Senior DIA, Air Force and Army officials admit that NATO expansionism and US covert interference in Russian internal politics may trigger “next global conflict”
By Nafeez Ahmed
A US Army document concedes the real interests driving US military strategy toward Russia: dominating oil pipeline routes, accessing the vast natural resources of Central Asia, and enforcing the expansion of American capitalism worldwide.
Russia is certainly an authoritarian regime with its own regional imperial ambitions. President Vladimir Putin and his cronies are responsible for massive deaths and human rights violations against populations at home and abroad (the latter in war theaters like Syria and elsewhere). Putin has strengthened a system of oligarchical state-dominated predatory capitalism which has widened extreme inequality and concentrated elite wealth. And we will no doubt learn more about what shenanigans Russia did, or did not, get up to in relation to US elections.
For the most part, these are not especially dangerous things to report on from the comfort of the West. Somewhat lacking from conventional reporting, on the other hand, is serious reflection on whether US policies toward Russia have contributed directly to the deterioration of US-Russia relations.
While the bulk of the Western pundit class are busy bravely obsessing over the innumerable evils of Putin, it turns out that the upper echelons of the US military are asking some uncomfortable questions about how we got to where we are.
A study by the US Army’s Command and General Staff College Press of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth reveals that US strategy toward Russia has been heavily motivated by the goal of dominating Central Asian oil and gas resources, and associated pipeline routes.
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.
The document remains staunchly critical of Russia and Putin, but finds that Russian belligerence cannot be understood without accounting for the context of ongoing US interference in what Russia perceives to be its legitimate ‘sphere of influence.’
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.
An irony of the document is that despite repeatedly recognizing NATO’s own role in provoking Russian militarism, the US Army study refuses to contemplate a fundamental change of course with respect to NATO policies and interests.
The document contains the usual caveat included with these sorts of internal US military studies, noting that its findings represent the views “of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.” Yet in its foreword, Major General John S. Kem, Commandant of the US Army War College in Carlisle, notes that the volume’s insights “are important for Army professionals who lead Soldiers in a variety of missions across the globe”, and should be considered “by planners and policymakers alike.”
Titled Cultural Perspectives, Geopolitics & Energy Security of Eurasia: Is the Next Global Conflict Imminent?, the study — which was published in March 2017 and has not been reported publicly until now — pinpoints the roles of competing US, European and Russian energy interests in driving growing tensions which could convert regional flashpoints into the next world war.
“Russia’s strategic change is driven mostly by its concern over the NATO’s expansion at the expense of former Warsaw Pact countries (Eastern Europe) and former Soviet republics (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania),” writes the study’s lead editor and key contributor, Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov, Program Manager at the US Army’s CREMLO.
Advisor, and instructed US diplomats in language and cultures at the State Department. He had many years prior served in the Soviet Army, witnessing the break-up of the USSR.
In the US Army study, he notes that “relations between the West and Russia have deteriorated to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, eroding global geopolitical stability and damaging trade and economic relations between major global and regional powers.”
But, he writes, official Russian documents including its National Security Strategy and military doctrines show that the driving force behind Russian militarism “is responsiveness to NATO expansion. This is the core principle which is driving Russia’s strategic efforts in the region and beyond.”
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,” writes Ibrahimov.
“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. That interest could provide the foundation for stronger ties between the US and regional states, with the US providing protection to ensure regional stability and the political independence of the littoral countries.” (p. 8)
Humanitarian intervention and military peacekeeping operations in the region, then, have always had a broader geostrategic agenda related to the “protection” of US access to Caspian oil and gas.
The study points out that US efforts to resolve the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, for instance, were less about concerns for peace and human rights than “US and Western countries’ economic and strategic interests in Azerbaijan.”
Ibrahimov notes that “a consortium of Western oil companies, five of which were American, signed a $7.5 billion oil contract with Azerbaijan”, proving the latter’s welcome “commitment to a market-oriented economy, and its firm intention to join the international economic system.”
Equally, Azerbaijani oil was a key motivating factor behind Russia’s invasion of Chechnya. While US and Western companies, the study reports, “had been considering several possible routes for the future pipeline,” Russia wanted the pipeline to run though its own and Chechen territory, undermining “American and Western commercial interests in this region… Russia already had such a policy in the case of Kazakhstan, where American oil companies were also involved (i.e., Chevron),” adds Ibrahimov. (p. 10)
The geopolitical pipeline competition was ultimately won by the United States.
In a section titled, ‘Pipeline Politics and its Regional and Global Implications’, the US Army study notes that the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline — running from the Azerbaijani capital of Baku through Georgia toward the Turkish port of Ceyhan — “was the first major pipeline to bypass Russian territory.”
Map of Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline.
Transporting up to one million barrels a day to world markets, the pipeline’s core strategic implication is 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.”
The study also admits that US interests in Afghanistan were preoccupied with the country functioning as a gateway to Central Asian oil and gas reserves:
“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.”
Nevertheless, the Trans-Afghan oil pipeline project, known as TAPI for its route through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, has been negotiated and pursued by every single US administration since Clinton.
It finally began construction last month under Donald Trump’s presidency.
The Trans-Afghan pipeline (otherwise known as the TAPI pipeline for connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India)
The document quotes testimony from former US Ambassador James Maresca, who also served as Vice President of International Relations at oil company UNOCAL, then the principal corporate backer of the TAPI pipeline. Ibrahimov recalls that he was privy to high-level State Department discussions on the policy at the time:
“During my diplomatic service in Washington DC and Ambassador Maresca’s tenure at the Department of State, we had numerous discussions on the issues of pipeline politics and US policy in the region.”
What the document does not acknowledge is that the US government’s commitment to the TAPI pipeline was, at that time, premised on a Taliban victory – a policy that backfired rather catastrophically – as I had documented half a year before 9/11.
‘Awash’ in natural resources
A particularly extraordinary contribution to the US Army study is a section authored by Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland, who retired last August from the post of US Co-Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation’s Minsk Group. Previously, he was Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, having served in various diplomatic capacities in the region since the early 1990s….
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Source: 21st Century News Wire