From the September 2008 Idaho Observer:
Russia, Europe, USA and fundamental geopolitics
Russia, Europe, USA and fundamental geopolitics
As details of the larger strategic picture emerge over what is at stake in the Georgia and larger Caucasus crisis, it is becoming clearer that Moscow has begun a process of defusing the highly dangerous NATO expansion, a strategic campaign led by Washington warhawks since the end of the Cold War in 1990. Had events progressed as Washington intended up until the surprise rejection of NATO membership from no less than 10 European NATO member countries, including Germany and France at the April, 2008 NATO Summit, Georgia would today have been in the admission process to NATO-ization along with Ukraine. That would have opened the door to full-scale encirclement of Russia militarily and economically. In a certain sense it is not important who fired the first shot in South Ossetia on the night of August 8. What is important is that Russia was well prepared for such a shot. To understand these events, we need to go back to the basics of geopolitical fundamentals and U.S. or Anglo-American strategy since 1945. This is exactly what Russia is challenging by its response to Georgia’s attack.
By F. William Engdahl
Fundamental axioms of geopolitics
What few people realize is that the architect of America’s post-1945 grand strategy was a British national, Sir Halford Mackinder. Mackinder, the grand strategist of British imperial power since his landmark paper, the Geographical Pivot of History, (1904) defined how the United States could dominate the post-World War II world in a later contribution to the leading foreign policy organ of the United States, Foreign Affairs magazine.
In his July, 1943 Foreign Affairs article, written a few years before his death when it was clear that the United States would replace the British Empire in the postwar world, Mackinder outlined the vital strategic importance for American global strategy of controlling what Mackinder called the "Heartland." He defined the Heartland as the northern part and the interior of Euro-Asia, essentially Russia-Ukraine-Byelorus—what was then the USSR. For Mackinder the strategic import of the Heartland was its special geography, with the widest lowland plain on earth, great navigable rivers and vast grassland zones.
Mackinder compared the strategic importance of Russia in 1943 to that of France in 1914-18: "Russia repeats in essentials the pattern of France, but on a greater scale with her open frontier turned westward instead of northeastward. In the present war the Russian army is aligned across that open frontier. In its rear is the vast plain of the Heartland, available for defense in depth and for strategic retreat."
Mackinder noted to his American policy readers, "…if the Soviet Union emerges from this war as the conqueror of Germany, she must rank as the greatest land power on the globe…the power in the strategically strongest defensive position. The Heartland is the greatest natural fortress on earth."1
What Mackinder went on to suggest in that little-known essay was that Western Europe, specifically the German industrial challenge to the Anglo-American hegemony, would be best contained by a hostile Heartland USSR power to the east and a militarily strong American power on the Atlantic. In a certain sense it did not matter whether that USSR power was still friendly to Washington or a Cold War foe. The effect would still be to contain Western Europe and make it a U.S. sphere of influence after 1945.
U.S. war plans in 1945 against Moscow
As I detail in my book, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, dealing with present U.S. military policy in the wake of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact some 17 years ago, U.S. President Harry Truman and Churchill both considered an immediate war against the Heartland the moment Germany had surrendered.2
Only a U.S. veto of Churchill’s geopolitical plan delayed the Cold War by three years. Difficult to understand for many is that the Cold War was in large part a U.S. geopolitical strategy to dominate the post-war global order by using a hostile Russia and a hostile China in Asia after the Korean War, to make United States military protection via NATO and via various Asian defense arrangements, the essential fact of postwar life.
Washington’s post Cold War dilemma
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s suddenly confronted Washington policymakers with a devastating strategic dilemma. Their "enemy image"—the Soviet Bear—was gone. China was an economic partner. There was no need for NATO to continue beyond a period of careful disarmament on both sides.
That lack of an enemy image Russia, for strategists like U.S. adviser to Barack Obama, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was a strategic threat to continued American Sole Superpower domination. In his 1997 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine, Brzezinski, like Henry Kissinger, has implicitly and even explicitly deployed Mackinder geopolitical ideas to shape U.S. foreign policy, outlined the goal of U.S. post-Cold War foreign policy:
America’s emergence as the sole global superpower now makes an integrated and comprehensive strategy for Eurasia imperative.
Eurasia is home to most of the world’s politically assertive and dynamic states. All the historical pretenders to global power originated in Eurasia. The world’s most populous aspirants to regional hegemony, China and India, are in Eurasia, as are all the potential political or economic challengers to American primacy…Eurasia accounts for 75 percent of the world’s population, 60 percent of its GNP, and 75 percent of its energy resources. Collectively, Eurasia’s potential power overshadows even America’s.
Eurasia is the world’s axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world’s three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa… What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy and historical legacy.
…In the short run, the United States should consolidate and perpetuate the prevailing geopolitical pluralism on the map of Eurasia. This strategy will put a premium on political maneuvering and diplomatic manipulation, preventing the emergence of a hostile coalition that could challenge America’s primacy, not to mention the remote possibility of any one state seeking to do so…3
Mackinder and the Bush Doctrine
Briefly restated, US foreign policy, whether under George H.W. Bush, guided by Kissinger, or under Clinton or under George W. Bush, has followed the Mackinder outline suggested in the Brzezinski statement—divide and rule, balance of power politics. Preventing any "rival power" or groups of power on Eurasia from "challenging" American Sole Superpower dominance was codified in the official National Security Strategy of the United States, published in September, 2002, a year after September 11, 2001.4
That Bush Doctrine policy went so far as to justify, for the first time, "pre-emptive" war, such as the attack on Iraq in 2003, to depose foreign regimes that represented a threat to the security of the United States, even if that threat was not immediate. That doctrine, for much of the civilized world, has ended U.S. legitimacy in foreign affairs.
Since 2002 Washington has pushed relentlessly with an agenda of covert regime change, most exemplified by its covert organizing of pro-NATO regime changes in Georgia and Ukraine in 2003-2004. Washington has organized, in violation of the agreement it had pledged when James Baker III met with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, namely that the U.S. would not extend the borders of NATO eastwards in return for Moscow allowing a united Germany be a NATO member.5
Washington conveniently suffered a case of diplomatic amnesia as people like John McCain’s foreign policy guru, Randy Scheunemann, a leading neoconservative hawk, led the campaign after 1991 to bring Poland, the Baltic States, the Czech Republic and other former Warsaw Pact states into NATO. Moscow, not surprisingly, became alarmed at the pattern.
Finally when Washington announced in early 2007 that it planned to station its missile "defense" array in Poland—including U.S. missiles—and in the Czech Republic, then-President Putin reacted loudly. His remarks were largely censored by the ever-watchful U.S. media, and only the comments of U.S. officials expressing "shock" at the hostile reaction of Russia to the U.S. missile defense plans were reported.
Washington made the ludicrous argument that the Polish and Czech installations were necessary to defend U.S. security interests in event of a potential nuclear missile attack by Iran. When Putin exposed the fraud of the Bush administration’s Iran defense argument by proposing an alternative site for U.S. interceptor radar far closer to Teheran in Azerbaijan, a surprised Bush was left speechless. Washington simply ignored the Azeri option and rammed ahead with the Poland and Czech sites.6
What few people outside military strategy circles know is that missile defense, even primitive, is as one leading American missile defense strategist put it, "the missing link to a nuclear first strike capability."7
If the United States is able to deploy missile defense on Russia’s borders and Russia has none, the U.S. has won World War III and is in a position to dictate terms of Russia’s unconditional surrender, its dismemberment as a viable nation and its entire dismantlement. Little wonder that Putin reacted. Moscow strategists know full well what U.S. military intentions have been since the 1940s.
Eurasian geopolitics post 8/8/08
This all leads us back to the consequences of the Russian response in Georgia after August 8, 2008. What Russia has done by swiftly responding with military force, followed by the announcement by President Medvedev of Russia’s "Five Points" of Russian foreign policy which some western commentators have dubbed the "Medvedev Doctrine." The five points include, in addition to Russia’s reaffirmation of its commitment to the principles of international law, a simple statement that "the world should be multipolar."
Medvedev notes, "A single-pole world is unacceptable. Domination is something we cannot allow. We cannot accept a world order in which one country makes all the decisions, even as serious and influential a country as the United States of America. Such a world is unstable and threatened by conflict."
Then, after stating its wish to have peaceful friendly relations with Europe, the USA and others and its intent to protect its citizens "wherever they may be," Medvedev comes to the decisive fifth point: "As is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests. These regions are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors. We will pay particular attention to our work in these regions and build friendly ties with these countries, our close neighbors."8
Russia’s most recent foreign policy moves in this game of geopolitical chess include the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign independent states and Russia’s August 29, 2008 agreement with Tajikistan that allows Russia to expand its presence at Tajikistan’s Gissar Airport.
These moves constitute a potentially devastating blow to Washington’s Eurasia geopolitical strategy. Tajikistan, a remote central Asian country with dependence on Russia for export of its uranium and dependent on heroin for much of its income, was drawing closer to a strategic link with Washington after 2005. In the wake of the Russian reaction in Georgia, Tajikistan’s dictator President Emomali Rakhmon clearly decided his best security guarantee lay in closer ties with Moscow instead of Washington.
The government of pro-NATO "Orange Revolution" President Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine collapsed on September 3, 2008, when Yushchenko pulled out of the ruling coalition over the refusal of Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to back the president in his support for Georgia and condemnation of Russia in the recent conflict over South Ossetia. Yushchenko accused Tymoshenko of "treason and political corruption," over her failure to back a pro-U.S. stand. He also withdrew over new laws passed by Tymoshenko’s party in de facto coalition, stripping the president of his veto on prime ministerial candidates and facilitating a procedure for impeaching the president.
According to Russia’s RAI Novosti, Ukraine’s pro-Russian former prime minister, Viktor Yanukovich, who heads the Party of Regions, has said that he does not rule out the possibility of forming a parliamentary majority with the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc. Such a move would likely remove from the discussion the entire issue of a Ukrainian application to join NATO.
American global strategy is in crisis and this is clearly what Moscow has sensed. The United States has insufficient power to cope with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both were to have been an essential part of a U.S. policy to militarily control Eurasian rivals, especially Russia and China. However, to act militarily beyond sabre rattling against Russia in Georgia has now been exposed for all Georgia’s neighbor states as essentially a U.S. bluff.
The current U.S. strategy will likely be to continue with the war on Islam while avoiding one with Russia as the unfolding U.S. economic and financial crisis worsens by the day.
Additionally, the loss of credibility for U.S. foreign policy around the world since the Bush administration came to Washington in 2001, has created the opening for other powers to begin to act on what would be Halford Mackinder’s worst nightmare: A Russian Heartland that is vital and that is able to forge strategic relationships, primarily not through guns as during the Cold War, but through economic and trade cooperation, with China, Kazakhstan and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Washington has made devastating strategic miscalculations, but not merely in Georgia. They began back in 1990 when there was a beautiful opportunity to build bridges of peaceful economic cooperation between the OECD and Russia. Instead, George Bush senior and the U.S. sent NATO and the IMF east to create economic chaos, looting and instability, evidently thinking that a better option. The next U.S. president will bear the consequences of having lost that opportunity.
Caption: Over 100 years ago, Sir Halford Mackinder noted that geopolitics plays out over time. He observed that, whatever force controls Europe, particularly Germany, France and Middle Europe, shall also control the region Mackinder referred to as the "Heartland, nexus," the region now known as Russia, Ukraine, the Caspian basin, Caucasus and western China. Whatever force controls "Heartland" will also control the beltway Mackinder named "world island" that goes down to the Near East and North Africa. According to Mackinder, he who controls the "world island" controls the whole world. This is the philosophy Barack Obama’s neocon foreign policy advisor and Grand Chessboard author Zbigniew Brzezinski has been following since prior to serving as President Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy advisor (1977-1981). Brzezinski, friend and philosophical ally of John McCain’s foreign policy advisor Henry Kissinger, believes that post Cold War America must now, regardless of the price and without being concerned about the means, prevent alliances between Russia, oil rich Near East countries and Europe.
The Caucasus: Washington Risks nuclear war by miscalculation
The dramatic attack by the military of the Republic of Georgia on South Ossetia August 8, 2008 (as the 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremonies were about to begin in Beijing), brought the world one major step closer to the ultimate horror of the Cold War era—a thermonuclear war between Russia and the United States—by miscalculation. What is playing out in the Caucasus is being reported by the U.S. media in an alarmingly misleading light, making Moscow appear the lone aggressor. The question is whether George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are encouraging the unstable Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in order to force the next U.S. president to back the NATO military agenda of the Bush Doctrine. Washington may have once again badly misjudged the possibilities in the Caucasus, as it did in Iraq, but this time with possible nuclear consequences.
By F. William Engdahl
AUGUST 11, 2008—The underlying issue, as I stressed in my July 11 article, "Georgia, Washington and Moscow: a Nuclear Geopolitical Poker Game, is the fact that, since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, one after another former pact member, as well as former states of the USSR, have been coaxed (and in many cases bribed) with false promises by Washington into joining the counter organization, NATO.
Rather than initiate discussions after the 1991 dissolution of the Warsaw Pact about a systematic dissolution of NATO, Washington has systematically converted NATO into what can only be called the military vehicle of an American global imperial rule, linked by a network of military bases from Kosovo to Poland to Turkey to Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 1999, former Warsaw Pact members Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic joined NATO. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia followed suit in March, 2004. Now Washington is putting immense pressure on the EU members of NATO, especially Germany and France, to vote in favor of admitting Georgia and the Ukraine into NATO this coming December.
The roots of the conflict
The specific conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia and Abkhazia has its roots in the following: First, the Southern Ossetes who, until 1990, existed as an autonomous region of the Georgian Soviet republic, sought to unite into one state with their co-ethnics in North Ossetia, an autonomous republic of the Russian Soviet republic and now the Russian Federation.
There is an historically grounded Ossete fear of violent Georgian nationalism and the experience of Georgian hatred of ethnic minorities under then Georgian leader Zviad Gamsakhurdia, which the Ossetes see happening again under Georgian President, Mikhel Saakashvili. Saakashvili was brought to power with U.S. financing and U.S. covert regime change activities in December, 2003, in what was called the Rose Revolution. Now the thorns of that rose are causing blood to spill.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia—the first a traditional Black Sea resort area, the second an impoverished, sparsely populated region that borders Russia to the north—each has its own language, culture and history. When the Soviet Union collapsed, both regions sought to separate themselves from Georgia in bloody conflicts—South Ossetia in 1990-1991, Abkhazia in 1992-1994.
In December, 1990, Georgia, under Gamsakhurdia, sent troops into South Ossetia after the region declared its own sovereignty. This Georgian move was defeated by Soviet Interior Ministry troops.
Then Georgia declared abolition of the South Ossete autonomous region and declared its incorporation into Georgia proper. Both wars ended with cease-fires that were negotiated by Russia and policed by peacekeeping forces under the aegis of the recently established "Commonwealth of Independent States." The situation hardened into "frozen conflicts," like that over Cyprus.
By late 2005, Georgia signed an agreement that it would not use force and the Abkhaz would allow the gradual return of 200,000-plus ethnic Georgians who had fled the violence. But the agreement collapsed in early 2006 when Saakashvili sent troops to retake the Kodori Valley in Abkhazia. Since then Saakashvili has been escalating preparations for military action.
Russia’s support for the Southern Ossetes is critical. Russia is opposed to Georgia joining NATO. In addition, the Ossetes are the oldest Russian allies in the Caucasus who have provided troops to the Russian army in many wars. Russia does not wish to abandon them and the Abkhaz and fuel yet more ethnic unrest among their compatriots in the Russian North Caucasus.
In a November, 2006 referendum, 99 percent of South Ossetians voted for independence from Georgia at a time when most of them had long held Russian passports. This enabled Russian President Medvedev to justify his military’s counter-attack of Georgia on August 8, 2008, as an effort to "protect the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they may be."
For Russia, Ossetia has been an important strategic base near the Turkish and Iranian frontiers since the days of the czars. Georgia is also an important transit country for oil being pumped from the Caspian Sea to the Turkish port of Ceyhan and a potential base for Washington efforts to encircle Tehran.
As far as the Georgians are concerned, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are simply part of their national territory, to be recovered at all costs. Promises by NATO leaders to bring Georgia into the alliance and ostentatious declarations of support from Washington have emboldened Saakashvili to launch his military offensive against the two provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Saakashvili and, likely, Dick Cheney’s office in Washington, appear to have miscalculated very badly. Russia has made it clear that it has no intention of ceding its support for South Ossetia or Abkhazia.
In March, 2008, as Washington went ahead to recognize the independence of Kosovo in former Yugoslavia, making Kosovo a de facto NATO-run territory against the will of the UN Security Council and amid Russian protest, Putin responded with Russian Duma hearings on recognition of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, a pro-Russian breakaway republic in Moldova. Moscow argued that the west’s logic on Kosovo should apply as well to these ethnic communities seeking to free themselves from the control of a hostile state.
In mid-April, 2008, Putin held out the possibility of recognition for the breakaway republics. It was a geopolitical chess game in the strategic Caucasus for the highest stakes—the future of Russia itself.
Saakashvili called then-President Putin to demand he reverse the decision. He reminded Putin that the west had taken Georgia’s side. This past April at the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, President Bush proposed accepting Georgia into NATO’s "Action Plan for Membership," a precursor to NATO membership. To Washington’s surprise, 10 NATO member states refused to support his plan, including Germany, France and Italy.
They argued that accepting the Georgians was problematic because of the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They were, in reality, saying they would not be willing to back Georgia as, under Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which mandates that an armed attack against any NATO member country must be considered an attack against them all and, consequently requires use of collective armed force of all NATO members. In other words, by accepting Georgia into NATO, Europe could be dragged into war against Russia over the tiny Caucasus Republic of Georgia, with its incalculable dictator, Saakashvili. That would mean the troubled Caucasus would be on a hair-trigger to detonate World War III.
Russia threatens Georgia, but Georgia threatens Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia looks like a crocodile to Georgia, but Georgia looks to Russia like the cat’s paw of the west. Since Saakashvili took power in late 2003, the Pentagon has been in Georgia giving military aid and training. Not only are U.S. military personnel active in Georgia today, according to an Israeli-intelligence source, DEBKAfile, in 2007, the Georgian President Saakashvili "commissioned from private Israeli security firms several hundred military advisers, estimated at up to 1,000, to train the Georgian armed forces in commando, air, sea, armored and artillery combat tactics. They also have been giving instruction on military intelligence and security for the central regime. Tbilisi also purchased weapons, intelligence and electronic warfare systems from Israel. These advisers were undoubtedly deeply involved in the Georgian army’s preparations to conquer the South Ossetian capital Friday."
Debkafile reported further, "Moscow has repeatedly demanded that Jerusalem halt its military assistance to Georgia, finally threatening a crisis in bilateral relations. Israel responded by saying that the only assistance rendered Tbilisi was ‘defensive.’"
The Israeli news source added that Israel’s interest in Georgia has to do as well with Caspian oil pipeline geopolitics. "Jerusalem has a strong interest in having Caspian oil and gas pipelines reach the Turkish terminal port of Ceyhan, rather than the Russian network. Intense negotiations are afoot between Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Turkmenistan and Azarbaijan for pipelines to reach Turkey and thence to Israel’s oil terminal at Ashkelon and on to its Red Sea port of Eilat. From there, supertankers can carry the gas and oil to the Far East through the Indian Ocean."
This means that the attack on South Ossetia is the first battle in a new proxy warfare between Anglo-American-Israeli led interests and Russia. The only question is whether Washington miscalculated the swiftness and intensity of the Russian response to the Georgian attacks of 8/8/08.
So far, each step in the Caucasus drama has put the conflict on a yet higher plane of danger. The next step will no longer be just about the Caucasus, or even Europe. In 1914 it was the "Guns of August" that initiated the Great War. This time the Guns of August, 2008, could be the detonator of World War III and a nuclear holocaust of unspeakable horror.
Nuclear Primacy: the larger strategic danger
Most in the west are unaware how dangerous the conflict over two tiny provinces in a remote part of Eurasia has become. What is left out of most all media coverage is the strategic military security context of the Caucasus dispute.
In my book, "A Century of War" (see ad page 18), I describe the developments by NATO and most directly by Washington since the end of the Cold War to systematically pursue what military strategists call "Nuclear Primacy." Put simply, if one of two opposing nuclear powers is able to first develop an operational anti-missile defense, even primitive, that can dramatically weaken a potential counter-strike by the opposing side’s nuclear arsenal, the side with missile defense has "won" the nuclear war.
As mad as this sounds, it has been explicit Pentagon policy through the last three presidents from father Bush in 1990, to Clinton and most aggressively, George W. Bush. This is the issue where Russia has drawn a deep line in the sand—and understandably so. The forceful U.S. effort to push Georgia as well as Ukraine into NATO would present Russia with the spectre of NATO literally coming to its doorstep, a military threat that is aggressive in the extreme, and untenable for Russian national security.
This is what gives the seemingly obscure fight over two provinces the size of Luxemburg the potential to become the 1914 Sarajevo trigger to a new nuclear war by miscalculation. The trigger for such a war is not Georgia’s right to annex South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Rather, it is U.S. insistence on pushing NATO and its missile defense right up to Russia’s door.
Note to readers:The modern world is unfolding. The global power plays on the Grand Chessboard are playing out at this time. As the neocons in the U.S., Great Britain and Israel push forward with their preprogrammed agenda, it feels like they overplayed their hand and America will pay the price for their murderous mistakes. Again we see how the profits are private and the losses are public. (DWH)
F. William Engdahl is author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order (Pluto Press) and Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation (See ad page on the home page). He may be reached through his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.