The US Army’s Culture, Regional Expertise, and Language Management Office last year released a relatively even-handed study analyzing the drivers behind the current geopolitical tensions between the US and Russia, I recently found out. (Due to Nafeez Ahmed publishing an excellent piece on the matter.)
The study in question states quite bluntly that the primary driver for US-led interference in Russian politics during the 1990s and onwards, and the ongoing expansion of NATO in the region, has been the desire by the US to dominate the oil and gas reserves of Central Asia, and also any pipeline routes through the region — as well as to install economic systems beneficial to the US.
In other words, the study acknowledges that the primary driver of increasing conflict between the US and Russia has been American efforts to exploit the resources of regions that Russia considers to be within its natural “sphere of influence” … and that Russia’s increasing militarism only makes sense within that context.
Before moving on here, I guess that I’ll have to be clear here, since some people may want to derail talk of such subjects with references to the current US President: this study was actually first released (internally) in March 2017, and would have very likely been started before Donald Trump was even elected president. It reflects US policy going back quite a while now.
Interestingly, the study — Cultural Perspectives, Geopolitics & Energy Security of Eurasia: Is the Next Global Conflict Imminent? — is perhaps most notable for how openly it discusses possible efforts to subvert the internal politics of Russia and attempt to depose Vladimir Putin.
The historical reality, of course, is that the US meddled to a large degree in the elections of Russia in the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union; and of course in the elections of numerous other countries around the world as well over the last century. It’s a bit rich for anyone in the US to try to take the moral high ground on the matter.
Focusing on the role that US interests in Central Asian oil and gas reserves and pipeline routes has played in NATO expansionism in the region, though, I’m going to highlight some select excerpts from the Nafeez Ahmed piece over at INSURGE intelligence:
“The remarkable document, prepared by the US Army’s Culture, Regional Expertise and Language Management Office (CRELMO), concedes that expansionist NATO policies played a key role in provoking Russian militarism. It also contemplates how current US and Russian antagonisms could spark a global nuclear conflict between the two superpowers.
“Simultaneously, the document admits that far from the US being some innocently hapless victim of Russian interference, the US has at various times run covert ‘information, economic and diplomatic’ campaigns to either ‘dethrone Putin,’ or at least undermine his rule. … And what is driving NATO expansionism? While the US Army study highlights concerns about Russian authoritarianism, it remains surprisingly candid in flagging up US energy interests as the primary issue: ‘Perhaps the most important reality and rationale for US/Eurasia policy at the time (1990s), however, was the increasing global interdependence in energy and trade. …Vast reserves of oil and natural gas in and around the Caspian Sea were the primary source of the US’s initial interest in the region.'”
One of the most interesting sections in the study is the part about the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline — which runs from Azerbaijan’s capital Baku through Georgia and towards Ceyhan (Turkey) — which was intended to give the US easier access to regional oil (up to 1 million barrels a day).
As noted in the report, the aim of that pipeline was to “… strengthen the political and economic independence of the countries of the region from possible resurgent Russian ambitions. But even before its completion, it had also marked the beginning of the new ‘Great Game’ with global and regional powers such as the US, China, and Russia vying for influence in the area. Once again the region became very attractive for global geopolitics, enhanced by the discoveries of natural resources in Afghanistan such as natural gas, oil, marble, gold, copper, chromite, etc.”
Which segues into this part here: “At the same time, Afghanistan’s significance stems from its geopolitical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes the possible construction of oil and natural gas export pipelines through Afghanistan, which was under serious consideration in the mid-1990s. The idea has since been undermined by Afghanistan’s instability.”
You’ll note that during much of the 1990s, the US presidency was held by a “Democrat” — Bill Clinton — and that despite that being so, US policy concerning Russia, Iraq, and the wider regions involved, were effectively constant. While I know that some Democrats like to whitewash Bill Clinton’s administration, the reality is that warmongering was constant during both of his terms. The rhetoric that came out of Clinton’s mouth when it came to Iraq wasn’t much different to what was said by the president that followed him — the push to dominate the region has been a constant of US politics since the collapse of the USSR.
Getting back to Russia, the Ahmed piece continues: “There has been much coverage recently of how Putin poses a grave nuclear threat to the US and the world. Yet this has ignored the context of Russia nuclear saber-rattling in persistent NATO provocations, as highlighted in a separate chapter in the US Army study exploring how Russian militarism is consistently a response to NATO nuclear expansion.
“The section is authored by Colonel Lee G Gentile, Jr, Vice Commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He was previously lead operational planner at the Air Forces Central Command Combined Air Operations Center, and went on to serve in Iraq.
“According to Col. Gentile, a co-editor of the US Army study, the origin of Russian paranoia about Western intentions goes back to the early 1950s, when the US adopted the ‘First Offset’ strategy by which it ‘threatened a nuclear strike in order to ‘convince’ the Kremlin that fighting another world war was not beneficial to the Soviet Union.’ In other words, it was the US that initially threatened the Kremlin with a nuclear first strike policy.
“The US Army study acknowledges, however, that: ‘Recently declassified Soviet papers, articles, and meeting minutes indicate that the Soviet leadership had no intention of invading Europe.’ That is contrary, it should be remembered, to the official state propaganda at the time, parrotted dutifully by the Western press.”
Building on that, the study notes that given the position that it is in, the nuclear deterrent is essentially the only option Russia has left for defense — as it would be bankrupted if it tried to match the conventional forces of China’s massive army to the southeast (2.3 million strong) or that of NATO (1.4 million strong), much less match the unprecedented military spending of the US.
Which is a point that I would think would be obvious. The country has clearly been backed into a corner, which was no doubt the intent of pursuing such a strategy. And the country’s rulers have just spent the last few decades watching the destruction of Iraq, Libya, and now Syria. What do you think is going through their heads?
And what’s been the motive of the US pursuing this dangerous strategy? Oil, natural gas, pipeline right-of-ways, minerals, etc.
Considering the deepening cooperation of Russia and China in recent times — as well as the creation of BRICS, etc. — though, such a strategy may well result in more blowback than was initially expected. China and Russia appear to be gearing up for the eventual wholesale looting of the Arctic’s fossil fuel and mineral resources, as we reported recently. Together, the two will very possibly be able to monopolize the development of Arctic resources, leaving the USA out in the cold … and of course helping to increase anthropogenic climate warming and weirding to civilization-wrecking intensities.
On that note, and with those implications in mind, the US Army study stated: “Without dialogue, the risk of another Cold War and possible nuclear confrontation is high.”
Bringing to clear contrast the reasons for this very dangerous situation, a latter section of the study notes that: “The US and the West need to determine what they want Russia to look like, how they want it to behave, and if they care if Vladimir Putin is president.”
Because such an approach to international relations never brings with it blowback?
To those who have the time, I highly recommend taking a look at Nafeez Ahmed’s original piece.