In addition to the crisis in Ukraine, the world has 28 active conflicts and fears new wars

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While a potential war in Ukraine shows signs of cooling off with the retreat of Russian troops, at least 28 other countries are experiencing conflicts or registering armed fighting between government forces and rebel groups in early 2022. In this scenario, an opinion poll indicates that nearly half of the global population say they are afraid their country will be involved in a war.

Ukraine itself leads the list with the highest number of registered events, according to a survey carried out between January 1 and February 11 by the Armed Conflict Location and Events Data Project (Acled) – they were considered conflicts. armed forces between government forces, between government and rebels, and between rebels, according to the institute’s methodology.

There are countries that appear in the database, but have had less than ten events this year, such as Burundi, Libya, Azerbaijan and Venezuela. Ukraine, in turn, leads the list with 187 records and has been on the brink of war since the arrival of Russian troops on its borders, at the end of 2021. Faced with the threat, the year 2022 began with several diplomatic initiatives aimed at de-escalating tensions between the West and Russia.

The United States and several European countries accuse Moscow of wanting to invade Ukraine – Washington even gave repeated warnings that strong military action by the Russians could happen at any moment. The Kremlin, for its part, continues to deny the accusation and insists on saying that it does not want war, despite maintaining a contingent of troops close to the border. Under the pretext of passing on a sign of his good intentions, President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of part of his soldiers.

The conflict in Ukraine, however, does not come from now. In 2014, a civil war by pro-Kremlin separatists broke out in the Donbass region, which is at the center of the confusion. From this conflict, the death toll has reached 14,000.

The tension in the country contributes to the impression that the world has become a more dangerous place. Or at least that’s the perception of, on average, 82% of people interviewed by the Ipsos institute in 28 countries between September and October 2021 – therefore, even before the current crisis between Russia, Ukraine and the West.

The survey also assessed respondents’ fears about the possibility that their respective countries would become involved in military conflicts. The most fearful are in Turkey, where 76% expressed fears about a possible war. The United States appears in second place, with 74%, and Russia, one of the protagonists of the most recent crisis, is the fifth country on the list, with 64%. In the average of the 26 countries —the question was not asked in China and Saudi Arabia—, the rate is 46%.

This concept of combat between countries, however, is something that remained in the 20th century, explains Leticia Rizzotti, a doctoral student in peace, defense and security at the San Tiago Dantas international relations program. “What you’ve seen since the late 1980s and early 1990s is a new form of conflict, very lethal and violent especially for civilians.”

In this scenario, says the researcher, the target are groups spread within the country, which mostly target vulnerable populations, and the State has a role of repression.

This is the case seen in the five countries that register the most violence among the 29 on the list. Yemen, Nigeria, Syria, Myanmar and Somalia account for 44.6% of events and 55% of deaths. “All these are conflicts that come from this stronger wave of the 1990s, especially from armed groups. They all have a very strong characteristic, which is this opposition [ao governo] and the control of the territory, which the State cannot do”, explains Rizzotti.

The expert also points out that these countries have had conflicts and major spikes in violence for at least 40 years, with Yemen and Syria becoming more dangerous after the Arab Spring. Yemen is precisely at the top of the Acled list, with 95 conflicts (that is, half of Ukraine’s records) with at least 408 victims.

For the UN, the forgotten war in the country is the most serious humanitarian crisis in the world. The conflict, which has lasted about seven years, has left more than 10,000 Yemeni children dead or maimed, according to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). In all, 11 million children — or four out of five in the country — are in need of humanitarian aid, 2 million are out of school and 400,000 are severely malnourished.

Still in the Middle East, the war in Syria, which began in the midst of the Arab Spring in 2011 to overthrow dictator Bashar al-Assad, continues to this day — as does the permanence of its leader in power.

There, too, Russia has its role in supporting the dictatorship and, once again, is on the opposite side of the US. Moscow supports it with air strikes, the core of its military presence in Syria, but it also has troops spread throughout the country’s northern region. Washington has reduced its contingent, but there are still units in the Middle Eastern country.

In the case of African countries, there are disputes against Islamic fundamentalist groups. In Nigeria, Boko Haram is one of the main forces, although there are dissidents who are also actors in the violence.

Somalia, meanwhile, faces a civil war that has lasted 30 years, but the conflict also revolves around Al-Shabaab. As in Nigeria, there are other groups, such as Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama, in the Guriel region (450 km from the capital, Mogadishu), which has been the scene of an escalation of tensions with government forces.

The most recent conflict between these countries is that of Myanmar, the target of a coup d’état on February 1, 2021. There were already records last year, but they were few: 29 events with 15 deaths. The numbers jumped to 117 and 252, respectively, this year.

In the Asian country, the forces of the military junta that now controls the country have quelled protests against the coup, while promising to return command to civilians in a “free and fair” election in August 2023. The former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, however, is on trial for more than a dozen crimes, which carry up to 150 years in prison — charges that critics say are aimed at ensuring she never returns to political activity.

For Rizzotti, one of the main difficulties in responding to these conflicts is the way in which they are fragmented. “There is no front of battle, there is no obvious line where armies will meet. War is with scattered groups and with varied tactics.”

Acts of terrorism are another feature highlighted by the researcher. “Regular armies should comply with some kind of protocol, like the Geneva Convention. This is not the case with these conflicts, which record human rights violations.”

Thus, countries that present conflicts with these characteristics, with vulnerable groups without protection and without state infrastructure, become more dangerous than those that register “classic wars”, such as mobilized armies.

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