The recent Russian intervention in Syria, after 25 years of allowing the USA to do as they wanted (with horrible results) seems to define a critical inflection point in global geopolitics. It is not the only such marker of a changing global scenario in which the formerly uncontested "Western" (USA, NATO) hegemony is revealing itself as a powerless bluff or ill-designed strategy without clear goals. The recycling of the financial system of the BRICS so they walk around the dollar-centric system established by Washington is another shot to the floating line of the US Empire, whose gold reserves are considered by way too many to be just imaginary and whose "real economy" is at least largely based on consumption and financial speculation rather than on production, being therefore quite feeble.
Before anyone jumps at my throat accusing me of "Putinism" or whatever, I must clarify that I reckon that the BRICS are Capitalist regimes, some of them quite authoritarian. But that's pretty much the same I think of the USA with its twin party system, its winner-takes-all farcical elections, its perpetual emergency laws and its extreme concentration of the media in very few oligarchic hands. So let me be clear: all are pretty much the same bourgeois junk internally but they don't play exactly the same externally anyhow, probably because there is a historical imbalance of power that the BRICS, and particularly Russia and China as main powerhouses of this bloc, need to manage very carefully if they want to compensate. And there is a major difference between playing carefully and being the elephant in the china shop.
|The current geopolitical scenario (click to expand)|
A short history of the period between the two Cold Wars
Of course we are now in the Second Cold War but for 25 years this was not so obvious: Russia and China were still too weak to conform the new polarity, the European Union seemed a bit more independent (and hopeful for Europeans ourselves) than it really was in the end, and nobody dared to challenge the US hegemon but rather undersigned all its daredevil interventions rather naively.
In the 1990s, we witnessed the sudden collapse of the socialist states of Europe, not just the Soviet bloc but also, and very painfully, that of Yugoslavia, which used to be the most developed state of Mediterranean Europe. The fall of the racist regime of South Africa, after providing guarantees for private property of the means of production, produced the false impression that the World was becoming a better place under Capitalism.
In that context, so favorable for the USA, George Bush Sr. tricked Saddam Hussein into invading Kuwait. Why? In order to reinforce the US military presence in the Persian Gulf. This first Gulf War was relatively limited in extent but set the scenario for what would happen in the 2000s.
Meanwhile only the Zapatista uprising of 1994 gave us a tiny slit of hope, like announcing that Fukuyama's "end of history" was nothing but a brief illusion, that everything changes sooner or later. Otherwise the US Empire ruled as unique hegemon and even China, let along Yeltsin's Russia, bowed to them.
Things began to speed up around the turn of the century: in 1999 a "soft coup" removed the drunkard Boris Yeltsin from the Kremlin and had him replaced by a former KGB agent: Vladimir Putin, in September 2001 the USA engineered the most spectacular false flag attack ever, with the obvious goal of invading Afghanistan and imposing emergency legislation in all its empire. The main ojective was to establish a wedge between Russia and China and also between these and Iran and India. Afghanistan as such was not the main objective but rather Uzbekistan and the wider Central Asia region in a replica of the century old Great Game that Tsarist Russia and Victorian England used to engage in before the Revolution of 1917.
The very evening of September 11 2001, the recycled Nixonian minister Donald Rumsfeld was already lobbying inside his own administration to use the pretext also to invade Iraq, which had been suffering regular US bombings since the First Gulf War. The invasion was much harder to justify and, with Russia and China slightly more alert, they had to act almost unilaterally, but it was done anyhow.
The USA ruled the world solo... or not?
In 2002 an officer named Hugo Chávez reached the presidency of Venezuela, in 2003 Lula da Silva that of Brazil, in 2006 a coca farmer named Evo Morales became the first indigenous president of Bolivia and that same year the Sandinista National Liberation Front retook power in Nicaragua after a long period of Contra rule, in 2007 Rafael Correa took over a troubled and "dollarized" Ecuador... Latin America was slipping out of US hands while these were focused in Asia. What did the US do? Mostly intervene in Haiti and finance coups in Honduras and Paraguay, while keeping a growingly troubled Mexico tightly close in a deadly embrace. They also tried, insistently, to overthrow Chávez in Venezuela... but they failed miserably.
|Mackinder's concept of geostrategy|
El que mucho abarca poco aprieta, warns a Spanish saying, which I'd translate liberally as who grabs too much, holds too little. The USA was too focused on their own arbitrary goals, defined by Mackinderian geostrategy, oil reserves and the total commitment with the abhorrent Zionist neo-crusade. Meanwhile their classical colonial "backyard" became growingly independent under the coy leadership of Brazil and the more militant one of Venezuela.
Brazil would soon become crucial in the formation of the loose BRIC bloc, which also gathered the three independent Eurasian powers: China, Russia and India. While the acronym BRIC was coined in 2001, it was only since 2006 that this bloc became increasingly real. Earlier only some China-Russia collaboration existed, with India and Brazil fully inside the US imperial bloc.
The first BRIC formal meeting was held only in 2009 and in 2010, with the inclusion of South Africa, it became the BRICS. South Africa may seem relatively small compared to the other four giants but its area of influence, consolidated in the Congo War, is significant, including almost half of Africa south of the Sahara. This area nicely complements the projected power of the four original BRIC states and establishes a key link between Brazil and India, who may well hold claims to inherit the legacy of the historical Portuguese and British colonial empires respectively, albeit in a much more constructive fashion hopefully.
Besides growing economic and geostrategical collaboration, the main apparent goal of the BRICS is to displace the US dollar financial centrality, which gives the North American power a dubious advantage in global affairs.
How did the USA and allies answer to this patent threat to its hegemony? If all you have is a hammer, every problem seems to be a nail, they say. The USA and allies (Britain and France very particularly, also Poland, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain) reacted in clear anger: they are going to see how we do things in Tombstone! So they helped to destroy Libya, what was not pleasing to Italy nor Germany, who abstained to intervene.
But Libya was just the entrant, the main course was meant to be Syria. Unlike "crazy" Gaddafi's Libya, Syria was and is indeed integrated in the geopolitics of the region, having established a long term cooperation with Iran, who, even if not formally a BRICS member, is clearly close to the independent powers' bloc. Syria also used to have strong relations with the Soviet Union, again unlike Libya, considered by all to be too unpredictable.
After some initial induced trouble, quickly a UN Security Council resolution was ready to be signed authorizing the USA and allies to intervene against Syria. Russia vetoed it.
That was too much for the arrogant Pentagon generals and Wall Street oligarchs, so they orchestrated a coup in Ukraine with massive fascist participation. In turn that was a red line for the Kremlin, because it potentially implied NATO missiles a few kilometers away from Moscow. Crimea quickly voted themselves out of the new fascist Ukraine, asking for and obtaining re-incorporation to Russia. But when Russian-speaking Eastern Ukrainians tried to do the same thing, Russia remained distant, sending humanitarian aid and diplomatic mediation but refusing to fall in the trap of annexing those territories. Why? Because Russia needs to have a neutral Ukraine in full and breaking it into pieces would be bad for her. Crimea is too strategic to ignore but otherwise Ukraine must remain together and non-aligned: Kiev and Kharkov are what really matter, rather than just Donetz and Lugansk.
Meanwhile, even if less dramatically, the Cold War has also been escalating in East Asia. The earlier developments focused on North Korea and Myanmar (Burma), as well as Cambodia and Thailand. More recently the focus has been on several strategical uninhabited islands, where China has demonstrated to be a most strong regional power.
|TISA likely signatories|
The overall answer of the USA has been to strengthen its weakened empire. The Ukraine conflict has served to, more or less forcibly, rally the European states (Germany was and is particularly reluctant) around Washington's dictates but what really is consolidating the imperial structure of the US bloc are the secret trade treaties (TPP, TTIP, TISA, etc.) being negotiated behind closed doors in order to establish US-like "free market" chaos in all its area of influence, be it Japan, Australia or Europe, severely undermining state sovereignty. This is not substantially different from the "pay or die" blackmail imposed to Greece or Ukraine, or the sale of the military bases, Gibraltar or Guantanamo style, that Spain recently signed with the USA. All converge into a more centralized, and also more hyper-capitalist imperial structure in which "rights" only exist for corporations, not for people.
Back to the present
After all the wars, the USA is not a tiny bit stronger. I'd dare say that it is in fact weaker than in the 1990s and that it has been its unilateral arrogance what has caused its own weakening.
First, it has lost Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa as allies, mostly being Washington's fault that this happened. The fault being in wanting to be a colonial empire in a post-colonial world, a single superpower in a multipolar world, a blunt and trigger-happy cowboy in a world that wants peace, cooperation and prosperity. Of course, this is just how Imperialism, the final phase of Capitalism in the words of Lenin, works. In a way this is semi-automatic and expectable but not less despicable for that reason.
Second, Japan and the North Pacific are now heavily polluted by Fukushima deadly radiation, which has already reached North American coasts, causing massive sea life mortality. Together with other factors, such as drought, unsustainable debt, etc., this means that the North Pacific key "province" is growingly weaker by the day and that the US Empire is almost totally reliant on the "loyalty" of its North Atlantic "province", namely Europe, for it to be considered an empire any longer.
Third, Europe is much much weaker than it was just eight years ago. The financial crisis has hit it badly: partly it has paid US costs by means of keeping a hyper-strong euro for way too long, what is a tribute of sorts, a heavy one. But the most visible cracks in the European construction are internal: on one side the hegemony of Northern Europe, organized around Germany, has clearly transformed the Union into a IV Reich of sorts, in which there is no hope for Southern Europeans. But this German-centric imbalance is also dramatically affecting Western Europeans such as the French and the British and the election of Jeremy Corbyn is a symptom of something that runs much deeper: class struggle becomingly growingly patent, mostly not thanks to propaganda or organizing efforts by the few class-conscious people in the Worker camp but to the growing extremist abuses by the Capitalist oligarchs, who have enjoyed total impunity under the imperial order.
As I say, if Europe cracks the Empire collapses. So we Europeans should be most alert, not just because our hard-fought, yet mild, social rights have been totally destroyed but because, as class war grows in the subcontinent, what is inevitable and already happening, actual war and brutal repression, Ukraine-style, may become more and more common.
The European Union is an ailing gothic monster, nobody should expect it to last. However its collapse will be brutal because the oligarchies won't allow the peoples to regain even some of their rights without the most violent of fights. The final showdown of the class war is going to take place here in Europe, I have little doubt, even if it may take still some years to fully unfold (working class consciousness is still a bit weak), they won't be too many. Give it a decade, not more.
And it is not totally independent of what happens across the Mediterranean. In fact I consider the most important current revolutionary reference to be the Kurdish popular movement, with their going beyond the state format program (Democratic Confederalism), that blends once again Anarchism and Marxism in a single praxis, much as Bismark feared it might happen. Europe, West Asia and North Africa are a single historical and socio-geographical region in spite of so many centuries of religious sectarianism, and that is why destroying Wahabbism, along with all other intolerant totalitarian fascist religious ideologies is so important. We are a single People of Peoples, religion belongs to the private sphere, not the social one.
The USA, inspired by historical British colonial praxis, has thrown its lot along with the reactionary forces, ignoring the fact that reaction is powerless in the long run. Not only they have actively supported and manipulated the Sunni Islamist networks but also they have actively supported the most fascist terrorist elements in Ukraine for example. And they can well do it in Western Europe: Gladio never died: NATO is first and foremost a system to control Europe, even by fascist means.
Let me say that, even if I do support the Russian well-calculated intervention in Syria, because the Islamists must be destroyed at almost any cost, Moscow is no angel either. If you read, as I do, Russian media, you can't but notice their sympathies for the European far right, be it the Hungarian government of FIDESZ or the French National Front.
This is a true problem for us European workers, because we do not have any allies outside, barring a handful of Latin American progressive governments, not truly socialist, rather just patriotic social-democrat, and the general but imprecise Human solidarity. This circumstance has some pros: we have to create from zero and not follow any model, but also many cons. However if revolutionary or at least truly social-democratic (not Blairite mercenariate) power manages to arise in one or several large European states, the subcontinent is objectively powerful enough to bring that revolutionary process to a successful end. And the growing multipolarity of international relations allows for the necessary balance in whose interstices we have to create our own socialist reality, the only one that can give us not just hope but also expectations of a better future for ourselves and our children.
The situation resembles that of World War I, with the USA in the role of the declining British hegemon, China in that of the German challenger, etc., but it is not identical: history does not repeat itself, it could not in the age of nuclear weapons anyhow. There can't be a real major war because it would mean total destruction, so the reality of the conflicts is more similar to that of the First Cold War in fact. And it was in this context in which the colonies became independent, in which more or less alternative "third way" projects (be it Tito's Yugoslavia or Palme's Sweden) could happen, in which the Cuban and Vietnamese revolutions succeeded, etc.
But one thing at least is also different: to some extent Europe has lost its strategical relevance. The scenario is too global and as "last major province" of the Empire, Europe is expected and demanded to contribute at any cost. The Empire is declining even before adopting fully imperial form, and it is unavoidable that many of the contradictions arise here in Europe, because it is ethnically complex and because the socialist tradition was never eradicated.
There is yet another reason: Europe has a fully mature, very illustrated working class. Highly educated and growingly desperate: the perfect recipe for the worker revolution. At least that's the theory. The praxis... only time will tell.