A doctrine to prevent “potential competitors from ever aspiring to a larger regional or global role” has been American policy since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 1992, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, drafted a strategic plan, later leaked to the press, for the construction of a unipolar world dominated by the United States.
In September 2000, the plan resurfaced as a report from the “Project for a New American Century,” closely allied with the candidacy of George W. Bush for president. The PNAC report represented a “blueprint for maintaining global U.S. pre-eminence, precluding a rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with … American interests.” Overseas U.S. military bases were described as “the cavalry on the new American frontier.”
Upon being appointed president, Bush brought the New American Century team to the summits of U.S. foreign policy-making.
Bush actually inherited a strong international position. President Bill Clinton had taken care of America’s imperial business. Yugoslavia had been dismantled. A number of military bases had been constructed, including Fort Bondsteel, in Kosovo, home to 7,000 American soldiers. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic had been incorporated into NATO, and Croatia, Macedonia and Albania were set to join a couple of years.
Then came 9/11. Responding to the attacks, Bush declared war against the Taliban and ordered the invasion of Afghanistan. Bombing commenced on Oct. 7, 2001. Subsequently, the U.S. established over a dozen military bases in Central Asia, a manifestation of what Professor Patrick Hatcher of the University of San Francisco calls “base mania.” Besides two large bases in Afghanistan, the U.S. built bases in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. In addition, American military facilities have been upgraded in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Bulgaria.
The next stop on the new American Frontier was Iraq. The U.S. invaded on March 19, 2003. Christine Spolar reported in the Chicago Tribune last March that the U.S. intends to build 14 “enduring” military bases there, which suggests a “long term military presence [is] planned.” Some 105,000 to 110,000 U.S. troops are expected to occupy the country for a long time. The Iraq campaign, Chalmers Johnson has written, added significantly to America’s “empire of bases” that have come to “encircle the planet.”
In 2004, NATO expanded to include Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The incorporation of Baltic nations into NATO opened up 25 military bases, plus some naval bases and ports within minutes of Russia, possibly for use by the United States. Russia is obviously concerned.
Both in Georgia and Ukraine, U.S.-backed candidates officially defeated their Russian-backed opponents in recent elections. Russian leaders are concerned that NATO will invite Georgia, Ukraine and possibly Azerbaijan to join NATO. This could seriously affect Russia’s ability to move Caspian oil westward as well as southward. Since Russia gets a significant amount of its foreign exchange from its oil and gas, any switchover to a new, non-Russian pipeline would be a serious economic blow to its economy.
In an article titled “The Power Struggle in Ukraine and America’s Strategy for Global Supremacy” posted Dec. 26 on globalreserarch.ca, Peter Schwartz reports that a subsidiary of Halliburton completed just such a pipeline two years ago “and has since stood empty.” Perhaps that is about to change.
China, similarly surrounded by U.S. bases, is a key part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, whose members also include Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The SCO is a forum for developing an economic bloc to challenge a unipolar world. At its August 2004 meeting, the SCO agreed to work toward greater economic integration. And the Dec. 7 issue of the Asian Times reports the possibility of a “strategic triangle” composed of India, China and Russia, with the possibility of India joining the SCO.
Mark Schapiro, writing in a recent issue of The Nation, suggests that “old Europe,” too, is mulling over the possibility of a more independent future.
As Gary Leupp recently observed in CounterPunch: “Inter-imperial rivalry is again the order of the day.” In the process, geopolitical land mines and trip wires are multiplying all over the place.