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Ankara Moscow and Washington in the Eurasian Crude Oil Pipeline Calculus

Politics / Crude Oil Jun 17, 2009 - 06:36 PM GMT

By: F_William_Engdahl

Politics

Diamond Rated - Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleCalculus has two main variants—derivative and integral. The Eurasian energy pipeline geopolitics between Turkey Washington and Moscow today has elements of both. It is highly derivative in that the major actors across Central Asia from China, Russia to Turkey are very engaged in a derived power game which has less to do with any specific state and more to do with maintaining Superpower hegemony for Washington. Integral as the de facto motion of various pipeline projects now underway or in discussion across Eurasia hold the potential to integrate the economic space of Eurasia in a way that poses a fundamental challenge to Washington’s projection of Full Spectrum Dominance over the greatest land mass on earth.


Since at least the time of the Crimean War of 1853, Turkey has played a strategic role in modern Eurasian and European developments. In the 1850’s Ottoman Turkey became a target of Great Power imperial ambitions as Britain and France sought to take advantage of tensions between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in order to weaken and ultimately take vital parts of that weakened empire. 

The Great Powers of that time, the empires of Britain, France, Russia and Austria began plotting the dismemberment of the vast Ottoman Empire. Debt was their preferred instrument. The foreign debt situation in Ottoman Turkey had become so extreme that Sultan Abdul Hamid II was forced by his French and British creditors to put the entire finances of the realm under the control of a banker-run agency in 1881, the Ottoman Public Debt Administration (OPDA), controlled by the two largest creditors—France and Britain. By the late 1880’s a new player on the Continent who was not part of this debt control, the German Reich, engaged the Ottoman Empire economically. That strategically challenged the vital imperial design of the most powerful empire of the day, Britain.

After Britain sank into a Great Depression after 1873, Germany’s industrial colossus emerged as the fastest-developing economic power on earth with the possible exception of then fledgling United States. The political and economic fate of Germany and Ottoman Turkey were linked after 1899 with the decision by German industry, Deutsche Bank to build a railway connecting Berlin to the Ottoman Empire as far away as Baghdad in then-Mesopotamia. It was a land bridge for trade between Ottoman Turkey and Germany independent of British control of the seas.  

A few Eurasian geopolitical basics

German industry had begun to look overseas for sources of raw materials as well as potential markets for German goods. In 1894 German Chancellor, von Caprivi, told the Reichstag, “Asia Minor is important to us as a market for German industry, a place for the investment of German capital and a source of supply, capable of considerable expansion, of such essential goods as we now buy from countries of which it may well sooner or later be in our interests to make ourselves independent.”  Caprivi was supported by German industry, especially the steel barons, and by the great banks such as Deutsche Bank.

That Berlin-Baghdad Railway linking the fate of Ottoman Turkey to that of Germany was a geopolitically strategic factor in the events which led Britain to the First World War in a failed bid to preserve her global hegemony. Turkey then as today was regarded by powerful Great Powers as a “pivot” state. The danger in being a pivot state is, of course, the question of who has their hands on it, who moves the pivot for their own geopolitical purposes.

In 1904 a British professor of geography, Sir Halford Mackinder, delivered a lecture before the Royal Geographical Society titled The Geographical Pivot of History, which was to shape a history of two world wars and subsequent wars and power relations. Mackinder, the father of geopolitics—the relation of geography and political economy and power—developed the systematic axiom of British imperial power. It was simple as it was fateful:

Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland:

Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island:

Who rules the World-Island commands the World.

For Mackinder East Europe was Continental Europe from Germany to Poland, France and Austria. The Heartland was the vast Eurasian land power, Russia. The World-Island was Eurasia.

When the United States emerged to displace the British Empire in world affairs after 1945, she also took the lessons of Mackinder geopolitics. The leading postwar foreign policy strategists including Henry Kissinger, were schooled in Mackinders’ ideas. One American disciple of Mackinder, Zbigniew Brzezinski, cited Mackinder’s geopolitical axiom in a 1997 essay in Foreign Affairs magazine where he defined the American strategic priorities in the post-Soviet era:

Eurasia is home to most of the world's politically assertive and dynamic states...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… 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 super-continent. 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…the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy.

That has largely defined US foreign political and military relations with Turkey and the newly emerging former Soviet Republics of Eurasia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Unfortunately for Turkey and the republics of the Eurasian region, those relations have too often been determined by IMF conditionalities and by military alliances and actions more resembling the Cold War than an era of genuine peace and respect for national sovereignty. Until now the post-Soviet East-West relations have largely been based on a negative construct.

The two geopolitical statements—the one from Mackinder in 1919 during the Versailles talks to divide Europe after the First World War, the second by Mr Brzezinski in 1997 at the end of a bitter Cold War—have defined the principle relations of Turkey and the rest of Eurasia to the world for more than a century.

Eurasia’s Opportunity today

What will define the future for the various nations of Eurasia, especially Turkey, two decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact Cold War structures?


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