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February 04, 2008 (the date of publication in Russian)

Maxim Kalashnikov

THE TEMPTATION OF A "SOFT EMPIRE"

Moscow is prompted to follow the pattern of the Conquistadors

PERVERSED SYMPATHIES

Since the second half of 2007, we encounter an odd phenomenon. US think tanks are spectacularly trying to convince Moscow to start building a new empire and take on a geopolitical expansion, making use of Washington's current weakness.

For what reason? Why are the think tanks of the very power that had strived tooth and nail to crush the USSR now tempting its legal and actual successor, Russia, to boost imperial expansion? What is behind the strange altruism of our sworn trans-Atlantic "friends"?

Until summer 2007, Western media covered Russia with hardly veiled enmity and outright scorn, implying under any pretext: what could you expect from this "oil fascist" dictatorship of old KGB-men? The intonation changed after Russia won the bid for the Winter Olympic Games of 2014. Or, maybe, this victory itself was exactly the beginning of the game.

Next came the sensational report of the Center of Strategic and International Studies, suggesting a scenario (dubbed "A Shot in the Darkness") of a dictatorship of an "Orthodox patriotic Chekist" who would be capable not only of a sophisticated economic strategy but also for a real success in economic growth and further reintegration of the most valuable elements of the former USSR into a new empire. In particular, this KGB-dictatorial Russia appears able to instigate a coup d'etat in Turkmenistan, to establish a marionette government and to militarily occupy the country on this government's request, thus gaining control over vast gas deposits and depriving Ukraine of the last opportunity of building an alternative pipeline to Europe.

After that, the Chekist regime would seize control over Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, and merge Belarus, thus establishing a new superpower with which the US would have to strike a deal against Islamic terrorism, allowing Russia to do what it would like in the sphere of its influence.

Another think tank, Stratfor, continued this "chess party" on behalf of Russia. In January 2008, this institution published its own forecast of global development for year 2008. Stratfor's eggheads expressed the view that Russia has greatly increased its strength, gaining most favorable positions since the USSR's disintegration. Therefore, the perplexed United States would decide to crack upon Russia right after withdrawing its troops from Iraq and the Middle East.

From this point, Stratfor is playing the chess party on the side of Russia. The institution advises Moscow, first of all, to impose pressure on the European Union, forcing it to give up support of Kosovo independence and simultaneously annexing South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The West is described as helpless, Washington being reluctant to get involved in a nuclear war for Georgia. Next, Russia is advised to militarily occupy Belarus, advancing to the EU borders, while Gazprom is supposed to merge TNK-BP's oil and gas assets.

The described bold offensive of Moscow is supposed to doom the pro-Western politicians in CIS countries and reinforce their pro-Moscow opponents. Russia's skilful confrontation game would thus elevate Russia's might and enable it to avoid a new geopolitical disaster – which is described as inevitable in case the Russians fail to use their opportunity of today and allow the United States to intervene in the post-Soviet space after pulling out of Iraq.

Why are Moscow's traditional opponents so supportive of Russia's imperial revival? Are we encountering a genuine shift in the mindset of professed strategists, or a new design of geopolitical trap mastered for the Russian nation? The answer should be sought in the character of empire Russia is supposed to become.

 

I CARRY THE TRUNK, AND YOU CARRY ME

Some Russian conspirologists believe to have found an explanation for the prompts to boost empire-building, articulated by leading US think tanks. According to this view, the insidious Yankees are trying to tempt Russia for a massive waste of resources for the purpose of building up an "imperial chimera" on the model of the USSR that would eventually result in disintegration of the Russian Federation itself.

This idea is based on two assumptions: firstly, that Russia is essentially incapable for a revival, and secondly, that the only purpose of the United States is to promote the Russian Federation's division into a preferably large number of entities. However, the assessment, appropriate for the early 1990s, is hardly plausible today, regarding the mounting economic problems of the United States and the obvious untenability of the unipolar world system.

The logic of the ruling circles of the American empire, at the face of its systemic crisis, could be rather interpreted as follows: first, we'll allow Russia to take the largest possible expanse of the former Soviet territory, and then, we'll take Russia under our control. The scheme resembles a cunning Cheburashka, the Russian clone of Paddington Bear, telling his friend Crocodile Gene: I carry the trunk, and you carry me.

A neo-imperial image of Russia is perfectly convenient for US interests. On the one hand, it is more secure for Washington to entrust a vast Eurasian territory, along with lots of problems in newly independent but hardly solvent states, to a relatively understandable and believingly controllable Russia than to a rising, consolidated and unpredictable China. On the other hand, the same imperial image of Moscow can be easily sold to Europe as a scarecrow, impelling the European Union to lean closer to the American breast, and consolidating NATO under the Stars and Stripes. A Russian neo-empire in the "soft version", constituting no real menace for US interests, would be still efficiently used for manipulating the US domestic audience, making it more tolerant to higher military expenses. The US military industrial complex would more convincingly substantiate the needs for developing more sophisticated weaponry. Supersonic robotic bombers have been lately regarded as an unnecessarily costly means for dealing with poorly armed Moslem radicals.

At the same time, Russia in a neo-imperial shape is supposed to conveniently become a new target of the same Islamic radical community, as well as for China, distracting their attention from America. A well-controlled Moscow could be used as a weapon in itself. With its declining economic power (the US share in the global GDP reducing from 32 to 27.4% during the last five years), and the restricted capability of financial, as well as efficient media influence on the rising Asia, Washington would rather temporarily yield a part of its global sphere of control to a reliable Russia, thus saving financial, industrial and manpower resources.

In case the hypothetic neo-empire still disintegrates, the outcome would be troublesome. Still, the expected fight for the Russian succession among the Chinese, Moslems and Europeans would allow the United States to play the role of a monkey, sitting on the hill and watching the clash of predator – using the metaphor once attributed by Mao Zedong to China's preferable behavior in the circumstances of the Cold War.

According to this logic, Russia could and should be urged for building up an "appeasable" kind of empire, in order to eventually yield control of Eurasia to the United States as soon as it recovers from the current crisis. Certainly, the empire of this kind is not supposed to develop as an independent, self-sufficient entity, able to become a real rival for the United States, Europe or China.

 

RECALLING OLD "CHESS GAMES"

The above described logic perfectly matches the earlier Anglo-Saxon games on the global chessboard. An industrial Britain, despite its scarce potential of land forces, once managed to manipulate the agrarian-feudal continental empires of Russia and Austria, with their numerous infantry, into a war against Napoleon, crushing the dangerous rival with their hands. This helped Britain to retain control over India, the major resource base of the empire, as well as to overtake a half of Africa and a half of Asia, overtaking the Suez Canal and becoming the leading nation of the XIX century. In the same way, Britain used Napoleon III, the sovereign of a then weaker France, in the Crimean wars in which the French besieged Sevastopol and thus prevented Russia from invading the Balkans and overtaking the Bosporus and the Dardanelles – an option quite undesirable for London.

In a similar pattern, the British and the Americans manipulated the Russian Empire of Emperor Nicholas II, dragging it into a useless First World War in order to crush the rising Germany that was regarded as a menace for British colonies and sea routes. Thus, two rising powers were instigated against one another. In the course of World War I, the British would display reluctance from a joint offensive operation with the Russian ally, or support this ally in trouble, or overlook the break-in of German cruisers, Geben and Breslau, into the Black Sea, thus preventing Russia to overtake the channels, and finally, co-financed the Russian Revolution with US bankers; though politicians laid responsibility on the German General Staff, both Kerensky and Trotsky actually enjoyed sponsorship from the British.

Today, the trans-Atlantic strategists are going to play the same kind of game, with the only difference that the role of the Napoleonic France and Kaiser's Germany is going to be performed by China.

Still, why are these war-planners so convinced that the Russian neo-empire would easily agree to match their scenarios?

 

HOW GOLD DOOMED THE EMPIRE OF CONQUISTADORS

The US strategists are obviously comparing Russia to the historical analogue of the Spanish Empire of Carl V Habsburg that built its superpower in the early XVI century on the control over flows of raw materials and gold from South American colonies. Carl's empire, benefiting from natural rent, curtailed the rise of industrial capitalism, and developed a huge and corrupted bureaucratic apparatus. Enormous amounts of gold, derived from sale of raw materials, were spent not for the country's development but for excessive consumption of the ruling circles and for purchase of goods from outside, along with support of Catholics against Protestants. Eventually, the gold assets of the Spanish Empire helped to finance the industrial upsurge of Britain and Holland while Spain was eventually doomed.

The design of the supposed Russian neo-empire, preferable for US chessplayers, is based on superprofits from oil and gas trade and the unrestricted power of a corrupted and rigid bureaucracy, opposed to a real technological development. The US strategists are convinced that the announced plans for an innovative breakthrough and implementation of novel technologies in Russia are going to fail, and that instead, Russia would select a patently no-win option of copying Western models, thus dooming itself to permanent backwardness.

 

THE MODEL OF A MARIONNETTE SUPERPOWER

A quasi-empire, in which economic expansion, based on fuel trade, is combined with excessive consumption of the ruling elite, syphoning out money to Western banks and educating its children in Oxbridge, would be unviable by definition. Its core Slavonic population will continue to die out; its food supply will remain insecure; its banking system will be dependent on international sponsors. This neo-empire would fail to develop an advanced electronic industry of its own, and stay dependent on imported technologies in telecommunications, IT, and even in advanced technologies of extraction of its own minerals. It is similarly unlikely to upgrade its aircraft and shipbuilding facilities, losing the competition to Boeing, Airbus, McDonnell-Douglas, Bombardier, and even to Chinese and Brazilian machine building corporations.

After entering WTO, this neo-empire would lose the possibility to pursue protectionist policies, as well as to make use of its scientific potential, its scientific schools dying out without inheriting their experience to the next generation. The power system of this empire would be incapable of solving the problem of corruption, and to efficiently develop regional centers if business activity in Siberia and the Far East, as well as to overcome the physical deterioration of equipment, energy and transport infrastructure.

Possessing diversified levers of state management, efficient organizational and decision-making technologies, as well as a vast machine of entertainment industry, shaping views along with style and fashions, the United States is convinced of its strategic advantage over Russia and of ability to manipulate Moscow at any decisive moment. After being used as cannon meat, the neo-empire is to be written off from global policy. Its age is restricted with its temporary function.

Apprehension of this design does not suggest that Russia should isolate itself and stay locked in its present borders. An adequate response to the manipulative game requires in a qualitatively different counter-scenario.

(To be continued. Response from "Russian Barbarians")


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