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    Central Asia
     Oct 25, 2006
Moscow plays its cards strategically
By F William Engdahl

On October 10, Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to the German city of Dresden for a summit on energy issues with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, including proposed plans to more than double German import of Russian natural gas.

Putin told the German chancellor that Russia would "possibly" redirect some of the future natural gas from its giant Shtokman field in the Barents Sea. The US$20 billion project is due to come online 2010. Putin's Dresden talks followed an earlier summit in

Paris in late September with Putin and French President Jacques Chirac and Merkel.

A week after his Dresden talks, the Indonesian Navy chief of staff announced a remarkable shift away from that country's traditional purchases of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military equipment. Indonesia will buy 12 modern Kilo-Class and Lada-Class Russian submarines. Indonesia cited advantages of cost and reliability over French or German equivalents.

These developments underscore the re-emerging of Russia as a major global power. The new Russia is gaining in influence through a series of strategic moves revolving around its geopolitical assets in energy - most notably its oil and natural gas. It's doing so by shrewdly taking advantage of the strategic follies and major political blunders of Washington. The new Russia also realizes that if it does not act decisively, it soon will be encircled and trumped by a military rival, the US. The battle, largely unspoken, is the highest stakes battle in world politics today. Iran and Syria are seen by Washington strategists as mere steps to this great Russian End Game.

In recent years, major attention has been paid to the emergence of a Chinese economic colossus. What is generally missing in these discussions is the fact that China will not be able to emerge as a truly independent global power over the coming decade unless it is able to solve two strategic vulnerabilities - its growing dependence on energy imports for its economic growth and its inability to pose a credible nuclear deterrence to a US nuclear first strike.

Russia is the one remaining power which still has sufficient military deterrence potential in its strategic nuclear arsenal, and is expanding same, as well as abundant energy to make a credible counterweight to global US military and political primacy. A Eurasian combination of China and Russia and allied Eurasian states, essentially the states in and around the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), do present a potential counterweight to unilateral US dominance. An understanding of recent Russian developments in this light is essential to understand US foreign policy as well as global politics at present.

Russia's strategic dilemma
Since the devastating setbacks two years ago from the US-sponsored "color revolutions" in Georgia and then Ukraine, Russia has begun to play its strategic cards extremely carefully, from nuclear reactors in Iran to military sales to Venezuela and other Latin American states, to strategic market cooperation deals in natural gas with Algeria.

At the same time, the Bush administration has dug itself deeper into a geopolitical morass, through a foreign policy agenda which has reckless disregard for its allies as well as its foes. That reckless policy has been associated with former Halliburton chief executive officer and now vice president, Dick Cheney, more than any other figure in Washington.

The "Cheney presidency", which is what historians will no doubt dub the George W Bush years, has been based on a clear strategy. It has often been misunderstood by critics who had overly focussed on its most visible component, namely, Iraq, the Middle East and the strident war-hawks around the vice president and his old crony, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The "Cheney strategy" has been a US foreign policy based on securing direct global energy control, control by the Big Four US or US-tied private oil giants - ChevronTexaco or ExxonMobil, BP or Royal Dutch Shell. Above all, it has aimed at control of all the world's major oil regions, along with the major natural gas fields. That control has moved in tandem with a growing bid by the US for total military primacy over the one potential threat to its global ambitions - Russia. Cheney is perhaps the ideal person to weave the US military and energy policies together into a coherent strategy of dominance. During the early 1990s under father Bush, Cheney was also secretary of defense.

The Cheney-Bush administration has been dominated by a coalition of interests between Big Oil and the top industries of the American military-industrial complex. These private corporate interests exercise their power through control of the government policy of the US. An aggressive militaristic agenda has been essential to it. It is epitomized by Cheney's former company, Halliburton Inc, at one and the same time the world's largest energy and geophysical services company, and the world's largest constructor of military bases.

To comprehend the policy it's important to look at how Cheney, as Halliburton chief, viewed the problem of future oil supply on the eve of his becoming vice president. "Where the Prize Ultimately Lies", Cheney's 1999 London speech, was a full year before the US elections which made him the most powerful vice president in history. In it, Cheney gave a revealing speech before his oil industry peers at the London Institute of Petroleum. In a global review of the outlook for Big Oil, Cheney made the following comment:
By some estimates there will be an average of 2% annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead along with conservatively a 3% natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? Governments and the national oil companies are obviously controlling about 90% of the assets. Oil remains fundamentally a government business. While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies. Even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow.

It is true that technology, privatization and the opening up of a number of countries have created many new opportunities in areas around the world for various oil companies, but looking back to the early 1990s, expectations were that significant amounts of the world's new resources would come from such areas as the former Soviet Union and from China. Of course that didn't turn out quite as expected. Instead it turned out to be the deep water successes that yielded the bonanza of the 1990s.
The Cheney remarks are worth a careful reading. He posits a conservative rise in global demand for oil by the end of the present decade, ie in about four years. He estimates the world will need to find an added 50 million barrels of daily output. Total daily oil production at present hovers around the level of some 83 million barrels oil equivalent. This means that to avert catastrophic shortages and the resultant devastating impact on global economic growth, by Cheney's 1999 estimate, the world must find new oil production equal to more than 50% of the 1999 daily global output, and that by about 2010. That is the equivalent of five new oil regions equal to today's Saudi Arabian size. That is a whopping amount of new oil.

Given that it can take up to seven years or more to bring a new major oilfield into full production, that's also not much time if a horrendous energy crunch and sky-high oil and gas prices are to be averted. Cheney's estimate was also based on an overly conservative estimate of future oil import demand in China and India, today the two fastest-growing oil consumers on the planet.

A second notable point of Cheney's 1999 London comments was his remark that, "the Middle East with two thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies". However, as he revealingly remarked, the oil "prize" of the Middle East was in national or government hands, not open to exploitation by the private market, and thus, hard for Cheney's Halliburton and his friends in ExxonMobil or Chevron or Shell or BP to get their hands on.

At that time, Iraq, with the second-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, was under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Iran, which has the world's second-largest reserves of natural gas, in addition to its huge oil reserves, was ruled by a nationalist theocracy which was not open to US private company oil tenders. The Caspian Sea oil reserves were a subject of bitter geopolitical battle between Washington and Russia.

Cheney's remark that "Oil remains fundamentally a government business", and not private, takes on a new significance when we do a fast forward to September 2000, in the heat of the Bush-Gore election campaign. That month Cheney, along with Rumsfeld and many others who went on to join the new Bush administration, issued a policy report titled, "Rebuilding America's Defenses". The paper was issued by an entity named Project for the New American Century (PNAC).

Cheney's PNAC group called on the new US president-to-be to find a suitable pretext to declare war on Iraq, in order to occupy it and take direct control over the second-largest oil reserves in the Middle East. Their report stated bluntly, "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification [sic], the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein ..."

Cheney signed on to a policy document in September 2000 which declared that the key issue was "American force presence in the Gulf", and regime change in Iraq, regardless whether Saddam was good, bad or ugly. It was the first step in moving the US military to "where the prize ultimately lies".

No coincidence that Cheney immediately got the task of heading a presidential energy task force review in early 2001, where he worked closely with his friends in Big Oil, including the late Ken Lay of Enron, with whom Cheney earlier had been involved in an Afghan gas pipeline project, as well as with James Baker III.

Buried in the debate leading to the US bombing and occupation of Iraq in March 2003 was a lawsuit under the US Freedom of Information Act brought by Sierra Club and Judicial Watch., initially to find data on Cheney's role in the California energy crisis. The suit demanded that Cheney make public all documents and records of meetings related to his 2001 energy task force project.

The US Commerce Department in the summer of 2003 ultimately released part of the documents, over ferocious Cheney and White House opposition. Amid the files of the domestic US energy review was, curiously enough, a detailed map of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, as well as two charts detailing Iraqi oil and gas projects, and "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts". The "foreign suitors" included Russia, China and France, three UN Security Council members who openly opposed granting the US UN approval for invading Iraq.

The first act of post-war occupation by Washington was to declare null and void any contracts between the Iraqi government and Russia, China and France. Iraqi oil was to be an American affair, handled by American companies or their close cronies in Britain, the first victory in the high-stakes quest, "where the prize ultimately lies".

This was precisely what Cheney had alluded to in his 1999 London speech. Get the Middle East oil resources out of independent national hands and into US-controlled hands. The military occupation of Iraq was the first major step in this US strategy. Control of Russian energy reserves, however, was Washington's ultimate "prize".

Deconstruction of Russia: The 'ultimate prize'
For obvious military and political reasons, Washington could not admit openly that its strategic focus, since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, had been the dismemberment or deconstruction of Russia, and gaining effective control of its huge oil and gas resources, the "ultimate prize". The Russian Bear still had formidable military means, however dilapidated, and she still had nuclear teeth.

In the mid-1990s, Washington began a deliberate process of bringing one after the other former satellite Soviet states into not just the European Union, but into the Washington-dominated North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). By 2004 Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia all had been admitted into NATO, and the Republic of Georgia was being groomed to join.

This surprising spread of NATO, to the alarm of some in Western Europe, as well as to Russia, had been part of the strategy advocated by Cheney's friends at the PNAC, in their "Rebuilding America's Defenses" report and even before.

Already in 1996, PNAC member and Cheney crony, Bruce Jackson, then a top executive with US defense giant Lockheed Martin, was head of the US Committee to Expand NATO, later renamed the US Committee on NATO, a very powerful Washington lobby group.

The US Committee to Expand NATO also included PNAC members Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Stephen Hadley and Robert Kagan. Kagan's wife is Victoria Nuland, now the US ambassador to NATO. From 2000-2003 she was a foreign-policy advisor to Cheney. Hadley, a hardline hawk close to Cheney, was named by Bush to replace Condoleezza Rice as his national security adviser.

The warhawk Cheney network moved from the PNAC into key posts within the Bush administration to run NATO and Pentagon policy. Bruce Jackson and others, after successfully lobbying Congress to expand NATO to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1999, moved to organize the so-called Vilnius Group that lobbied to bring 10 more former Warsaw Pact countries on Russia's periphery into NATO. Jackson called this the "Big Bang".
Bush repeatedly used the term "New Europe" in statements about NATO enlargement. In a July 5, 2002, speech hailing the leaders of the Vilnius group, Bush declared, "Our nations share a common vision of a new Europe, where free European states are united with each other, and with the United States through cooperation, partnership, and alliance."

Lockheed Martin's former executive, Bruce Jackson, took credit for bringing the Baltic and other members of the Vilnius Group into NATO. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 1, 2003, Jackson claimed he originated the "Big Bang" concept of NATO enlargement, later adopted by the Vilnius Group of Baltic and Eastern European nations.

As Jackson noted, his "Big Bang" briefing "proposed the inclusion of these seven countries in NATO and claimed for this enlargement strategic advantages for NATO and moral [sic] benefits for the democratic community of nations". On May 19, 2000, in Vilnius, Lithuania, these propositions were adopted by nine of Europe's new democracies as their own. It became the objectives of the Vilnius Group. Jackson could also have noted the benefits to US military defense industry, including his old cronies at Lockheed Martin, with the creation of a vast new NATO arms market on the borders to Russia.

Once that NATO goal was reached, Bruce Jackson and other members of the NATO eastern expansion lobby, closed the US Committee on NATO in 2003, and, seamlessly, in the very same office, re-opened as a new lobby organization, the Project on Transitional Democracies, which according to their own statement was "organized to exploit the opportunities to accelerate democratic reform and integration which we believe will exist in the broader Euro-Atlantic region over the next decade".

In other words, to foster the series of "color revolutions" and regime change across Russian Eurasia. All three principals of the Project on Transitional Democracies worked for the Republican Party, and Jackson has close ties with major military contractors, notably Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Jackson and other PNAC and US Committee on NATO members also created a powerful lobby organization, the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI). CLI's advisory panel included hardline Democrats such as Representative Stephen Solarz and Senator Robert Kerrey. It was dominated by neo-conservatives and Republican Party stalwarts like Jeane Kirkpatrick, Robert Kagan, Richard Perle, William Kristol and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director James Woolsey. Serving as honorary co-chairs were Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain.

Jackson related that friends in the White House had asked him to create the CLI in 2002 to replicate the success he had had pushing for NATO expansion through his US Committee on NATO by establishing an outfit aimed at supporting the administration's campaign to convince Congress and the public to support a war. "People in the White House said, 'We need you to do for Iraq what you did for NATO'," Jackson told American Prospect magazine in a January 1, 2003, interview.

In brief, NATO encirclement of Russia, "color revolutions" across Eurasia and the war in Iraq, were all one and the same American geopolitical strategy, part of a grand strategy to ultimately deconstruct Russia once and for all as a potential rival to a sole US Superpower hegemony. Russia - not Iraq and not Iran - was the primary target of that strategy.

During a White House welcoming ceremony to greet the 10 new NATO members in 2004, Bush noted that NATO's mission now extended far beyond the perimeter of the alliance. "NATO members are reaching out to the nations of the Middle East, to strengthen our ability to fight terror, and to provide for our common security," he said. But NATO's mission now would extend beyond even global security. Bush added, "We're discussing how we can support and increase the momentum of freedom in the greater Middle East." Freedom, that is, to come into the orbit of a Washington-controlled NATO alliance.

The end of the Boris Yeltsin era put a slight crimp in US plans. Putin began slowly and cautiously to emerge as a dynamic national force, committed to rebuilding Russia, following the International Monetary Fund-guided (IMF) looting of the country by a combination of Western banks and corrupt Russian oligarchs.

Russian oil output had risen since the collapse of the Soviet Union to the point that, by the time of the 2003 US war on Iraq, Russia was the world's second-largest oil producer behind Saudi Arabia.

The real significance of the Yukos affair
The defining event in the new Russian energy geopolitics under Putin took place in 2003. It was just as Washington was making it brutally clear it was going to militarize Iraq and the Middle East, regardless of world protest or UN niceties.

A brief review of the spectacular October 2003 arrest of Russia's billionaire "oligarch" Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and state seizure of his giant Yukos oil group, is essential to understand Russian energy geopolitics.

Khodorkovsky was arrested at Novosibirsk airport on October 25, 2003, by the Russian Prosecutor General's office on charges of tax evasion. The Putin government froze shares of Yukos Oil because of tax charges. They then took further actions against Yukos, leading to a collapse in the share price.

What was little mentioned in Western media accounts, which typically portrayed the Putin government actions as a reversion to Soviet-era methods, was what had triggered Putin's dramatic action in the first place.

Khodorkovsky had been arrested just four weeks before a decisive Russian duma or lower house election, in which Khodorkovsky had managed to buy the votes of a majority in the duma using his vast wealth. Control of the duma was to be the first step by Khodorkovsky in a plan to run against Putin the next year as president. The duma victory would have allowed him to change election laws in his favor, as well as to alter a controversial law being drafted in the duma, "The Law on Underground Resources". That law would prevent Yukos and other private companies from gaining control of raw materials in the ground, or from developing private pipeline routes independent of Russian state pipelines.

Khodorkovsky had violated the pledge of the oligarchs made to Putin, that they be allowed to keep their assets - de facto stolen from the state in the rigged auctions under Yeltsin - if they stayed out of Russian politics and repatriated a share of their stolen money. Khodorkovsky, the most powerful oligarch at the time, was serving as the vehicle for what was becoming an obvious Washington-backed putsch against Putin.

The Khodorkovsky arrest followed an unpublicized meeting earlier that year on July 14, 2003, between Khodorkovsky and Cheney. Following the Cheney meeting, Khodorkovsky began talks with ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, Rice's old firm, about taking a major state in Yukos, said to have been between 25% and 40%.

That was intended to give Khodorkovsky de facto immunity from possible Putin government interference by tying Yukos to the big US oil giants and, hence, to Washington. It would also have given Washington, via the US oil giants, a de facto veto power over future Russian oil and gas pipelines and oil deals. Days before his October 2003 arrest on tax fraud charges, Khodorkovsky had entertained George H W Bush, the representative of the powerful and secretive Washington Carlyle Group in Moscow. They were discussing the final details of the US oil company share buy-in of Yukos.

Yukos had also just made a bid to acquire rival Sibneft from Boris Berezovsky, another Yeltsin-era oligarch. YukosSibneft, with 19.5 billion barrels of oil and gas, would then own the second-largest oil and gas reserves in the world after ExxonMobil. YukosSibneft would be the fourth-largest in the world in terms of production, pumping 2.3 million barrels of crude oil a day. The Exxon or Chevron buy-up of YukosSibneft would have been a literal energy coup d'etat. Cheney knew it; Bush knew it; Khodorkovsky knew it.
Above all, Putin knew it and moved decisively to block it.

Khodokorvsky had cultivated very impressive ties to the Anglo-American power establishment. He created a philanthropic foundation, the Open Russia Foundation, modelled on the Open Society foundation of his close friend George Soros. On the select board of Open Russia Foundation sat Henry Kissinger and Kissinger's friend, Jacob Lord Rothschild, London scion of the banking family. Arthur Hartman, a former US ambassador to Moscow, also sat on the foundation's board.

Following Khodorkovsky's arrest, the Washington Post reported that the imprisoned Russian billionaire had retained the services of Stuart Eizenstat - former deputy treasury secretary, under secretary of state, under secretary of commerce during the Bill Clinton Administration - to lobby in Washington for his freedom. Khodorkovsky was in deep with the Anglo-American establishment.

Subsequent Western media and official protest about Russia's return to communist methods and raw power politics conveniently ignored the fact that Khodorkovsky was hardly Snow White himself. Earlier, Khodorkovsky had unilaterally ripped up his contract with British Petroleum. BP had been a partner with Yukos, and had spent $300 million in drilling the highly promising Priobskoye oil field in Siberia.

Once the BP drilling had been done, Khodorkovsky forced BP out, using gangster methods that would be unlawful in most of the developed world. By 2003, Priobskoye oil production reached 129 million barrels, equivalent to a value on the market of some $8 billion. Earlier, in 1998, after the IMF had given billions to Russia to prevent a collapse of the ruble, Khodokorvsky's Bank Menatep diverted an eye-popping $4.8 billion in IMF funds to his hand-picked bank cronies, some US banks among them. The howls of protest from Washington at the October 2003 arrest of Khodorkovsky were disingenuous, if not outright hypocritical. As seen from the Kremlin, Washington had been caught with its fat hand in the Russian cookie jar.

The Putin-Khodorkovsky showdown signaled a decisive turn by the Putin government toward rebuilding Russia and erecting strategic defenses from the foreign onslaught led by Cheney and friend Prime Minster Tony Blair in Britain. It took place in the context of a brazen US grab for Iraq in 2003 and of a unilateral Bush administration announcement that the US was abrogating its solemn treaty obligations with Russia under their earlier Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, in order to go ahead with development of US missile defenses, an act which could only be viewed in Moscow as a hostile act aimed at her security.

By 2003, indeed, it took little strategic military acumen to realize that the Pentagon hawks and their allies in the military industry and Big Oil had a vision of a United States unfettered by international agreements and acting unilaterally in its own best interests, as defined, of course, by the hawks. Their recommendations were published by one of the many Washington hawk conservative think tanks.

In January 2001, The National Institute for Public Policy issued "Rationale and Requirements for US Nuclear Forces and Arms Control", just as the Bush-Cheney administration began. The report, demanding a unilateral US end to nuclear force reduction, was signed by 27 senior officials from past and current administrations. The list included the man who today is Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley; it included the special assistant to the secretary of defense, Stephen Cambone, and it included Admiral James Woolsey, the former head of the CIA and chairman of the Washington non-governmental agency (NGO), Freedom House. Freedom House played a central role in Ukraine's US-sponsored "Orange Revolution" and all other "Color revolutions" across the former Soviet Union.

These events were soon followed by the Washington-financed series of covert destabilizations of a number of governments in Russia's periphery which had been close to Moscow. It included the November 2003 "Rose Revolution" in Georgia which ousted Eduard Shevardnadze in favor of a young, US-educated and pro-NATO president, Mikheil Saakashvili. The 37-year-old Saakashvili had conveniently agreed to back the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline that would avoid Moscow pipeline control of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil. The US has maintained close ties with Georgia since President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power. American military trainers instruct Georgian troops and Washington has poured millions of dollars into preparing Georgia to become part of NATO.
Following its "Rose Revolution" in Georgia, Woolsey's Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Foundation and other Washington-backed NGOs organized the brazenly provocative November 2004 Ukraine "Orange Revolution". The aim of this was to install a pro-NATO regime there under the contested presidency of Viktor Yushchenko, in a land strategically able to cut the major pipeline flows from Russian oil and gas to Western Europe.

Washington-backed "democratic opposition" movements in neighboring Belarus also began receiving millions of dollars of Bush administration largesse, along with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and more remote former Soviet states which also happen to form a barrier between potential energy pipelines linking China with Russia and the former Soviet states like Kazakhstan.

Again, energy and oil and gas pipeline control lay at the heart of the US moves. Little wonder, perhaps, that some people inside the Kremlin, notably Putin, began to wonder if Putin's new born-again Texan partner-in-prayer, George W Bush, was in fact speaking to Putin with a forked tongue, as the Native Americans would say.

By the end of 2004 it was clear in Moscow that a new Cold War, this one over strategic energy control and unilateral nuclear primacy, was fully underway. It was also clear from the unmistakable pattern of Washington actions since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, that End Game for US policy vis-a-vis Eurasia was not China, not Iraq and not Iran.

The geopolitical "End Game" for Washington was the complete deconstruction of Russia, the one state in Eurasia capable of organizing an effective combination of alliances using its vast oil and gas resources. That, of course, could never be openly declared.

After 2003, Putin and Russian foreign policy, especially energy policy, reverted to their basic response to the "heartland" geopolitics of Sir Halford Mackinder, politics which had been the basis of Soviet Cold War strategy since 1946.

Putin began to make a series of defensive moves to restore some tenable form of equilibrium in the face of the increasingly obvious Washington policy of encircling and weakening Russia. Subsequent US strategic blunders have made the job a bit easier for Russia. Now, with the stakes rising on both sides - NATO and Russia - Putin's Russia has moved beyond simple defense to a new dynamic offensive, to secure a more viable geopolitical position, using its energy as the lever.

Mackinder's heartland and Brzezinski's chess game
It's essential to understand the historic background to the term geopolitics. In 1904, an academic British geographer named Halford Mackinder made an address before the Royal Geographic Society in London which was to give the British Empire and later the United States a roadmap to change history.

In his speech, titled, "The Geographical Pivot of History", Mackinder sought to define the relation between a nation's or region's geography - its topography, relation to the sea or land, its climate - with its politics and position in the world. He posited two classes of powers: sea powers including Britain and the United States as well as Japan; and he posited the large land powers of Eurasia, which, with development of the railroad, were able to unite large land masses free from dependency on the seas.

For Mackinder, an ardent empire advocate, the implicit lesson for continued hegemony of the British Empire following the 1914-1917 World War, was to prevent at all costs a convergence of interests between the nations of East Europe - Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria-Hungary - and the Russia-centered Eurasia "heartland" or "pivot" land, as he termed it. After the Versailles peace talks, Mackinder summed up his ideas in the following famous dictum:
Who rules East Europe commands the heartland;
Who rules the heartland commands the World-island;
Who rules the world-island commands the world.
Mackinder's heartland was the core area of Eurasia, and the world-island was all of Eurasia, including Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Great Britain, never a part of continental Europe, he saw as a separate naval or sea-power.

The Mackinder geopolitical perspective shaped Britain's entry into the 1914 Great War, it shaped her entry into World War II. It shaped Winston Churchill's calculated provocations of an increasingly paranoid Joseph Stalin, beginning 1943, to entice Russia into what became the Cold War.

From a US perspective, the 1946-1991 Cold War era was all about who shall control Mackinder's world-island, and, concretely, how to prevent the Eurasian heartland, centered on Russia, from doing just that. A look at a polar projection map of US military alliances during the Cold War makes the point: The Soviet Union had been geopolitically contained and prevented from any significant linkup with Western Europe or the Middle East or Asia. The Cold War was about Russian efforts to circumvent that NATO-centered Iron Curtain.

Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, writing in the post-Soviet era in 1997, drew on Mackinder's geopolitics by name, in describing the principal strategic aim of the US to keep Eurasia from unifying as a coherent economic and military bloc or counterweight to the sole superpower status of the United States. To understand US foreign policy since the onset of the Bush-Cheney presidency in 2001, therefore, it's useful to cite a revealing New York Council on Foreign Relations Foreign Affairs article by Brzezinski from September/October 1997:
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. After the United States, 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% of the world's population, 60% of its GNP [gross national product], and 75% 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. 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 ...
If we take the words of Washington strategist Brzezinski and understand the axioms of Mackinder as the driving motive for Anglo, and later American foreign policy for more than an entire century, it begins to become clear why a reorganized Russian state under the presidency of Putin has gone into motion to resist the overtures and overt attempts at deconstruction being promoted by Washington in the name of democracy. How has Putin acted to shore up Russian defenses? In a word: energy. 

Tomorrow: Washington's nightmare

F William Engdahl is author of the book, A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press Ltd. He has completed a soon-to-be published book on GMO titled, Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Political Agenda Behind GMO. He may be contacted through his website, www.engdahl.oilgeopolitics.net.

(Copyright 2006 F William Engdahl. Used by permission)

Russian energy roulette spooks Japanese (Oct 24, '06)

Russian energy: Europe's pride, US's envy (Oct 14, '06)

THE HUNGRY BEAR, a series (September, 2006)


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