|Table of Contents
Personal and Professional
Honors and Memberships
ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
Andre Gunder Frank
The 'Great Game' for Caspian Sea Oil
|A book OIL AND GEOPOLITICS IN THE CASPIAN SEA REGION [edited by Michael P. Croissant
and Bulent Aras, Westport, Conn. & London: Praeger 1999] with a foreword by Pat
Clawson of the National Defense University and editor of ORBIS, and dedicated to Ronald
Reagan and Turgut Ozal, announces its far-right wing political pedigree and U.S
establishment legitimation literally up front. Clawson already explicitly, indeed
brutally, lays out the groundwork in his two page foreword: The Caspian Sea region is a
world-class oil area with complex econo- and geo-strategic conflicts of interest and
corresponding competing policies among surrounding states and the West, particularly the
United States. The issues are not only the oil per se, including its low price at the time
of publication, but also the related conflicts of interest over pipeline routes and the
U.S. intent to deny them to Russia and Iran. The rule of law, democracy and human rights
come in at the tail end.
In his chapter on the United States, Stephen Blank has done enough of his homework to bring along multiple strategic [in more senses than one] quotations from the horse's mouth in Washington and at NATO headquarters. The background of it all is of course the ongoing American competition with Russia, now also with the regions under review, among which "the Transcaspian has become perhaps the most important area of direct Western-Russian contention today" [p.250 in the book]. Therefore, the author argues, that the new geo-economic competition cannot be separated out from the old but still ongoing geo-political one. That is, the nineteenth century "Great Game" competition for the control of Central Eurasia is still alive and kicking also in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Blank writes that "Washington is now becoming the arbiter or leader of virtually every interstate and international issue in the area"  and indeed also "the main center of international adjudication and influence for local issues" . However in the face of the Russian bear, old style gun-boat diplomacy is too dangerous and is now replaced by its "functional equivalent ... peace operations" . Washington is pursuing these with intense "actual policy making on a daily basis throughout the executive branch"  in Washington and by a myriad of "Partnership for Peace" programs of which the Strategic Research Development Report 5-96 of the [U.S] Center for Naval Warfare Studies reports
-- all as a 'partnership for peace" in - we may understand - Orwellian double-speak. Indeed, U.S. local diplomats and the Clinton administration now regard the Transcapian as a 'backup' for Middle East oil supplies and some insist that the U.S. "take the lead in pacifying the entire area" including by the possible overthrow of inconveniently not sufficiently cooperative governments . The policy and praxis of common military exercises also includes distant Kazakstan. All this and more "reflects a major shift in U.S. policy toward Cental Asia ... coordinated by the National Security Council," as the author quotes from the hawkish U.S. JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION MONITOR. The Security Council's former head and then already super anti-Soviet Russian hawk, Zbigniew Brzezinsky, now promotes a modernized Mackinder heartland vision of a grand U.S. led anti-Russian coalition of Europe,Turkey, Iran, and China as well as Central Asia .
This is where the NATO connection comes in. Former U.S. Secretaries of State and of Defense Christopher and Perry stated in 1997 that "the danger to security ... is not primarily potential aggression to their collective [NATO] territory, but threats to their collective interests beyond their territory....To deal with such threats alliance members need to have a way to rapidly form military coalitions that can accomplish goals beyond NATO territory" . Note that this was two years before "humanitarian" NATO aid to 'out of area' Kosovo. Also, U.S. Central Asia experts met at NATO headquarters and discussed extensive U.S. interests in Caspian basin energy deposits. Not to be outdone, Javier Solana, the former Defense Minister in the 'Socialist' Party government of Spain, become Secretary-General of NATO also during its war against Jugoslavia, and now promoted to czar of European Union [EU] foreign policy, pronounced himself at a Washington conference on NATO enlargement to say that Europe cannot be fully secure without bringing the Caucasus into its security zone . U.S. Ambassador Nathan Nimitz agrees: "PAX NATO is the only logical regime to maintain security in the traditional sense... [and] must recognize a need for expansion of its stabilizing influence in adjacent areas, particularly in Southeastern Europe, the Black Sea region (in concert of course with the regional powers...) and in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. The United States must continue to play the major role in this security system" . This statement is not only a guide to policy making in Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels. The policy is in fact already being implemented on the ground in that the U.S. has been assiduously using economic,diplomatic and military carrots to engage more and more 'regional powers' to play assigned roles in this 'concert' under its own regional direction. These countries include especially Ukraine, Georgia, and Azerbaijan on the western wing to distant Kazakstan and Kyrgyztan on the eastern one of this American and NATO PfP concert hall. All of these states, whether in the oil business or not, happen to be former Soviet republics on the underbelly of Russia.
All this was written and begun to be implemented already in 1997 and earlier. well before the NATO war against Jugoslavia that was allegedly fought to defend 'human rights in Kosovo,' which along with the new NATO 'out of area' south-eastward projection toward the oil producing countries can now be better seen in the light of the above considerations. Indeed, "NATO's regional involvement, especially through PfP [referring to the above mentioned "Partnership for Peace"] is intensifying on a yearly basis. Military excersizes also already in 1997 were supposed to show that "U.S. and NATO forces could be deployed anywhere" . "The obvious implication of current policy is that NATO, under U.S. leadership, will become an international policeman and hegemon in the Transcaspian and define the limits of Russian participation in the region's expected oil boom" . Now the precedent of "humanitarian defense of human rights" in Kosovo also embellishes the "Partnership for Peace" in the Caspian Sea Basin, where it alone might otherwise not evoke enough popular political support from the folks back home. So now in Orwellian language again, not only "War is Peace," but now it also is highly "humanitarian." Preferably that is also placed under a mantle of 'legitimation' by United Nations, as now is the NATO military occupation of Kosovo after the war ended. But if that is not available to make war itself, as it was not against Jugoslavia, then 'legitimation' may at least sought by the agreement of the "International Community," whose states [mis]represent at most 15 percent of humanity, but whose bombs spoke so eloquently in 1999 over Jugoslavia. Where will they fall next - yet farther south-east ?
"It is highly unlikely that Russia will accept such a position 'lying down'," writes Blank, especially in its own Caucasian and Caspian underbelly. Thus, he outlines four main reasons why he regards this U.S. policy not only misguided but also counterproductive:
1. Structural conditions. Military forces will be deployed in the guise of the now sanctioned 'peacekeepers' or 'peace enforcers,' as Kosovo has begun to confirm since he wrote. But that can mean also overextending these forces beyond domestic acceptance. [Contrary to the propaganda, NATO bombs did NOT bring Milosevic to heel and ground troops would have been necessary, had not Russia eventually withdrawn its support from Milosevic, which is what really obliged him to accept Western terms that by then were far less than those for which it had gone to war]. But what if Russia no more plays along at all? U.S. policy and praxis over Jugoslavia and in formerly Soviet Central Asia and the Caspian Sea area has already shifted the Russian political center of gravity towards sharpened nationalism and a renewedly increase in the influence of the military. Yet, already before that, Blank wrote that "Russia will resolutely contest the United States' expanded presence" , which can drive Russia into the arms of China and India as "Kosovo" already did, even if it does not threaten a Third World War, as it well may.
2. This U.S. policy also drives Russia to cooperate with Iran, which is certainly not in the interest of current American policy. 3. "It is impossible to discern any strategic context for the Clinton administration's Russia policy...[which] only enhance Russia's sense of regional threat and propensity to reply in kind, while not preventing it from doing so" . 4. For all the power at the disposal of the U.S., Washington "remains singularly unable to use such instruments to obtain a comprehensive and insightful understanding of regional trends and their implications" . Kuwait, Somalia, and Iraq - since then also Kosovo - "suggest that this is a structural failing of U.S. policy" .
Thus, the U.S. is enlarging its commitment absentmindedly, Blank writes, in the contemporary continuation of the nineteenth century "Great Game" in Central Eurasia -- with still the same major players, excepting the replacement of erstwhile Great [now small] Britain by the United States.
The US also wants to use NATO's Partnership for Peace alliance, which includes the Central Asian Republics of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan as part of any multilateral force....However, Uzbek sources note the considerable cooling of official Tashkent's relations with Moscow in the sphere of military cooperation and at the same time the unusually extensive plans for joint Uzbek-US actions and projects.
from CENTRAL ASIA Online # 109 November 25 - December 1, 2000
|Table of Contents
||Personal and Professional
||Honors and Memberships
||ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age
||Essays on NATO and Kosovo, 1999||On-line Essays
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