THE HUNGRY BEAR, Part 1 Promises that can't be kept
By W Joseph Stroupe
At the third annual meeting known as the Valdai Club, a meeting between
President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Russia-watchers made up largely of
Western political scientists and academics and held this year on September 9,
Putin acknowledged Russia's great and mounting global energy leverage, but he
also delivered an ostensibly reassuring promise that Russia would not use its
rapidly intensifying and expanding global energy leverage to dominate others
like "a superpower" would.
The Valdai Club has become a choice forum for Putin to attempt to allay Western
fears over Russia's increasingly assertive and independent course and to polish
Russia's image abroad. As such, one must realize that at a forum that is
obviously slanted toward achievement of such political and public relations
goals, the statements and claims made are specifically designed to accomplish
the forum's purpose, and one must apply the appropriate subjectivity filters
when analyzing them.
The hard fact is that a series of powerful arguments and irrefutable evidence
exist to render completely hollow Putin's promise to "play nice" with mounting
Russian global energy leverage. Even if Putin's promise is truly sincere and
heartfelt, trends and forces not nearly under his control will soon dictate an
outcome precisely opposite of his soothing promise, rendering it completely
empty. How so? And what are the powerful arguments and irrefutable evidence
that establish beyond any doubt the accuracy of such a conclusion?
Putin heads a resurgent Russia that is racing ever faster toward the
consolidation of its key global position as respects energy security, the
unique global position where it, more than any other single energy exporter,
can and in fact already is setting the global agenda and taking the
unquestioned leadership role in defining and drawing the circle of
international energy security.
As evidenced at the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in
June, where Putin proposed the creation of an SCO-centered energy club, and the
Group of Eight summit the following month, Russia has already expertly threaded
the needle of international energy security policy, doing so with the thread of
its own compelling energy security vision and strategy, powerfully bolstered by
its mounting global energy leverage. It is now deftly wielding that needle and
thread to sew together the circle made up of the globe's key energy producers
and the powerful rising energy consuming economies of the East.
The profoundly deepening relations between Russia and the vast bulk of the
globe's resource-rich regimes, along with the collective, increasing tilt of
that entire producer grouping toward the rising markets in the East in
accelerating diversification away from the traditional markets in the West,
evidences the mounting potency of Russia's key global leadership role as
respects energy. The circle of energy security is being drawn, is near to
completion, and its center is in the East, not in the West. The current
resources-based geopolitical rise of Russia and its partners bespeaks their
impending, collective achievement of global ascendancy at the potentially
gargantuan economic and political expense of the West.
Only 15 years ago matters were reversed - it was the West that was achieving
global ascendancy at the gargantuan expense of Russia and the East. The Soviet
Empire had collapsed in 1991 and soothing promises were made back then, too,
notably by another leader that headed the then-ascendant world power, president
George H W Bush, the 41st president of the United States. Are the current
soothing promises of the ascendant Russian president any more reliable than
were those of the 41st president of the US?
On January 28, 1992 during his first State of the Union address after the
collapse of the Soviet Union, Bush said:
I mean to speak tonight of big
things, of big changes and the promises they hold, and of some big problems and
how together we can solve them and move our country forward as the undisputed
leader of the age. We gather tonight at a dramatic and deeply promising time in
our history, and in the history of man on earth. For in the past 12 months, the
world has known changes of almost Biblical proportions. And even now, months
after the failed coup that doomed a failed system, I am not sure we have
absorbed the full impact, the full import of what happened. But communism died
Much good can come from the prudent use of power. And much good can come of
this: a world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one sole and
pre-eminent power - the United States of America. And they regard this with no
dread. For the world trusts us with power - and the world is right. They trust
us to be fair and restrained; they trust us to be on the side of decency. They
trust us to do what's right.
Then-president Bush made an
apparently sincere and heartfelt promise that the US has most certainly, at
least in the view of the world at large, failed miserably to keep - the promise
not to misuse its great power. Sound familiar?
The mounting global energy leverage that is increasingly coming to reside in
the hands of circle-drawing Russia and its strategic partners is an
irresistible power literally unequalled in all human history, for it is the
power to throttle, or even to credibly threaten to strangle, the highly
industrialized economies of the West. Such power makes the military potency of
the US and/or of the old Soviet Union pale by comparison.
Why should anyone believe that Putin and rising Russia and its increasingly
authoritarian resource-rich global partners are an exception to the maxim that
says "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely", when even the
leaders of the liberal democratic West have finally succumbed to gross
arrogance and presumptuousness and did not prove to be such exceptions?
What do Russian policies and actions to date reveal as to the issue of whether
or not Russia is "acting like an energy superpower"?
Part 2 The actions of an energy superpower
W Joseph Stroupe is editor of Global Events Magazine online at
www.GeoStrategyMap.com. He has authored a new book on the implications of
ongoing energy geopolitics entitled, Russian Rubicon –Impending
Checkmate of the West.
(Copyright 2006 W Joseph Stroupe. Used with permission.)