Sergei Karaganov is a Russian political scientist, a close associate of Yevgeny Primakov, and has been Presidential Advisor to Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. In the Guardian he has written
Rapid changes in the global economy and international politics are raising, once more, an eternal issue in Russia: the country's relations with Europe, and with the Euro-Atlantic region as a whole. Of course, Russia partly belongs to this region.
Yet it cannot and does not want to join the west wholeheartedly – at least not yet. Meanwhile, this choice looks very different now compared with just a few years ago.
It is becoming obvious that the Euro-Atlantic world, whose economic and political model seemed so triumphant 20 years ago, is now lagging somewhat behind China and other Asian countries.
So is Russia, where, despite encouraging talk about innovation-based development, the economy continues to demodernise as corruption has been allowed to metastasise, and as the country relies increasingly on its natural resource wealth.
Indeed, it is Asia that has turned out to be the true winner of the cold war.
The idea of Russia becoming part of NATO is not as absurd as it first seems to those who are not hardened neoconservatives. US foreign policy has always been ambiguous towards Russia on the principle laid down by Machiavelli that,
"...it must be noted, that men must either be caressed or else annihilated; they will revenge themselves for small injuries, but cannot do so for great ones; the injury therefore that we do to a man must be such that we need not fear his vengeance"The shifting realpolitik line in Washington in recent years towards Russia has been dictated by the idea that Russia can act as an ally where there are shared geopolitical interests such as combatting Islamists who threaten the best laid pipeline plans from Chechnya to Afghanistan.
It is often forgotten that in 2001 Putin was content to allow bases in ex-Soviet lands to be used to bomb Afghanistan and Obama's 'reset' of relations with Russia is a strategy to get enough breathing space to get the TAPI pipeline built and divert control of gas from the Kremlin.
On the other hand, the Obama's 'reset' is about trying to break up the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus axis by offering Russia the prospect of greater investment opportunities and mutually beneficial partnerships if it proves willing to trust in US global leadership.
Yet what the US is prepared to offer with the one hand if authoritarian powers 'unclench their fists' will be taken as a weakness ready to unleash what Thomas Friedman called the 'hidden fist' of US as opposed to the 'iron fist' of Russia.
Friedman is important because he also is a member of the same Council on Foreign Relations that Sergei Karaganov was as an International Advisor from 1995 to 2005 and he regulary media frames current US foreign policy to fit in with current fad that the elite toy along with.
To Friedman Russia's 'iron fist', as revealed belief in Russian "aggression" against Georgia, is reversion to previous form as well as others that Karaganov has tried to mollify in suggesting that the USA, the EU and Russia have more mutual areas of interest than division.
The problem has been that Russia insists on being treated as an equal in any partnership with the USA which is anathema to those like Zbigniew Brzezinski who is both a member of the CFR, the Trilateral Committee and Obama's foreign policy advisor.
For Friedman, Bill Emmot of the Economist etc etc that cannot happen until Russia has yielded control over its economy to US and EU corporations, the real meaning of ending the idea of the 'nation state' which Karaganov believes the EU has in its 'post-modern imperium'.
As Friedman has opined,
The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15.This statement is curious as his neoliberal dogma is that democratic states do not attack others, though this is patently disproved by Saakashvili's ethnically divided Georgia which is at least partly democratic depite the USA endorsing the rigged election of 2003's "Rose Revolution".
And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
But ,of course, his "theory" is disproved by the actual history of NATO expansion in the 1990s as the USA, a democracy, regarded non-communist Russia under Yeltsin as a democracy but one which was Russian and still hence innately prone to aggression. Unlike the USA.
Which makes a farce of Karaganov's statement that,
Europe is overcoming state nationalism, while Russia is building a nation state. Broken by history and not wishing to be ravaged by war again, Europeans have embraced compromise and renounced the direct use of force in international relationsWithout that line, the USA would never have had to be able to draw on fear of Russia to bring states next to Russia into NATO and make a fortune from the sale of weapons systems in which the war on Serbia in 1999 was the first step in establishing real credibility.
Credibility that NATO, under US auspices, will be able to win global hegemony back through the plan to dominate Eurasia and in which regard Russia is either for it or against it but never going to be treated as a permanent 'regional power' Which is why Brzezinski terms it 'a black hole'.
And why Karaganov writes without irony that,
Russians, on the other hand, emphasise their "hard power", including military force, because they know that they live in a dangerous world and have no one to hide behind.Russia is not moving away from democracy. It is becoming an hybrid of authoritarian government and democracy and, in that sense, the USA has actually moved more in its direction in recent years.
Internal political developments in Russia are also pushing the country in a different direction from the west. Quite simply, Russia is moving away from democracy.
If Russia's 'soft' power is not as developed as the USA's it is because Karamagov has not seen that this takes time: the USA has been perfecting a stage managed oligarchical form of democracy since the beginning of the twentieth century.
More subtle mechanisms of indocrination, persuasion and mind control over the masses were developed in corporate America as Aldous Huxley knew than the crude ones of totalitarian propaganda that ultimately failed along with Soviet Communism.
The fear of China is based not only on its emerging economic stregth and ascent to superpower status but also because Enlightenment ideas of human rights have little traction there as they do amongst Russians, though distorted by fake NGOS led by hirelings posing as "dissidents".
The mostly unanimous support across the board, including many in the CFR, for the invasion of Iraq was based on the fear of securing energy ( i.e oil and gas ) and using that as a lever on an energy hungry China which is making inoroads on controlling resources across the globe.
The membership of the CFR reads like a Who's Who Guide to recent proponents of "liberal interventionism" from Serbia, to Afghanistan to Iraq such as Richard Holbrooke and Madeleine Albright on the Board of Directors.
Other members include Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Mikhail Fridman ( Russian oligarch ), Robert Gates, Robert Kagan ( of PNAC fame ), John Kerry, Henry Kissenger, John McCain, Richard Pipes, PBS's Charlie Rose, George Soros and Angelina Jolie ( UN Goodwill Role ).
Karaganov, as an ex-Communist and member of the Trilateral Commission as well and fervent believer in Westernism and the Enlightenment, clearly sees that if Russia and the West worked together total global dominance over the 'the rest' would be assured.
Narurally conspiracy theorists will see the whole thing as one united sinister plot but in the real world, of course, the elite are divided over tactics and strategies though the goal of dominating Euraia is not as it became the ultimate geopolitical gambit of Great Britain after WW1.
Yet the CFR derives from Wilsonian ideas about advocating the break up of all Empires ( other than the obvious one ) and which was contemporaneous with the geopolitical theories of Sir Halford MacKinder in the twilight of the British Empire.
The Heartland Theory stated in 1919 runs,
- "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
- who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
- who rules the World-Island controls the world."
Any Great Power which controlled the World-Island would control well over 50% of the world's resources. The Heartland's size and centrality made it the key to controlling and dominating the World-Island where the world remaining major resources of oil and gas lie.
The vital question was how to secure control of the Heartland. This question may seem pointless, since in 1904 the Russian Empire had ruled most of the area from the Volga to Eastern Siberia for centuries.
Yet throughout the 19th century the possibility was always there when West European powers had combined in the Great Game to prevent Russian expansion as in the Crimean War or at the Congress of Berlin ( 1878 ) and in Asia through Britain's position in India.
The First World War saw the Great Powers in Europe destroy one another whilst the Russian Revolution led to the creation of the USSR, the rise of Stalin, the defeat of Hitler's threat after a brief carve up of Eastern Europe between them and then the USSR's Eurasian dominance.
With the demise of the USSR in 1991 the Russian Commonwealth was a shrunken version of even the Tsarist Empire before World War One and that provided the USA, or 'the West, to try and expand influence into the chain of ex-Soviet Republics from the Caucasus to 'the stans'.
Mackinder held that effective political domination of the Heartland by a single power had been unattainable in the past because of poor transport networks but today the what Brzezinski terms the Grand Chessboard is there with the pieces already on it a more of less positioned.The problem is the "reality on the ground" where control is hindered by 'barbarian tribes' who threaten to destroy those pipelines which play the same strategic equivalent that the transcontinental railroads did to the Great Powers before World War One.
Karaganov's agenda is to incorporate Russia into NATO or the West as a counter to Russia merely being a weak and corrupt energy exporter surrounded by the richer EU to one side, China to the other and states that are essential US geopolitical clients to the south ( e.g Georgia ).