Eurasianet.org’s Joshua Kucera first reported on two important speeches by the State Department that supposedly heralded in a new policy towards Central Asia. The announcements were made within one day of each other by Richard Hoagland, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Antony Blinken, the Deputy Secretary of State. Considering that George Soros’ Open Society Foundation openly operates the website, the summarized claim that the US is interested mostly in counter-terrorism and economic cooperation was immediately met with suspicion by the author, who felt it pressing to examine the primary sources being referenced to see what’s fully being mentioned within them. The result is that both State Department officials presented not necessarily a new policy, but rather an updated one full of geopolitical jealousy and Color Revolution undertones.
The first part of the article begins by describing the US’ self-stated goals in the region, followed by addressing Washington’s aforementioned geopolitical jealousies as they pertain to Russia and China, and analyzing the Color Revolution plans laid bare in the Hoagland-Blinken Doctrine. Part II then explores the more technical aspects of the US’ designs, focusing on the two main infrastructure projects it wants to spearhead. Finally, it ends by addressing the US’ intended Lead From Behind partners for Central Asia.
Security And Stability? No, Geostrategy, Resources, And Markets!
The Hoagland-Blinken Doctrine is admittedly one of projecting the US’ geostrategic interests in the region and securing its natural resources and market potential. For example, when describing why Central Asia is important to the US, Hoagland reminds everyone that it “shares borders with Afghanistan, China, Russia, and Iran – this is an “interesting” neighborhood, to say the least”, and that “if nothing else, geography makes Central Asia critically important for the United States.” He then lists off the energy and market characteristics of this geostrategic region that would make any Neo-Con drool:
“Further, the region is awash in natural resources:
- Turkmenistan has the fourth-largest natural gas reserves in the world;
- Kazakhstan has the second-largest oil reserves of the former Soviet Union, second only to Russia;
- Uzbekistan is a major producer of uranium (as is Kazakhstan) and has large natural gas reserves, as does, quite likely, Tajikistan;
- And Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have significant hydropower potential.
But the economies of Central Asia are more than the sum of their energy-generating potential:
- Kazakhstan pursued fundamental macro-economic reform from the beginning and has now created a financial services hub for the region.
- Uzbekistan’s educated population of 30 million has a huge potential to provide entrepreneurial, innovative economic growth.
- Kyrgyzstan implemented democratic structures from the beginning and to this day remains the test case for democracy in Central Asia.
- And Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan’s natural beauty could attract throngs of trekkers from Boise to Beijing, powering a thriving tourism sector, as could Uzbekistan’s great Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bohkhara, and Khiva.”
While the Doctrine does briefly make mention counter-terrorism and other security-related shared goals, such references are rare and by no means embody the core of the policy. Rather, more attention is paid by both men to the objectives of economic integration and ‘democracy/human rights’ promotion. Take for example what Blinken said were the “two distinct ideas” that guide America’s policy towards Central Asia:
“First, that our own security is enhanced by a more stable, secure Central Asia that contributes to global efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism; and second, that stability can best be achieved if the nations of Central Asia are sovereign and independent countries, fully capable of securing their borders, connected with each another and with the emerging economies of Asia, and benefitting from governments that are accountable to their citizens.”
He then says that “we have three important objectives for our engagement with each of the Central Asian states: strengthening partnerships to advance mutual security; forging closer economic ties; and advancing and advocating for improved governance and human rights”. For his part, Hoagland talks about the US’ “four critical areas of cooperation and concentration in Central Asia – security cooperation, economic ties, promotion of human rights and good governance, and efforts to bolster each country’s sovereignty and independence.” It will be revealed in this series that all of his talk about economic integration and ‘democracy/human rights’ promotion was just a simple allusion to geopolitical jealousy and Color Revolution motives, while the references to “sovereignty and independence” are code words for sabotaging Russian-led integration and pragmatic policies towards Moscow.
The US is reeling with jealousy over Russia and China’s strategic advancements in Central Asia, and it doesn’t do much to hide its feelings.
Washington is outraged with Moscow over its reunification with Crimea, and Blinken embodies the Beltway’s hysteria when he says that “Russia’s actions on its periphery, including its violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, threaten the very foundation of international order – not only in the region, not only in Europe, but beyond and around the world…They are threatening the fundamental principles that we all have a stake in defending in Europe and, indeed, around the world.” He then decries what he terms as Russia’s “linguistic nationalism”, while forgetting that it’s actually the US which is guilty of this crime per its 1990s destruction of the Balkans and authoritative ‘academic’ decree (enforced by NATO) that Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs are different people and languages intrinsically incapable of living side-by-side in harmony.
Another major point is that the US is clearly jealous of Russia’s success at post-Soviet integration through the Eurasian Union. Hoagland, for example, says the US wants “to help connect Central Asia to lucrative external markets in Europe and Asia”, while obviously not mentioning that this is exactly the purpose behind the Eurasian Union. When he remarks that “the United States is doing its part to help build those markets and links…which focuses on improving north-south energy markets, trade and transport infrastructure, customs and borders procedures, and business networks”, he’s purposeful omitting the fact that the Eurasian Union and Shanghai Cooperation Organization already fulfill these roles.
Showing how out of touch with reality his ideology has made him, Hoagland says that “we encourage the Eurasian Economic Union to follow the successful, open model of the European Union and not establish new trade barriers”, which is laughable precisely because the EU has enacted globally notorious trade barriers against Russia ever since the ‘sanctions war’ began (to unintended consequences). To top off the jealous lunacy, Blinken, his ideologue-in-arms, says that “we’re not telling countries that they shouldn’t join (the Eurasian Union)”, yet former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton loudly threatened in 2012 that “There is a move to re-Sovietise the region, it’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that, but let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.” Her warning came true when the US engineered the EuroMaidan Color Revolution one year later, and by all indications, it looks like the US is planning to do something similar in Kyrgyzstan this fall.
Things are kept a bit more civil when the US addresses China’s role in Central Asia, although it doesn’t shy away from passive-aggressive pouting. Both diplomats attempt to assure everyone that there’s no “zero-sum” choice in the region, especially between the US and China, but this is more tactical than true. In the offensive sense, the US clumsily wants to gain the false confidence of Central Asia’s neighbors (which obviously aren’t buying such outright lies of intent), while defensively, it can always resort to the “no zero-sum terms” argument to excuse away any future foreign policy failings in the region.
This Janus-faced policy is on full display when it comes to China’s Silk Road Economic Belt. Hoagland says that “China’s development of energy, road, and transport infrastructure in Central Asia can be consistent with and fully complementary to U.S. efforts” before complaining that “because international companies are more likely to invest when they can compete on a level playing field, we need to ensure that the emerging regulatory architecture in the region meets international standards.” What he’s really saying here is that “international standards” are synonymous to the US government with ‘Western standards’, and since the latter weren’t in effect and/or didn’t result in the desired outcome of American contractors, then there’s some kind of ‘unlevel’ playing field discriminating against the US that must be remedied by “cooperating with the governments of Central Asia to help create institutions that meet those international standards” (i.e. ‘democracy promotion’ and Color Revolutions).
Blinken is the more passive-aggressive of the two officials towards China when he talks about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan have joined:
“Our concern with the bank is this: We don’t oppose it; to the contrary. The more investment you can bring in infrastructure in the region, in Asia more broadly, we think the better. It’s desperately needed. It’s a foundation for economic progress. But as I suggested earlier, how it happens is vitally important, and so the concerns that we’ve had about the infrastructure investment bank really go to its own standards. What are the governance rules of the bank? What role does the board of directors play? What are the standards that it would advance in terms of worker rights, environmental protections, intellectual property, capital requirements, things of that nature?… What we don’t want to see happen is some kind of race to the bottom where the standards are diluted, and that’s been our only concern.”
What he’s indirectly accusing China of is creating an international kleptocracy, which ironically is exactly what the West built with the IMF and World Bank, the two American-controlled institutions that the AIIB is set to rival. Aside from this swipe and a few less significant ones, the Hoagland-Blinken Doctrine largely steers clear of directly confronting China, largely out of an understanding that its growing economic gravity in Central Asia is a fait accompli that must be recognized as a regional reality (if it can’t be overturned with a series of Color Revolutions or Euro-Indian trade, that is).
The Color Of Chaos
This section needs to be predicated by Hoagland’s overly defensive and out-of-the-blue assertion that his doctrine has nothing to do with Color Revolutions:
“This kind of “soft diplomacy” does NOT have as its goal “Color Revolutions,” as Moscow nefariously whispers in Central Asian ears with its onslaught of “black propaganda.” What we simply do is stand with the people of Central Asia who want nothing more than better lives for their children and grandchildren, as do people all over the world.” (emphasis is Hoagland’s)
The reason he felt so compelled to underline this is because a lot of the doctrine actually does contain Color Revolution planning mechanisms and intent, and due to its obviousness, Hoagland was obligated to at least say the opposite in order to maintain at least an official degree of plausible deniability.
What could he have said beforehand that would make one suspect that such underhanded regime change tactics are being prepared by Washington? Well, allow the author to reference two of the four “critical areas of cooperation and concentration in Central Asia” that were cited previously cited: “promotion of human rights and good governance, and efforts to bolster each country’s sovereignty and independence”. The latter’s invocation of ‘sovereignty’ is a barely concealed allusion to pressuring the region’s states away from Russia, while the former’s remarks about ‘human rights’ and ‘good governance’ are the grounds on which future Color Revolutions would be justified if anti-Russian policies are not enacted. His buddy Blinken begs the world to believe that:
“We do not ask any country to choose ties with the U.S. to the exclusion of anyone else. We reject the false choices imposed by anyone else. We fully support the aspirations of Central Asian states to pursue a multi-vector foreign and economic policy.”
But who can believe such rhetoric when the US’ actions in Ukraine prove the exact opposite? And considering that Ukraine represented Russia’s soft Eastern European frontier, what makes one think the exact same false choice (with all of its destabilizing consequences) under the threat of a EuroMaidan-like Color Revolution 2.0 won’t be forced upon Russia’s soft Central Asian frontier, too? The US is already expanding the physical infrastructure capable of managing Color Revolutions, i.e. its embassies. Look at what Hoagland said early on in his speech:
“For over a year, we have been saying, “No, we assure you we are NOT going to cut and run! And if you want objective evidence, simply look at the fact that we have built, or are now building, major new, state-of-the-art embassies in every capital of Central Asia. Why would we expend this kind of taxpayers’ money if we weren’t serious about long-term relationships? I want to emphasize: the U.S. diplomatic presence in Central Asia is not temporary; it’s enduring long into the future.” (emphasis is Hoagland’s)
Think the US hasn’t built up a Color Revolutionary cadre over the years? Well, Hoagland would beg to differ, proudly boasting that:
“Here’s an interesting factoid. Over the last 23 years, well over 24,000 citizens of Central Asia have come to the United States on State Department-funded exchange programs. They have gone on to become high-ranking government officials, effective community leaders, and successful business pioneers. We are very pleased for them. We’re investing in people to drive the region’s growth and evolution, because we know how important this region is to our own interests.”
Let’s remember that Richard Miles, the ‘Male Nuland’ of Color Revolutions, became the Executive Director for the Open World Leadership Center for most of 2006, during which he fostered the creation of thousands of pro-American ‘leaders’ in the former Soviet Union, including Central Asia. This Color Revolutionary mastermind hasn’t even retired from his regime-changing job yet…well, he did, until he was recalled out of retirement to become the charge d’affaires in Kyrgyzstan. Why the urgency to send him to Kyrgyzstan, out of all places? Besides the fact that the country occupies the premier geostrategic position in the region, it’s also slated for legislative elections in October, which would be its first vote after it joins the Eurasian Union in May. Remember that earlier reference to Hillary Clinton’s threat “to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent [Eurasian Union integration]”? Well, it seems that Kyrgyzstan is the next country on the roll-back list after the US’ recent ‘success’ in Ukraine, and truth be told, it might even be more susceptible to the coming Color Revolution carnage than Ukraine was.
Blinken brags that:
“One of the things we’re very proud of is having hosted nearly 80 percent of Kyrgyz parliamentarians here in the United States, where they discuss the responsibilities of public service with American officials and representatives of civil society. Time and again, we have seen the value of building these lifelong relationships – helping to expand the marketplace of ideas and foster greater democratic ethos.”
Going even further, he then adds that “In Kyrgyzstan, 40 members of parliament recently participated in more than 30 town hall meetings across the country”. In and of itself, the town hall meetings don’t necessarily portend anything negative, however, they can easily be weaponized on a grassroots level to divide local communities along ethnic and political lines in agitating for Color Revolutions and subsequent pogroms (of which Kyrgyzstan unfortunately already has a tragic history). In fact, the most critical demographic for the success of any forthcoming Color Revolution is already in place, as Blinken proudly states that “Today, Central Asia is not only bursting with resources, but brimming with youthful, entrepreneurial potential. A full half of its population is under the age of 30.”
The combination of the State Department’s prior threat to unravel the Eurasian Union, Kyrgyzstan’s upcoming electoral vulnerability, the US government’s close contacts with Kyrgyz Parliamentarians, proto-Color Revolution ‘town hall’ meetings, ‘perfect’ demographic conditions, and the out-of-retirement placement of Color Revolutionary mastermind Richard Miles as charges d’affaires in Bishkek foreshadows all-but-guaranteed chaos in Central Asia.
How does the US ‘justify’ this through the prism of the Hoagland-Blinken Doctrine? Among a couple other factors, Blinken decrees that “governments that are accountable to their citizens” are a foundation of regional security, which is American political jargon for democracy promotion in an area that doesn’t want it. One should also recall Blinken’s earlier-referenced listing of the US’ “three important objectives for [its] engagement with each of the Central Asian states”, since “advancing and advocating for improved governance and human rights” is one of them.
That’s not all, though, since Blinken also says that “a critical aspect of our foreign policy is advancing the democratic values that we share with people all over the world, including in Central Asia. These values are at the very core of our engagement with the region.” What kind of values, one may ask? “Greater respect for human rights, a stronger voice for civil society, and greater religious freedom”, all of which in actual American political practice mean threatening countries with sanctions, holding the threat of Color Revolutions over their heads, and agitating for the acceptance and legal proselytization of radical Saudi-controlled Wahhbist movements.
Blinken isn’t too pleased with the region’s rejection of American ‘values’, so he said that “Progress has been halting, but I believe we are better able to address these difficult issues because we are present and engaged with these governments and their civil society.” The vehicle that Blinken specifies is to be used in carrying out the aforementioned civil society engagement is a regime change program rolled out by President Obama in 2013, the Stand with Civil Society initiative, which will allow the US to “continue to support civil society and its ability to serve communities and speak up for peaceful change without government interference”. Part of the change that he’s referring to is that the US will “continue to advocate for free media and more open political systems”, which translates into an expansion of the planned-to-be-upgraded US propaganda mediums into the region and consequently even more unwanted external tinkering in domestic affairs.
All of this is expected to generate ‘controlled chaos’ in the heart of Russia, China, and Iran’s vulnerable periphery, which would be the latest manifestation of the US’ modus operandi in key geopolitical theaters across the world.
Andrew Korybko is the political analyst and journalist for Sputnik who currently lives and studies in Moscow, exclusively for ORIENTAL REVIEW.