We are continuing to publish on our site the fragments from the book AMERICA’S PLANS FOR WORLD HEGEMONY, by Romanian author Calistrat M. Atudorei which was published in English version very recently by printing house ”ePublishers” in Bucharest.
Chapter 1.Why Does a Superpower Want Hegemony?
Before I come forward with concrete elements about the US foreign policy strategies, I consider it useful to provide a framework on how political theories analyze international relations. Of these theories, especially those of political realism have a very pragmatic approach to relations between states, thereby they are generally considered to be the most objective.
Exponents of political realism argue that it is an illusion to believe that relations between states are assessed according to morality principles or international law criteria. On the contrary, the key factor shaping international relations is considered to be Power. Each state seeks to obtain and accumulate as much power as possible since it is the guarantee of survival. As an example of the tragism resulted from the urge to ensure the survival of a state, we can consider the unequivocal comment expressed in the late nineteenth century by the Prussian count Otto von Bismarck1. At that time, it was almost clear that Poland, which then was not independent, could regain its sovereignty. Bismarck then noted that “The restoration of the Polish kingdom in any form is equivalent to creating an ally for any enemy who wants to attack us.” For this reason, he continued, “Prussia should crush these Poles until they lose their hope, they will collapse and die; I have all the understanding for their situation, but if we want to survive, we have no choice but to wipe them off from the face of the earth.”2
In a similar way, Joseph Stalin placed the territorial integrity and autonomy of the internal political order of the Soviet Union at the forefront, even before the party’s communist goal. In 1927 he emphasized this idea by asserting that “we can and must build socialism in the Soviet Union. But for this, first of all, we must exist.”3
Even if many of us like to think that most of the nation’s leaders are animated by altruistic intentions and the desire for peaceful collaboration, the historical observations and the findings of the current world unfortunately confirm the harsh point of political realism. Beyond the diplomatic, politicianist-related statements, we notice that the relations between states are rather focused on cold calculation of interests, based on assessments of means of force, costs and risks of potential interactions. Military power is very much taken into account and assimilated by strategists as ultima ratio4, i.e. the “last argument” of international politics. Half in jest and half in earnest, one of the classics of political realism, 19th-century Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz, made a remark that remained famous: “War is a continuation of politics by other means.”5
John Mearsheimer, co-director of the US International Security Policy Program—shows that the key driver of the policy of a state that comes to possess significant military power is to further increase its influence and even gain a position of dominant power over the other states.Both John Mearsheimer and other famous theorists—such as Robert Gilpin6 or William C. Wohlforth7—emphasize that the great powers are not just striving to be the best in the competition with the other great powers. Their fundamental goal is to achieve hegemony, that is, to become the only great power in the system. Actually, the great philosopher Immanuel Kant himself pointed out that in the relations between states the ideal that any great leader dreams about is to be a hegemon in the system. In this sense, Kant wrote that “it is the desire of each state or ruler to reach a condition of eternal peace by conquering the whole world, if that is possible.”8
Mearsheimer points out that for a state to obtain the hegemon rank it is not enough to be substantially stronger than the other great powers in the system. Hegemony requires such great power that no other state in the system would have the military means to start real fight against it. As many relevant documents and studies mentioned throughout this paper indicate, the policy of the most powerful state of the world, the United States, is now defined by exactly this kind of strategy.
The power equation is relatively simple, but its decoding helps us understand many of the interests that drive the international arena. In political realism terms, the power of a state lies in the ability to turn latent power (i.e. resources, socio-economic ingredients) into effective power (i.e., military power). Very transparently, the highest rate of “convertibility” is currently in the US: it seeks to control as many global resources and markets as possible worldwide and makes huge investments to build up an army that can control the entire planet. The Bush doctrine, for example, explicitly stipulates that the US military power “must be prepared to strike at any moment in any dark corner of the world.”9
Yes, beyond this kind of trenchant principles, it is noteworthy that the rhetoric used by politicians in front of public opinion expresses a different nuance. Leading political analysts such as H.W. Brands10, Thomas J. Christensen11 or Melvyn P. Leffler12, evince that American leaders’ public discourse tends to camouflage the vision of political realism with the optimistic language of liberalism. Thus, while the statements of the American political elites are impregnated with a significant dose of altruism and moralism, in reality, behind closed doors, most of the elites who develop national security policy speak the language of political pragmatism. This is the tough language of power, not that of moralistic principles. As John Mearsheimer puts it straight: “For an intelligent observer it should be obvious that the United States express themselves in a particular manner, but they act otherwise.”13
One of the most important conceptions on which theories of international politics are based, and in particular USA’s, is Thomas Hobbes’, an English philosopher who lived in the seventeenth century. In his representation, expressed especially in the Leviathan, in the natural state of freedom, individuals can theoretically act anyway they wish, but at the same time they are exposed to other people’s freedom. The problem is that the desires and intentions of individuals are very often antagonistic. That is why the English philosopher asserts that the natural state of freedom is marked by an acute lack of security, by the possibility of being attacked at any time, or in other words, by the anarchic character of relations.
In Hobbes’ description, memorable by its expressiveness, the natural condition is one of “continual fear and danger of violent death; and man’s life, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”14 Hobbes and other social theorists showed that the anarchic state becomes basically surpassed, largely controlled, at the stage when individuals begin to work together, to organize themselves, which creates a form of social contract at the community level. Subsequently, ideas and principles related to social contract were further developed by philosophers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau or John Locke.The fundamental aspect to be clarified in the context of political theories is that the anarchic condition refers precisely to the absence of social conventions and political institutions that organize the society. The concept of “anarchy” is essential in understanding the competition for power at both individual and state level. Understanding it as opposition to any kind of hierarchy, anarchy is considered by many theorists to represent the dominant attitude of individuals, but also the defining policy of states. It is believed that anarchy is the source of constant feelings of suspicion, fear and, most often, the source of wars. Hobbes’ conception stresses that since individuals are anarchic by nature, a central authority is needed to keep order, even by force if necessary, to enable global balance. With the enforcement of a central coordinating authority, individuals will enjoy protection, but instead they have to give up part of their freedom which, in return, empowers that governing entity to organize and decide. Hobbes’ notion of “anarchy” is therefore the fundamental motivation for which political and social theories have come to the conclusion of a “Leviathan” necessity, a governance structure with superior power towards individuals within the community.
If nowadays these theories are widely accepted and applied within a state, it is more difficult to extrapolate them to the international community level. The fact that organizations were set up to mediate respect for order between sovereign states—through unanimously accepted regulations and commitments—is only an incomplete process. These organizations do not have much decision-making and control power. They can hardly ever hold a particular state accountable and even less to impose solutions. The League of Nations, the first international security organization, was not able to prevent the outbreak of World War II and that is why it is now viewed as a failure. Its successor, the United Nations, has rather become—in the opinion of many specialists—a consultative forum. The only solution that many theorists and politicians see is bringing about a world government with full power over all states. But in the current condition of interstate relations this desideratum is a utopia. The selfish interests of different communities are still too great for a balanced and neutral World Government to be established.
However, in the absence of an acknowledged central authority, the unilateral assumption by a state (be it the most powerful) of the role of enforcing world rules while putting at the forefront its own advantages, remains at the very least a questionable position. The Washington government claims to provide global stability in the name of democracy. But how does this align with its 2018 strategic goal whose aim is to “ensure the balances of power remain in our favor, and advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity”?15
Benjamin Barber—professor at the University of Maryland and former advisor of several prominent political figures in the US—points out that Hobbes’ principles were applied to a nation, a united and law-abiding people. However, in creating a world of sovereign peoples, the logic of nation-states materialized in new anarchy, a condition of Hobbesian nature between the states. Barber asserts that “now independent states form a new global natural condition defined by anarchy, force and deception.”16 But against this background, Barber says, the Hobbesian notion of power is often misunderstood by the US administration through unilateral exercise of force: “Reacting to global anarchy, America oscillated between appealing to law and undermining it, between the use of international institutions and their defiance. The US officials invoked the right to unilateral action, to preventive war and regime change, undermining the international framework based on cooperation and justice.”17
The state of hegemony—which is by definition imposed by force—corresponds in many respects to what we practically find in the objectives pursued by the United States. We may also notice that hegemony means bringing a “new order” to the system. The New World Order wanted by Hegemon, of course. It seems that US administrations have for some time understood that the goal of a World Government is harder to achieve by consensus.
America’s Plans and Geopolitics
Although the term geopolitics was introduced in political theories at the end of the nineteenth century, the study of the discipline itself was considered fundamental only after the Second World War. Named at its origins as “geographic policy,” geopolitics brings into focus the geographic, spatial factor, seen as having an essential role within international strategies and policies.
In the contemporary era geopolitics became synonymous with great strategies and it is very closely related to political realism. Its principles were followed by all of America’s major strategists, including Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Colin Gray or George Friedman.George Friedman, for example, asserted in 2015:
The overwhelming geopolitical interest of the United States for over a century in World War I and II and in the Cold War was the relationship between Germany and Russia because united, they may be the only force that can threaten us and we must be sure this will not happen.18Likewise, Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives that despite numerous major policy mutations that took place on the “chessboard” of the world at the end of the second millennium, “the power in Eurasia remains the central concern for the America’s ability to exercise their global supremacy.”19Friedman or Brzezinski’s statements may seem surprising at first glance, but in reality they accurately reflect the basic principles of geopolitics. That is why, given the particular relevance of these principles in American politics, I will briefly highlight some of the fundamentals of geopolitics.
First of all, it is important to understand that geopolitics is a science, a method of analysis, a political mathematics. The one who articulated the basic axioms of this science for the first time was Halford Mackinder (1861–1947), a scholar and political expert. His fundamental model underpinned all subsequent geopolitical and geostrategic calculations. In 1904, Mackinder published the famous article The Geographical Pivot of History20, in which he noted that by the arrangement of the continents and the oceans one might consider there is a kind of central continental pivot of the world, which he calls Heartland and which corresponds to Eurasia area. Mackinder ascertains that through the locations of the countries, they can develop mainly two types of military power: continental power and maritime power. Geopolitics evinces that the two types of power are in permanent competition for supremacy. The central pivot area, however, has the advantage that it is much harder to access by sea power. Hence the fundamental principle of geopolitics that is, after Mackinder, that who holds control over the central pivot holds the key to achieving global hegemony. Fourteen years later, in 1919, Mackinder explained in a more elaborate paper that in order to control the central continental area, the most sensitive area is Eastern Europe. He summarized his principles in the following statements:
Whoever dominates Eastern Europe dominates Heartland;
Whoever dominates Heartland controls the World.21
We may find that in the recent history (after 1900) the largest maritime power has become the United States (allied with the United Kingdom), and the Eurasian continental power was divided into two main poles: Germany and Russia. At the end of the 19th century, Mackinder was aware of the danger of Eurasian consolidation, that is, an alliance between Germany and Russia. It is worth noting that this alliance was actually made in August 1939 by the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, which aroused a strong concern and reaction of adversity from the sea power (Atlanticist Alliance). As George Friedman pointed out, the United States did everything to destroy this alliance. In this sense, it is significant that—as military historians22 noted—the United States and the United Kingdom applied in the Second World War a tactic that challenged Germany and the Soviet Union to destroy each other, although they could have intervened to help Russia.
Based on Mackinder’s geopolitical principles, political theories later found that the main continental area (Heartland/Eurasia) could be controlled by dominating not only Eastern Europe, but also Rimland (meaning the land between shores), that is, the strip connecting Europe, Africa and Asia. For geopoliticians, this area has a highly strategic stake, being the largest, the most inhabited and the richest of all possible land combinations.
Nicholas Spykman, former director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of Yale, continued and developed after Mackinder the principles of geopolitics. It is he who introduced the concept of “balance of power” that became a foundation of geopolitics. In his book, The Geography of Peace, Spykman also synthesizes geopolitics, paraphrasing Mackinder:
Whoever dominates Rimland area dominates Eurasia;
Whoever dominates Eurasia controls the destinies of the world23
During the Cold War, Spykman’s theory was applied by the United States as part of the “containment” strategy of the Soviet Union. Most armed conflicts occurred in the Rimland area: the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Israeli-Arab conflicts, the Russian-American proxy war in Afghanistan, etc. As I will describe in detail, US strategists planned immediately after the Cold War, the invasion of seven Middle East countries (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan and Somalia), also part of the Rimland area.
Colin Gray, director of the University of Reading’s Strategic Studies Center, highlights that “From Harry Truman to George Bush, the overall view of US national security was explicitly geopolitical and directly pursued through Mackinder’s core theory… Mackinder’s relevance for the isolation of an occupant Soviet Union in the Cold War was so obvious that it is almost similar to a cliché.”24
Zbigniew Brzezinski as well considered Eurasia the main area of concern for all foreign policy strategies he conceived while working in the Pentagon, constantly warning of the advantages (dangerous to America) that Heartland has over the West. In this respect, his works Game plan: a geostrategic framework for the conduct of the U.S.-Soviet contest25 and The Grand Chessboard. American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives26 are of great significance. In this second book, published in 1997, Brzezinski drew a comparison between the power the United States gained after the unipolar moment and the ones of the old empires that dominated the world. Focused on geopolitical considerations, its description is triumphalistic but very realistic:
In contrast to previous empires, the scale and incisiveness of today’s global American power are unique. Not only are the United States controlling all the oceans of the world, but their military legions are firmly seated on the Western and Eastern extremities of Eurasia… US vassals and tributaries, some willing to develop even more formal bonds with Washington, are spread all over the Eurasian continent. American global supremacy is woven by an elaborate system of alliances and coalitions that literally span the globe.27
Here is also a transposition in geopolitical language of strategies correlated with NATO’s activity during the Cold War and beyond. According to analyst Srdja Trifkovic, member of the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, the principles developed by Spykman constituted the “support point for Harry Truman’s policy of strategic defense of the United States, the reason for NATO’s creation in 1949 and later the US foreign policy strategy during the Cold War.” Trifkovic adds that from the point of view of the neoconservative liberal policy, “There is no better way to ensure the US’s domination over the European Rimland, than to pull Europe into NATO’s (more precisely into US’) security orbit, and to undermine the telurocratic Russian-German closeness.”28 In Trifkovic’s view, especially Halford Mackinder’s geopolitical principles related to Eastern Europe contribute to explaining the essence of the Ukrainian crisis as well as to understanding the reason behind the continuous ambition of US politicians to expand American influence to the east, in the Middle East.
Interestingly, on 1st January, 2015, the “Eurasian Union” was set up—a kind of European Union replica that is aimed at strengthening the central core of Eurasia. Until now, Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan were integrated into this union. The Eurasian Economic Union is one of Vladimir Putin’s main projects. On this line, the first Eurasian agreements were signed as early as 2009.
A brief, up-to-date review of United States geopolitical principles was provided in February 2015 by George Friedman, founder and president of Stratfor29, then founder and president of the Geopolitical Futures30 magazine. The presentation took place within the works of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
In a very straightforward manner, Friedman explained that the United States were just aiming at that time in 2015 to deliver weapons to the Baltic countries. He admitted, amused, that the delivery would be made unofficially, outside the NATO framework, to avoid any veto vote because in NATO decisions are made only through the unanimity of the members. “The purpose of these US maneuvers is to create a sanitary belt around Russia, and Russia knows it,”31 Friedman said. Evoking the principles of geopolitics, he continued, explaining that the United States have a fundamental interest… we control all the oceans of the world. No other power has ever done that. That is why we can invade people (other states), and they cannot invade us. This is very good for keeping control over water and space, is the foundation of our strength.32
Returning to the plan to create a belt around Russia, Friedman underlined Ukraine’s stake for the two sides: “In the event that Russia continues to move forward to Ukraine, then they must be stopped. This is why the US are starting these actions (…) to pre-position troops in Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and the Baltic Sea.”33
The US strategist explained more exactly how the US want to achieve this plan: “The preferred solution for the US is the Pilsudski Plan, named after the one who elaborated this plan.” Friedman showed the area very clearly on a screen: “It is the area that unites the Black Sea with the Baltic Sea.” The aim is to control the states that are between the two water areas, i.e. to make a continental barrier between Germany and Russia. This is because “the United States cannot occupy Eurasia,” and then the plan aims, at least, to separate the two great powers of Eurasia. In Friedman’s words:
For the United States, the overriding interest is to prevent German technology with German capital from uniting with Russian natural resources and labor. This is the only combination that scared the United States for centuries.34
This is, therefore, a very transparent decoding of the current American policy in Europe. Germany is the largest economic power on the continent, but it has an acute need for resources. Russia has full resources, but it needs market outlets. The combination of the two would go perfectly, with substantial reciprocal benefits. But who opposes these agreements so fiercefully? Indeed, the United States! The US administration is doing everything possible to block, for example, the Nord Stream II project, whereby Russia is preparing to offer a very good gas price to Germany. Washington has launched all its arsenal of threats, sanctions and alternative proposals on both Moscow and Berlin. The Russian gas pipeline is described by Americans as having a subversive potential for Germany. An offer that can create, they say, “political dependence” on Russia and that is why it must be refused for strategic reasons. America’s strategy, of course.
In more detailed and specific terms, Friedman explained what method he recommended as the most appropriate one and which was previously applied by the United States in the 1980s. “The policy that I recommend is the policy that Ronald Reagan adopted on Iran and Iraq. He funded both parties to fight each other not to fight with us. It is cynical, it is certainly not moral, but it worked.”35 We have to admit that George Friedman is not much concerned about saving the appearances that officials and media present in a totally different light.
He continued by saying that there are also extreme situations, but they have been foreseen:
In extreme cases, we do what we did in Japan, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan by spoiling attacks. Spoiling attacks have no intention of defeating the enemy. They intend to get them out of balance. The United States cannot intervene constantly over Eurasia.36
The United States cannot constantly intervene in Eurasia because it would be glaringly obvious. But we recognize the other methods very well, for example in Ukraine: the local rebels were financed, trained and armed to fight against Russia. Also, very determined negotiations were initiated concerning Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova—countries in the “belt” dividing Eurasia—to be integrated into NATO and the European Union, with the main motivation to protect them against “the Russian danger.”
Like Zbigniew Brzezinski, George Friedman does not hesitate to admit that the United States became an empire that wants to consolidate its power. He says that, despite the American ideals of peace and freedom, the policy of force must continue: “We represent a very young empire; we never thought we would be an empire. We would like to go home and dream of freedom—believe it is over—but that will not happen.”37
Friedman said everything very nicely, smiling, even in a funny way. If he were not an authority in terms of geopolitical and international strategy, we might think that a joking man had just expressed his opinions. But his allegations are very much correlated with countless other sources and—most eloquently—with the events we are witnesses to. We therefore keep in mind that the “young empire” no longer has time for “the dreams of liberty.” It is very preoccupied with growing up, and reaching maturity.
(To be continued)