Laos: The New Cold War Battleground You Don’t Know About
The “New Cold War” could be a potential description for the unfolding geopolitical lay of the planet as Russia reemerges as a world power, and China rises as a new one in the face of a prevailing Wall Street-Washington-London international order.
The most obvious battlegrounds taking shape in this “New Cold War” are Ukraine, Syria, and the South China Sea. Perhaps not as high-profile but no less important are the ongoing conflicts in and around Libya, the proxy war being waged across Yemen, and America’s enduring occupation of Afghanistan in Central Asia.
However, there are other struggles taking place that go virtually unseen by the general public, or are briefly mentioned – out of context in the news – before being quickly forgotten.
Laos – A Pivotal Battleground
For the Southeast Asian state of Laos, this is not the first time it has played a pivotal role in the ongoing struggle between East and West. It was bombed during the Vietnam War by the United States and according to the UN-funded Washington-based “Legacies of War” organization:
…from 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years – making Laos the most heavily bombed country per capita in history.
Even as US diplomats find themselves today posing for photo opportunities in Laos’ capital, Vientiane, nearly 100 people a year are still killed or injured across the country from unexploded US ordnance.
Today, Laos serves as more than a mere extension of the Vietnam War’s battlefield and subsequent legacy. Bordering Myanmar, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, it is a crossroads between much of Southeast Asia as well as the gateway into East Asia.
Though landlocked, Laos possesses immense hydroelectric potential – potential that has been incrementally developed through cooperation with Beijing. Not only do dam projects help manage water resources and provide electricity for the people of Laos, it has allowed Laos to become an increasingly important source of alternative energy for its neighbors as well.