In recent years the overt undertaking of wars and attacks to undermine states and expand a nation's power and influence had become all the more obvious. We could argue that the deliberate expansion of a nation's power and seizing of resources has never really been off the agenda since colonialism. The cold war and domino theory prove that the larger powers, such as the US, cannot accept another nation adopting an ideology that counters their own. Vietnam is one major example that demonstrates this point.
However, since the dawn of the 21st century other large and powerful/prosperous nations have employed new (as well as traditional) tactics in order to expand their empires and influence. Countries such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and China have been seeking to grow beyond their traditional borders using a mix of unconventional means and traditional warfare. In addition to this, smaller players such as Britain, Germany, Turkey, France, Iran, and North Korea have also been seeking to gain a reputation on the world's stage in a hope to gain an economic and/or militaristic advantage.
Shifting alliances and sustained assaults (militarily, economically, and digitally) serve to show us that politics and warfare have not changed much since the middle ages, only the players and alliances have changed.
Here we shall examine some of the tactics used by individual nations to gain control of external governments or to, at least, gain favor with other nations.
It seems fitting to start with the world's largest country by population, China. In recent years the Chinese have been seeking to expand their economic presence. Hundreds of years of dealing with internal struggles have left the Chinese to be seen as an isolated superpower with little dealings outside of their borders. Despite this, since the African colonies started to declare independence from their Western oppressors, the Chinese have pursued an expansion policy based upon economic reliance- spurred on by their recent economic boom.
During the struggle for independence in Africa Mao was an avid supporter of the anti-colonial movement and, since then, the investment opportunities for China in Africa has only grown with the West deciding to loosen their ties, seeing Africa as a region rife with economic upheaval and extremism.
With this void growing China has seen an opportunity to expand its base in Africa by taking land under the guise of government controlled companies and supplying infrastructure to the nations in exchange for allowing in Chinese workers. Many Africans see this as little more than a neo-colonial land grab but the government's of Africa cannot afford to refuse the economic stimulus that Chinese investment brings.
The largest African recipients of Chinese Eximbank loans are Ethiopia, Angola, Kenya, Sudan, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Alongside this, the largest recipients of Chinese Investment in Africa are Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, South Africa, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Angola, Niger, Zambia, and Morocco. We can see that this is a two-sided assault, one side fought with loans and the other with Investment. The influence we see China having in Africa is no more easily proven than by the road signs in Africa now bearing Chinese characters.
Despite their economic assaults, China has also been subtly demonstrating its military prowess, most obviously in the South China Sea with them staring down America to assert their dominance in the region and prove to their rival in the West, the American Empire, that they are not going to roll over and accept American imperialism.
Having brushed over China's expansion tactics we shall move onto their Northern most neighbour—Russia.
Russian foreign policy seems to fly in the face of the West's much more flexible view of how to take sides in a conflict. Where the West may choose to back a faction which aligns more with their own aims, Russia chooses to back the internationally recognised government, rightly or wrongly, as this is seen by them as the most stable way to enact change inside a nation. Despite this being their outward position we have seen them abandoning their international stance when it directly opposes Russian interests. One glaring example of this is the annexation of Crimea and the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine. These minor victories were won with subtle military invasions by select forces and through clever political games which play on traditional boundaries and ethnic tensions.
We also see Russia attempting to maintain its sphere of influence famous in the cold war, especially around its north Asian allies, propping up and supporting oppressive governments in Uzbekistan and Chechnya (whilst also fighting various Republican movements).
Russian politics is vastly different to that of the west with oppressive Soviet "Communism" becoming Russian Conservatism and the liberal left being seen as unpatriotic and weak. Now more than ever strength or, more accurately, perceived strength, is something required to win the votes of the Russian electorate. It is this, along with a long-standing persecution complex within Russia, that is pushing this slow expansion of the Russian Federation.
We can also see this at play in the ongoing Syrian conflict, with Russia backing the recognised government and taking over the role of referee, much to the disapproval of the US but despite the American opposition Russia maintains a technical moral high ground on the international legal stage.
Russia has also been known to employ cyber warfare, subtly attacking large empires on a cyber level and, potentially, influencing international elections such as those in the US.
Russia has, however, been under attack itself from economic sanctions levied by the West on its wealthy and notable people. The largest backers of these have been the US. The aims are not just to attack Russian interests and to cripple its economy but to try and pry any reliance of American "allies," such as Germany, away from dependence on Russia for commodities such as gas.
American imperialism is also much more overt, with military bases, detention centres and armies across the globe. Sovereign nations are infiltrated by the American military and, if they do not bow to the American desire; regime change or full-blown invasion is implemented. An obvious example of this is the Iran-Contra fiasco where the Americans managed to back two revolutions whilst committing a slow genocide on its own people. The sale of crack cocaine to black street gangs allowed some in the ghetto to die, militarised what were originally neighbourhood watch organisations, enabled the imprisonment of minority groups, armed the contras to fight a communist regime and funded the Iranian revolution. Why destabilise Iran you may ask? Well, Mosaddegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran at the time, wanted to nationalise Iran's oil industry which would have pushed US corporations out of the region and therefore reduced tax revenue and oil flow to the US from the region. This move was not approved by the US and therefore required a major coup to maintain the US's dominance of oil production and profit in the region.
Other notable wars fought for resources include but are not limited to; Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq (twice). Some say Saddam prompted the invasion of Iraq due to his brutal regime but to this I say; Saddam had been a massive US ally prior to the invasion and in their wars against Kuwait and Iran. Saddam also, despite being a despot, held the country together which is more than can be said of the nation in the years prior to the invasion with no infrastructure remaining and terrorist factions growing and vying for power across the region.
America's destabilising force has impacted many countries including; Lybia, Iraq, Afghanistan (in connection with the Soviets), the South American continent, Eastern Europe, and many more.
Moving back to the middle east we can see different many nations battling to consolidate their dominance in the region. Saudi Arabia is currently razing much of Yemen's infrastructure to the ground in an attempt to cripple Iran's allies and influence in the region. A proxy war between Iran and the Saudis is now in full swing with Saudi forces on the battleground and Iran funding the opposition.
Further north, Turkey is seeking to extend its influence further still by committing genocide against the Kurdish groups in its South East and Northern Syria. In what is collectively referred to as Kurdistan.
Erogdan, with his recent referendum, is seeking to solidify his power which eases his ability to imprison opponents and to carry out military operations with little due political processes.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Germany is seeking to extend its influence (especially post-Brexit) by growing its power within the EU through economic and political means. Being the largest power now inside the EU, the Euro has effectively become a currency propped up by Germany and therefore is more a German currency who's use is allowed throughout the rest of Europe.
France is also seeking to solidify its power by fighting alongside African nations against extremists such as boko-haram, attempting to introduce French as the lingua franca of the EU and engaging in NATO operations in eastern Europe.
Britain has also been attempting to reignite it's power (once demonstrated by its empire) through a number of methods. One being rampant arms sales to oppressive regimes, another being cosying up to the US by fighting alongside them in wars and through talk of nuclear proliferation.
Israeli operations and the slow-worked genocide in Palestine continue unchecked while they also seek to strengthen ties with an unlikely ally, Saudi Arabia, to destroy Iran's (an open supporter of Hamas) growing influence by enacting sanctions on Iranian supporters such as Qatar. We all know that Israel's neighbours fear their military in the long-lasting wake of the six-day war. This, in addition to their Western backing, means that Israel's power and influence in the region remains largely unchecked and unopposed.
Finally, we cannot overlook the underdog DPRK, or North Korea. This formerly communist country, now a junché based nation, is seeking to scare influence into its neighbours and the world through conventional means and unconventional warfare.
The North is known to launch masses of cyber attacks against nations and to conduct suspect financial deals with others but has just successfully launched its first ICBM. This latter move has propelled the nation from a small isolated, backwater nation into a force to be reckoned with. With the frequency of successful nuclear tests increasing and a delivery system now in place, the North is finding itself in a position it has not been in before—as a nation to be feared and respected.
We can see that, across the world, imperialist expansion and the tactics employed is growing. Capital and ideological expansion are two key driving forces behind this. Any who think we have grown since the middle ages only need look at the world in its current state. Technology has advanced but this very basic analysis shows that what we use it for has not changed much in 5/600 years (if not in the entirety of human history).