- Posted April 27, 2014 by
NYC, New York
The Clash of Titans: Why Crimea now?
By Virgilio Oscar Arán
Seven years ago I promised myself not to write any article on foreign policy or to be more precise on American foreign policy. However, the last episode-Russian invasion of Crimea- changed that promise made back in 2005. Many of the so-called analysts, pundits as well as some elected officials have equated Russians excursion in Crimea as a sign of weakness of president Obama as if this is a wrestling contest between two gladiators from the ancient Rome. Crimea is the collateral victim of the confrontation of two colossal military powers that are competing for geopolitical sphere of influence.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the bipolarity that dominated the international system since the end of War World II disappeared and a New World Order emerged. As famously, former American president George H.W.Bush noted in September 1990 speech when addressing to a joint session of congress that a “new world order has emerged.” While the centerpiece of his speech about a new world order highlighted the necessity of “states cooperation”, it was clear that this New World Order would be dominated by the USA. At that time three important questions emerged: what would be American foreign policy towards Russia? Would American elaborate a similar Marshall Plan for Russia as it did for the defeated Germany after World War II? Or would the Americans follow similar humiliating policies as France and England did after World War I? Those question were answered when the Western World developed its famous ‘shock therapy policy’, inundated Russians with technocrats and gave green light to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union (EU). Those objectives were consummated during Boris Yeltsin years characterized internally by corruption and impoverished of many Russians. At the international level, Russian’s influence diminished as it saw its former satellite countries incorporated into NATO. For the United States and Western Europe, Russia should not just be contained, but also denigrated. The denigration would contain Russia not just as a military power, but also ideologically. The bipolarity that characterized the confrontation between the Soviet Union and the USA was not just military, but also ideologically. Two competing worldviews on how society should be arranged or organized dominated this confrontation. On one hand, the USA postulating capitalism and on the other, the former Soviet Union postulating communism. By weakening Russia, the USA and its allies needed to ensure no alternative to the capitalist neo-liberal state would attract other countries. Therefore, total humiliation was necessary.
In 1998, the USA under the umbrella of NATO bombarded Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, a former ally of Russia. It was the first campaign in which NATO participated in a military action without any of its members being attacked. As a result of the bombing, the autonomous Serbian province of Kosovo was occupied and by 2008, it declared its independence from Serbia. While this was happening in the Russia’s Western front, the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq on Russia’s Southern borders. In the Grand Chessboard Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, national security advisor during Jimmy Carter administration “highlights the importance of controlling central Asia for any country that aspires to be a great power.” The American intervention cemented the encirclement of the Federal Republic of Russia, from the west to the east and the south. Two events would change Russian foreign policy of acceding to this encirclement. Georgia and Ukraine petitioned to be part of NATO and the EU. Russian intervention in Georgia was a clear reminder that Russia would not tolerate further expansion of the West to its borders. This intervention in August 2008 was during the G.W. Bush administration which is known for its aggressive foreign policy. After six years, Ukraine undertook a similar path and the outcome was almost similar with the exception that the strategic region of Crimea was annexed to Russia. The fact that Georgia was invaded during the Bush administration undermines the argument that Obama is weak. On foreign and domestic policies, the Obama administration has demonstrated its willingness to follow the policies designed and established during the Bush administration. In his first year as president, the Obama administration supported a coup d'état against the democratic elected president of Honduras, José Manuel Zelaya. Drones attacks have increased exponentially in Pakistan, Yemen and the Horn of African where American citizens have been targeted. The American government under Obama has increased its surveillance against Americans and non-Americans. The tone has changed under the Obama administration, but its policies are the same or even more aggressive. It is not the weakness of the the Obama administration, but rather the aggressiveness of the American policy that has collided with the reassertion of Russian nationalistic foreign policy.
Russia and the West are on a collision course if there is no diplomatic solution in the near future. This confrontation will not resemble the cold war, but rather the period between 1921 and 1939 where there was a resurgence of nationalist tendencies as a result of national defeat and humiliation. The expansionist policies of the victors are enveloping the loser: Russia. Today, Russia believes that its national security is in danger and therefore the security cost offset the economic ones. As Germany used the protection of those Germans living in other countries to justify its interventions, Russia is doing the same. The West also believes in what I called macro manifest destiny, which has as a pillar the expansion of capitalism and its network of exploitation. Ironically, this confrontation has shed light to the points made by Vladimir Lenin in his book, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. He denoted that in order “for capitalism to create more profits than the home market can produce, conquest of other nations are necessary to export capital to countries with underdeveloped economies.” The question that many do not ask is: what is the role of the working class? It is in the working classes that my personal hopes are based on. Wars are fought mostly by the working class and at the end it is the working class that can decide if war happens or not. We need to take a different path from the ones we took in the 1914 and 1939. We shall let the pundits speculate on the relative strengths of Obama and Putin but we should not let the working classes be fooled into supporting one or the other.