08 Mar: US Army Press: Cultural Perspectives, Geopolitics & Energy Security of Eurasia Is the Next Global Conflict Imminent?

* US Army Press: Cultural Perspectives, Geopolitics & Energy Security of Eurasia
Is the Next Global Conflict Imminent?; by Dr. Mahir J. Ibrahimov; Mr. Gustav A. Otto; COL Lee G. Gentile, Jr. [PDF; Copy PDF]
* Insurge Intelligence: Army document: US strategy to ‘dethrone’ Putin for oil pipelines might provoke WW3.

Army document: US strategy to ‘dethrone’ Putin for oil pipelines might provoke WW3

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 | Insurge Intelligence |  08 March 2018

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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.

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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.

Ibrahimov was previously the Army’s Senior Culture and Foreign Language 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.”

Protecting pipelinistan

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.”

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 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 documentedhalf 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.

Among US strategic objectives in Central Asia, Hoagland lists preventing terrorism, stabilizing Afghanistan, preserving the “independence” of the Central Asian republics, promoting good governance, and the following:

“… safeguard US economic interests and continue to promote economic reform so that the five nations can be better embedded in the global economy.”

Underscoring the centrality of US economic interests, Hoagland extolls a wealth of detail on the region’s abundant energy, mineral and raw material reserves:

“But also, the region is awash in natural resources. Turkmenistan has the fourth-largest natural-gas reserves in the world. Kazakhstan has the second-largest oil reserves of the former Soviet Union, second only to Russia, and US and European international oil companies early on made major investments there that continue to this day. Uzbekistan is a major producer of uranium, as is Kazakhstan, and has large natural-gas reserves, as does, quite likely, Tajikistan. Both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan hold significant gold deposits. In addition, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have world-class hydropower potential, as demonstrated by the current casa-1000 project to deliver their summer-excess hydroelectricity across Afghanistan to electricity-starved Pakistan.”

These countries, then, are ripe for political integration into the US-dominated market economy:

“To add a bit more nuance, the economies of Central Asia are more than the sum of their natural resources and energy-generating potential. Kazakhstan’s early commitment to macro-economic reform has, 20 years later, created a financial-services hub for the region. Uzbekistan’s educated population of about 30 million has a real potential to provide entrepreneurial and innovative economic growth.” (pp. 28–29)

Despite Hoagland’s obligatory lipservice to ‘good governance’ and ‘civil liberties’, neither feature in any meaningful sense in NATO’s priorities. The Central Asian republics are among the most repressive, anti-democratic regimes in the world, consistently lambasted by human rights organizations for their horrific torture and persecution of any political dissent. ‘Democracy’ promotion clearly does not mean actual ‘democracy’ — it simply means a geopolitical alignment with NATO, hostility toward Russia, and an opening up of the economy to US and Western foreign investors, human rights be damned.

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