Wars rage in third of world nations

By The Associated Press

December 30, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An increase in military coups and an erosion in democratic advances have helped push the number of nations in conflict to 65, nearly twice the level near the end of the Cold War, a new survey finds.

The author of the survey predicts even more turmoil ahead.

"It's going to be a very tough next 20 years," said retired Army Maj. Andy Messing Jr., executive director of the National Defense Council Foundation. He said the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and tensions caused by an increasing world population add to the danger.

In its annual report on battle zones, released Wednesday, the foundation said the number of countries in conflict was up by five from a year ago -- meaning that the century is coming to a close with one third of the world's 193 nations afflicted by war, civil strife or other forms of violence.

Although the number was up from a year ago, it was below the record 71 the organization counted in 1995. By contrast, the average in the late 1980s, near the end of the Cold War, was about 35.

"The bipolar `Cold War' system has disintegrated into a system of `Warm Wars,' with randomized conflicts popping up in all corners of an interdependent world," the report said.

It nominated Afghanistan as the world's most unstable state for 2000 -- followed closely by Somalia, Iraq, Angola and the breakaway Chechnya region of Russia.

Seventeen countries were added to the list this year, and 12 were removed -- including two with authoritarian governments, Cuba and Libya. They were removed in light of reduced terrorist violence against President Fidel Castro's Cuban government and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's "strong control over the country," the report said.

The report cited a recent erosion of democratic advances -- including military coups in Guinea-Bissau, Pakistan, Niger and Comoros and a slide back toward authoritarianism in Venezuela, Russia and Haiti.

"This `reverse wave' could continue for several years and lead to a long-term rise in conflict," the report said.

Kosovo and East Timor, where international military intervention was used to try to end internal violence and human-rights violations, were among places added to the list.

The United States was not on the list this year, although Russia and China were.

Russia made it because of separatist wars in Chechnya and its neighbor to the east, Dagestan, terrorism and organized crime. China was included based on "political turmoil," the Beijing government's crackdown on religious dissidents and tensions over Taiwan and the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The foundation, aligned with political conservatives who advocate increased spending on defense, lists countries where turmoil has disrupted economies, politics or security.

Its count differs from a more modest one maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the CIA list, which is classified, currently counts 31 conflicts -- up slightly from 28 three years ago.

Mansfield said the CIA counts only conflicts with "high levels of organized violence between states or between contending groups within a state or with high levels of political or societal tension likely to erupt into violence."

But he did not dispute the foundation's contention that regional conflicts have increased and grown more dangerous since the end of the Cold War.

The Washington-based Center for Defense Information, a rival liberal-oriented research group that has issued reports skeptical of increased military spending, counts 37 active wars or combat zones where at least 1,000 casualties have occurred. That's up from 27 a few years back.

"There are more active conflicts today than at the end of the Cold War," said retired Army Col. Daniel Smith, the center's chief of research. "The superpowers tended to move carefully and prevent client states from getting too far out of hand."


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