted — an underwater drone armed with a nuclear warhead, a Sarmat ICBM carrying 10 nuclear warheads and the Kinzhal and Avangard hypersonic missiles. Seeking re-election for a six-year term on March 18, Mr Putin is showing the world his fierce nationalism hasn’t been dented by global oil prices falling from their earlier record highs. Economic sanctions too haven’t dampened his spirits as he asserts himself again after the reclaiming of Crimea offended the West. What this will do to the global arms race, already costing $1.6 trillion annually on purchases alone, is anyone’s guess.