|Laman Webantu KM2: 6453 File Size: 5.0 Kb *|
LATimes: Russia Checkmated Its New Best Friend
By Eric Margolis
4/12/2001 1:45 am Tue
Russia Checkmated Its New Best Friend
by Eric Margolis
Many Americans, grown cynical of government pronouncements,
have been asking whether the real war goal of the United States in
Afghanistan is to gain access to Central Asia's oil and gas. The
answer: no and yes.
The U.S. attacked Afghanistan to exact revenge for the Sept. 11
attacks. But it must have quickly occurred to former oilmen George
Bush and Dick Cheney that retribution against the Taliban and
Osama bin Laden offered a golden opportunity to expand American
geopolitical influence into South and Central Asia, scene of the
world's latest gold rush--the Caspian Basin.
The world has ample oil today. But, according to CIA estimates,
when China and India reach South Korea's current level of per
capita energy use--within 30 years--their combined oil demand
will be 120-million barrels daily. Today, total global consumption is
60million to 70million barrels daily. In short, the major powers will be
locked in fierce competition for scarce oil, with the Gulf and Central
Asia the focus of this rivalry.
Central Asia's oil and gas producers are landlocked. Their energy
wealth must be exported through long pipelines.
He who controls energy, controls the globe.
Russia, the world's second-largest oil exporter, wants Central
Asian resources to be transported across its territory. Iran, also an
oil producer, wants the energy pipelines to debouch at its ports, the
shortest route. But America's powerful Israel lobby has blocked
Washington's efforts to deal with Iran.
Pakistan and the U.S. have long sought to build pipelines running
due south from Termez, Uzbekistan, to Kabul, Afghanistan, then
down to Pakistan's Arabian Sea ports, Karachi and Gwadar.
Oilmen call this route "the new Silk Road," after the fabled path
used to export China's riches.
This route, however, would require a stable, pro-Western
Since 1989, Iran has strived to keep Afghanistan in disorder, thus
preventing Pakistan from building its long-sought Termez-Karachi
When Pakistan ditched its ally, the Taliban, in September, and
sided with the U.S., Islamabad and Washington fully expected to
implant a pro-American regime in Kabul and open the way for the
But, while the Bush administration was busy tearing apart
Afghanistan to find Bin Laden, it failed to notice that the Russians
were taking over half the country.
The Russians achieved this victory through their proxy--the
Northern Alliance. Moscow, which has sustained the alliance since
1990, rearmed it after Sept. 11 with new tanks, armored vehicles,
artillery, helicopters and trucks.
To the fury of Washington and Islamabad, in a coup de main the
Russians rushed the Northern Alliance into Kabul, in direct
contravention of Bush's dictates.
The alliance is now Afghanistan's dominant force and, heedless of
multi-party political talks in Germany going on this week, styles
itself as the new "lawful" government, a claim fully backed by
Moscow. The Russians have regained influence over Afghanistan, avenged
their defeat by the U.S. in the 1980s war and neatly checkmated the
Bush administration, which, for all its high-tech military power,
understands little about Afghanistan.
The Russians have regained influence over Afghanistan, avenged their defeat by the U.S. in the 1980s war and neatly checkmated the Bush administration, which, for all its high-tech military power, understands little about Afghanistan.
The U.S. ouster of the Taliban regime also means Pakistan has lost
its former influence over Afghanistan and is now cut off from Central
Asia's resources. So long as the alliance holds power, the U.S. is
equally denied access to the much-coveted Caspian Basin. Russia
has regained control of the best potential pipeline routes. The new
Silk Road is destined to become a Russian energy superhighway.
By charging like an enraged bull into the South Asian china shop,
the U.S. handed a stunning geopolitical victory to the Russians and
severely damaged its own great power ambitions. Moscow is now
free to continue plans to dominate South and Central Asia in
concert with its strategic allies, India and Iran.
The Bush administration does not appear to understand its
enormous blunder and keeps insisting that "the Russians are now
our friends." The president should understand that where geopolitics and oil are
concerned, there are no friends, only competitors and enemies.
The president should understand that where geopolitics and oil are concerned, there are no friends, only competitors and enemies.
Eric S. Margolis is a foreign affairs columnist for Canadian and
Pakistani newspapers and author of "War at the Top of the
World--The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet"