By Dr.Pervez Iqbal Khan Tareen
The geo-strategic canvas of the World in the aftermath of the September events and the ensuing War on Terror has increasingly grown complex and unstable. Although the end of the cold war and the breakup of the Soviet Union was heralded as the “end of history” (Fukuyama, 1992, p: xi) and as such the cessation of hostilities on the global canvas, yet the post- Soviet world alignments bear the foot prints of not only a “New World Order” but the imperialistic hegemonic ambitions of the US. In the broader perspective, the expansion of NATO, the war on terror, boots on the ground in the Middle East and Afghanistan, indicate a forceful push towards a uni-polar World Order. The perception is consolidated as international and regional organizations, “the global web of specialized organizations” (Brzezinski, 1997, p: 27) like the UN and NATO and International financial institutions, are being exploited by the US to extend and safeguard American economic and military interests alone.
The Americans have continued to strengthen their power grip on Europe, both Eastern and Western, with the expansion of NATO. Although by all calculations, NATO lost its raison d’être with the demise of the Warsaw pact and the end of hostilities from the Russian side. However its continued expansion points to the expansion of the American sphere of influence rather than the security of Europe. NATO membership expansion saw the inclusion of almost all the former states under Soviet influence in its fold, raising the members from 16 to 28 (NATO, n.d). This expansion was hailed as an effort at “enhancing Europe’s geo-strategic depth” (1997a, p: 85).
However the territory of the new NATO members of eastern European countries is being used for military bases, troop deployments, air patrols and the deployment of a continent-wide anti-ballistic missile system. The missile shield is expected to give “interim capability” stage is the first step in the goal of providing full coverage and protection for all NATO Europe populations, territory, and forces from threats outside the Euro-Atlantic area by 2022 (Maher, 2012). The bases acquired by NATO and US in these countries, including military and air bases in Romania and Bulgaria, and NATO’s four members on the Baltic Sea – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland – have been transformed into training grounds for the Pentagon’s and NATO’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Rozoff, 2012).Geo-strategically the most significant American thrust concerns the Caucasian and Caspian region. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are NATO partners, as the three are members of the Partnership for Peace program, deployed troops to Afghanistan under NATO command.
There has been a concerted effort by the US at increasing its influence on Ukraine. NATO-Ukraine relations were formally launched in 1991, when Ukraine joined the NACC immediately after achieving independence following the breakup of the Soviet Union. In 1994; Ukraine became the first of the Commonwealth of Independent States to join the NATO Partnership for Peace program, and subsequently demonstrated its commitment to contribute to NATO-led peacekeeping operations in the Balkans (Hendrickson, 2005).
However, for Russian policy makers Ukraine occupies a particularly sensitive position, despite repeated attempts by the Americans to draw Ukraine in its sphere of influence, including the support and sponsorship of the “orange revolution”. Russia has been so far successful in keeping Ukraine in its sphere of influence. The setbacks of the orange revolution were reversed by the Russians, amply demonstrated as Russia’s lease of the Black Sea Fleet’s base in Sevastopol was extended for 25 years after the current lease expires in 2017 in a deal simultaneously ratified by the Russian and Ukrainian parliaments. Russia also continues to keep a contingent in Transnistria on Moldovan soil.To counter growing American influence over Georgia, Russia recognized the independence of secessionist Abkhazia and South Ossetia, established five military bases there, and deployed long-range S-300 missile batteries, which allows aerial control over most of Georgia. In addition Moscow extended the lease of the military base in Armenia.
The European and Asian states, which were separated from Russia form a huge landmass, in the case of Central Asia, Russia lost up to a thousand kilometers of its area. Russia’s geo–strategic concerns are primarily are these states and the direction they have taken and are likely to take in the future. Central Asian region too has remained, ever since its emergence as a group of diverse states, a region avidly wooed by both US and Russia.
The geo-strategic importance of Central Asia increased in the aftermath of 9/11 and the occupation of Afghanistan. Although the Americans were forced to vacate the military facility in Uzbekistan, the United States still maintains a military base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, named after ‘Peter J. Ganci’, for mobilizing its forces and to provide logistics support in war against terrorism in Afghanistan. The Kyrgyz government has agreed to extend the base facility beyond the term of current contract that expires in 2014 (Marat, 2012). Along with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan is also a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace Program (PFP), which provides military training assistance and more broadly a complete security package for the novice Central Asian states to counter the threats of terrorism, extremism, and separatism.
Although Russia neither can nor wants an open confrontation with the United States, but there is a growing concern in Moscow with regards to American geo-strategic policies. However, privately the Russians acknowledge being the opponents and contenders to American influence. Behind the façade of warm relations with the US there are areas where the Russians view the Americans with suspicion. Russia has attempted to reassert itself and redirect its strategic policies towards what it calls its “natural sphere of influence”. Apart from a more proactive engagement with each of its former Central Asian states on singular basis Russia has strived to strengthen regional organization, notable among them are Shanghai cooperation Organization (SCO) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Cold War rivalry and suspicions between West and Russia remain there. Georgia did face a Russian attack apparently due to providing corridor to a western backed oil pipeline from Central Asia that bypasses Russian territory.
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation or CSTO, also known as the Cooperation and Security Treaty Organisation or simply the Tashkent Treaty is an intergovernmental military, which was signed on 15 May 1992.
On 7 October 2002, the Presidents of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan signed a charter in Tashkent founding the CSTO. However its political dimension today boils down to regular summits between the presidents of member countries and to the work of the organization’s general secretariat and its staff. Rather the CSTO lacks a more solid military component. The Collective Rapid Reaction Force is an important and useful new development within the CSTO. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization comprising of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan (with Pakistan, India, Iran and Mongolia as observers) has conducted joint military exercises, regularly meets to discuss security and economic initiatives. The SCO since its inception has strived to incorporate activities which include military cooperation, intelligence, counter-terrorism, controlling drug trafficking and cross-border organised crime. The organization can emerge as an important regional organization which has the capacity to make an impact on the peace, security and stability of the region. However the two platforms, CSTO and SCO have the potential of significant growth as they the membership not only include the Central Asian States and Russia but China as well.
The growing American influence is viewed with suspicion by both Russia and China. The primary significance of the region for all the major players lies not only in its geostrategic location but the untapped wealth of oil and gas it is sitting on, it is estimated that the entire Caspian Sea is a basin full of oil and natural gas, starting from Azerbaijan and continuing to the opposite shore in the territory of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. These deposits take on enormous importance because of the expected exhaustion of the deposits of Alaska and the North Sea by the year 2015 (Arvanitopoulos, 1998).The Russians policies demonstrate Russian willingness in sharing with China the hydrocarbon wealth of former Soviet Central Asia and the acceptance of growing Chinese economic influence in the region. The Chinese-Russian collaboration since 2001 in the form of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a clear sign of countering American influence in Central Asia. Since then, China has remained the main buyer of Russian arms and there is growing cooperation between the two countries in various spheres including strategic, political and economic.
New oil and gas pipelines have been built from Central Asia to China recently, which seems to counter balance the American Eurasian thrust. Thomas Ambrasio has also stated that Russia’s new found relationship with China is the outcome of the Russian desire to actively block American influence in the southern tier of former Soviet Union (Ambrasio, 2005, p: 2).
In post-cold war era, the US policy makers, ostensibly, have been pursuing an imperialistic foreign policy totally in contrast to the sentiments of broad masses in America. The extensive and intensive use of military force, rampant adventurism, and unilateralism were the hallmarks and basic elements of the US foreign policy during George W. Bush’s time in office. The incumbent President of USA, Obama won the democratic party presidential nomination in 2008 against Hillary Clinton by positioning himself as more ‘anti-war’, citing Hillary’s vote in 2002 to authorising George W. Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq. Obama won the general election over McCain by taking advantage of the popular discontent with the prolonging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But once in office, Obama appointed Hillary Clinton as Secretay of State and Robert Gates, Bush’s secretary of defence as the national security adviser. He doubled and then tripled the US troops commitment to Afghanistan. USA under the self-claimed anti-war Obama facilitated NATO war against Libya and making a similar fate for Assad regime in Syria where the US instigated civil war has already claimed 30000 lives (World Socialist Website, viewed on 02/01/2013).
In comparison to the Bush era administration American troops and drone missiles are deployed on a vast area, including the Arabian Peninsula, Horn of Africa, Sahara and North Africa, in addition to Pakistan and Afghanistan. American military in western pacific and Indian Ocean as well as Obama’s agreement to forward deploy American ground troops in Australia and the Philippines are all part of long-term strategy to encircle China militarily. So the unilateral world order under the US global dominance has become more dangerous and unstable as America seems to be preparing for a bloody adventurism in Syria and Iran also. Henry Kissinger in his 2001 publication predicted that individual legislative actions and their cumulative effect drives American foreign policy toward unilateralism and occasionally bullying conduct (Kissinger, 2001, p: 27). The saying goes correctly for USA that when you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail.
This century has been termed as a century of Asia i.e. Rise of Asia over west as global centre of power. In this context, the areas where Afghanistan and Pakistan lie connect major Asian economies like China, India and Iran. In simple words the stability in these areas would expedite the rise of Asia while chaos and instability in the heart of Asia postpones the rise of Asia while prolongs the monopoly of West. One can recognize and comprehend the chief beneficiaries of the continued instability in this region.
The American Eurasian thrust for strategic and economic dominance was expedited with the invasion of Afghanistan. The lingering question of the veracity of the occupation of the arid and impoverished Afghanistan ruled by primitive group armed with equally primitive and limited firepower is conveniently answered. It was the occupation of Afghanistan that provided the Americans a foothold in Asia with a strategic position to monitor and influence South Asia, Central Asia, and China. It has given the Americans an opportunity to control the future oil output from the Central Asian region. Alongside its presence on the ground in the heart of Asia the US will continue to build its clout on the seas as well. Its presence in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean will increase. The US is building towards new alignments elsewhere too, with India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, because for an inclusive powerbase America needs a “Far Eastern Anchor” (1997b, p: 151).
These are the ambitions of an imperialist mindset, a mindset which desires to be the judge, the juror and the executioner, to be the sole Global Power to exercise the “Universal Jurisdiction” (Kissinger, 2001, p: 273) wherever and whenever it wants to. Time and again the Americans have asserted their policy of intervention, a policy of “Seriality and Synchronicity” (juancole.com) Seriality identifies the underlying thrust of policies that are redeployed repeatedly, the surface manifestations of which are neither causal nor coincidental. Synchronicity, in contrast, describes temporal confluences. The former produces lingering conflicts; the latter fundamentally reshapes the terrain of global power.
The World is studded with the devastated pockets of lingering and incessant conflicts, testimonials to ruthless imperialistic adventurism. The strife-ridden Africa still reels from the proxy “war games” of the so called World powers. In the name of the war on terror half the World has been embroiled in incessant conflict, countries pitted against each other and nations bleeding from civil wars. The Middle East has been further pushed into unrest and through the occupation of Afghanistan the US has been a catalyst of instability in the region. However the recent economic meltdown and the emerging power of China proves that the equation of global polity is always in a flux. The imperial overreach has been the downfall of many a power and no empire has avoided the road to Caesarism (2001a, p: 285).
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