World political map, formed in the early XXI century, increasingly resembles an utterly motley mosaic, where world and regional powers are neighboring small states that are affected by global and inter-civilizational problems, in one way or another. They are manifested in qualitatively new geopolitical circumstances, when in the wake of the collapse of the world’s socialist system and its superstructure – Soviet Union – in the early 1990s, the U.S. made its bid for monocentric world, proclaiming nearly the entire planet the zone of its self-interests. The most distinctive place in this geo-strategy belongs to the geopolitical body – the heart of the world – Eurasia.
In his book “Out of Control”, Z. Brzezinski emphasizes that “the collapse of the Soviet Union has transformed the ‘heartland’ of Eurasia into a geopolitical vacuum… It not only creates openings for potential projection of American influence into the Eurasian vacuum, especially through the effort to help consolidate the non-Russian states, it also has major geopolitical consequences in the southwestern fringes of Eurasia… And in the future no state or coalition of states should be allowed to consolidate into a geopolitical power, capable of pushing the U.S. out of Eurasia”.(1)
In the modern era, this is more evident across the vast and natural resources-rich Central-Eurasian geopolitical space that is part of greater Eurasia. Some of the countries have already been identified that the West envisages to and in fact, does turn into geostrategic stationing points for future penetration and fragmentation of Eurasia. This trend gained a substantial impetus in connection with concentration of Western geopolitical force embodied by the U.S. and NATO after tragic and apparently, disastrous for some nations, events of September 11, 2001 in the United States.
In general, a complex process of formation of new international relations, new world order or perhaps, as often described as, the ”new world disorder”, has been underway in the last two-three decades. The former is associated with the circumstance that unlike in the past, presently, there is no set of generally accepted rules of the game on the international arena. In the meantime, there are different guidelines in place that are largely controversial, which oftentimes creates the situation of uncertainty, ambiguity and conflicting approaches. This is also attributable to the post-Soviet space and particularly to the South Caucasus, where ethno-political and inter-state conflicts retain their severity.
Moreover, the mutually exclusive geopolitical interests of the leading world powers, competing in the region, underpin the conflicts, seemingly local and pertaining to the interests of the states in the South Caucasus. This allows to maintain the countries concerned in a “suspended” position and use them in a ”great geopolitical game”, unfolding across the vast Black Sea-Caucasus-Caspian Sea geopolitical space.
Formation of the new world order in the environment of globalization intensifies interaction between the states, which are building diverse systems of relations. The new world order that is being formed spontaneously, during globalization, is primarily spiraling from upwards and gradually crystalizing around more powerful and geopolitically active players.(2)
In the meantime, profound changes in the geopolitical and geo-economic structures of the world community happening in this century and transformation of social-political systems reinforce the claim that the world has entered a qualitatively new geopolitical era, characterized by formation of a global geo-system of a “unipolar world”. That is to say, the agenda is complimented with the distribution of spheres of influence between new geopolitical power centers under formation.
That being said, not a single country or a geopolitical power center would any longer be capable of independently determining and fully implementing own geostrategic and geo-economic objectives on the international arena without acknowledging diversity and specifics of major civilizational communities. Ultimately, all of this may lead to formation of civilizational alliances in the most diverse and unexpected combinations. Because none of the existing civilizations, be it Slavic-Orthodox, Islamic, Confucian, Indian or any other are able to singlehandedly withstand the pressure, stemming from the principles of “The West and the Rest” and “One World”, implying the complete American hegemony and total Westernization of the Orient.
Overall, religious fundamentalism, rabid nationalism and racism, ethnic intolerance, formation of centers of international terrorism and organized crime, economic inequality, demographic explosion, unchecked migration processes, ecological collisions and depletion of natural resources can lead to chaos in the XXI century. Furthermore, even the most prosperous and globalization-prone regions of the world are not immune from outbursts of conflict situations in different manifestations. Sufficed it to recall the dramatic events of recent years in the U.S., UK, Spain, Russia and number of other countries of the world related to attacks by the international and transnational terrorism.(3)
Organized resistance by the international community is all the more important in light of the full offensive by the transnational terrorism, that is increasingly gaining ominous outlines of a completely new by its sociopolitical substance global-scale phenomenon -geo-terrorism- offspring of XXI century geopolitics. Hence, the combat methods of both the international terrorist organizations and anti-terrorist coalitions that confront those hardly differ. It is enough to witness the military-political processes in Iraq, Afghanistan and other “hot spots” on our planet.
In turn, rampant and oftentimes disproportionate response to terrorist actions (several thousand deaths in the West – hundreds of thousands dead in the East and the South) may provoke adequate reaction from rival geopolitical powers of the East and the West with unpredictable consequences for the humanity. Against the backdrop of Huntington’s ”Clash of Civilizations”, this could produce a new ”trans-civilizational” breed of terrorism.
Furthermore, the last decades are characterized by significant increase of extremely dangerous kind of misfortune for the entire humankind – belligerent separatism. Whereas the victim of national self-determination is a sovereign state. The growth of marginal state-like entities because of fragmentation of sovereign nations, may soon translate into even more chaotic environment, not only across the post-Soviet space but also on the international arena in general, given that ”bacillus” of separatism has permeated virtually every corner of the planet, including the leading powers of the world.
When it comes to the geopolitical processes in the Caspian region, it must be outlined that during the period that followed the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991, this region has gradually transformed from political-economic into a geopolitical factor. According to Nicholas Spykman, this is not a geographic region determined by invariable topography but an area determined by geography on one hand, and dynamic shifts in the centers of power on the other.(4) In other words, the Caspian region, as a geopolitical one, is recognized not as landlocked and static but within a dynamics of global geopolitical interaction. In the meantime, this region is just an episode and bundle of tensions in the modern system of geopolitical processes in the environment of intensification of globalization processes in the current century.
In the modern age, particularly in the wake of the infamous events of the September 11, 2001, great tectonic powers, capable of drastically changing the configuration of the geopolitical landscape of the entire Central-Eurasian space, including the one of the key figure in the ”Great Chessboard” – Caspian region, being a part of the “Eurasian Balkans” (Z. Brzezinski), came into motion. Thus, the Caspian Sea basin, with its vast hydrocarbon resources, just like in the previous three hundred years, has once again become one of the most important geostrategic and geo-economic factors with significant impact on the world’s politics and economics.
With the advent of this century, a degree of control over the fuel/energy resources and means of their supply, as well the capacity to provide their reliable protection from potential competition and the forces of international terrorism is crucial for determination of the geopolitical position of a certain nation.
The emergence of independent states in the Caucasus and the Central Asia in the early 1990s, after the demise of one of the superpowers – USSR, lead to radical revisiting of many geopolitical realities with regard to the Caspian that previously seemed immutable. If prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union the Caspian Sea was actually accepted as a “Russian lake”, then under current circumstances, Russia is just one of the five contenders for the riches of the Caspian Sea.
Meanwhile, the Caspian Sea has become a ”sea of problems” that, according to the late President of Turkmenistan S. Niyazov, had ”a blood odor”, owing to fierce disputes related to determination of the international status of this basin and its respective division between the five littoral states – Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Iran. Considering the factor that the Caspian Sea is immediately associated with the issues of national military-political and economic security and that their strategic self-interests are consolidated precisely here, ”Caspian Cake” division options, sometimes mutually exclusive, collide with great severity in the process.
The key external factor that substantially influences the Caspian region is the fact that in the dawn of the XXI century the number of countries with geopolitical and geo-economic interests here has grown. Combination of geographic location and increasing significance of energy resources of the Caspian Sea led to growth of strategic importance of the Caucasus and the Caspian basin for the European security.(5) It was no coincidence that back in 1997, while speaking in Baku, Javier Solana said, “Europe cannot be fully secure if the Caucasus remains outside European security”.(6)
Overall, this region is the geopolitical space with overlapping national economic interests of not just Caucasus and Central Asian countries but also those of the leading powers of the West and the East. Geostrategic imperatives of the leading country of modernity – the U.S. and the most powerful military-political structure of modern times – the NATO are identified in this region as well. Furthermore, along with traditional “geopolitical players” – Russia, U.S., Britain, Turkey and Iran, the likes of France, Germany, China, Japan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and others are becomingly increasingly politically-economically involved with the region which in a sense, exacerbates the geopolitical situation creating a kind of a “geopolitical conundrum”.
Resting in the center of a geopolitical fault line of the post-Soviet space, from the 1990s, the Caspian region has become an inalienable part of the “great game” in the world politics, played by classic rules of the geopolitics. According to the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, “the Caspian Sea region witnessed an actual geopolitical revolution that had put it at the ”hot” frontline of the clash of interests of Russia and the West”.(7)
The process of gradual shifting of West-East geopolitical standoff from the Eastern Mediterranean towards the Caspian region has started already in the 1990s, when geostrategic imperatives of the U.S. and NATO on one hand, and Russia and Iran on the other came into the spotlight. Moreover, geopolitical pressure of Atlantism upon this region has advanced from three directions: Western – Mediterranean (through Turkey), southern (Arabian Peninsula) and eastern – Pakistan (through Afghanistan and Central Asia). This led to the risk of Russia being pushed out of the entire geopolitical playing field of this region and losing its traditional dominating role in the Caspian Sea.
According to political scientist A.S. Panarin, Caspian Sea has become an epicenter of ”Pirate games”. He believes that, “Discovery of oil reserves, attracts forces here that have previously never had access so deep into the Continent. Idea of oil supply route, extending from the Caspian Sea to the West and to the East and connecting two oceans – Atlantic and Pacific – is nothing but an effort of the Sea powers to detach huge chunk of the continent, to lop it. No one should doubt that it is about unprecedented aggression of the Sea aiming to fragment the Continent and there is nothing to be done about it”.
”Initiators of this project wish not to simply lay the new communication line between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and thus, solidify the achievements of the Westernization. They aim to preempt the possibility of new consolidation of the Continent based on Indo-European vertical and the Caspian project is directly envisaged to cut through it, to break it”.(8) According to the Russian scientist, ”the fault line is the following –Ukraine-Georgia-Azerbaijan-Central Asian states-China (at this phase offered a stake by the triumphant party)-Pacific coast”.(9)
Another Russian theorist Alexander Dugin argues that from the geopolitical point of view, the control over the entire Caspian-Black Sea space is a strategic objective in the global standoff between Atlanticism and Eurasianism. He believes that Russia’s goal in this case is forging the Moscow-Tehran axis that would allow it to secure its centuries-long geopolitical objective – access to warm water seas by breaking out of the infamous ”Anaconda ring”.(10) Overall, just as then the U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger said in the mid-2000, ”If Moscow succeeded in dominating the Caspian, it would achieve a greater victory than the expansion of NATO would be for the West”.(11)
Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor
1) Цит. по: Николай фон Крейтор. Бжезинский и американская геополитика экспансионизма // Известия, 2001, 26 ноября.
2) Кувалдин В.Б. Глобализация и новый миропорядок // Современные международные отношения и мировая политика. – М.: ”Просвещение”, 2004, с.98-105.
3) Требин М.П. Терроризм в ХХI веке. – Минск: ”Харвест”, 2003, с.9-180,628-786; Кулагин В.М. Международная безопасность. – М.: ”Аспект Пресс”, 2006, с.79-103; Терроризм в современном мире: истоки, сущность, направления и угрозы. – М., 2003.
4) Spykman N.J. The Geography of the Peace. – New-York, 1944, р.6.
5) Кунэ Фредерик. НАТО и Южный Кавказ. – Тбилиси: ”Кавказский институт мира, демократии и развития”, 2003, с.13.
6) Цит.по: Фредерик Кунэ. Указ.соч.,с.16.
7) Алиев И.Г. Каспийская нефть Азербайджана. – М.: ”Известия”, 2003,с.411.
8) Панарин А.С. Глобальное политическое прогнозирование. – M.: ”Алгоритм”, 2000, с.275.
9) Там же, с.295.
10) Дугин А. Основы геополитики…, с.241.
11) Красная Звезда, 2000, 27 сентября.