Voice of Sevastopol     


Author: Ayre от 20.09.2014, 08:35
(голосов: 1)



To the put question the answer is: USA strategy. A geopolitical intelligence and advisory firm “Stratfor” in person of its founder Dr. George Friedman regards situations in Ukraine and Iraq as strategic challenges which are about to bury Washington. Inability to foresee, uncertainty and confusion hamper the White House in exercising clear foreign policy.

As George Friedman believes the United States is, at the moment, off balance. It faces challenges in the Syria-Iraq theater as well as challenges in Ukraine. It does not have a clear response to either. It does not know what success in either theater would look like, what resources it is prepared to devote to either, nor whether the consequences of defeat would be manageable. 

A dilemma of this sort is not unusual for a global power. Its very breadth of interests and the extent of power create opportunities for unexpected events, and these events, particularly simultaneous challenges in different areas, create uncertainty and confusion. But generating a coherent and integrated strategy is necessary, even if that strategy is simply to walk away and let events run their course.

The American plan, says the expert, must begin by defining a theater of operations sufficiently coherent geographically as to permit integrated political maneuvering and military planning.  For him, as he put it, it is increasingly clear that that center is the Black Sea.

There are currently two active theaters of military action with broad potential significance. One is Ukraine, where the Russians have launched a counteroffensive toward Crimea. The other is in the Syria-Iraq region, where the forces of the Islamic State have launched.

Is there a connection between these two theaters? Yes, the Russians have an ongoing problem in the high Caucasus, thinks the analyst, and there are reports of Chechen advisers working with the Islamic State. In this sense, the Russians are far from comfortable with what is happening in Syria and Iraq. At the same time, anything that diverts U.S. attention from Ukraine is beneficial to the Russians. For its part, the Islamic State must oppose Russia in the long run. Its immediate problem, however, is U.S. power, so anything that distracts the United States is beneficial to the Islamic State.

But the Ukrainian crisis, continues the expert, has a very different political dynamic from the Iraq-Syria crisis. Russian and Islamic State military forces are not coordinated in any way, and in the end, victory for either would challenge the interests of the other. But for the United States, which must allocate its attention, political will and military power carefully, the two crises must be thought of together. The Russians and the Islamic State have the luxury of focusing on one crisis. The United States must concern itself with both and reconcile them.

The United States has been in the process of limiting its involvement in the Middle East while attempting to deal with the Ukrainian crisis. The Obama administration wants to create an integrated Iraq devoid of jihadists and have Russia accept a pro-Western Ukraine. It also does not want to devote substantial military forces to either theater. Its dilemma is how to achieve its goals without risk.

Strategies that minimize risk and create maximum influence are rational and should be a founding principle of any country. By this logic, the U.S. strategy ought to be to maintain the balance of power in a region using proxies and provide material support to those proxies but avoid direct military involvement until there is no other option. The most important thing is to provide the support that obviates the need for intervention.

In the Syria-Iraq theater, the United States moved from a strategy of seeking a unified state under secular pro-Western forces to one seeking a balance of power between the Alawites and jihadists. In Iraq, the United States pursued a unified government under Baghdad and is now trying to contain the Islamic State using minimal U.S. forces and Kurdish, Shiite and some Sunni proxies.  It is not clear that another strategy exists.

Ukraine, of course, has a different dynamic. The United States saw the events in Ukraine as either an opportunity for moral posturing or as a strategic blow to Russian national security. Either way, it had the same result: It created a challenge to fundamental Russian interests and placed Russian President Vladimir Putin in a dangerous position. His intelligence services completely failed to forecast or manage events in Kiev or to generate a broad rising in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, the Ukrainians were defeating their supporters (with the distinction between supporters and Russian troops becoming increasingly meaningless with each passing day). But it was obvious that the Russians were not simply going to let the Ukrainian reality become a fait accompli. They would counterattack. But even so, they would still have moved from once shaping Ukrainian policy to losing all but a small fragment of Ukraine. They will therefore maintain a permanently aggressive posture in a bid to recoup what has been lost, - believes the analyst.

Further on, the expert states, that U.S. strategy in Ukraine tracks its strategy in Syria-Iraq. First, Washington uses proxies; second, it provides material support; and third, it avoids direct military involvement. 

Both strategies assume that the main adversary -- the Islamic State in Syria-Iraq and Russia in Ukraine -- is incapable of mounting a decisive offensive, or that any offensive it mounts can be blunted with air power.

The rational move for countries like Romania, Hungary or Poland is to accommodate Russia unless they have significant guarantees from the outside. Whether fair or not, only the United States can deliver those guarantees. The same can be said about the Shia and the Kurds, both of whom the United States has abandoned in recent years, assuming that they could manage on their own. 


The Black Sea

U.S. strategic conception must evolve away from seeing these as distinct theaters into seeing them as different aspects of the same theater: the Black Sea. When we look at a map, we note that the Black Sea is the geographic organizing principle of these areas. The sea is the southern frontier of Ukraine and European Russia and the Caucasus, where Russian, jihadist and Iranian power converge on the Black Sea. Northern Syria and Iraq are fewer than 650 kilometers (400 miles) from the Black Sea. 

The first step in crafting a strategy, according to Freidman, is to define the map in a way that allows the strategist to think in terms of unity of forces rather than separation, and unity of support rather than division. 

Assume for the moment that the Russians chose to intervene in the Caucasus again, that jihadists moved out of Chechnya and Dagestan into Georgia and Azerbaijan, or that Iran chose to move north. The outcome of events in the Caucasus would matter greatly to the United States. 

But thinking in terms of securing what I'll call the Greater Black Sea Basin would provide a framework for addressing the current thought exercise. A Black Sea strategy would define the significance of Georgia and Azerbaijan, without which Georgia has little weight. 

This strategy would also force definition of Turkey and Romania’s key relationships for the United States.  Turkey is the major native Black Sea power. It has interests throughout the Greater Black Sea Basin, namely, in Syria, Iraq, the Caucasus, Russia and Ukraine. Thinking in terms of a Black Sea strategy, Turkey becomes one of the indispensable allies since its interests touch American interests. Aligning U.S. and Turkish strategy would be a precondition for such a strategy, meaning both nations would have to make serious policy shifts. An explicit Black Sea-centered strategy would put U.S.-Turkish relations at the forefront.

The second critical country is Romania, although its naval combat power is centered on a few aging frigates backed up by a half-dozen corvettes. Apart from being a potential base for aircraft for operations in the region, particularly in Ukraine, supporting Romania in building a significant naval force in the Black Sea -- potentially including amphibious ships -- would provide a deterrent force against the Russians and also shape affairs in the Black Sea that might motivate Turkey to cooperate with Romania and thereby work with the United States.

Next, the analyst notes, that regardless of how the Syria-Iraq drama ends, it is secondary to the future of Russia's relationship with Ukraine and the European Peninsula. Here he recalles a term Intermarium, which means “the land between the seas”. It would stretch between the Baltic and Black seas and would be an alliance designed to contain a newly assertive Russia.  The Poland-to-Romania line is already emerging. It seems obvious that given events on both sides of the Black Sea, the rest of this line (to Caspian Sea) will emerge. Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan might have been allies.

At last, the expert advices the United States to adopt the policy of the Cold War. First, allies were expected to provide the geographical foundation of defense and substantial forces to respond to threats. Second, the United States was to provide military and economic aid as necessary to support this structure. Third, the United States was to pre-position some forces as guarantors of U.S. commitment and as immediate support. And fourth, Washington was to guarantee the total commitment of all U.S. forces to defending its allies.

The United States has an uncertain alliance structure in the Greater Black Sea Basin that is neither mutually supportive nor permits the United States a coherent power in the region given the conceptual division of the region into distinct theaters. The United States is providing aid, but again on an inconsistent basis, thinks the author. So long as the United States thinks in terms of Ukraine and Syria and Iraq as if they were on different planets, the economy of forces that coherent strategy requires will never be achieved.

Thinking in terms of “Intermarium” Freidman keeps forgetting, we may add, that chaos in Syria and Iraq as well as outbreak of world terrorism, that resulted in birth of such a monster as Islamic State, - which is partly oblique, partly direst consequence of Washington policy. Coup d’état in Ukraine is also a State Department operation in which took part John Tefft – the very one that brought his credentials to Moscow. The advice for the White House to adopt the policy of the Cold War looks pretty late. The said Tefft is the messenger of the Cold War.

Of other issues, the “Stratfor” strategist forgot of China. The American geopolitical strategy of the first Obama presidency was officially redirected to Asia-Pacific region: the Chinese appetites had grown. The military power of Beijing has grown either. As a result the “Intermarium” by Freidman tends to stretch over the globe.

That’s too much, Mr.Freidman. Particularly when you know that USA military expenses are reduced annually, and their reductions are planned for 10 years to come. The “Hegemon” grows decrepit and that’s why Obama hasn’t got a definite strategy. Nothing to pay for it.


Commenter: Oleg Chuvakin


Compilator: Master Butch

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