Geopolitics of the Caucasus: A Key to the Global Fourth World War Against Terrorism

Geopolitics of the Caucasus: A Key to the Global Fourth World War Against Terrorism

by Dr. Robert D. Crane

updated 11/6/2008

  When Communism in the Soviet Union imploded almost two decades ago, Francis Fukuyama, head of policy planning in the U.S. State Department, predicted that history had ended because the American model was now the only model for the rest of the world.  Henry Kissinger, always the critical pragmatist, warned that Russia has always been an imperial power and would eventually threaten the Western world as it did throughout most of the twentieth century.

  Like most global forecasters, they missed some exogenous variables, those trends that had not yet become visible or at least not obvious enough to be included in the parameters of the forecast.  One such variable was non-state terrorism.  The NeoConservatives had been warning already for three decades that such a development was inevitable and would bring global chaos.  Their answer was to mount a global fourth world war against terrorism by targeting the only power left in the world that could challenge American hegemony. 

  On February 8, 1995, Newt Gingrich, who had just successfully staged a revolution to take power in the House of Represenatatives as its Speaker or leader, declared that the new world war against terrorism was a continuation of the second and third world wars, respectively, against the totalitarian threats of Nazism and Communism.  At a conference of military and intelligence officers on developing global strategy, Speaker Gingrich announced, “I have yet to see a coherent strategy for fighting Islamic totalitarianism.”

  Fourteen years later, after gaining control of the White House in the wake of 9/11 and fighting so-called Islamic terrorism with limited success, Kissinger’s original warning about the Russian bear was revived when Russia invaded Georgia in order to warn NATO to stay away from its southern flank in the Caucasus.  The stated Russian rationale was to prevent Georgia from serving as a base or at least as a cause celebre for the promotion of anti-Russian terrorism throughout the Caucasus, as well as to assure that Georgia would not be used as a base for an attack on Russia’s ally, Iran. 

  The reaction of the White House was to reaffirm its policy of incorporating Georgia into NATO and to launch a diplomatic offensive to punish Russia in every way possible other than direct military action against Russian forces.  The financial meltdown in America and the world, described as the tsunami of the century, coincided with the U.S.-Russian confrontation and undermined America’s image as the ultimate model for global governance and reduced its politico-military leverage in world affairs.  Nevertheless, the NeoCon commitment to confront what was seen as a new threat in addition to terrorism continued unabated.  Two months later, the lead editorial in an unlikely place, The Washington Post of October 19, 2008, asserted that, “It’s vital that the Georgian war becomes a net loss for Moscow.” 

  The American presidential election of November 4th, 2008, has raised hopes all over the world that America will abandon its zero-sum confrontational approach to global strategy and instead will seek cooperation among nations in addressing the economic and political injustices that ultimately lead to wars and terrorism. 

  The threats and opportunities have never been greater than they will be during the Administration of President Barack Hussein Obama.  Speaking on September 4th, 2008, in Orlando, Florida, to a gathering of intelligence professionals before the full effects of the financial meltdown were manifest, America’s top intelligence analyst, Charles Thomas Fingar, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence (DDNI) and Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, first announced the existence and conclusions of Global Trends 2025.  This updates the U.S. Government’s last official major long-range global forecast prepared in 2004.  A preliminary version was made available to Senator Obama on September 2nd, 2008, and the official findings will be presented to President Obama as soon as he takes office on January 20th, 2009. 

  The new intelligence finding is the result of several months of open warfare between the professionals and the political appointees within the U.S. government.  It examines the “dynamics, the dimensions, the drivers” that will shape the world for the next administration and beyond.  Contrary to the grand strategy of the previous Administration, the new estimate says that military power will “be the least significant” asset in America’s relations with the rest of the world.

  Terrorism was not a focus of the 2009 report, as it was in the last one five years earlier, because it deals primarily with challenges and opportunities that serve either to cause terrorism or to marginalize it. 

  In reference to Russia’s ally, Iran, Fingar noted that the Chinese get a good portion of their oil from Iran, as do many U.S. European allies, limiting U.S. options for Iran. “So the ‘turn-the-spigot-off’ kind of thing - even if we could do it - would be counterproductive.”  He said Iran’s ultimate decision on whether to build nuclear weapons depends on how its leaders view their “security requirements. ... The United States took care of Iran’s principal security threats, except for us, which the Iranians consider a mortal threat.”

  The new long-range global forecast that will guide President Obama, according to a transcript of Fingar’s September 4th speech, foresees U.S. leadership eroding “at an accelerating pace” in political, economic, and arguably cultural arenas.  The trend is described in the new book, The Post-American World, by Fareed Zakaria, in which he forecasts that the major shift in world affairs is not about “the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.”

  The Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell, confirmed the new findings in a talk in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 30th.  He warned that the soft driver of “competition for energy, water, and food will drive conflicts between nations to a degree not seen in decades, and climate change and global economic upheaval will amplify the effects.”  He stated that with continued population growth the scarcity of basic necessities will “create significant tensions on the globe.”  At the same time, China, India, and Russia may rise to new positions of power, following massive transfers of wealth and manufacturing capability from West to East.

  Acknowledgement of economic and political injustices in which America has been complicit has been strictly off-limits during the past seven years.  The new estimate warns that the terrorist threat is not likely to disappear in the next twenty years either in the Middle East or elsewhere around the world.  Instead, absent major economic and political improvements, “conditions will be right for growing radicalism and recruitment of youths into terrorist groups, many of which will be descendents of established movements, such as al Qa’ida.”  DNI Mike McConnel noted that these groups will probably be more dangerous than their predecessors, because new technology will place dangerous weapons within their grasp to create casualties greater than September 11.

  Given this backdrop for a geopolitical grand strategy to turn threat into opportunity in the Caucasus, it appears that America would be well advised to work together with Russia instead of against it so that this region of the world will not be a growing source of terrorism but rather can become a model of economic and political justice in a global effort to marginalize terrorists and render them irrelevant.   

  The objective should be to counter terrorism by promoting the Caucasus Federation of independent states that the predominantly Muslim peoples there have been advocating now for two hundred years in opposition to great power hegemony, whether Russian and British a century ago or Russia and America today. 

  Failure to recognize the rights to self determination of nations that have a common sense of their past, common values in the present, and common hopes for the future is perhaps the major injustice that causes terrorism worldwide.  Their right to cooperation in federations or confederations, including joint and broadened ownership of natural resources, constitutes the most elemental justice that can remove the cause and purpose of violence.

  On September 11, 2008, according to Ellen Barry in the NYT, ‘‘Putin suggested that [Russia’s military action in the five-day war of August 8-12th] was aimed in part at quelling instability in the Russian north Caucasus [north of the main mountain range], where he said, ‘certain nongovernmental organizations in certain republics’ had ‘raised the question of separation from Russia under the pretext of non-protection of South Ossetia’.” In other words, if America tries to separate the peoples of the Caucasus from the Russian sphere, and Russia does nothing to oppose it, the entire Caucasus could rise in revolt against what amounts to Russian occupation, which, in turn, would give America the opportunity to fund what Putin calls the terrorists against Russia’s southern flank.

  In the Washingon Post of September 11th, on page A9, “News Services” reported that, “Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia [which is Bushspeak for the half of the Ossetian nation claimed by Georgia south of the High Caucasus mountain range] plans to become part of Russia, its president, Eduard Kopkoity, said.’’  This is an act of desperation to escape invasion and occupation from America’s ally to the south, because the Ossetians have fought for independence from any foreign control, whether Russian, Turkish, British, or American, since 1801.

    The the only way to defuse the U.S.-Russian confrontation in a way that would serve Russia’s strategic interests and at the same time help America win the war of ideas would be for America to cooperate with Russia in fighting terrorism in this region by creating a buffer zone that would be off limits forever for either of the great powers or for their favorite “independent” agencies, such as NATO. 

  This has been my preferred scenario for many decades, starting from the time I fought with the undergrounds in Eastern Europe in 1948, where I escaped twice from Communist prisons, but especially since the implosion of the Soviet Union and the liberation of the great republics along the southern and eastern frontiers of the USSR, as well as beyond, especially Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, the second-tier nations (avtonomniye oblasti) both within the Russian Federation, such as Chechniya, and within the great republics of the former Soviet Union (such as Ossetia, half of which was to be colonized by Georgia) were never recognized as sovereign states, even though all of them have more rights in natural law to independence than most of the countries in the world today. 

  Back in 1998, when I was honored to introduce the president of Chechniya, Aslan Maskhadov, to thousands of cheering Muslims in Washington, I called him the world’s greatest mujahid of the 21st century, because he refused to use violence in supporting the self-determination of his people.  Unfortunately, the radical insurgents in Chechniya, who were led by Al Qa’ida types from abroad, invaded neighboring Dagestan to liberate it only a couple of days before Putin was inaugurated as the successor to Yeltsin, which gave Putin the opportunity to wipe out the capital of Chechniya as a warning to all the other nations in the region.  Putin then eventually had Maskhadov assassinated because he had become too popular as a Sufi leader of a developing movement of confederalism including all Caucasian nations both within the Russian Federation and beyond.

  This geo-strategic background of the federation itself is important, because it provides a framework for the devolution of oil and gas ownership from within the entire confederation equally in inalienable shares of voting stock to every person who lives there.  This would deny Great Power control of the oil, which should be no big deal for America in its imperial senescence, but should be very attractive for Putin.  This would be the most effective way to reconcile the pending clash of the great powers now heating up in the Caucasus and Central Asia, as it did between Russian and British imperialists a century ago, who never could successfully manipulate the terrorists of that pre-nuclear era or defeat them.

  The real key to this solution, from the point of view of Putin and the Russian nationalists, is the spiritual leadership of Solzhenitsn, who was the guru of both Putin and Medvedov.  For them Solzhenitsn’s death of old age just before the Georgian attack on Ossetia was a spiritual catastrophe.  Putin was conflicted because Solzhenitsn vehemently opposed the destruction and colonization of Chechnya, but he valued Solzhenitsyn’s message that Mother Russia is a spiritually unique gift of God and that it should never be diluted by trying to incorporate foreign elements into its bosom. 

  The only question today is which great power government would have the guts to advocate such a win-win solution, when confronted with imperial expansionsts and nativist extremists in the local political opposition who want only a win-lose solution in order to defeat the other.  Since the era of the American hyper-power obviously is over in the world, it would behoove the Obama Administration to get the best deal it can while it still has any power left. 

  The current failure of the Iraqi parliament to approve the American sponsored oil law, which was first developed in Washington before the 2003 invasion, may result in the final failure to approve a highly centralized government in Baghdad and lead to a federation similar to the United Arab Emirates.  Cooperation among its component nations then could then center on removing the political barriers to broadened ownership of the region’s major resource as a basis for real political self-determination.  The details for such a grand strategy are spelled out in the author’s article, ‘‘A Grand Strategy for Peace through Justice in Iraq,’’ by Crane and Kurland, Octob,er 20, 2007.  This could serve as a model for the peoples of the Caucasus. 

  Alternatively, such political and economic solutions to both regional and great power conflict in the Caucasus might serve as a model for Iraq, Afghanistan, and a number of other places where persons and peoples are seeking peace, prosperity, and freedom through compassionate justice.