Is NATO taken in by Washington?

Jun 28, 2004 02:00 AM

by Su Huimin

On the surface it appears the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has been penetrating Central Asia in recent years. However, the real "penetrator" is not NATO but rather the United States.
A geographic corridor linking Asia and Europe, Central Asia and Caucasia is the region's main thoroughfare. This demonstrates clearly the strategic importance of the area. More importantly, Central Asia and Caucasia occupy the "soft underbelly" of the former Soviet Union, the main Cold War rival of the US, and they border the Middle East, Washington's key strategic target, and neighbouring the emerging China and India.

Strategically, Washington's all-out penetration into this region conforms to its four goals.
First, pushing forward into the area under the "NATO" banner the US can lead Europe by the nose and force its European allies to go beyond Europe and expand their service to US global interests.
Second, the US can extend its political influence and military presence into the territory of the former Soviet Union and establish military bases at the frontier of Russia so as to further reduce Russia's strategic space.
Third, it can contain Russia from the west and southwest to prevent Russia from staging a comeback some day to challenge the hegemonic status of the US.
Fourth, it can gain a toehold in the hinterland of Asia, which can both ensure US domination of the area and expand its influence to the Middle East, South Asia and the western border of China.

It is apparent that penetration into Central Asia and Caucasia is part of the US global strategy. In fact, regardless of dismembering the former Yugoslavia on the excuse of "ethnic problems," occupying Afghanistan in the name of hunting down terrorist Osama bin Laden, and waging war against Iraq on the groundless pretext that Saddam was stockpiling "weapons of mass destruction," the real purpose behind the US actions is to seize the key belt from the Balkans to the Middle East, Central Asia and Caucasia.
By taking advantage of its status as the world's only superpower, America is plotting to lay the foundation for absolute hegemonic status in the 21st century. Grabbing strategic resources, in particular oil and gas resources, is another reason for the US to covet this area. According to a German publication, 70 % of the world's oil and gas resources is concentrated at the belt from West Siberia to the Middle East via the Caspian Sea.

The most vigorous economies in the world, namely, the US, Europe Union, East Asia and Southeast Asia have differing degrees of dependency on the Gulf resources. In 2001, the US imported 2.78 mm bpd of crude oil from the Gulf region, which was 23.9 % of its daily import. Europe imported 3.35 mm bpd, which was 30.7 % of its daily import. East Asia and Southeast Asia imported 11.31 mm barrels of crude oil from that region every day, which was 72.6 % of its daily import.
Hence, if the US controls the oil and gas resources of this region, it controls the "energy gate" of Europe and in particular East Asia and Southeast Asia, which means that the US controls the "nervous centralis" of the world economy.

History has proved that many bloody wars have broken out in the Middle East for seizing the oil resources. There also exists such a danger that the oil and gas resources of Central Asia could become a factor igniting conflicts or triggering struggle between superpowers.
NATO's activities in Central Asia and its neighbouring area are being carried out to help push the US agenda. So far, with the name of "peaceful partnership" initiated by the US, NATO has established contacts with Central Asian nations.

According to the interpretation of the NATO, the purpose of promoting "peaceful partnership" is to strengthen the political relations between member nations and provide them a platform for participating in the NATO's political and military activities, which, in fact, is the attempt by the US to win over periphery alliances and expand its sphere of influence.
The US,through the eastward expansion of NATO, has gradually pushed its military front from the Baltic Sea to Central and Eastern Europe and then to the region near the heart of Russia. In the region of the Balkans and Southern Europe, Russia's ex-allies have already come under the banner of the US. Recently, even Finland, which claims neutralism as its principle, indicated its intention to join NATO.

In this way, from the north to the south, the US has already tightly contained Russia. Caucasia and the eight Central Asian nations used to be a part of the former Soviet Union and is now the "backyard" of Russia, into which the US had no chance to penetrate before. However, in the recent years, under the banner of "combating terrorism," the US has greatly enhanced its political, economic and, in particular, military presence in that area, which is obviously a war of competition against Russia. Georgia can be viewed as a reflection of the competition between the US and Russia in that area.
Prior to the 1990s, Georgia was in fact a part of Russia. Nevertheless, the Americans have exerted increasing influence in this country. According to the US-Georgia Military Agreement reached in March 2003, the Americans can enter Georgia even without a visa or any travel documents and the US army can use Georgia's military facilities according to their own needs.

There are two different opinions in Russia with regard to the US presence in Georgia. One of them regards that the US has no intention of remaining in Georgia for long and that Central Asia will join NATO as the traditional sphere of influence of Russia so that it will play a role as a "petite partner" in Central Asia as Russia plays in the new world structure.
The other opinion considers that Russia should be wary of the US. They realize that by attempting to transform former Soviet republics into "unsinkable aircraft carriers," the US presence in Central Asia could have great impact upon Russia.

The author is a researcher with the Chinese Institute of International Studies.

Source: China Daily
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