|This man's name is Zbigniew Brzezinski. He can tell you everything you need to know about why Russia invaded Crimea. He wrote the book on it.|
I promised myself that I wouldn't write this post.
I wasn't going to write it because I thought it would take too long, and because the U.S. media and our education system leave us Americans woefully unprepared to think about complicated subjects.
In the end, I decided to write it because maybe it's not that complicated after all. And maybe I can knock the whole thing out in 20 minutes. Here goes:
Revolution in Ukraine
As you know, they had a revolution in Ukraine over the past few months, and just last week they ousted their president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was elected in 2010. As revolutions go, it was relatively bloodless, which is nice.
In recent years, several countries that were once part of the Soviet Union (or were part of the old Eastern Bloc), have gone through revolutions of this type, which start out as mass, nonviolent protests.
In 2000, Yugoslavia had one. In 2003, Georgia had one. In 2004, Ukraine had one. In 2005, Kyrgyzstan had one. You may recall that they used to name them after pleasant colors. For example, Ukraine's earlier revolution was the Orange Revolution.
It turned out later that these revolutions were largely paid for, and to some extent organized by Western interests, like the CIA and the billionaire George Soros.
In any event, Ukraine has a long and painful relationship with Russia, its much larger neighbor directly to the east. Russia has a long and painful relationship with everyone and everything. Russia has dominated Ukraine for centuries, as it has dominated many of the smaller countries in its orbit.
Viktor Yanukovych, the ousted Ukrainian president, is a politician with close ties to Russia, and was in favor of maintaining an alliance with that country. Many ethnic Ukrainians are in favor of enjoying closer ties with Western countries like the United States and England, and perhaps even joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies.
Q. Why can't Ukraine just enjoy close ties with both Russia and the West?
A. Ah. Good question. We'll come to that in a moment.
* * *
After Yanukovych was ousted, the Russians quickly invaded Crimea, which is a blob-shaped peninsula that is technically part of Ukraine, and which juts way out into the Black Sea.
Most people who live in Crimea consider themselves Russians (back in the day, the Russians sent the original Crimean population to Siberia, and replaced them with Russians). And to complicate matters further, a large chunk of the Russian navy is based in Crimea.
Vladimir Putin, dictator of Russia, said they invaded to protect the ethnic Russians living in Crimea. But the ethnic Russians there really weren't under any threat.
The American media would like you to believe that the Russians are imperialists, bent on world domination, or at the very least, rebuilding the Russian Empire. But the Russians know that those days are long gone, and so do we.
So what is actually going on?
The Grand Chessboard
There is a man named Zbigniew Brzezinski. No, I'm not making that up. It's a Polish name for a man who was in fact born in Poland. If the name troubles you, just call him "Ziggy." You can even call him "Ziggy Biggie." He likes that.
Ziggy is a very smart man, and was the National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter back in the 1970s. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Ziggy was one of the people who came up with the idea of giving money and weapons to Islamic mujahideen to fight them.
These Islamic holy warriors organized themselves into the Taliban and Al Qaeda, two groups you've likely heard of. That'll give you an idea how smart Ziggy is.
Indeed, Ziggy is so smart that he's written numerous books. Perhaps the most famous and important of these books is called The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives.
The premise of this book is that the Eurasian landmass, which includes Europe and Asia, is the most important place on Earth. And in particular, Central and Western Asia are the most important parts of Eurasia.
To a large degree, this is because they are the richest places on Earth in terms of energy resources such as oil and natural gas. Three quarters of the known energy resources on Earth are in Eurasia.
Eurasia is The Grand Chessboard of the book's title. "American Primacy" means the ability of the United States to be the dominant force on Earth, unchallenged by any country or group of countries. And the most important place for the United States to be dominant, and unchallenged, is Eurasia.
The only problem? There are some big kids living on that block, namely Russia, China, and Iran.
That's why this is a chess game, and not, for example, a boxing match.
Ziggy is a man who is very fond of chess.
|Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (left) and Ziggy Biggie (right, stylish tight pants and striped sailor shirt), relax over a friendly game of chess at Camp David in 1978. See how relaxed they look?|
One thing to realize here is that Ziggy is an enormously influential person. And his book, although not a Harry Potter-type bestseller, was read by all the right people. It is one of the most influential books of the late 20th Century.
Another thing to realize is that on foreign policy matters, Republicans and Democrats are in lockstep agreement. Often, they disagree on tactics, but never on overall goals.
The goal is to completely dominate the oil and gas fields of Central and Western Asia. The goal is also to isolate, destabilize, and eventually defeat any country or group of countries that stands in the way of our dominance.
Ziggy's book is the blueprint. Here's a quote from it:
"It is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America. The formulation of a comprehensive and integrated Eurasian geostrategy is therefore the purpose of this book."
Recent Eurasian History
If you look at all of this as a chess game, the United States (or the West, if you prefer) is winning, and quite badly.
A little over a decade ago, we invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq in rapid succession. Those wars seemed to come to inconclusive ends, but in fact they concluded exactly as they were intended to.
We now have a permanent military presence in both countries. If you look at a map, you will see that Iraq and Afghanistan book-end Iran, one on either side. Our chess pieces are deep in our opponent's territory.
Q. Wait a minute, Patches. Didn't we invade those countries in response to the tragic events of September 11?
A. Let's see what Ziggy has to say about that. He's the smart one, not me.
Again, from his book:
"As America becomes an increasingly multi-cultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat."
"The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been ambivalent. The public supported America's engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor."
As you may know, the truth came out much later that although the Japanese did attack Pearl Harbor, we had early warning of the attack, and we did nothing to stop it. See, because we needed an excuse to get into World War II.
Q. What are you saying about September 11?
A. I'm not saying anything about September 11. Ziggy said it for me.
Look, we needed a reason to get our military boots on the ground all the way over in Eurasia. The "shock effect" of an attack, and a "widely perceived direct external threat" helped "fashion a consensus" around doing that. That's all.
Q. But a lot of people died on September 11.
A. If you stick around long enough, one thing you'll notice about people is that they die all the time. One day they're here, the next day they're gone.
Geopolitical imperatives outlast people every single time.
* * *
In any case, let's get back to Eurasia, shall we?
Moving In For The Kill
Both Afghanistan and Iraq are rich in natural resources, but even more important is their location on the map. We have now completely encircled Iran with our military, and we have troops right up to the border of Russia.
Don't listen to any vague talk of troop pull-outs. Rest assured that unless they are somehow wiped out, American troops will be stationed in those countries for the rest of your life.
Indeed, we have built an enormous, permanent military garrison in Iraq, which we quaintly refer to as an "embassy." That thing's not going anywhere.
What else has happened? Let's see.
Oh, Russia and Iran used to have a stable and reliable client state called Syria. Syria has collapsed into an apocalyptic civil war, the result of another Western-sponsored non-violent revolution that got quite out of hand. It'll be a long time before Syria is much use to either Russia or Iran again, if ever.
Finally, in the past 15 years, one country after another has attempted, using American financial and logistical support, to move out of the Russian sphere of influence, with varying degrees of success.
Ukraine (mentioned often in Ziggy's book as an important chess piece) has tried twice now. Georgia tried and got spanked. Others, like the Czech Republic and Poland, have succeeded more or less totally.
From a long-term (chess-like) view, Russia's power is disintegrating. Countries are defecting from her left and right. Internal enemies keep blowing things up. Her economy is in a shambles. Her infrastructure is collapsing. Her healthcare system has more or less collapsed.
Her Syrian ally is gone. Her ally in Serbia (almost forgot to mention Serbia) was bombed back to the Stone Age. Her friend Iran is surrounded.
Russia invading Crimea is a desperate move by a losing chess player. Russia is trying to hold on to pieces that used to be considered Russian by right.
America, on the other hand, is deftly scooping up pieces that are right on Russia's doorstep.
By definition, this is a long game. Don't expect it to end tomorrow. But do notice how well the game is going for the United States, and how poorly it's going for Russia.
We're winning. As long as cooler heads prevail, and outright war doesn't break out between the U.S. and Russia, and as long as nobody reaches for those nukes, the game will continue to go in our favor.
Is this a good thing? That's for you to decide.
On the other hand, if you don't like it, you can pretty much lump it. No matter who you vote for in national politics, this is the game they're going to be playing.
Q. Okay Patches, we buy it. But what about China? Aren't they the other big kid on that block?
A. Let's see what the Zig-meister has to say about China.
One more time, from the book:
"America's primary interest is to help ensure that no single power comes to control this geopolitical space and that the global community has unhindered financial and economic access to it. China's growing economic presence in the region and its political stake in the area's independence are congruent with America's interests."
We may not always agree with China on everything, but in general, we like what they're doing. We like their brand of hyper-capitalism mixed with totalitarian goverance, and we're going to continue to support and encourage it.
Jesus. That took a lot longer than 20 minutes.
See Related Article: Three Weeks in China