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 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» surrounding 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 the global financial crisis. The wars of George W. Bush have proved disastrous for the country, and 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 its twilight days and America at the beginning of the XXI century are really disturbing, notes Brzezinski… 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.
Brzezinski, noting the impact of America’s narrowing influence in many of the parameters of a sovereign power, aims to show how badly mankind will be affected without their beneficial influences. He believes that the most likely danger arising out of the dispersal of forces is 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».
In perticular, he lays stress on the upcoming «Asian competition», which will cause trouble, especially from China. Brzezinski states that rival Asian countries are in some ways reminiscent of the countries of the pre-Atlantic European colonial era, when the continental competition for geopolitical supremacy was so frightening that such competition eventually resulted in two bloody world wars.
Brzezinski warns that, although the West itself is still alive, its global dominance is already in the past. To survive, the West must realise 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 condemns the European Union for the fact that it does not grasp this and is not helping the United States to maintain its leadership. In his opinion, the European Union is too self-centred, and behaves as if its main political objective is to become the world’s most comfortable home for the elderly.
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. Rather, he sees Russia’s role as a geographical area suitable for development, but even for Russian supporters of this «convergence» there may be no place in the sun. Brzezinski is openly dreaming of a time when the weakening of Russia’s presence in the Far East will lead to an influx of new economic and demographic forces from the West. Vladivostok can become a European city, while remaining part of Russia. With regard to the Russian Arctic and the opening up of opportunities there, Brzezinski expresses concern that Russia’s «capture» of their share of wealth in the region could provoke a serious imbalance in the geopolitical landscape in Russia’s favour.
In this sense, except for his careful choice of words, Brzezinski’s current position in relation to Russia is not much different from the position he formulated in «Chessboard» 15 years ago. He almost always sees Russia as an object to which it is necessary to do something – «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, since any step in this direction will contribute to the more familiar Russian goal of weakening NATO.
Now and then, Brzezinski’s irrational desire to use his statements to hurt Russia more deeply sometimes leads to a paradox which is clearly below the level of such a thinker. As an example, in particular, he writes 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 have marched 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 excludes a group of states that he describes as geopolitical equivalents of endangered species. Thus suggesting that they will certainly disappear if the U.S. does not want to or can no longer meet its obligations to them. Characteristically, he places Georgia first among these endangered states followed by 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, there is a kind of inversion in «Strategic vision», 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 America will have double role in the future: 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.
In addition, the need to preserve evidence of the United States’ leadership, 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. Maybe this is right. 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 states-leaders.
The claim that without America’s mentoring the rest of humanity become entangled in conflicts and «disappear» is untenable for obvious reasons. In many regional conflicts and global problems, America’s role is more destructive than stabilising. 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 been developing and coordinating common ground to establish peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. Everyone believes 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 of a number of states to acquire weapons of mass destruction, is there not the feeling that there is a very distinct threat to their independence from the «civilizing» U.S? Many powers have rearmament programmes, 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 would almost definitely rush into war against each other, in accordance with the Huntington Doctrine? On the contrary, in taking on the mission of being a mediator and policeman in all regional conflicts, Washington becomes an interested party in them never dying down, because this is the only way it can later claim to be an «indispensable power» with all the benefits that this status brings. Old as the hills, this is the imperial principle of «divide and rule» and it is easy to implement it in such situations. We take the liberty of saying 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 organised 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 of the American elite. Therefore, we can expect that the processes he describes 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, he 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 behind any future weakening of the country. He still does not speak transparently. Is this not yet one more 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, a situation in which not only the whole of America, but also the intellectual elite, find themselves.
Source: Strategic Culture Foundation