The Emerging Russian Giant Plays
its Cards Strategically
by F. William Engdahl
Global Research, October 7, 2006
The September 2006 summit in Paris between
Russia's Vladimir Putin, French President Jacques Chirac and German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, underscored 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, USA, for which it has little
defenses left. 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.
The formal Paris summit agenda included
French investment in Russia and the issue of Iran's (Russian-built)
nuclear program. Notably, however, it also included the question
of future Russian energy supplies to the European Union, notably,
Germany. It was an indication of the new strength of Putin's Russia.
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 $20 billion project is due to come
online 2010 and had been slated to provide liquified natural gas
to United States terminals.
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 energy 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 CEO, 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 Don 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 United States 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 1990's under father Bush, Cheney was also Secretary
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 United States. 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 CEO, 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
Back in September 1999, a full year before
the US elections which made him the most powerful Vice President
in history, 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 two per cent annual growth in global oil demand
over the years ahead along with conservatively a three per cent
natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means
by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million
barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? Governments
and the national oil companies are obviously controlling about
ninety per cent 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, privatisation 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 1990's, 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 deep water
successes that yielded the bonanza of the 1990's."
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, i.e. in about 4 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
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
2000 Bush-Cheney election campaign. That month Cheney, along with
Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and many others who went on to join
the new Bush Administration, issued a policy report titled, 'Re-building
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
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 Hussein was good, bad or ugly. It was the first
step in moving the US military to 'where the prize ultimately
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 Vice President Cheney make
public all documents and records of meetings related to his 2001
Energy Task Force project.
The US Commerce Department in summer 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.'
De-construction of Russia: The 'ultimate
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 de-construction 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-1990's Washington began a deliberate
process of bringing one after the other former satellite Soviet
state into not just the European Union, but into the Washington-dominated
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
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 Project
for the New American Century, 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,
LockheedMartin, was head of the US Committee to Expand NATO, later
renamed the US Committee on Nato, a very powerful Washington lobby
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 Vice President Cheney,
was named by President 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 ten more former Warsaw Pact countries on
Russia's periphery into NATO. Jackson called this the 'Big Bang.'
President 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 and Scheunemann
have close ties with major military contractors, notably Lockheed
Martin and Boeing.
Jackson and other PNAC and U.S. 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 Rep. Stephen Solarz and Sen.
Robert Kerrey. It was dominated by neo-conservatives and Republican
Party stalwarts like Jeane Kirkpatrick, Robert Kagan, Richard
Perle, William Kristol, and former CIA Director, James Woolsey.
Serving as honorary co-chairs were Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT)
and John McCain (R-AZ). Jackson related that friends in the White
House had asked him to create the CRI 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 de-construct 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 ten new NATO members in 2004, President 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 Yeltsin era put a slight
crimp in the US plans. Putin began slowly and cautiously to emerge
as a dynamic national force, committed to rebuilding Russia, following
the IMF-guided 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 Vladimir 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 the 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 Vice President Dick Cheney.
Following the Cheney meeting, Khodorkovsky
began talks with ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, Condi 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, Vladimir 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,
Undersecretary of State, Undersecretary of Commerce during the
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 billions. Earlier, in 1998, after the IMF had given
billions to Russia to prevent a collapse of the Ruble, Khodokorvosky'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 signalled
a decisive turn by the Putin government towards rebuilding Russia
and erecting strategic defenses from the foreign onslaught led
by Cheney and friend 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 USA was abrogating its
solemn treaty obligations with Russia under their earlier Anti-Ballistic
Missile (ABM) 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 prowess 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 (NIPP) issued Rationale
and Requirements for U.S. 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 CIA and chairman of the Washington 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 Edouard Shevardnadze in favour 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 United States has maintained close ties with Georgia
since President Mikheil Saakashvili has come to power. American
military trainers instruct Georgian troops and Washington has
poured millions of dollars into preparing Georgia to become part
Following its Rose Revolution in Georgia,
Woolsey's Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy
(NED), Soros Foundation and other Washington-backed NGOs organized
the brazenly provocative November 2004 Ukraine 'Orange Revolution.'
The aim of the Orange Revolution 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
Kyrgystan, 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 Kazkhstan..
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 Vladimir Putin, began
to wonder if Putin's new born-again Texan partner-in-prayer, George
W. Bush, was in fact speaking to Putin with forked tongue, as
the Indians 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 unmistakeable pattern of Washington actions since the
dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, that End Game for USA
policy vis-à-vis Eurasia was not China, not Iraq, and not
The geopolitical 'End Game' for Washington
was the complete de-construction 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
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 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
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 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
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 Two.
It shaped Churchill's calculated provocations of an increasingly
paranoid 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 United States 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 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 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...'(emphasis
If we take the words of Washington strategist
Brzezinski and understand the axioms of Halford 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 Vladimir 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.
Russian energy geopolitics
In terms of the overall standard of living,
mortality and economic prosperity, Russia today is not a world
class power. In terms of energy, it is a colossus. In terms of
landmass it is still the single largest nation in land area in
the world, spanning from the Pacific to the door of Europe. It
has vast territory, vast natural resources, and it has the world's
largest reserves of natural gas, the energy source currently the
focus of major global power plays. In addition, it is the only
power on the face of the earth with the military capabilities
able to match that of the United States despite the collapse of
the USSR and deterioration in the military since.
Russia has more than 130,000 oil wells
and some 2000 oil and gas deposits explored of which at least
900 are not in use. Oil reserves have been estimated at 150 billion
barrels, similar perhaps to Iraq. They could be far larger but
have not yet been exploited owing to difficulty of drilling in
some remote arctic regions. Oil prices above $60 a barrel begin
to make it economical to explore in those remote regions.
Currently Russian oil products can be
exported to foreign markets in three routes: Western Europe via
the Baltic Sea and Black Sea; Northern route; Far East to China
or Japan and East Asian markets. Russia has oil terminals on the
Baltic at St. Petersburg for oil and a newly expanded oil terminal
at Primorsk. There are added oil terminals under construction
at Vysotsk, Batareynaya Bay and Ust-Luga.
Russia's state-owned natural gas pipeline
network, its so-called 'unified gas transportation system' includes
a vast network of pipelines and compressor stations extending
more than 150,000 kilometers across Russia. By law only the state-owned
Gazprom is allowed to use the pipeline. The network is perhaps
the most valued Russian state asset outside the oil and gas itself.
Here is the heart of Putin's new natural gas geopolitics and the
focus of conflict with western oil and gas companies as well as
the European Union, whose Energy Commissioner, Andras Piebalgs,
is from new NATO member Latvia, formerly part of the USSR.
In 2001, as it became clear in Moscow
that Washington would find a way to bring the Baltic republics
into NATO, Putin backed the development of a major new oil port
on the Russian coast of the Baltic Sea in Primorsk at a cost of
$2.2 billion. This project, known as the Baltic Pipeline System
(BPS), greatly lessens export dependency on Latvia, Lithuania
and Poland. The Baltic is Russia's main oil export route, carrying
crude oil from Russia's West Siberian and Timan-Pechora oil provinces
westward to the port of Primorsk in the Russian Gulf of Finland.
The BPS was completed in March 2006 with capacity to carry more
than1.3 million barrels/day of Russian oil to western markets
in Europe and beyond.
The same month, March 2006, former German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was named chairman of a Russian-German
consortium building a natural gas pipeline going some 1,200 km
under the Baltic Sea. Majority shareholder in this North European
Gas Pipeline (NEGP) project, with 51%, is the Russian state-controlled
Gazprom, the world's largest natural gas company. The German companies
BASF and E.On each hold 24.5%. The project, estimated to cost
¤4.7 billion, was started late 2005 and will connect the
gas terminal at the Russian port city of Vyborg on the Baltic
near St. Petersburg with the Baltic city of Greifswald in eastern
Germany. The Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field in West Siberia will be
developed in a joint venture between Gazprom and BASF to feed
the pipeline. It was Gerhard Schroeder's last major act as Chancellor,
and provoked howls of protest from the pro-Washington Polish government,
as well as Ukraine, who both stood to lose control over pipeline
flows from Russia. Despite her close ties to the Bush Administration,
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forced to swallow hard and accept
the project. Germany's industry is simply dependent on the Russian
energy import. Russia is by far the largest supplier of natural
gas to Germany.
The giant Shtokman gas deposit in the
Russian sector of the Barents Sea, north of the Murmansk harbor,
will ultimately also be a part of the gas supply of the NEGP.
When completed in two parallel pipelines, NEGP will supply Germany
up to 55 billion cubic meters more a year of Russian gas.
In April 2006 the Putin government announced
the first stage of construction of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean
Pipeline (ESPO), a vast oil pipeline from Taishet in the Irkutsk
Region near Lake Baikal in East Siberia, to Perevoznaya Bay on
Russia's Pacific Ocean coast, to be built at a cost of more than
$11.5 billion. Transneft, the Russian state-owned pipeline company
will build it. When finished, it will pump up to 1.6 million barrels/day
from Siberia to the Russian Far East and from there on to the
energy-hungry Asia-Pacific, mainly to China. The first stage is
due to be completed by end of 2008. In addition, Putin has announced
plans to construct an oil refinery on the Amur River near the
China border in Russia's Far East to allow sale of refined product
to China and Asian markets. Presently the Siberian oil can only
be delivered to the Pacific via rail.
For Russia, the Taishet to Perevoznaya
route will maximize its national strategic benefits while taking
oil exports to China and Japan into account at the same time.
In the future, the country will be able to export oil to Japan
directly from the Nakhodka Port. Oil-import-dependent Japan is
frantic to find new secure oil sources outside the unstable Middle
East. The ESPO can also supply oil to the Republic of Korea and
the Democratic People's Republic of Korea through building from
Vladivostok branch lines leading to the two countries and to China
via a branch pipe between Blagoveshchensk and Daqing. The Taishet
route provides a clear roadmap for energy cooperation between
Russia and China, Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries.
Sakhalin: Russia reins in Big Oil
In late September 2006 a seemingly minor
dispute exploded and resulted in the revocation of the environmental
permit for Royal Dutch Shell's Sakhalin II Liquified Natural Gas
project, which had been due to deliver LNG to Japan, South Korea
and other customers by 2008. Shell is lead energy partner in an
Anglo-Japanese oil and gas development project on Russia's Far
East island of Sakhalin, a vast island north of Hokkaido Japan.
At the same time, the Putin government
announced environmental requirements had also not been met by
ExxonMobil for their De Kastri oil terminal built on Sakhalin
as part of its Sakhalin I oil and gas development project. Sakhalin
I contains an estimated 8 billion barrels of oil and vast volumes
of gas, making the field a rare Super-Giant oil find, in geologists'
In the early 1990's the Yeltsin government
made a desperation bid to attract needed investment capital and
technology into exploiting Russian oil and gas regions at a time
the government was broke and oil prices very low. In a bold departure,
Yeltsin granted US and other western oil majors generous exploration
rights to two large oil projects, Sakhalin I and Sakhalin II.
Under a so-called PSA or Production Sharing Agreement, ExxonMobil,
lead partner of the Sakhalin I oil project, got tax-free Russian
Under the terms of the PSA's, typical
between major Anglo-American oil majors and weak Third World countries,
Russia's government would instead get paid for the oil and gas
rights in a share of eventual oil or gas produced. But the first
drops of oil to Russia would flow only after all project production
costs had first been covered. PSA's were originally developed
by Washington and Big Oil to facilitate favorable control by the
oil companies of large oil projects in third countries. The major
US oil giants, working with the James Baker's James Baker Institute,
which drafted Dick Cheney's 2001 Energy Task Force Review, used
the PSA form to regain control over Iraq's oil production, hidden
behind the façade of an Iraqi state-owned oil company.
Shortly before the Russian government
told ExxonMobil it had problems with its terminal on Sakhalin,
ExxonMobil had announced yet another cost increase in the project.
ExxonMobil, whose attorney is James Baker III, and which is a
close partner to the Cheney-Bush White House, announced a 30%
cost increase, something that would put even further off any Russian
oil flow share from the PSA. The news came on the eve of ExxonMobil
plans to open an oil terminal at De Kastri on Sakhalin. The Russian
Environment Ministry and the Agency for Subsoil Use suddenly announced
the terminal did 'not meet environmental requirements' and is
reportedly considering halting production by ExxonMobil as well.
Britain's Royal Dutch Shell under another
PSA holds rights to develop the oil and gas resources in Sakhalin
II region, and build Russia's first Liquified Natural Gas project.
The $20 billion project, employing over 17,000 people, is 80%
complete. It's the world's largest integrated oil and gas project,
and includes Russia's first offshore oil production, as well as
Russia's first offshore integrated gas platform.
The clear Russian government moves against
ExxonMobil and Shell have been interpreted in the industry as
an atttempt by the Putin government to regain control of Russian
oil and gas resources it gave away during the Yeltsin era. It
would cohere with Putin's emerging energy strategy.
Russia-Turkey Blue Stream gas project
In November 2005 Russia's Gazprom completed
the final stage of its 1,213 kilometer $3.2 billion Blue Stream
gas pipeline. The project brings gas from its gas fields in Krasnodar,
then by underwater pipelines across the Black Sea to the Durusu
Terminal near Samsun inon the Turkish Black Sea coast. From there
the pipeline supplies Russian gas to Ankara. When it reaches full
capacity in 2010 it will carry an estimated 16 billion cubic meters
gas a year.
Gazprom is now discussing transit of Russian
gas to the countries of South Europe and East Mediterranean, including
based on new contracts and new volumes of gas. Greece, South Italy
and Israel all are in some form of negotiation with Gazprom to
tap gas from the Blue Stream pipeline across the territory of
Turkey. A new route for the gas supply is being developed now
- the one via the countries of East and Central Europe. The interim
title of the project is the South-European Gas Pipeline. The main
issue here is to establish a new gas transmission system, both
from Russian origin and from the third countries
In sum, not including the emerging potentials
of Gazprom's entry into the fast-developing Liquified Natural
Gas markets globally, energy, oil and gas and nuclear, is firmly
at the heart of Russian attempts to build new economic alliance
partners across Eurasia in the coming showdown with the United
US plans for 'Nuclear Primacy'
The key to the ability of Putin's Russia
to succeed is its ability to defend its Eurasian energy strategy
with a credible military deterrent, to counter now-obvious Washington
military plans for what the Pentagon terms Full Spectrum Dominance.
In a revealing article titled 'The Rise
of US Nuclear Primacy,' in the March/April 2006 Foreign Affairs,
the magazine of the New York Council on Foreign Relations, authors
Kier Lieber and Daryl Press made the following claim,
'Today, for the first time in almost 50
years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear
primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States
to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China
with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance
of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States'
nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal,
and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces.
Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take
steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia
and China -- and the rest of the world -- will live in the shadow
of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come.'
The US authors claim, accurately, that
since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia's strategic
nuclear arsenal has 'sharply deteriorated.' They also conclude
that the United States is and has been for some time, intentionally
pursuing global nuclear primacy. The September 2002 Bush Administration
National Security Strategy explicitly stated that it was official
US policy to establish global military primacy, an unsettling
thought for many nations today given the recent actions of Washington
since the events of September, 2001.
One of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's priority
projects has been the multi-billion dollar construction of a US
missile defense. It has been sold to American voters as a defense
against possible terror attacks. In reality, as has been openly
recognized in Moscow and Beijing, it is aimed at the only two
real nuclear powers, Russia and China.
As the Foreign Affairs article points
out, 'the sort of missile defenses that the United States might
plausibly deploy would be valuable primarily in an offensive context,
not a defensive one -- as an adjunct to a U.S. first-strike capability,
not as a stand-alone shield. If the United States launched a nuclear
attack against Russia (or China), the targeted country would be
left with a tiny surviving arsenal -- if any at all. At that point,
even a relatively modest or inefficient missile-defense system
might well be enough to protect against any retaliatory strikes,
because the devastated enemy would have so few warheads and decoys
In the context of a United States which
has actively moved the troops of its NATO partners into Afghanistan,
now Lebanon, and which is clearly backing the former USSR member
Georgia, today a critical factor in the Caspian Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan
Turkey oil pipeline, in Georgia's move to join NATO and push Russian
troops away, it is little surprise that Moscow might be just a
bit uncomfortable with the American President's promises of spreading
democracy through a US-defined Greater Middle East. The invented
term, Greater Middle East is the creation of various Washington
think-tanks close to Cheney including his Project for the New
American Century, to refer to the non-Arabic countries of Turkey,
Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asian (former USSR)
countries, and Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. At the G-8 Summit
in Summer 2004 President Bush first officially used the term to
refer to the region included in Washington's project to spread
'democracy' in the region.
On October 3, the Russian Foreign Ministry
warned that Russia would 'take appropriate measures' should Poland
deploy elements of the new US missile defense system. Poland is
now a NATO member. Its Defense Minister, Radek Sikorski was a
former Resident in Washington at Richard Perle's hawkish AEI think-tank.
He was also Executive Director of the New Atlantic Initiative,
a project designed to bring the former Warsaw Pact countries of
eastern Europe into NATO under the guise of spreading democracy.
The United States is also building, via NATO, a European Missile
The only conceivable target of such a
system would be Russia in the sense of enabling a US first strike
success. Completion of the European missile defense system, the
militarization of the entire Middle East, the encirclement of
Russia and of China from a connected web of new US military bases,
many put up in the name of the War on Terror, all now appear to
the Kremlin as part of a deliberate US strategy of Full Spectrum
Dominance. The Pentagon refers to it also as 'Escalation Dominance,'
the ability to win a war at any level of violence, including a
Moscow's military status
Moscow has not been entirely passive in
the face of this growing reality. In his May 2003 State of the
Nation Address, Vladimir Putin spoke of strengthening and modernizing
Russia's nuclear deterrent by creating new types of weapons, including
for Russia's strategic forces, which will 'ensure the defense
capability of Russia and its allies in the long term.' Russia
stopped withdrawing and destroying its SS-18 MIRVed missiles once
the Bush Administration unilaterally declared an end to the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty, and its de facto annulling of the Start II Treaty.
Russia never stopped being a powerful
entity that produced state-of-the-art military technologies --
a trend that continued from its inception as a modern state. While
its army, navy and air force are in derelict conditions, the elements
for Russia's resurgence as a military powerhouse are still in
place. Russia has been consistently fielding top-notch military
technology at various international trade shows, and has been
effective in the demonstration of its capabilities. _ _In spite
of financial and economic difficulties, Russia still produces
state-of-the-art military technologies, according to a 2004 analysis
by the Washington-based think tank, Power and Interest News Report
(PINR). One of its best achievements after the dissolution of
the Soviet Union has been its armored fighting vehicle BMP-3,
which has been chosen over Western vehicles in contracts for the
United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Russia's surface-to-air missile systems,
the S-300, and its more powerful successor, the S-400, are reported
to be more potent than American-made Patriot systems. The once-anticipated
military exercise between the Patriot and the S-300 never materialized,
leaving the Russian complex with an undisputed, yet unproven,
claim of superiority over the American system. Continuing this
list is the Kamov-50 family of military helicopters that incorporate
the latest cutting-edge technologies and tactics, making them
an equal force to the best Washington has. European helicopter
industry sources confirm this.
In recent joint Indo-American air force
exercises, where the Indian Air Force was equipped with modern
Russian-made Su-30 fighters, the Indian Air Force out-maneuvered
American-made F-15 planes in a majority of their engagements,
prompting US Air Force General Hal Homburg to admit that Russian
technology in Indian hands has given the US Air Force a 'wake-up
call.' The Russian military establishment is continuing to design
other helicopters, tanks and armored vehicles that are on par
with the best that the West has to offer.
Weapons export, in addition to oil and
gas, has been one of the best ways for Russia to earn much-needed
hard currency. Already, Russia is the second-largest worldwide
exporter of military technology after the United States. As reported
in various magazines, journals and periodicals, at present, Russia's
modern military technology is more likely to be exported than
supplied to its own armies due to the existing financial constraints
and limitations of Russia's armed forces. This has implications
for America's future combat operations since practically all insurgent,
guerrilla, breakaway or terrorist armed formations across the
globe -- the very formations that the United States will most
likely face in its future wars -- are fielded with Russian weapons
or its derivatives.
Russian nuclear arsenal has played an
important political role since the end of the Soviet Union, providing
fundamental security for the Russian state. After a bitter intra-services
fight within the Russian General Staff which lasted from 1998
to 2003, the General Staff realized along with the Defense Ministry
that a further policy of neglect of nuclear forces in favor of
funding rebuilding conventional forces in the face of tight budget
constraints, was not tolerable. In 2003 Russia had to buy from
Ukraine strategic bombers and ICBMs warehoused there. Since then
strategic nuclear forces have been a priority. Today, the finances
of the Russian state, thanks largely to high prices of oil and
gas exports, are on a strong footing. The Russian Central Bank
has become one of the five largest dollar reserve holders with
reserves of more than $270 billions.
The material foundation of the Russian
military is its defense industry. After 1991 the Russian Federation
inherited the bulk of the Soviet defense industrial complex.
Today, with little fanfare, the US is
building up its influence and military presence in the Middle
East despite a general draw-down in its military commitments and
expenditure. Why? Oil is certainly a large part of the answer.
But in geopolitical terms, it is also to the Eurasian land power,
Russia from access to the seas - just as Mackinder argued had
to be done. The push for a US 'nuclear primacy' over Russia is
the factor in world politics today which has the most potential
for bringing the world into a nuclear conflagration by miscalculation.
The basic argument of the Mackinder's
geopolitics is still relevant: 'The great geographical realities
remain: land power versus sea power, heartland versus rimland,
centre versus periphery...' This Russia understands every bit
F. William Engdahl is a Global Research
Contributing Editor and 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.