|the followig may be of interest...
L.A. TIMES/COMMENTARY/November 28, 2001
Russia Checkmated Its New Best Friend
By ERIC S. MARGOLIS, 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" (Routledge, 2000)
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 Afghanistan.
Since 1989, Iran has strived to keep Afghanistan in disorder, thus
preventing Pakistan from building its long-sought Termez-Karachi pipeline.
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 Pakistani-American pipeline.
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 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
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
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
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
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.