Not only is the risk of escalation an important consideration in an (eventual) response from the United States and Saudi Arabia against Iran, but also how escalation could play out.
As I mentioned yesterday, typically during systemic wars (which by definition involve all Great Powers in the System), two “clusters’ form of Great Powers and their respective supporting states.
During the Second World War (1939-1945) Allied Powers opposed the Axis Powers, and during the First World War (1914-1918), the Entente Powers opposed the Central Powers.
An intriguing question is: What alliances – clusters – could form in case of a next systemic war?
Answering this question (based on the present situation and condition of the international system) involves some speculation, of course. I will give it a try:
I make the following assumptions, I assume that:
- The United States, China, Russia, France, The United Kingdom, India and (arguably) Iran presently qualify as Great Powers.
- The (most) central issue that will be at stake in the next systemic war, is the rivalry (and related issues) between the United States and China: Who will become the dominant world power?
- The Great Power – the US or China – that wins this war, and the Great Powers and states that are aligned with the “winner”, will determine the values that underpin the next international order (VN 2.0 so to speak): Systemic wars are about the next international order.
- Although wars always surprise, I assume that the United Kingdom and France (France albeit reluctantly), and India (to counter China in Asia) will side with the US; I assume that Iran will side with China, and consequently that Russia is in a very powerful strategic position it can exploit (in this particular respect, it can also operate on “interior lines”, geographically).
- Russia can act as strategic “swing” power and is in a position to decide how the central issue plays out.
- For Russia to fully utilize its strategic position (in the balance of power, during this systemic war), it must ensure not to antagonize the United Kingdom and/or France (Europe for that matter). Russian aggression in Europe, could trigger a response from the United States (in support of Europe) and/or from NATO. Consequently, Russia will (can be assumed in this scenario) side with China. Aggression against Europe can cost Russia its crucial strategic (swing) position, in this scenario.
- However, this “scenario” is based on the assumption that the United States is still prepared to “fight” (also literally) with Russia, over Europe. Is this still the case? If this is not the case, and the United States considers Europe of minor importance, it could allow Russia to “act” against Europe and leave Europe to its own devices. Europe’s division and inability to act in unification comes (in all scenarios) at a very high price.