eurasian geopolitics

Image: Andreas Marquardt


Sino-Russian alliance plus Iran, geopolitical opposition to Anglo-Saxon axis

The geopolitical shift since the 1990s was initiated by the implosion of the Soviet Union. It manifests itself in the dismantling of its area of ​​influence, as well as the advance of NATO towards the Baltic and towards the Russian border. Productive internationalization has intensified through global value chains.

Since unipolarity, the United States has led invasions in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, in addition to increasing the siege of China and Russia. From 2001 to the present, the 2008 crisis is the watershed. The second decade of the current century witnessed the reincorporation of Russia to world decision-making power through its war machine and the resurgence of China through the reach of its economic potential.

The new imperialism (2001) the interventions of 2001-2003, the geopolitical shift of 2008, accentuated in 2013-2015, to arrive at the current moment. China's rise and recomposition led the United States to declare the "Asian pivot" towards China to encircle it. On the other hand, it promotesBelt and Road Initiative” (BRI) since 2013. The United States in part, Russia and China (tripolar order?) impose their economic and diplomatic presence. There, sub-imperialist powers such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran (as opposed to Washington), in addition to co-imperial Israel, influence other non-hegemonic actors.

The West Asia region is an interstitial node of the Eurasian axis, as the past three decades have shown. The area holds around 65% of the planet's proven oil and gas reserves and is key due to its proximity to China and Russia. Core stages for international trade and its transport: the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab el-Mandeb, in addition to the Straits of Dardanelles and Bosphorus. Likewise, its participation with one of the largest acquisitions of armament and military logistics stands out.

Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, strategic Eurasian countries, have turned from subscribers to Western policy to enemies of it in three consecutive decades, the first since 1979 (immediately followed by the Iraq-Iran War of 1980-88). the second 1991 (then since 2003) and the third 2001, both by direct invasion, these two surround the first.

One of the biggest current struggles unfolds in this scenario of effective dispute, at least since the second half of the XNUMXth and XNUMXst centuries, that is, the political independence of these “new countries”. At the same time, we see the decline of Atlantism and the Anglosphere after four centuries – or even less – of Western dominance.

Classical imperialism and the new imperialism

Imperialism goes hand in hand with changes in accumulation processes, altering geopolitical hierarchy and forms of world domination. The classic phase is characterized by the colonization of spaces, in the period between 1880-1914. The second stage begins with direct inter-imperialist confrontations, and can be periodized until the 1970s and the oil crisis. The phase of the new imperialism is envisioned in the 1980s, it would begin after the dismemberment of the USSR and the direct invasions of the expanded Middle East.

This new domination is based on updating the classic conception of Vladimir I. Lenin, who debated with Karl Kautsky, a vision of rivalry with another of inter-imperial association. In the last four decades, a brief unipolar period was crossed by two phenomena. A geopolitical shift is gravitating around the resurgence of Eurasia, with Asia-Pacific as the economic engine. An economic Asianization challenges the triad (US, Europe and Japan) due to US industrial decline and hegemonic competition. In the Middle East, the devastation leaves several countries in critical condition, and then Eurasian geopolitics against imperialism develops.

The United States remains the protective superpower of global capitalism. It explores the MICIMAT: Military-Industrial-Counter-Intelligence-Media-Academy-Think Tank complex and the “clash of civilizations” ideology. Imperial action is recreated through warmongering, and therein lies a crucial difference with the form of Chinese expansion. It is not just about the struggles for power, of individuals or countries, but about the trends of capitalist accumulation on a global scale. A current form of domination is instituted through military bases in allied spaces or occupied by the powers.

Neo-imperialism summarizes five characteristics: (i) the new monopoly of production and circulation; (ii) the new monopoly of financial capital, economic financialization; (iii) the US dollar and intellectual property monopoly – which generates an unequal distribution of wealth –; (iv) the new monopoly of the international oligarchic alliance – monetary policy and war threats –; (v) the economic essence and general trend. In short, imperialism is a policy of domination carried out by the world's powerful through their states.

Recent geopolitical transitions

Since the 1980s and 1990s, capitalism has been restructured towards neoliberal policies and its neo-imperialist phase. The recomposition of the new Russia and the exponential growth of the Chinese economy combined with the decline of the Franco-German European axis and of Japan. The Sino-Russian alliance began in July 2001 with the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a comprehensive strategic partnership. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) four months later occupied Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 with 300.000 troops.

The incursions sought to overthrow countries not aligned with its policies, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. In addition to avoiding the strengthening of potential rivals such as China, a new center of capital accumulation and dependent on the supply of hydrocarbons, or Russia (Wolfowitz Doctrine, 1992). But the US got bogged down in Iraq in a counterinsurgency war, eroding its hegemony over the Middle East.

The script indicated as targets the supposed “axes of evil” of “Western civilization”. They accused Syria, Iraq (two of the most consolidated secular nationalisms in the mid-twentieth century, with a Baathist ideology), Afghanistan, Libya and Iran, but also countries from other latitudes such as Venezuela, North Korea, now former Yugoslavia and others, willing to develop some kind of autonomy.

The rebellions in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, in 2011, were marked by the invasion of Libya by NATO. In 2013/14, the Sino-Russian opposition prevented the imminent US-NATO attack on Syria. This new world order has maintained its confrontation scenario, due to its geostrategic and geoeconomic position, by sea and land routes, by its proximity to the Heartland, and by its energetic preeminence.

The US uses the dollar as a bargaining chip and store of value and, to consolidate it, it mobilizes its army. Since 2001, "war on terror“, after 2011, “asian pivot", addresses the "rivalry between the great powers", so far in intermediate spaces in Ukraine, Taiwan, Sahel or Iran.

In the systemic crisis, the internal fissure of the United States between the globalism of the coast and the Americanism of the interior makes its external projection difficult. It maintains its financial and technological primacy, in the face of its internal crisis. It is not an inexorable decline of US imperialism, which as a world structure of domination is hierarchical with sub-empires and appendages, but it is not world governance.

The Asian giant consolidates itself as the biggest engine of global economic growth. O Belt and Road, a hegemonic geoeconomic bet with contradictions, opposes the actions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to reconfigure the Greater Middle East since 1991. By consolidating Beijing, it represents a challenge and generates tensions of all kinds for the American hegemony.

The New Silk Road (BRI) or the Eurasian Land Bridge

The world power map depicts the alliance between Russia, China (the US goal is never to join) and Iran. In 2013, Vladimir Putin warned against the US attempt to rebuild a unipolar world. Barack Obama reaffirmed the “American exceptionalism” that would allow him to lead the world and thus defend the world's interests.

With ups and downs, the powers that took on more regional or more global roles are Japan, Russia (and the USSR), the United States, France, Great Britain and Germany. In the last two centuries, China has transformed from a semi-colonial, peripheral situation, through constant improvement since the 1949 Revolution, to ascend to a central and hegemonic country, in an unprecedented case. The latest tectonic movements denote the importance of the Indian and Pacific, compared to the former pre-eminence of the Atlantic; if we notice, in the busiest ports in the world.

The majority of the world's population interacts in the Eurasian territory, a scenario of multipolarity, resources, cultural and linguistic variety. China represents the rise of Asia-Pacific, Russia political-military power, territorial power and immense natural resources. Europe is represented by its triad: British and Franco-German axis. However, the unprecedented geo-economic breakthrough is China, whose eradication of poverty for the benefit of four hundred million people over the past half-century exemplifies this potential, along with reversing its overproduction and surpluses for the rest of the world.

The third power in dispute is Moscow, a geopolitical and military challenger, not so much economically. The immediate priority is naval harassment in the China Sea, a vital area of ​​world trade. The United States added the AUKUS to NATO, together with Australia, Great Britain and also reactivated the QUAD, a kind of “Pacific NATO” together with Japan, Australia and India. This would wrap the “String of Pearls” of the BRI maritime corridor outside. Meanwhile, China leads the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) among fifteen nations in the Asia-Pacific region – such as Japan, Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam.

The US strategy is contradicted by the Russian-Chinese alliance, which partially joins Central Asia (post-Soviet space) and Iran (25-year-old treaty). In intermediate situations, it leans towards Pakistan (traditional US nuclear ally) and Turkey (NATO member) according to the planning of the BRI (Tehran-Istanbul) with its geostrategic position, one of the economic corridors to reach for the Europe.

The “One China” doctrine exercises its sovereignty over colonial territories such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. His military apparatus prepares as he proclaims his peaceful action. The “century of humiliation”, from the Opium War in 1841 to 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded. Since 2015, a technological roadmap has been designed, “Made in China 2025”, with the aim of narrowing its gap; by 2035, strengthen its position and, by 2045, lead global innovation.

BRI's economic integration with Russia and Europe, along with the intention to develop the interior of the country (such as Xinjiang) and secure energy from the center of Eurasia. In addition to restricting the US presence and building routes that the US military could not interrupt in the event of a major confrontation.

The railway line – built and designed – together with sea and land lines connect Eurasia. The route has commercial, industrial, transport, science and technology guidelines. The strategy boils down to peace for your economy and your global status, stabilizing the global economic and political situation. To the extent of its sphere of influence, its competitors respond with geopolitical rivalry in the Indo-Pacific region.

Two centuries of maritime predominance, the successive British and North American hegemonies, interspersed with this terrestrial resolution (reduces the time to a third of the time needed by sea) – the thalassocratic powers against the tellurocratic ones. It transforms the geography of central Eurasia, after the US invasions, into a “reordering” but in unequal terms. Russia, in 2015, with the tacit support of China, intervenes with its army. Russia and the United States differ in the geographic proximity or remoteness where they intervene and in the North American implantation around the world with its military bases.

Sino-Russian alliance plus Iran, geopolitical opposition to Anglo-Saxon axis

The Sino-Russian alliance together with Iran outlines a strategic triangle. Russia has regained prominence in the global geopolitical picture. In the post-Soviet space, another part of the hegemonic and resource struggle is unfolding, where NATO has advanced eastwards.

China, after being a world and Asian power, went through a period of invasions and colonization attempts, first by the British and then by the Japanese. And although it has nuclear weapons and is on the UN Security Council, it has not followed the aggressive policy of the other four. According to Chinese academics, “the Beijing consensus” develops a circumspect behavior, a geopolitical logic of sharp power ( sharp power ), a type of interference different from that of purely diplomatic forces ( soft power ) or the American responses of hard war ( hard power ). ) . ) and political interference.

The policy of the American Asian pivot – and that of NATO – seeks to prevent the deployment of the BRI. The United States is imperialist, its position is one of aggression, the places where it directs its fleets are thousands of kilometers from its territory. The North American country with its island geography has been involved in wars for all but nineteen years of its history.

This repositioning of Eurasia is represented, in part, by this tripartite axis, although the disconnect with Germany is another central issue. China assumes a defensive reaction, highlighting its long-term planning and demographic weight. The shadow is another form of multipolar power sharing. Whether and to what extent this benefits the rest of the world remains to be seen.

sub-imperialist powers

Transformations in an important region for hegemonic competition reflect or precede global systemic variations. Global tensions reverberate there through indirect confrontations, popular rebellions and fluctuations in alliances. The peripheral gendarmes do not contradict the independence of action of those countries, but confirm the level of interventionism in the region. It is enough to observe the successive maps of the Middle East, its independences and its wars (1916, 1948, 1967, 1973, 2001, 2021) to verify the climate of confrontation.

The role of this region involves global energy (production, transit), refugees, security in the Persian Gulf, nuclear non-proliferation, political Islam, non-state actors (such as Hezbollah and Hamas), the Israeli-Palestinian issue, civil wars as in Syria, tensions (such as the Saudi-Iranian rivalry), the Chinese BRI, plus the independence of sub-empires, popular uprisings, democratic struggles and anti-imperialist resistance.

After the implosion of the Soviet Union, a symbolic and material reconfiguration of the map is outlined, which had repercussions on regional bellicosity, when the US invaded the countries it had supported in the previous decade of the 80s, Iraq (against Iran) and Afghanistan (the “Vietnam” of the USSR). The purpose of dominating the world, in the XNUMXst century, involves energy, food, technology and security. This belligerence was covered by the characterization of the Muslim enemy as the per se adversary of the "West" rather than the "Red Bear".

In the last two decades, 2001-2021, the United States starts its direct invasions in the area in Iraq (1991, 2003-2021), Afghanistan (2001-2021), watershed, capitalist crisis of 2008, Libya (2011), interference in Syria (2012) and Yemen (2015). In addition, unconditional support for Israel against the Palestinians and Hezbollah, the alliance with Saudi Arabia and the emergence of ISIS (2014), in addition to the nuclear agreement with Iran (2015). These attacks have stopped until today, with devastated countries, thousands of refugees and critical social consequences.

The subpowers located in the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel, compete for different areas of influence. Two are seen as heirs to the Ottoman and Persian empires; the peninsular, with regard to Arab-Muslim expansions to North Africa and Europe; in the colonial, “Greater Israel” does not agree with any empire. At one point, this equates to Russian and Chinese perceptions of themselves and differs from the Americans in being a colony turned empire.

The sub-imperial character of Turkey, a member of NATO and linked to the Pentagon, can be seen in its intervention in regional conflicts, in the repression of the Kurds or in the controversies with Iran. However, it oscillates between association and certain dissent with respect to the United States. As a transit and connection point, the difference with its neighbors is that it does not rely on natural gas and oil reserves, but on trade and tourism.

Iran dominates the Persian Gulf with its territory, a bridge between Central Asia or China to the Mediterranean. Allied with Russia and China, India (it built a port in Iran to avoid Pakistan) which, along with Russia, are its main suppliers of oil and gas. For China, the Persian country is transcendental in the BRI. For Russia, it is critical to neutralize the US Fifth Fleet based in Qatar. In turn, the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon (with Hezbollah) and Palestine (with Hamas) axes constitute an opposition to Israel and the Americans in the region. Iran has the second largest gas reserves in the world and the third largest oil, a vast territory in a key area, the opposite of the faithful ally of the “Empire of Chaos”.

The interests, alliances and roles of sub-imperialist countries like Turkey and Iran –with ambivalence–, and historical allies of the hegemon such as Israel (co-imperial) and Saudi Arabia. In turn, these countries resolve their differences in third countries, but do not directly confront each other, nor do the superpowers. The rivalry is observed in their areas of influence, with the Gulf countries whose prominence is increasing. A new paradigm opens up from the recent reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Israel is a co-empire with a “qualitative military advantage” sponsored by its ally. It addresses the Arab countries, located in important maritime straits such as Bahrain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sudan and Morocco in an open way, as well as we could add Saudi Arabia in an underground way. In, the United Arab Emirates brings it closer to the opposite coast of Iran in the Persian Gulf. Israel suffocates and colonizes Palestine, cyclically bombs the Gaza Strip, blocks it by land, sea and air, an open-air prison.

Afghanistan, the “Vietnam of the USSR”, is a strategic country for NATO. It would provide a unique geopolitical advantage over China, Russia, India and Iran, being the platform to engage in Eurasia. NATO-induced wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria or Yemen have disrupted the existence of at least one hundred million people in this region over the past three decades.

Material reconfiguration transforms territorialities through direct or indirect intervention. The concept of sub-empire hierarchizes capitalist powers in a state of war, whether latent or permanent. Local actors whose interests and interactions are ambivalent to the superpowers. Turkey, the opposition to Iran and the rapprochement with the nuclear treaty, and the alliance with Saudi Arabia.

Hegemonic decline and Chinese rise

After the world crisis of 2008, in the region of the “Arab world” they have revolted since 2011, thus deposing long-standing monarchies or rulers. However, the repressive counter-revolution dealt several blows to that movement. The transformations of the 2010s exposed how the United States deviated in its policy to redirect it towards China and Russia.

War against Iraq would isolate Iran as a step before its destruction, there were two opposition regimes like Libyan and Syrian. In Syria are the only military bases that allowed Moscow to project its naval and air power over the Mediterranean. The offensive of the so-called Islamic State against the Syrian regime – supported by the US, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – targeted Russia and Iran, which, from Syria, supported Hezbollah. Hence Russia's decision, supported by China, to get involved in September 2015.

In Syria, the conflict has devastated its population. While Libya was left in a situation of potential disintegration and division of the state into three regions. The land borders of Iran, which has suffered numerous economic sanctions, are surrounded by US military bases. It thus approaches the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, of Chinese interest.

In the Middle East, the USA is in a setback, for not fulfilling its plans, to transform five countries in fourteen or to balkanize several States. Although it destroyed several countries, the entry of China and Russia, as well as the influence of Iran, changed its script. The attempt at imperial redesign is in line with that applied by France and England at the beginning of the XNUMXth century.

The destabilization of the region, erroneously named the “Global War on Terror”, annihilated 900 people, caused 38 million refugees and internally displaced people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Philippines, Libya and Syria, in addition to the issue Palestine. It has damaged at least one hundred million lives. The external change became evident because Russia and China, two powers in recomposition, intervened in different ways in the region, and had an impact beyond popular rebellions and sub-imperial powers.

The Middle East and Eurasia are decisive spaces in the world system. The United States is committed to preserving its world hegemony. It seeks to maintain the supremacy of weapons spread around the world, in addition to a series of subpowers of partners or followers in key moments and by their characteristics. In our America, we will see if the confrontation between the United States-Europe blocs with the Russia-China strategic alliance generates new realignments. It remains to be seen whether the Monroe doctrine prevails. The reaction should be to ally and not to divide, as they conceive it.

Martin Martinelli Professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Universidad Nacional de Luján (Argentina).

Originally published in Globalization.

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