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Nato & Caucasus/Central Asia Oil

                    Involved in the reintegration of the territory of the
former USSR into
                    world capitalism is the absorption, by massive Western
                    companies, of trillions of dollars in valuable raw
materials that are vital to
                    the imperialist powers. The greatest untapped oil
reserves in the world
                    are located in the former Soviet republics bordering
the Caspian Sea
                    (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan). These
resources are now being
                    divided among the major capitalist countries. This is
the fuel that is
                    feeding renewed militarism and must lead to new wars
of conquest by the
                    imperialist powers against local opponents, as well as
                    conflicts among the imperialists themselves.

                    This is the key to understanding the bellicosity of US
foreign policy over
                    the past decade. The bombardment of Yugoslavia is the
latest in a series
                    of wars of aggression that have spanned the globe.
Though they had
                    certain regional motivations, these wars have been the
US response to
                    the opportunities and challenges opened by the demise
of the USSR.
                    Washington sees its military might as a trump card
that can be employed
                    to prevail over all its rivals in the coming struggle
for resources.

                             Caspian oil and the new foreign policy debate

                    The Caspian region is one of the largest remaining
potential resources of
                    undeveloped oil and gas in the world,” explained one
Exxon executive in
                    1998, adding that the area might be producing as much
as 6 million
                    barrels of oil per day by 2020. He expects the oil
industry to invest
                    $300-$500 billion in the interim to exploit the
reserves. The US
                    Department of Energy estimates that 163 billion
barrels of oil and up to
                    337 trillion cubic feet of natural gas are to be
found. If the estimates are
                    borne out, the region will become a petroleum producer
comparable in
                    scope to Iran or Iraq.

                    Western analysts also expect the Caspian region to
become a major
                    world gold producer. Kazakhstan, with 10,000 tons, has
the second
                    largest reserves in the world. Mining companies from
the US, Japan,
                    Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Israel are
already operating
                    in the region.

                    Each of the major capitalist countries, and a number
of developing
                    regional powers, have their sights set on these
resources. There is an
                    acute awareness among the capitalist powers of the
objective imperatives
                    to intervene, expand their influence and secure their
own interests to the
                    disadvantage of their rivals. These needs are finding
growing articulation
                    in major policy journals, government hearings and

                    Here the debate within the US ruling elite is the most
significant, and
                    ominous. Since 1991, a frank discussion has been
taking place among
                    prominent US strategists concerning the country's new
place in world
                    affairs. In the absence of the Soviet Union, many have
concluded, the US
                    finds itself the master of a new unipolar” world, in
which it enjoys, at
                    least for the present, unassailable dominance. What
these strategists
                    debate is not whether, but how this advantage can be

                    Noteworthy is an article written by Zbigniew
Brzezinski, the former
                    National Security chief under Carter, which was
published in the
                    September/October 1997 issue of Foreign Affairs. It is
entitled A
                    Geostrategy for Asia.”

                    America's status as the world's premier power is
unlikely to be
                    contested by any single challenger for more than a
generation,” writes
                    Brzezinski.  No state is likely to match the United
States in the four key
                    dimensions of power—military, economic, technological,
                    cultural—that confer global political clout.”

                    Having consolidated its power in its base in the
Western Hemisphere, the
                    US, Brzezinski argues, must make sustained efforts to
penetrate the two
                    continents of Europe and Asia.

                    America's emergence as the sole global superpower now
makes an
                    integrated and comprehensive strategy for Eurasia

                    After the United States,” Brzezinski writes, the next
six largest
                    economies and military spenders are there, as are all
but one of the
                    world's overt nuclear powers, and all but one of the
covert ones. 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

                    With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical
chessboard, it no
                    longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe and
another for Asia.
                    What happens with the distribution of power on the
Eurasian landmass
                    will be of decisive importance to America's global
primacy and historical

                    Because he does not expect the US to dominate Eurasia
                    Brzezinski sees American interests being best served
by securing a
                    leading role, while facilitating a balance among the
major powers
                    favorable to the US. He attaches an important
condition: In volatile
                    Eurasia, the immediate task is to ensure that no state
or combination of
                    states gains the ability to expel the United States or
even diminish its
                    decisive role.” This situation he describes as a
benign American

                    Brzezinski sees NATO as the best vehicle to achieve
such an outcome.
                    Unlike America's links with Japan, NATO entrenches
American political
                    influence and military power on the Eurasian mainland.
With the allied
                    European nations still highly dependent on US
protection, any expansion
                    of Europe's political scope is automatically an
expansion of US influence.
                    Conversely, the United States' ability to project
influence and power
                    relies on close transatlantic ties.

                    A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the
short-term and
                    longer-term interests of US policy. A larger Europe
will expand the range
                    of American influence without simultaneously creating
a Europe so
                    politically integrated that it could challenge the
United States on matters
                    of geopolitical importance, particularly in the Middle

                    As these lines suggest, the NATO role in Yugoslavia,
where it has
                    undertaken offensive military action for the first
time since its inception, is
                    clearly seen in US ruling circles as a step which will
enhance America's
                    world position. At the same time, NATO expansion into
                    Hungary and the Czech Republic is effectively the
expansion of US
                    influence in Europe and the world.

                    Brzezinski's particular perspective on this region is
not entirely novel. He
                    has resurrected, in a form adapted for use by the US
under present
                    conditions, the traditional geopolitical strategy of
British imperialism,
                    which long sought to secure its interests in Europe by
playing one rival on
                    the continent against another.

                    The first modern Eurasian strategy” for world
domination was
                    elaborated in Britain. Foreshadowing Brzezinski,
imperial strategist
                    Halford Mackinder, in a 1904 paper, The Geographical
Pivot of
                    History,” maintained that the Eurasian land mass and
Africa, which he
                    collectively termed the world island,” were of
decisive significance to
                    achieving global hegemony. According to Mackinder, the
barriers that
                    had prevented previous world empires, particularly the
limitations in
                    transportation, had largely been overcome by the
beginning of the 20th
                    century, setting the stage for a struggle among the
great powers to
                    establish a global dominion. The key, Mackinder
believed, lay in control
                    of the heartland” region of the Eurasian land
mass—bounded roughly by
                    the Volga, the Yangtze, the Arctic and the Himalayas.
He summed up his
                    strategy as follows: Who rules east Europe commands
the Heartland;
                    who rules the Heartland commands the world-island; who
rules the
                    world-island commands the world.”

                    Notwithstanding assumptions that were later criticized
by bourgeois
                    commentators, Mackinder's writings, like Brzezinski's
today, were
                    followed closely by the major statesmen of his time
and exerted a
                    profound influence in the great power conflicts which
shaped the first half
                    of this century.

                    For reasons both of world strategy and control over
natural resources,
                    the US is determined to secure for itself a dominant
role in the former
                    Soviet sphere. Were any of its adversaries—or
combination of
                    adversaries—to effectively challenge US supremacy in
this region, it
                    would call into question the hegemonic position of the
US in world
                    affairs. The political establishment in the US is well
aware of this fact.

                        Washington plans for political domination of
Central Asia

                    The US House Committee on International Relations has
begun holding
                    hearings on the strategic importance of the Caspian
region. At one
                    meeting in February 1998, Doug Bereuter, the committee
                    opened by recalling the great power conflicts over
Central Asia during
                    the 19th century, then dubbed the great game.”

                    In the contest for empire, Bereuter noted, Russia and
Britain engaged in
                    an extended struggle for power and influence. He went
on to say that
                    one hundred years later, the collapse of the Soviet
Union has unleashed
                    a new great game, where the interests of the East
India Trading
                    Company have been replaced by those of Unocal and
Total, and many
                    other organizations and firms.”

                    Stated US policy goals regarding energy resources in
this region,” he
                    continued, include fostering the independence of the
States and their ties
                    to the West; breaking Russia's monopoly over oil and
gas transport
                    routes; promoting Western energy security through
diversified suppliers;
                    encouraging the construction of east-west pipelines
that do not transit
                    Iran; and denying Iran dangerous leverage over the
Central Asian

                    As Bereuter's comments indicate, Washington foresees
                    conflict with the regional powers in the pursuit of
its interests. If
                    considerable friction was initially manifested in
gaining access to Caspian
                    oil, an even greater degree of strife has emerged in
the maneuvers to
                    bring it to Western markets.

                    While tens of billions in oil production deals have
already been signed by
                    Western oil companies, there has yet to be an
agreement on the route of
                    the main export pipeline. For the reasons cited by
Bereuter, Washington
                    adamantly insists on an east-west path to avoid Iran
and Russia.

                    This is a matter of concern at the highest levels of
US government. Last
                    fall, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson told Stephen
Kinzer of the New
                    York Times, We're trying to move these newly
independent countries
                    toward the West. We would like to see them reliant on
                    commercial and political interests rather than going
another way. We've
                    made a substantial political investment in the Caspian
and it's very
                    important to us that both the pipeline map and the
politics come out

                    A number of strategists have argued for an aggressive
US policy in the
                    region. One, Mortimer Zuckerman, the editor of US News
& World
                    Report, warned in a May 1999 column that the Central
Asian resources
                    may revert back to the control of Russia or a
Russian-led alliance, an
                    outcome he calls a nightmare situation.” He wrote, We
had better
                    wake up to the dangers, or one day the certainties on
which we base our
                    prosperity will be certainties no more.

                    The region of Russia's prominence—the bridge between
Asia and
                    Europe to the east of Turkey—contains a prize of such
potential in the oil
                    and gas riches of the Caspian Sea, valued at up to $4
trillion, as to be
                    able to give Russia both wealth and strategic

                    Zuckerman suggests that the new conflict be called the
biggest game.”
                    The superlative term is more fitting because today's
conflict has
                    worldwide and not just regional consequences. Russia,
providing the
                    nuclear umbrella for a new oil consortium including
Iran and Iraq, might
                    well be able to move energy prices higher, enough to
                    producers and menace the West, Turkey, Israel, and
Saudi Arabia. In
                    the words of Paul Michael Wihbey, in an excellent
analysis for the
                    Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political
Studies, the nightmare
                    scenarios of the mid-1970s would reappear with a

                    The director of a US think tank bluntly laid out the
military implications of
                    the newfound interest in the region. In a 1998
document, Frederick Starr,
                    the head of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at
Johns Hopkins
                    University, pointed out that half of the NATO states
have a major
                    commercial stake in the Caspian. He then added that
the potential
                    economic rewards of Caspian energy will draw in their
train Western
                    military forces to protect that investment if

                    The prospect of a military conflict between one or
more of the NATO
                    countries and Russia is not simply a matter of
speculation. Writes Starr:
                    In no country is NATO membership more assiduously
sought than
                    energy-rich Azerbaijan, and nowhere is the possibility
of conflict with the
                    Russian Federation more likely than over the export of
Azeri resources.”
                    In 1998 the country participated in all of the 144
NATO Partnership for
                    Peace” exercises.

                    The rationale for war offered in the present campaign
against Yugoslavia
                    could easily be reapplied should US ruling circles
decide to intervene
                    militarily in Central Asia. There are ethnic conflicts
in nearly every country
                    there. The three states through which Washington would
like to see the
                    main oil export pipeline pass are exemplary in this
regard. In Azerbaijan,
                    military conflict with the Armenian population has
continued for more
                    than a decade. Neighboring Georgia has seen sporadic
warfare between
                    the government and a separatist movement in Abkhazia.
Finally, Turkey,
                    which is to host the pipeline terminal, has waged a
protracted campaign
                    of repression against the country's minority Kurd
population, who
                    predominate precisely in those regions in the
southeast of the country
                    through which the US-backed pipeline would pass.

                    The point is not lost on the present US
administration. In a speech to US
                    newspaper editors last month, Clinton stated that
Yugoslavia's ethnic
                    turmoil was far from unique. Much of the former Soviet
Union faces a
                    similar challenge,” he said, including Ukraine and
Moldova, southern
                    Russia, the Caucasus nations of Georgia, Armenia, and
Azerbaijan, the
                    new nations of Central Asia.” With the opening of
these regions, he
                    noted, the potential for ethnic conflict became,
perhaps, the greatest
                    threat to what is among our most critical interests:
the transition of the
                    former communist countries toward stability,
prosperity and freedom.”

                                         Copyright 1998-99
                 Fourth International World Socialist Web Site
                                         All rights reserved

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