30 December 2012 — Strategic Culture Foundation
Is the glory of Gorbachev proving contagious?
We are halfway through the time allotted by Zbigniew Brzezinski in his landmark book «The Grand Chessboard», when he predicted that U.S. dominance in the world would remain unchallenged for a period of thirty years. Now just 15 years on and in his new book «Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power», he states that the devolution of American power is accelerating. Brzezinski admits that the «exuberant optimism» about the omnipotence of the United States did not last long. Consumer culture and the deregulation of the economy led to the bursting of the stock market bubble and large-scale financial crisis. The wars of George W. Bush have proved disastrous for the country, even before that there was Clinton’s Balkan adventure and the collapse of U.S. foreign policy in general. The similarities between the Soviet Union in the twilight of its days and America at the beginning of the XXI century are really disturbing, notes Brzezinski… (1) The balance of world power has been steadily shifting from West to East. There are growing doubts about the viability of the American system and faith in a «prosperous heritage of the West» has been strongly shaken. If the American system loses its relevance in the eyes of the public, it may well become overshadowed by the successes of China.
And then throughout his book Brzezinski, in noting the impact of a narrowing of the influence of the United States in many of the parameters of a sovereign power, he aims to show how badly mankind will be affected without their beneficial influences. The most likely danger arising out of the dispersion of forces, he calls the potential instability of the global hierarchy. Based on this, the whole of international life will enter a period he describes as «post American confusion».
Especially he balks at the coming «Asian competition», which will cause trouble, above all from China. Brzezinski declares that the rival Asian countries are reminiscent in some ways of the countries of the pre-Atlantic European colonial era, when the continental competition for geopolitical supremacy was so frightening that such competition in the end resulted in two bloody world wars. (2)
Brzezinski warns that, although the West itself is still alive, its global dominance is already in the past. To survive, the West must realize that its place and role in the global context will depend on the strength of the American system and American actions abroad. Its decline brings danger to the West in general. Brzezinski quite angrily condemned the European Union for the fact that it does not grasp this and does not help the United States to maintain its leadership. In his opinion the European Union is too self-centered, and behaves as if its main political objective is to become the world’s most comfortable home for the elderly. (3)
As for Brzezinski’s readiness to include Russia in an extended West, you can say that he does not see Russia, with its interests, as an equal partner. He sees Russia rather in the role of a geographic area that is suitable for development, but which even for Russian supporters of this «convergence», there may not be a place in the sun for them. Brzezinski is openly dreaming of a time when the weakening of Russia‘s presence in the Far East will get an influx of new economic and demographic forces from the West. Vladivostok can become a European city, while remaining part of Russia. (4) In respect of the Russian Arctic and the opening up of opportunities there, Brzezinski expresses concern that the «capture» by Russia of their share of wealth in the region could provoke a serious imbalance in the geopolitical landscape in its favor.
In this sense, except for the careful choice of words, Brzezinski‘s current position in relation to Russia is not much different from his position, formulated 15 years ago, in «Chessboard». To him Russia is almost always viewed as an object to which it is necessary to do something with – «unite», «involve», «develop». He has condemned the «Russian leadership» for refusing to move closer to NATO, but even in spite of logic, he still warns against giving Russia full membership in the bloc, because any step in this direction will contribute to a more familiar Russian goal of weakening NATO. (5)
Now and then, Brzezinski’s irrational desire to stab Russia more painfully in the statements he makes sometimes leads to a paradox which is clearly below the level of such a thinker. As an example, in particular, he wrote about the historical weakness of Russia‘s victories which allegedly stemmed mainly from the mistakes of others. If it were not for Napoleon attacking Russia in 1812, it is unlikely that Russian forces would march on Paris in 1815. The question is, why would they have gone there at all?
Sometimes Brzezinski’s cynicism is «off the scale». For example, he refers to a group of states, which he describes as geopolitical equivalents of endangered species. (7) Thus suggesting, they will certainly disappear if the U.S. does not want or can no longer meet its obligations to them. Characteristically, the first among these endangered states he placed Georgia and then Taiwan. The list also included Belarus and the Ukraine. It is easy to see the suggestive meaning of such statements, forcing these states to be suspicious of Russia.
In general, in «Strategic vision» there is a kind of inversion, when Brzezinski seemingly rejects the old concepts of «American hegemony» and «global leadership», but his new definitions are essentially aimed at the same thing. Brzezinski writes that he sees America’s double role in the future in the fact that it must become the guide to and the guarantor of unity in the West, and at the same time, a peacemaker and mediator between the major powers of the East. (8)
In this case, the need to preserve evidence of the leadership of the United States, even in a new form, is built on the fact that there is no power in the world, capable of replacing them in the long term. Possibly this is so. Oddly enough Brzezinski does not want to understand or accept that there is the possibility of building a democratic system of international relations without clearly visible leading States.
The claim that without American mentoring the rest of humanity will be entangled in conflicts and «disappear» is untenable for obvious reasons. In many regional conflicts and global problems, America‘s role is more destructive than stabilizing. For example, the key to the situation in the Middle East, the question of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has remained unsolved for decades, primarily because of the obstructionist position of Washington. The International community has for a long time developed and coordinated common ground to establish peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Everyone understands that it is all down to the White House. The crisis in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, which is encroaching on the whole of Central and South Asia, is a consequence of the imperial ambitions of the United States. In the desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction by a number of states, is there not the feeling that there is a very distinct threat to their independence from the «civilizing» U.S? Many powers have rearmament programs, including Russia and China, but how much of this is due to the fact that the establishment of U.S. military bases continues to expand along their borders, formal and informal military alliances are being formed against them and all kinds of missile shields are being built? What is the main obstacle to the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on the emission of greenhouse gases? It is the position of the U.S. The same can be said of many other vital world issues.
In sorting out these problems one by one, it is easy to see that without the intervention of the United States, they could be addressed more successfully. Where did such an absurd opinion come from that without the Americans all of humanity will start to make war against each other, in accordance with the Huntington Doctrine? On the contrary, in taking on the mission of a mediator and policeman in all regional conflicts, Washington, becomes the party interested in them never dying down, because this is the only way it can later claim to be an «indispensable power» with all the benefits of this status. Old as the hills, this is the imperial principle of «divide and rule» and it’s easy to implement it in such situations. We take the liberty to say that America is certainly not a «black hole» and will never disappear from the map, but at the same time without its annoying desire to interfere in everything and control all processes on the planet, the rest of humanity would resolve many long-standing disputes much more successfully and peacefully. There are many indications that the future does not have to be chaotic, and can be organized on the principles of the «great powers acting in concert», along with new members as they mature. The real goal of «American devolution» should be, as far as possible, the transformation of America to an «equal among equals». But Brzezinski, is of course, infinitely far away from such an intention, as is the whole American elite. Therefore, we can expect that the processes described by him will be extremely painful for America and for the rest of the world.
One more striking observation is the recipe offered by Brzezinski for the recovery of America itself. It is simply «déjà vu». The impression is that one of his advisers is played by none other than Mikhail Gorbachev. Brzezinski glibly talks about the need for restructuring and renewal in the United States, calls for new thinking, and the raising of deep-seated spiritual forces in society, although he previously noted the lack of this ability as one of the causes of the weakening of the country in the future. He still does not speak transparently. Is this not yet another sign that the U.S. really is in a position similar to the late Soviet Union? Such helpless appeals themselves reflect the depth of the systemic crisis, in which situation not only the whole of America, but also the intellectual elite find themselves.
1. Zbigniew Brzezinski «Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power” published by AST 2012, P.9
2. As above, P.33
3. As above, p.56
4. As above, p.234
5.As above, p.222
6. As above, p.212
7.As above, p.136
8.As above, p.276