What Are David's Options When Goliath Makes Geopolitical Reality?

Dec 18, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

People gather outside the presidential office in Kyiv on Dec. 9, 2019, as they wait for news of talks held in Paris to try to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

People gather outside the presidential office in Kyiv on Dec. 9 as they wait for news of talks held in Paris between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The negotiations, aimed at ending, the conflict in eastern Ukraine also included French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

(GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images)


  • The new year will inherit a handful of "frozen conflicts" from the old in which a much stronger nation looms over a weaker party.
  • In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is unwilling to pay the heavy price of challenging Russia; so, he is searching for a nonviolent solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
  • Ukraine has Western backing as it seeks peace. In their struggles against their own Goliaths, Pakistan and Hong Kong largely stand alone as no outside power is willing or can afford to come to their aid.

The old year's parting present to 2020 is a gaggle of what the Russians call "frozen conflicts" across the globe. Any one of them may unfreeze in the year ahead, bringing bloodshed and exile to innocents and threatening an already precarious world order. In some, the balance of forces is so disproportionate that the weaker party has no options but to bow to strength. The Goliaths of Russia and India, among others, dictate terms to the Davids of Ukraine and Pakistan. The people of tiny Hong Kong are standing up to China, but for how long? Who will defend Hong Kong if China abolishes the former British colony's "one country, two systems" status? For that matter, would NATO prevent Moscow from seizing more Ukrainian territory than it already has? Would the United Nations defend Pakistan if India expels the Muslims of Kashmir, as Burma did the Rohingya Muslims?...

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