Sunday, February 21, 2016

Matt 24 watch, 286: Russia's borderlands (and so also the NATO alliance) are back in geostrategic play . . .

Strategypage observes:
While the current Russian government appears to be maintaining its popularity by calling for the rebuilding of the pre-1991 Russian Empire, opinion surveys and migration patterns indicate a mixed attitude towards the old Russian Empire. The big problem is that half the people in the old empire were not Slavs although ethnic Russians were the majority among the half that was Slavic. The problem is that despite centuries of living in the same country (czarist Russia or the Soviet Union) all these different ethnic groups never developed much affection or tolerance for each other . . . . 

The fourteen former Russian imperial possessions that regained their independence are the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the five “stans” of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). Poland, the Baltic States and Finland escaped from the empire after World War I but only Finland managed to stay free through World War II. The Baltic States were retaken during World War II and Poland remained nominally independent but was occupied by Russian troops (and took orders from Russia) until 1989. 

Poland and the Baltic States managed to join NATO after the Cold War ended and are hoping that the mutual defense terms of the NATO alliance will dissuade Russia. Nevertheless all four, plus Finland, have increased their military readiness this year and are seeking assurances from the West that they will have help against Russia. Many Finns have called for Finland to join NATO, but a large minority has opposed this because of the fear it would anger the Russians. There was a similar division in Ukraine but now more Finns are thinking that NATO membership is preferable to trusting Russia to always behave. Even Sweden, never part of the Russian empire and successfully neutral since the early 19th century is thinking about joining NATO for protection from an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

The stans of Central Asia have another option; China . . . 
In short, while I remain of the view that Africa is the new global geostrategic pivot (as an open continent not dominated and/or garrisoned by a nuke or near-nuke power), the power games surrounding the borderlands of the Russian Empire of old are back in play, given what happened to the Ukraine.

If Finland and Sweden are looking to NATO for protection, the Russians would be well advised to think again about playing for Mackinder's classic Eurasian pivot area and heartland -- and in alliance with the Persians and Syrians, with China looking to ally with the former Central Asian provinces:

Mackinder's summary:
"Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island;
who rules the World-Island commands the world."
(Mackinder, Democratic Ideals and Reality, p. 150)
But then, when did history ever teach us that we ever learn from history when a new march of folly cries out so appealingly? Didn't Marx of all people warn that this is why history repeats, first time around -- tragedy, second time -- farce?


 Putin riding a bear may yet become a classic joke -- unfortunately paid for in tears. For, unfortunately, geopolitics is back bigtime in a world that seems to be ever the more unstable.

Nor, should we forget:

The four horsemen of the apocalypse -- conquest (is it an accident the Persians/Parthians of the notorious Parthian shot were horse bowmen?), war, pestilence and death on the greenish-pale horse -- are clearly at the door:

When will we ever learn from the blood and tears of history? END