The Collapse of Imperial Day Dreams: Why Cheney Is Travelling to the Former Soviet East Bloc

While George Bush and John McCain are playing a cold-war version of monopoly to try to establish a U.S. military presence on Russia’s borders, and in the process, rally the U.S. electorate behind the Republicans, the Russians appear to be playing economic chess. While we have become military bullies whose diplomacy has devolved to brandishing our mighty imperial status as the only superpower, the Russians are calling for a multi-power world and apparently putting their money where their mouths are. Hat tip to Spengler at Asia Times, Americans play Monopoly, Russians chess"for the analogy.

While NATO, etc. are saying to the Russians, “You’ve been bad boys and we won’t play with you till you behave as we tell you,” the Russians are ignoring American political rhetoric and propaganda bluster. They have been moving their “pieces” around the board to establish control of the flow of oil to Europe and Asia by offering a series of deals too good to be resisted. The U.S. administration seeks to mobilize the “free world” around cold-war ideology—fighting the good fight to defend democracy—while hoping everyone ignores their attempts to defy the U.S. constitution and international law; the Russians seem to have given up ideology in favor of economics.

Here are a series of links to commentaries which establish what appears to be a very interesting series of strategic moves by the Russians.

Michael Klare, the author of an insightful discussion of oil politics Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy has a piece in Alarab Online that provides an excellent overview of the geopolitical situation, which he traces from Pres. Clinton’s moves to strengthen Georgia.

Many Western analysts have chosen to interpret the recent fighting in the Caucasus as the onset of a new Cold War, with a small pro-Western democracy bravely resisting a brutal reincarnation of Stalin's jack-booted Soviet Union. Others have viewed it a throwback to the age-old ethnic politics of southeastern Europe, with assorted minorities using contemporary border disputes to settle ancient scores.

Neither of these explanations is accurate. To fully grasp the recent upheavals in the Caucasus, it is necessary to view the conflict as but a minor skirmish in a far more significant geopolitical struggle between Moscow and Washington over the energy riches of the Caspian Sea basin -- with former Russian President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin emerging as the reigning Grand Master of geostrategic chess and the Bush team turning out to be middling amateurs, at best.


What, then, to do? Looking at the Caspian chessboard in the mid-1990s, President Bill Clinton conceived the striking notion of converting the newly independent, energy-poor Republic of Georgia into an "energy corridor" for the export of Caspian basin oil and gas to the West, thereby bypassing Russia altogether. An initial, "early-oil" pipeline was built to carry petroleum from newly-developed fields in Azerbaijan's sector of the Caspian Sea to Supsa on Georgia's Black Sea coast, where it was loaded onto tankers for delivery to international markets. This would be followed by a far more audacious scheme: the construction of the 1,000-mile BTC pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia and then on to Ceyhan on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Again, the idea was to exclude Russia -- which had, in the intervening years, been transformed into a struggling, increasingly impoverished former superpower -- from the Caspian Sea energy rush.

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There will, of course, be more rounds to come, and it is impossible to predict how they will play out. Putin prevailed this time around because he focused on geopolitical objectives, while his opponents were blindly driven by fantasy and ideology; so long as this pattern persists, he or his successors are likely to come out on top. Only if American leaders assume a more realistic approach to Russia's resurgent power or, alternatively, choose to collaborate with Moscow in the exploitation of Caspian energy, will the risk of further strategic setbacks in the region disappear.

An item from Reuters underscores the difficulty of a U.S. policy that attempts to encircle Russia,

Ukraine's defense sector has called for a big rise in funding for the military after Russia's war with Georgia but its reliance on Russian supplies of weapons and parts poses a dilemma.

And this from Moscow Times"

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Tuesday secured agreement from Uzbekistan to start building a new gas pipeline to Russia in a deal that bolsters Moscow's sway over Central Asian energy supplies.

In the wake of Russia's war with Georgia, it also strengthens Moscow's hand with the European Union, which has been looking to secure energy supplies that bypass Russia.

In another wire, Reuter’s ties in Dick Cheney’svisit to Azerbaijan in response to an oil deal in the works.

Azerbaijan pumps nearly one million barrels a day of high quality crude -- equivalent to about one percent of the world's oil supplies -- through a BP-led pipeline which passes through Georgia and Turkey.

In a move likely to alarm the pipeline's Western backers, Azerbaijan has said it is re-routing some of its crude to a rival route through Russia, citing the conflict in Georgia as part of the reason.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov, after meeting with Putin in Tashkent on Tuesday, announced that the new pipeline would carry up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, boosting Russian imports by 50 percent.

Two items, one from Reuters and the other from the French News Service AFP,report on an emerging crisis in Ukraine that may topple the government of U.S. ally, Yushchenko.

And lastly we find Russian moves to integrate power and cable TV lines in an a report from the Azerbaijan Business center. The first is about the electric gridand the second deals with cable TV.

One of the characteristics of declining empires, the Roman or British are examples,is the false presumption that their hegemony can withstand any challenge.

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Reuters has this feature called US News Blogposts. This showed up to day in the context of the deaths of 20 civilians in Waziristan. It is supposed to be an account of a meeting between top US military types, and top Pakistani military types, right before Musharraf was quit.

The content is self-explanatory. Its reliability not self-evident, though Reuters ran it, and they are almost as good as the good old BBC aren't they?

This is a reprint from the Los Angeles Times By Maura Reynolds | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, that was reprinted in the Virginia Gazette