Monday 24th of June 2024

the bane of philosophy….

The perversity of not knowing what we don’t want to know… This is any philosopher’s lament.

Slavoj Zizek is sometimes off the ball and dreams of a unified humanity. One of the major problem is the notion of standards of culture. Does one want to be “homogenised”? We have been presented since childhood with the "Tower of Babel" being sort of a thing of the devil — of humans trying to reach godly heights. Guess what? Being of different cultures with different languages is a good part of humanity. Our Tower of Babel is us. We cannot escape it despite having tried various conquests to teach the planet the word of a silly illusionary god who died on a cross 2022 years ago. And we still try... Oh boy....


We need to learn to live with our differences without having to inflict pain on others. This is where someone like Putin has been placed in a quandary by an aggressive America and its lackey the Nazi inspired NATO in Ukraine. Good innocent people will die... Do nothing to arrest the rot and it becomes painful for your side. Do something to prevent the other side from hurting you, is going to hurt them.


Slavoj lives in a bubble of idealism that does not fit the reality so far. He misunderstand the concept of individual cultures, possibly having been brainwashed by the US ideologies, which he sort of reject when they don’t go the way they promised.


For example in an interview with Graeme Green of The New Internationalist he speaks about "losing control, Twitter, Trump and a new approach.


This is why I’m attached, may be naively to the idea of the European Union…” 


Yes Slavoj, you are naive. Even within the Union, there is a lot of dissent and repression. There are threats to cultural traditions being topsy-turvy by influx of migrants and refugees from countries that we have bombed in the pretext of protecting our values. In this context, religions foment animosity and MAJOR differences of political ideals.


In the end the simple question is “do we want the whole world to be America? A country where "angry boredom and chips" rule the cultural landscape with corn subsidies to profit the corrupted structure of this godly Empire?" 


If I can remember well (I could be wrong), the only time GOD is mentioned in Red Dwarf (the BBC comedy series) is in one of the awful but funny American pilot of this great BBC show? Boy the acting is bad (even the computer with an IQ of 6000 is like an animated lollipop) and the actors are dreadful! I guess the show did not go ahead as the mention of baseball cards was beyond the pale for the Lister character….


So what do we do? The daily news is not designed to inform us but to KEEP US IN CHECK. It makes sure we are still part of the toilers to feed the corrupt machine.


As Zizek in the interview says:


Most people want a peaceful life. You remember all those Guantanamo and waterboarding debates? I spoke to US sociologists who told me something  very sad: the reaction of the majority of people was not “Oh my god, we shouldn’t be torturing suspected terrorists”, or even the opposite: We should do it, they’re a threat”. People though that the state’s secret agencies should do it discreetly but they didn’t want to know about it.


Yes, Slavoj, this is where we’re at. By the end, your conclusion is telling:


That’s why I like to say we should perhaps turn around Marx’s Thesis II. May be in the 20th century we wanted to change the world too quickly. Now instead of changing the world, we should also learn to step back and interpret it again in a better way. 



Yes, sure. This is why we need to get rid of nefarious organism such as NATO, etc… This is why we need to destroy the concept of US exceptionalism and so forth. And of all people, you, Slavoj, you should help Putin along this way. Putin is doing us a favour at great expense to himself. But he’s prepared to do it. For Russia, it means survival in the long run and this is all what we want: survival to which we can add the trimmings of confucius happiness (The US are after destroying this as well)....


And yes Trump's “America First” was a bad policy, but not as bad as “AMERICA EVERYFUCKING WHERE!” which is the goal of US unilateralism, even uder Biden-the-Dipstick... We need to come to term with a “multipolar world” for starters. Our Tower of Babel differentials demand it. 



When a self-claimed naive American asked Noam Chomsky if she could be proud of her country, his reply was something like: “Be proud in your country, BUT NOT of YOUR GOVERNMENT. Your government lies and has no moral values. Etc”


This is at the core of the problem. The US government is spoiling the world with poison.




Note: Red Dwarf USA, also referred to as Dwarfing USA, was a project undertaken in 1992.


The project was a collaboration between Rob Grant and Doug Naylor of Grant Naylor Productions, the original co-creators and writers of the British franchise Red Dwarf, with various American producers and studios.


The ultimate goal of the project was to create a new version of the television series, for airing on U.S. television. Although two pilot episodes were made, they were not picked up, and the project ultimately never came to fruition. Grant and Naylor, themselves not satisfied with the two pilots, declared the project a failure.


Even with just FOUR CHARACTERS, a human, a cat, a robot and a hologram, the US could not pull it off… Why? Gus suspect there is something profoundly wrong with the American psyche of wanting to be superior….


We shall see...



objavi ali pogine.....


Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has defended publishing his writings on RT, pointing out in an op-ed published in Germany’s Berliner Zeitung on Sunday that stories and opinions that are overlooked or even prohibited on the pages of the Western press can find safe harbor in the Moscow-based outlet.

“Am I ashamed to have published my texts in Russia Today? No, absolutely not!” Zizek wrote.


While the philosopher professed “full support of Ukraine,” he insisted that this stance did not contradict his previous writings for RT at all, calling it “part of the same fight” in the same manner that “fighting anti-Semitism and fighting what Israel is doing to the Palestinians in the West Bank” are not mutually exclusive.

As the range of allowed opinions in Western media narrowed, he said he had no choice but to turn to RT to publish his own views, citing “weaknesses of liberal democracy, Israel’s policy of apartheid in the West Bank, [and] the aberrations of political correctness” as examples of topics considered off-limits in the Western press.

The philosopher specifically highlighted the saga of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, whose case, he has repeatedly argued, highlights the extraordinary hypocrisy of the US and UK governments, who style themselves as defenders of democracy and the free press while fighting to lock up a man whose only “crime” was to publish leaked documents that revealed wartime atrocities committed by those governments.

While the entirety of the Western media was fixated on the war in Ukraine, Assange was being drawn ever closer to extradition to the US, where he is charged with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and will almost certainly die in prison, Zizek pointed out. New developments in the case have been all but ignored in the US and European press.

“How can [Washington] demand Assange’s extradition to the US when Assange is not a US citizen, was not involved in espionage against the US and all he did was, without a doubt publicize war crimes committed by the US?” he asked rhetorically, pointing out that Assange faces 175 years in prison “for merely exposing US crimes beyond reproach.”

Commenting on calls for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be tried for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, Zizek argued for former president George W. Bush, as well as his defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, if he were still alive, to be similarly tried for the invasion of Iraq under manufactured pretenses. The West and Russia must be interrogated with “the same critical questions,” he said. “How can the US demand this while not recognizing the jurisdiction of the Hague tribunal over its own citizens?”

Neither ‘side’ should be considered immune from criticism, Zizek argued. “If we are forced to choose between Ukraine and Assange, we are doomed. Then we have sold our soul to the devil.”







GusNote: We disagree strongly with Zizek's unconditional support for Ukraine. Ukraine with the help of the USA has been playing a very dirty game — even under Zelenskyyyyy-y..... Ukraine isn't a unifed country and has NOT been unable to deal with the Nazis in its midst, nor has it been able to treat the Ukrainian Russian with "dignity"....


FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


clowning filosofer……..

Gus: We haven't heard from SZ recently.... is this why? Has he discovered he has been wrong?


From about a month ago:


BY Emanuele Saccarelli


Slavoj Žižek, a celebrity in certain academic and pseudo-left circles, has now twice come out on the pages of the Guardian in support of NATO’s proxy war against Russia in Ukraine. 

The central point of these articles is made in their titles and leaves little to the political imagination of the reader. The most recent one, published on June 21, opens with, “Pacifism is the wrong response to the war in Ukraine— the least we owe Ukraine is full support, and to do this we need a stronger NATO.” The prior article, published on May 23, begins with a point of similarly unmistakable ideological provenance: “A question like ‘Did US intelligence-sharing with Ukraine cross a line?’ forgets the fact that it was Russia that crossed the line—by invading Ukraine.” 

These sorts of positions could have been advanced by any number of pro-war and pro-imperialist authors or outfits. In this sense, Žižek’s interventions are just a drop in the miserable bucket of war propaganda inflicted on the population by the bourgeois media on a daily basis. 

In fact, they place the author on the most intransigent and Strangelovian wing of NATO supporters. In the latest article, for example, Žižek calls for the “unconditional” rejection of any negotiated settlements involving territorial concession to Russia, including in the majority Russian-speaking Donbas region. In the other, he dismisses an “obsession with the red line”—that is, giving any consideration to how Russia might respond to further escalation of the conflict on NATO’s part, such as providing intelligence for the sinking of the warship Moskva or the killing of several Russian generals.

Like many other more conventional bourgeois intellectuals, Žižek fulminates against those who dare contest the official narrative about the war in Ukraine, provides political cover for present and future machinations of actual imperialism, and, inciting the further escalation of the war, moves the needle closer to a global conflict of unfathomable consequences.

Žižek brings to this sordid business not only his distinctive brand of spittling buffoonery, but also the influence he still retains among sections of the pseudo-left, particularly in academia. As sober and dull as the reactionary initial theses of his articles may be, what follows them is extraordinarily fanciful: pseudo-philosophical ramblings involving everyone from John Locke to John Lennon, contorted historical analogies according to which, for example, “leftists” who “show understanding for Russia” are like those who advocated neutrality between Nazi Germany and the Allies prior to 1941, and more. 

Here is Žižek’s analysis of Russia’s geopolitical calculations leading to and after the war in Ukraine.

First, Putin once stated something to the effect that being without sovereignty effectively reduces a country to the status of a colony. From this, Žižek promptly deduces that Putin seeks to colonize Ukraine. Naturally, Putin’s “imperial view” then also threatens with colonial bondage not only the Baltic states and Finland, but also, in a remarkable geographical leap, Bosnia, Kosovo and ultimately, Europe in its entirety. 

If that was not enough, according to Žižek an even more sinister Russian plot is afoot.

Russia is not simply indifferent to environmental concerns but seeks in fact to “profit from global warming.” Thus, it actively facilitates it in conjunction with its other nefarious plots to secure control of the Arctic passage transportation routes as the icecaps melt away. This—not the extension of NATO borders and military assets amassed directly next to Russian territory—is the real reason why, according to Žižek, Russia is “so mad at the Scandinavian countries when they expressed their intention to join [NATO].”

But there is more. Having seized the whole of Ukraine and “developed” a newly verdant Siberia, Russia “will dominate so much food production that it will be able to blackmail the whole world.” Presumably, as an old Mike Myers character might say, to extort from the helpless global community ... one million dollars.

We do not have any political sympathy for Putin and his regime. But we trust readers will recognize the cartoonish character of Žižek’s account, as well as the totally one-sided application of his fantastical geopolitical sensibilities.

After four months of war, Russia has already proven incapable of projecting its military force to decisively defeat a country resting on its immediate border. Its economy is in some respects a third world one, insofar as it is dependent on the primary resources it exports, such as gas and oil. As to the fact that, since the collapse of the USSR, NATO leapt 800 miles eastward by various means, that American imperialism has a finger and a military base in every pot, that it spends more on what it euphemistically calls its “defense” than the next 10 powers combined and significantly more than 10 times as Russia does ... there is not a word from Žižek about that. 

Žižek’s stab at geopolitical analysis may be unlikely to win anyone else over to the NATO cause, but the real money lies elsewhere. Žižek tries to provide a left-wing gloss to his war-cry by advancing the idea that a kinder, gentler NATO, and thus kinder and gentler NATO wars, could be possible if Europe were to play a more independent role in the alliance.

American imperialism is left largely untouched by Žižek’s fanciful critical scrutiny, certainly in its longstanding machinations in Ukraine and Eastern Europe more generally. His articles include two throwaway lines on Trump and an admission that George W. Bush committed crimes in Iraq as Putin is doing in Ukraine. Žižek, who supported Obama in 2008 and 2012, has unsurprisingly nothing to say about the provocations carried out by the Biden administration against Russia. However, American imperialism still serves as a generically “bad” counterpoint to “good” Europe.

According to Žižek, Europe has been “ignoring the brutal reality outside its borders,” and “now it’s the time to awaken,” lest “the European legacy will be lost.”

It is not the first time Žižek invokes Europe in this manner, to peddle the illusion that it does now or at least it could in the future represent both a less barbaric capitalism and a more humane foreign policy. 

Even Žižek’s vicious attacks against immigrant workers in Germany on the heels of the incidents in Cologne on New Years’ Eve of 2015, punctuated as they were with denunciations of the lower classes, demands for border controls, and the employment of military forces, still included the idea that, unlike the American model, “Europe’s capitalism ... has something to offer to the world.”

Žižek’s invocation of a progressive Europe is false. What is left of the old European social democracies after decades of austerity policies, often carried out by the old social democratic parties? Far from a continent slumbering in passive innocence and only about to be rudely awakened by Putin’s behavior, Europe is already a violent place, both domestically as well as standing guard at its borders. The recent massacre of dozens of refugees in the Spanish enclave of Melilla is one of myriad examples of this.

But what is even more false is Žižek’s notion that, whatever “leftist” political merits Europe might presently have, they can be preserved and enhanced by means of a renewed military commitment against Russia in Ukraine and through the institutional framework of NATO. 

Prompted by the conflict in Ukraine, Germany has already tripled its military spending and sent signals it intends to put those assets to use against Russia. What possible “progressive” outcome could this have? How could it not play into the hand of the most fascistic and aggressive layers of the bourgeoisie, not only in foreign policy, but domestically as well?

There is one last feature of Žižek’s argument that is worth examining: his statement of support for Julian Assange, and indeed a demand for his “immediate release.” This is found in Žižek’s more recent article, written on the day Assange’s extradition to the US was approved by the British government. 

Žižek makes this point while discussing George W. Bush’s recent slip of the tongue with respect to the Iraq War, and once more in the service of his attempt to rally support behind NATO. He claims that Bush’s crimes are “fully comparable with what Putin is doing in Ukraine.” In point of fact, they are not (See:“George W. Bush inadvertently tells the truth about the Iraq War”). He then notes that, since Assange exposed the same magnitude of war crimes, those who oppose the Russian invasion should also demand his release.

Žižek’s defense of Assange is empty and cynical posturing, inserted in a political argument calculated to strengthen the very forces that have been responsible for the hounding, jailing and torture of Assange. These include not just the United States, but also European powers like England and Sweden that Žižek demagogically extols to sow illusions that a better NATO is possible. 

The war in Ukraine has brought to the surface the fundamentally reactionary character of the theory and politics of the pseudo-left. This tendency palmed off a virulently irrationalist subjectivism as a variety of left thought. Indeed, they claimed to be great champions and innovators of Marxist thought. This intellectual charlatanry has been exposed most clearly in the person of Slavoj Žižek.








poor slavoj....




After a career in academic philosophy in the 1970s and 1980s, Slavoj Zizek began to write widely in English, publishing what many consider to be his masterpiece work, The Sublime Object Of Ideology. Once referred to as a "celebrity philosopher" by Foreign Policy magazine, Zizek is known for his chaotic delivery, stream of consciousness speech, and controversial rhetoric. Although he has previously identified as a communist, he said he would vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Zizek is currently the international director of the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities at the University of London. He spoke to Vazha Tavberidze from RFE/RL's Georgian Service.

RFE/RL: Before we talk about Ukraine and the war, I would like to ask you about Russia itself. Is Russia still an empire? Or a remnant of one? Or a country that would like to be one?

Slavoj Zizek: It's a very interesting question. I think it would like to be one, but I think, as it were, the "origin of evil" is also the way the West reacted to the disintegration of the Soviet Union. [By the way], I am totally anti-Putin. What I mean is that, in the 1990s, in the era of [Russian President Boris] Yeltsin…the implicit silent pact between Russia and the West was that Russia is formally recognized as a superpower on the condition that it doesn't really act as one. Like, we treat you as a great power, but let's face it, you are not one, and Putin then broke this rule.

I also think that the way the West influenced the Russian economy in the 1990s wasn't very constructive in [the midst of the] economic decay in the Yeltsin years. Economic decay, distrust in democracy, corruption -- [all] created the conditions for Putin. But to avoid any doubt, Putin is a global catastrophe. But we [the West] are not blameless there.

RFE/RL: Where do Russian imperial ambitions end? And what do they include? Is it the Soviet Union? Is it Russia from the time of Peter the Great? Where do we draw the line and the boundaries?

Zizek: As it is with all imperial powers, they probably themselves don't have a precise plan. They just try to push it on and on and on. In the case of Ukraine, they mentioned the Russian minority, but do you remember the short war in Georgia?

RFE/RL: I am Georgian, so I have to.

Zizek: Russia took the southern part of Ossetia [in the war]. But Ossetians are not a Russian minority.… Some people claim that all this big imperial rhetoric and all this idea of a Russian third way, all these fantasies of [Kremlin-connected far-right ideologue Aleksandr] Dugin, are just rhetoric and, in reality, Russia just wants to grab some land in Ukraine. I unfortunately don't believe in this. As a kind of leftist Marxist, I think that rhetoric is never just words. Ideology is a terrible material force; don’t underestimate it…. Oh, they are just talking…[but] what they are talking about is horrible. You know that Putin in one of his speeches included not just the Baltic states, but even Finland and, with some hints, even Sweden….

What worries me also is the situation in [Bosnia-Herzegovina] and northern Kosovo. As I pointed out in some of my texts, some Serbian politicians already talk Putin's language, claiming that Kosovo should also be denazified. And now the ideology is approaching madness. Did you notice that now they don't only talk about denazification, but already about de-Satanization? Putin was proclaimed chief exorcist not only of Ukraine but basically the entire Western Europe. And here things get really worrying for me.

Did you notice during the last visit of [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskiy to Washington, but already before, a strong resistance from the extreme right, some Trump supporters, and so on…. This deep solidarity of the Western new populist right with Putin. We should never forget -- although I am against any racist Eurocentrism -- that Europe is something unique today. And I'm saying this as a leftist, my God! A vision of a corporation of states in a global emergency situation based on basic social democratic values, even if there are conservatives in power, global health care, solidarity, free education, and so on. That's why, did you notice how Europe annoys everybody today? From Latin American leftists to the American right, to Russians, to third-world fake anti-colonizers and so on….

Now I will try to be as open as possible understanding the Russian view. Yes, there are some neofascist tendencies in Europe here and there. I know the situation in Ukraine very well and [neo-Nazism], it's marginal and so on. But I will draw a distinction here between fascism and Nazism. Fascism is horrible. But remember, regimes like [Italian dictator Benito] Mussolini till 1938, [Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira] Salazar, and [Spanish dictator Francisco] Franco. They were not this explosive, expensive fascism. They just tried to maintain order in their own land, while Nazism was something different. Hitler needed that war, constant tension and so on. So, I agree with the goal of denazification, but I think it should begin at home, in Russia. In Russia, they are dangerously approaching a new version of Nazism.

RFE/RL: Speaking of ideology, let me ask you this. When we talk about the imperial mindset, is it just Putin? Or is empire something ingrained in the Russian subconscious?

Zizek: It's a very interesting question. Many friends of Russia and admirers of Russian culture like to say, "Oh, this is just the present elite, Putin and so on. One shouldn't confuse this with Russian culture." I think it's always [been] more complex. One strand, one direction of Russian culture has this imperial ambition built in. For example -- and I know what I'm saying here because I think his danger is vastly underestimated but he's overestimated as a writer – [Fyodor] Dostoyevsky. Dostoevsky was, as far as I know, the first who formulated this idea of Russia as the eternal victim of Europe. Russia saved Europe from Napoleon first and so on.

Well, if we may engage in some crazy retroactive speculation, I think that if Napoleon were to win, with a miracle, and control Europe, maybe it would have been a much better Europe, incidentally…. OK, [it would be] absolutism, but more enlightened absolutism, based, nonetheless, on the values of the French Revolution, freedoms and so on.

So, we have this idea, which was the ultimate idea of the fascist third way. This idea [where] the Far East, Asia is totalitarian, the West is individualist, and Russia, Russian Orthodoxy, is the right way in the middle…. Only a united Eurasia can save us. I think that Eurasia is the Russian term for neofascism and it can even be empirically proven. The father of all of this is, as we all know but is not emphasized enough, Ivan Ilyn, a Russian political philosopher thrown out by Lenin.

Already then, in the 1920s, [when Ilyn] emigrated to Italy, then to Germany, he was sympathetic to fascism. But, very interestingly, he claimed that Western Europeans, they are already too marked by Western dynamics: industrial, individualist, even Nazism, fascism. [He thought that] only Russian Orthodoxy, with its unity of secular and spiritual power, can provide the original Russian fascism. I think that line is returning today….

RFE/RL: Russian exceptionalism?

Zizek: Yeah. But exceptionalism…in the sense that we are the exception that can provide the right balance between individualism and collectivism. This is an old fascist idea. Almost every power tries to present itself as somewhere in the middle. [According to] the idea of fascism, "we have communist totalitarianism, no private property, no freedom, and then we have Western liberalism [with] too much individualism. [But] we are in the middle, [we] fascists, [we] are the only real balanced power." I take these things very seriously….

What [is happening] today in the United States with Trumpian neoconservatives is that they are now also moving into this revolutionary phase. It will remain, I hope, a cultural civil war. But did you notice that recently Trump said in an interview that to return to true trust, democracy, [the cancellation of the] Biden election and so on, we are allowed even to violate the constitution, [to] delegitimize the entire system.

So, I think that the nightmare that I see, is a silent pact between Western alt-right neoconservatives, aggressive populists from France to England to Germany, [and] the United States and Russia. They have, they say, a vision of new sovereign state multiculturalism…. You remember when the Taliban won in Afghanistan (as the United States completed its troop withdrawal in 2021), the Taliban and China immediately made a pact, which brutally made sense: "We leave you alone to do whatever you want, terrorizing women, and so on. You leave us alone to do what we want with our own Muslims, Uyghurs, and so on."

This is the new world vision, and they even call it the new decentralization, multiculturalism, which means you can cut women's clitorises, be against LGBT, whatever you want. You do it there. We do it here, whatever we want. This is the new vision of sovereign neofascist states and the whole world is at least on one level moving in this direction….

Now, I will say something to provoke our listeners. Maybe even you. I think there is no ethnic cleansing and violence without poetry. I don't dismiss all poetry. But a certain poetry was always ready to justify a nationalist, racist, totalitarian regime. Let's look at [American poet] Ezra Pound, a great modernist. [He] was in Italy working for fascism during World War II. T.S. Eliot was also on the edge, not to mention my own country, Yugoslavia. It is deeply significant that Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, was a poet. But wait a minute, I'm not dismissing poetry. Poetry can be an authentic voice, but nonetheless, we should take now from today's experience with Russia a deeper look into the past and analyze the root of it all.

You know where I see one of the ideological roots?... Already in the late 1970s, [the KGB] clearly saw something: that Russia is losing [a] serious ideological war. That was the explosion of Western popular culture, rock music, and so on. So how to counter it?.... I remember they consciously began to build links with the Orthodox Church and Russian conservatives, which were, of course, till that point, oppressed. Because they knew that the only thing [that] could really oppose the…individualist, hedonist West was traditional Russian culture. This link, it's not just Putin and the patriarch, who is now the boss of the Russian Orthodox Church. This link has a deeper meaning. There is a pact between the darkest forces of the ex-KGB and a certain strand, again, in Russian Orthodox tradition.

RFE/RL: With all the points you have made, professor, I think the central point, the gist of the question, still remains unanswered. Because what I asked was, is it an ideology that is imposed by the Kremlin leadership? Or is it an ideology that is embraced by the nation? Because that leads us then to another question of collective guilt and the question of whose war is it that is now happening in Ukraine? Is it Russia's war or Putin's war? 

Zizek: Maybe I'm even too optimistic here. I would like to find, maybe…a middle way. First, don't underestimate, even among ordinary Russians, this idea that we were a great power, with the Soviet [Union] and all that. This is a popular trend. But I nonetheless think that…Russia is deeply divided. The majority is neutral, but neutral in a cynical way. It will happen in the same [way] as with Milosevic in Serbia. He lost power, not because of his terrible politics of ethnic cleansing, but because he lost the war. If Putin will succeed, this will make him genuinely more popular. If not, then of course, he will be proclaimed a dictator who misused Russia and so on.

So, I am not ready…to blame Russian people as such, to brand them totalitarian, fascist and so on. They are somewhere in between, as most people are, but their tradition, the Orthodox Church, is, I claim, dangerous.

There are tremendous achievements of Russian culture. For example, if you ask me, the three greatest writers of the 20th century, I think they are [Irish novelist and playwright] Samuel Beckett, not [Irish writer James] Joyce -- he's pretentious, Finnegans Wake? Who wants to read that? -- [German-speaking Bohemian novelist] Franz Kafka, and [Soviet writer] Andrei Platonov. [Platonov was] a faithful communist -- he was fighting for the Red Army. But in his[novel], The Foundation Pit, they dig a big hole for a new socialist building, [and] all that remains is a hole. It's so fascinating [that] even before Stalinism, he saw the nihilistic dimension of the Bolshevik project.

So, as every culture, Russian culture is deeply divided. The struggle is going on, which is where I don't agree with my Ukrainian friends when they say let's boycott Russian culture as such, and so on and so on. Aren't we leaving them to Putin, by allowing him to present himself as the inheritor of Russian culture?…. So, Russia is in deep conflict with itself. That would be my answer…. We simply cannot say [whether] they are terrorizing the majority or [if it] has some roots also in the broad mass of people.

RFE/RL: You did say that the relationship of the Russian people with Putin will depend on whether he wins this war or not. And there's another particular interesting quote of yours. You swipe against those who advocate that the West should not support Ukraine, and they should put more pressure to negotiate -- their reasoning is that Ukraine simply cannot win a war against Russia. And then to my surprise, when you write about this, you do agree with that assessment. You say: "true, but I see this exactly as the greatness of the Ukrainian resistance. They risked the impossible, defying pragmatic calculations, and the least we owe them is full support." Now if you don't think Ukraine can win this, then how far does this assistance and support go? 

Zizek: No, I wasn't precise enough there. [Ukraine] cannot win without very strong Western help. That's what I meant. My pessimistic assessment. Do you remember the beginning of the war? Although we nominally supported Ukraine, secretly, so many people from the left and the right admitted to me that the bad surprise was that Ukraine defended itself. They wanted the war to be over quickly. Because then, yeah, we will condemn Russia. After a couple of years of playing this boycott game, we will accept a new reality and so on and so on.

I think that at the deepest subconscious level, this was the bad surprise for us -- not the attack, but the Ukrainian will to resist…. Instead of being afraid of this -- my God, will they push Russia too far? -- shouldn't we, especially the leftists, be glad of this? This is one of the few examples [of] authentic popular resistance -- they did the impossible, every leftist should be glad. And I don't get my leftist friends who nonetheless perceive Russia as some kind of successor of the Soviet Union.

RFE/RL: That was exactly the question I was going to ask you next. What's the root of this fascination with Russia, or let's call it obsession, of the leftists in the West, including very prominent thinkers like Noam Chomsky or Jeffrey Sachs. What's the root of this fascination with Russia, even Putin's Russia? 

Zizek: I read a recent statement by Sahra Wagenknecht, the German leftist [parliamentary deputy] of Die Linke (The Left party), and she quite openly says: Why should we lose energy, money, and so on, putting ourselves in danger, fighting for some war far away…endangering our welfare, the welfare, as she puts it, of our working people?

So here, her idea is basically: Let Ukraine perish so that we don't have to pay higher prices for electricity or whatever. And this is pure egotism. Beneath there is still deep distrust of -- more than the United States – NATO. The dogma of the left is, whoever you are, no matter how brutal the dictatorship, if NATO is against you, there must be ultimately something not totally bad in you. NATO is the automatic opponent. And I find all this reasoning so stupid….

This is exactly the abstract pacifism that German propaganda was playing on in Europe just before World War II -- they [called] it…anti-imperialism. French, English, American imperialism tries to dominate Europe, we will provide Europe [with] autonomy, we will save Europe and so on and so on. And the paradox is that Chomsky, who proclaims himself politically an anarchist, ended up not supporting Russia. The popular term today is "understanding Russia."

And what de facto happens is…while still helping Ukraine hopefully, we are putting pressure on Ukraine, [saying] don't provoke Russia too much. What I find so sad here is that the pacifists are not even ready to admit one thing – now, the pacificists say, the front is more or less stabilized, let's push for peace negotiations, give Russia part of Ukraine. But are these pacifists aware that we arrived at this stage of relative stabilization of the front precisely because of the immense Western help in Ukraine?....

That's the paradox that they are not ready to accept, that the Western intervention [has] opened up the chance for peace. Without Western intervention helping Ukraine, [the country] would probably be occupied and then you can probably go on, to Moldova, the Baltic states, pressure on Finland and so on and so on.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Vazha Tavberidze is a staff writer with RFE/RL's Georgian Service. As a journalist and political analyst, he has covered issues of international security, post-Soviet conflicts, and Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations. His writing has been published in various Georgian and international media outlets, including The Times, The Spectator, The Daily Beast, and IWPR.




"I am totally anti-Putin. What I mean is that, in the 1990s, in the era of [Russian President Boris] Yeltsin…the implicit silent pact between Russia and the West was that Russia is formally recognized as a superpower on the condition that it doesn't really act as one. Like, we treat you as a great power, but let's face it, you are not one, and Putin then broke this rule..."



Is Russia still an empire? Or a remnant of one? Or a country that would like to be one?







the heartland explained...


The US Grand Strategy and the Eurasian Heartland in the Twenty-First Century


Pages 26-46 | Published online: 21 Feb 2009



BY Emre İşeri 


From an offensive realist theoretical approach, this paper assumes that great powers are always looking for opportunities to attain more power in order to feel more secure. This outlook has led me to assert that the main objective of the US grand strategy in the twenty-first century is primacy or global hegemony. I have considered the US grand strategy as a combination of wartime and peacetime strategies and argued that the Caspian region and its hinterland, where I call the Eurasian Heartland, to use the term of Sir Halford Mackinder, has several geo-strategic dimensions beyond its wide-rich non-OPEC untapped hydro-carbon reserves, particularly in Kazakhstan. For my purposes, I have relied on both wartime strategy (US-led Iraq war) and peacetime strategy of supporting costly Baku-Tbilis-Ceyhan (BTC) to integrate regional untapped oil reserves, in particular Kazakh, into the US-controlled energy market to a great extent. This pipeline's contribution to the US grand strategy is assessed in relation to potential Eurasian challengers, Russia and China. The article concludes with an evaluation of the prospects of the US grand strategy in the twenty-first century.




From an offensive realist theoretical approach, this paper assumes that great powers, for my purposes the US, are always looking for opportunities to attain more power in order to feel more secure. In other words, great powers have a natural inclination to maximise their power. One of the main reasons for this analytical footing is based on my observation that this theory has a great deal of explanatory power for understanding US foreign policy in the post-9/11 period. This outlook has led me to assert that the main objective of US grand strategy is primacy or global hegemony.

Even though the region surrounding the Caspian Sea, where I call the Eurasian Heartland 1 , is not a target of the ‘war on terror’, political control of this region's hydrocarbon resources and their transportation routes has several geo-strategic dimensions beyond energy considerations. From the perspective of US policy-making elites 2 , the Caspian region's geo-strategic dimensions for the United States are not restricted to energy security issues; they have implications for the grand strategy of the United States in the twenty-first century. In that regard, the US not only aims to politically control regional energy resources, in particular Kazakh oil, but also check potential challengers to its grand strategy such as China and Russia. One should note that analysis of grand strategies of those states is beyond the scope of this article, therefore, they are treated as potential challengers, rather than great powers, and their positions in the Caspian energy game has been elaborated in that sense.

In the first part of the paper, I will talk about my offensive realist theoretical approach. In addition to its assumptions, its limitations will be noted. In the second part, I will define the concept of grand strategy as the combination of wartime and peacetime strategies and analyse US grand strategy in the twenty-first century in that respect. In the third part, geo-strategic dimensions of the Eurasian Heartland for the US grand strategy will be analysed in relation to Eurasian challengers. The significance of politically controlling Kazakh oil resources will also be underlined. In the fourth part, Russia's interests and policies on Caspian hydro-carbon resources will be analysed in relation to US interests. In the fifth part, China's energy needs and its Caspian pipeline politics will be analysed in relation to US-controlled international oil markets. It will be concluded by indicating the significance of ensuring stability of the international oil markets for the success of US grand strategy in the twenty-first century.



The offensive realist point of view contends that the ultimate goal of states is to achieve a hegemonic position in the international order. Hence, offensive realism claims that states always look for opportunities to gain more power in order to gain more security for an uncertain future. Until and unless they become the global hegemon, their search for increased power will continue. Offensive realism has been based on five assumptions: (1) The system is anarchic; (2) All great powers have some offensive military capabilities; (3) States can never be certain about other states' intentions; (4) States seek to survive; and (5) Great powers are rational actors or strategic calculators.

My approach is closer to the offensive realist position mainly because of my supposition that, particularly after September 11, US behaviour conforms to the prognostications of offensive realist arguments. With the rhetoric of the ‘war on terror,’ the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were apparent products of an offensive realist objective, namely to underpin the United States' sole super power status in the post−Cold War global order.

I assume that there is a direct link between the survival instincts of great powers and their aggressive behaviour. In that regard, we agree with Mearsheimer that “Great powers behave aggressively not because they want to or because they possess some inner drive to dominate, but because they have to seek more power if they maximize their odds of survival.” 3

One should be aware, however, that this power maximisation strategy has some limits. Structural limitations prevent states from expanding their hegemony to the entire globe. Hence, it is nearly impossible in today's world to become a true global hegemon. In order to make our point more tangible, we need to first take a look at the meaning of hegemon in relation to great powers: 

A hegemon is a state that is so powerful that it dominates all other states in the system. No other state has the military wherewithal to put up a serious fight against it. In essence, a hegemon is the only great power in the system. A state that is substantially more powerful than the other great powers in the system is not a hegemon, because it faces, by definition, other great powers. 4


Pragmatically, it is nearly impossible for a great power to achieve global hegemony because there will always be competing great powers that have the potential to be the regional hegemon in a distinct geographical region. Clearly, geographical distance makes it more difficult for the potential global hegemon to exert its power on potential regional hegemons in other parts of the world. On the one hand, the ‘global hegemon’ must dominate the whole world. On the other hand, the ‘regional hegemon’ only dominates a distinct geographical area, a much easier task for a great power. For instance, the United States has been the regional hegemon in the Western hemisphere for about a century, but it has never become a true global hegemon because there have always been great powers in the Eastern hemisphere, such as Russia and China, which have potential to be regional hegemons in their geographical are. Since US policy-making elites have acknowledged that ‘stopping power of sea’ 5 restricts the US from projecting a sufficient amount of power in the distinct continent of Eurasia to become the global hegemon, they have been preparing their strategies to prevent emergence of regional hegemonies that have potential to challenge US grand strategy.



Paul Kennedy's definition of ‘grand strategy’ that includes both wartime and peacetime objectives: “A true grand strategy was now to do with peace as much as (perhaps even more than) war. It was about the evolution and integration of policies that should operate for decades, or even for centuries. It did not cease at a war's end, nor commence at its beginning.” 6 Put simply, grand strategy is the synthesis of wartime and peacetime strategies. Even though they are separate, they interweave in many ways to serve the grand strategy.

Since the United States, which is the hegemonic power of capitalist core countries, has dominance over the global production structure, it is in its best interest to expand the global market for goods and services. For instance, free trade arrangements usually force developing (i.e., “third-world”) countries to export their raw materials without transforming them into completed products that can be sold in developed markets. Therefore, the global free market has long been the most viable strategy for acquiring raw materials in the eyes of the US policy-making elites. This is what Andrew J. Bacevich refers to when he talks about the US policy of imposing an ‘open world’ or ‘free world’ possessed with the knowledge and confidence that “technology endows the United States with a privileged position in that order, and the expectation that American military might will preserve order and enforce the rules.” 7 In other words, the principal interest of the US is the establishment of a secure global order in a context that enables the US-controlled capitalist modes of production to flourish throughout the globe without any obstacles or interruptions. This is also simply the case for the openness of oil trade. “In oil, as more generally, the forward deployment of military power to guarantee the general openness of international markets to the mutual benefit of all leading capitalist states remains at the core of US hegemony. An attempt to break this pattern, carve out protected spaces for the US economy and firms against other ‘national’ or ‘regional’ economies would undercut American leadership.” 8 Since the US imports energy resources from international energy markets, any serious threat to these markets is a clear threat to the interests of the United States. As Leon Fuerth indicates, “The grand strategy of the United States requires that it never lose the ability to respond effectively to any such threat.” 9

With the end of the presidency of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush took office in January 2001. People with backgrounds and experience in the oil industry dominated his cabinet's inner circle. Vice President Dick Cheney had served as the chief executive of the world's leading geophysics and oil services company, Halliburton, Inc. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice (who later became the US Secretary of State) had served on the board of Chevron Corporation. As a Texan, George W. Bush himself had far-reaching oil experience, and Commerce Secretary Don Evans had served 16 years as the CEO of Tom Brown Inc., a large, independent energy company now based in Denver, after working for 10 years on its oil rigs. As William Engdahl has succinctly explained, “In short, the Bush administration which took office in January 2001, was steeped in oil and energy issues as no administration in recent US history had been. Oil and geopolitics were back at center stage in Washington.” 10

In the early days of the Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney was assigned the task of carrying out a comprehensive review of US energy policy. He presented the result, known as the National Energy Policy Report (NEPR) of May 2001, 11 to President Bush with the recommendation that energy security should immediately be made a priority of US foreign policy. In the NEPR, the growing dependency of the United States on oil imports for its energy needs was emphasised, and this was characterised as a significant problem. The National Energy Policy Report read, in part, “On our present course, America 20 years from now will import nearly two of every three barrels of oil – a condition of increased dependency on foreign powers that do not always have America's interests at heart.” 12 In other words, as William Engdahl sardonically observed, “A national government in control of its own ideas of national development might not share the agenda of ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco or Dick Cheney.”13 In 2010, the United States will need an additional 50 million barrels of oil a day, 90 percent of which will be imported and thus under the control of foreign governments and foreign national oil companies. Therefore, given its strategic importance for a country's economy, it can be plausibly argued that oil (including its price, its flow, and its security) is more of a governmental matter than a private one. Despite the area's political and economic instabilities, the Middle East's untapped oil reserves are still the cheapest source of oil in the world; furthermore, they amount to two thirds of the world's remaining oil resources.

Thus, governmental intervention by the United States was required to secure the supply of Middle East oil to world markets. William Engdahl correctly notes that “with undeveloped oil reserves perhaps even larger than those of Saudi Arabia, Iraq had become an object of intense interest to Cheney and the Bush administration very early on.” 14 Iraq's authoritarian regime under Saddam Hussein was pursuing the idea of ‘national development,’ according to which state institutions would have full control over the extraction, production, and sale of oil. According to Michael Hirsh, “State control guarantees less efficiency in the exploration for oil, and in the extraction and refinement of fuel. Further, these state-owned companies do not divulge how much they really own, or what the production and exploration numbers are. These have become the new state secrets.” 15 From the perspective of US policy-making elites, the Iraqi oil reserves were too large and too valuable to be left to the control of Iraqi state-owned companies, hence, a regime change in Iraq was required.

“Several slogans have been offered to justify the Iraq War, but certainly one of the most peculiar is the idea proffered by Stanley Kurtz, Max Boot, and other neoconservative commentators who advocate military action and regime change as a part of their bold plan for democratic imperialism.” 16 [Emphasis added.] However, it is dubious to what extent this neoconservative plan serves the purposes of American grand strategy. George Kennan, former head of policy planning in the US State Department, is often regarded as one of the key architects of US grand strategy in the post-war period. His candid advice to US leadership should be noted: 

We have about 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We should cease to talk about vague and unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better. 17 [Emphasis added.]


As Clark observes, “While the US has largely been able to avoid ‘straight power concepts’ for five decades, it has now become the only vehicle for which it can maintain its dominance. Indeed, Kennan's term ‘straight power’ is the appropriate description of current US geopolitical unilateralism.” 18 Thus, the US's unilateral aggressive foreign policy in the post-9/11 period has led me to argue that the ultimate objective of US grand strategy is ‘primacy’ among competing visions 19 and what I understand from primacy is global hegemony or leadership. This aggressive strategy of the US to expand its hegemony to the globe was outlined in The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, published by the Bush Administration in September 2002, and it has come to be publicly known as the Bush Doctrine to form ‘coalitions of the willing’ under US leadership.

The United States has long maintained the option of pre-emptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security … the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as the time and place of the enemy's attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively. 20

Those elements of the doctrine that scholars and analysts associated with empire-like tendencies were on full display in the build-up to the unilateral invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003.

As Pepe Escobar notes, “The lexicon of the Bush doctrine of unilateral world domination is laid out in detail by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), founded in Washington in 1997. The ideological, political, economic and military fundamentals of American foreign policy – and uncontested world hegemony – for the 21st century are there for all to see.” 21 The official credo of PNAC is to convene “the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests”. 22 The origin of PNAC can be traced to a controversial defence policy paper drafted in February 1992 by then Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and later softened by Vice President Dick Cheney which states that the US must be sure of “deterring any potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role” 23 without mentioning the European Union, Russia, and China. Nevertheless, the document Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century 24 released by PNAC gives a better understanding of the Bush administration's unilateral aggressive foreign policy and “this manifesto revolved around a geostrategy of US dominance – stating that no other nations will be allowed to ‘challenge’ US hegemony”. 25

From this perspective, it can be assumed that American wartime (the US-led wars in Afghanistan 26 , and Iraq) and peacetime (political support for costly Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project) strategies all serve the US grand strategy in the twenty-first century. A careful eye will detect that all of these strategies have a common purpose of enhancing American political control over the Eurasian landmass and its hydrocarbon resources. As Fouskas and Gökay have observed,

As the only superpower remaining after the dismantling of the Soviet bloc, the United States is inserting itself into the strategic regions of Eurasia and anchoring US geopolitical influence in these areas to prevent all real and potential competitions from challenging its global hegemony. The ultimate goal of US strategy is to establish new spheres of influence and hence achieve a much firmer system of security and control that can eliminate any obstacles that stand in the way of protecting its imperial power. The intensified drive to use US military dominance to fortify and expand Washington's political and economic power over much of the world has required the reintegration of the post-Soviet space into the US-controlled world economy. The vast oil and natural gas resources of Eurasia are the fuel that is feeding this powerful drive, which may lead to new military operations by the United States and its allies against local opponents as well as major regional powers such as China and Russia. 27

At this point the question arises, what is the geo-strategic dimensions of the Eurasian Heartland and its energy resources for the US grand strategy in the twenty-first century?



The Heartland Theory is probably the best-known geopolitical model that stresses the supremacy of land-based power to sea-based power. Sir Halford Mackinder, who was one of the most prominent geographers of his era, first articulated this theory with respect to ‘The Geographic Pivot of History’ in 1904, and it was later redefined in his paper entitled, Democratic Ideals and Reality(1919), in which “pivotal area” became “the Heartland.” According to Mackinder, the pivotal area or the Heartland is roughly Central Asia, from where horsemen spread out toward and dominated both the Asian and the European continents. While developing his ideas, Mackinder's main concern was to warn his compatriots about the declining naval power of the United Kingdom, which had been the dominant naval power since the age of the revolutionary maritime discoveries of the fifteenth century. He proceeded to expand on the possibility of consolidated land-based power that could allow a nation to control the Eurasian landmass between Germany and Central Siberia. If well served and supported by industry and by modern means of communication, a consolidated land power controlling the Heartland could exploit the region's rich natural resources and eventually ascend to global hegemony. Mackinder summed up his ideas with the following words: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland: Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island (Europe, Arab Peninsula, Africa, South and East Asia), who rules the World-Island commands the World.” 28

The Heartland Theory provided the intellectual ground for the US Cold War foreign policy. Nicholas Spykman was among the most influential American political scientists in the 1940s. Spykman's Rimlands thesis was developed on the basis of Mackinder's Heartland concept. In contrast to Mackinder's emphasis on the Eurasian Heartland, Spykman offered the Rimlands of Eurasia – that is, Western Europe, the Pacific Rim and the Middle East. According to him, whoever controlled these regions would contain any emerging Heartland power. “Spykman was not the author of containment policy, that is credited to George Kennan, but Spykman's book, based on the Heartland thesis, helped prepare the US public for a post war world in which the Soviet Union would be restrained on the flanks.” 29 Hence, the US policy of containing the USSR dominated global geopolitics during the Cold War era under the guidance of ideas and theories first developed by Mackinder. In the 1988 edition of the annual report on US geopolitical and military policy entitled, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, President Reagan summarised US foreign policy in the Cold War era with these words: 

The first historical dimension of our strategy … is the conviction that the United States' most basic national security interests would be endangered if a hostile state or group of states were to dominate the Eurasian landmass – that part of the globe often referred to as the world's heartland … since 1945, we have sought to prevent the Soviet Union from capitalizing on its geostrategic advantage to dominate its neighbours in Western Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and thereby fundamentally alter the global balance of power to our disadvantage. 30


From Reagan's assessment of US foreign policy during the Cold War, with its emphasis on the significance of the Eurasian landmass, we can draw some inferences about US policy in the post-Cold War era, albeit with a slight twist. During the Cold War era, it was the USSR that the United States had endeavoured to contain, but now it is China and to a lesser extent Russia. And, once again, the Eurasian landmass is the central focus of US policy-making elites.

The imprint of Mackinder on US foreign policy has also continued in the aftermath of the demise of the geopolitical pivot, the USSR. “Mackinder's ideas influenced the post-Cold War thesis – developed by prominent American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski – which called for the maintenance of ‘geopolitical pluralism’ in the post-Soviet space. This concept has served as the corner-stone of both the Clinton and Bush administration's policies towards the newly independent states of Central Eurasia.” 31

Extrapolating from Mackinder's Heartland theory, I consider the Caspian region and its surrounding area to be the Eurasian Heartland. In addition to its widespread and rich energy resources, the region's land-locked central positioning at the crossroads of the energy supply routes in the Eurasian landmass have caused it to receive a lot of attention from scholars and political strategists in recent times. Until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, this region had been closed to interaction with the outside world, and therefore, to external interference. Since then, the huge natural resources of the region have opened it up to the influence of foreign powers, and the Caspian region has therefore become the focal point of strategic rivalries once again in history. This has led several scholars and journalists to call this struggle to acquire Caspian hydrocarbon resources the ‘New Great Game,’ 32 in reference to the quests of the Russian and British empires for dominance over the region in the nineteenth century.

Without a doubt, the growing global demand for energy has fostered strategic rivalries in the Caspian region. Oil's status as a vital strategic commodity has led various powerful states to use this vital resource and its supply to the world markets as a means to achieve their objectives in global politics. For our purposes, I shall focus on the geo-strategic interest of the United States in the Caspian region.

The United States, which politically controls the Gulf oil to a great extent, is not actually energy-dependent on oil from the Caspian region. Hence, US interests in the Caspian region go beyond the country's domestic energy needs. The political objective of the US government is to prevent energy transport unification among the industrial zones of Japan, Korea, China, Russia, and the EU in the Eurasian landmass and ensure the flow of regional energy resources to US-led international oil markets without any interruptions. A National Security Strategy document in 1998 clearly indicates the significance of regional stability and transportation of its energy resources to international markets. “A stable and prosperous Caucasus and Central Asia will help promote stability and security from the Mediterranean to China and facilitate rapid development and transport to international markets of the large Caspian oil and gas resources, with substantial U.S. commercial participation.” 33

In line with the acknowledgement of the increasing importance of the Caspian region, Silk Road Strategy Act 34 has put forward the main features of the US's policies towards Central Asia and the Caucasus. As Çağrı Erhan asserts, Silk Road Strategy Act has been grounded on the axis of favouring economic interests of the US and American entrepreneurs and this main line is supplemented with several components such as ensuring democracy and supporting human rights that conform to an American definition of globalisation. 35 As a matter fact, a 1999 National Security Strategy Paper emphasised economic issues and referred to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline Project Agreement and Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline Declaration on November 19, 1999.

We are focusing particular attention on investment in Caspian energy resources and their export from the Caucasus region to world markets, thereby expanding and diversifying world energy supplies and promoting prosperity in the region. A stable and prosperous Caucasus and Central Asia will facilitate rapid development and transport to international markets of the large Caspian oil and gas resources, with substantial U.S. commercial participation. 36

In that context, the US finds it necessary to establish control over energy resources and their transportation routes in the Eurasian landmass. Therefore, from the US's point of view, the dependence of the Eurasian industrial economies on the security umbrella provided by the United States should be sustained. To put it clearly, US objectives and policies in the wider Caspian region are part of a larger “grand strategy” to underpin and strengthen its regional hegemony and thereby become the global hegemon in the twenty-first century.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security advisor to President Jimmy Carter, has repeatedly emphasised the geo-strategic importance of the Eurasia region. He claimed that the United States' primary objective should be the protection of its hegemonic superpower position in the twenty-first century. In order to achieve this goal, the United States must maintain its hegemonic position in the balance of power prevailing in the Eurasia region. He underscored the vital geo-strategic importance of the Eurasian landmass for the United States in his 1997 book entitled, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives

Eurasia is the world's axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world's three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa. With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical chessboard, it no longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe and another for Asia. What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy and historical legacy. 37


Therefore, Brzezinski called for the implementation of a coordinated US drive to dominate both the eastern and western rimlands of Eurasia. Hence, he asserts that American foreign policy should be concerned, first and foremost, with the geo-strategic dimensions of Eurasia and employ its considerable clout and influence in the region. In that regard, Peter Gowan summarises the task of the US grand strategy in the twenty-first century with these words,

US Grand Strategy had the task of achieving nothing less than the shaping of new political and economic arrangements and linkages across the whole Eurasia. The goal was to ensure that every single major political centre in Eurasia understood that its relationship with the United States was more important than its relationship with any other political centre in Eurasia. If that could be achieved, each such centre would be attached separately by a spoke to the American hub: primacy would be secured. 38

In order to accomplish that task, the US has the requirement to politically control Eurasian energy resources, in particular oil.

Since the invention of Large Independent Mobile Machines (LIMMs) such as cars, planes and tractors, they have incrementally begun to shape our lives in many ways. LIMMs enable us to do what we do, they make us have jobs, they make the water flow, and they make supermarkets full of food. To put it simply, LIMMs have become the main elements of international economic activities. “For a society in which LIMMs play a central role no other energy resource is efficient as oil. It is compact and easy to use, in its natural state it is located in highly concentrated reservoirs, and it can be transformed into a usable energy product rapidly, cheaply and safely.” 39 To put it simply, oil is the lifeblood of modern economies and the US relies on the international energy market to ensure its security.

As Amineh and Houweling observe, “Oil and gas are not just commodities traded on international markets. Control over territory and its resources are strategic assets.” 40 This is particularly the case for the Caspian region, which is located at the centre of the Eurasian Heartland, and whose potential hydro-carbon resources has made it a playground for strategic rivalries throughout the twentieth century, and will likely continue to do so in the twenty-first century. As the Washington-based energy consultant, Julia Nanay, has observed, “New oil is being found in Mexico, Venezuela, West Africa and other places, but it isn't getting the same attention, because you don't have these huge strategic rivalries. There is no other place in the world where so many people and countries and companies are competing.” 41

The demise of the USSR marked the emergence of the Caspian region as a new energy producer. Until that time, the importance of the region as an energy source had not been appreciated with the exception of Baku, which enjoyed an oil boom for a few decades in the late nineteenth century. Even though there are disagreements on the extent and quantity of potential energy resources in the region, and thus on its geo-strategic significance, a consensus does exist on the fact that the region's economically feasible resources would make a significant contribution to the amount of energy resources available to world energy markets. The principal reason for this consensus emerges from Kazakhstan's rich oil reserves at the age of volatile high oil prices.

With its geopolitical positioning at the heart of Central Asia, Kazakhstan is one of the largest countries in Eurasia. It is sharing borders with two potential Eurasian great powers Russia and China. Apart from its significant geopolitical location, Kazakhstan has massive untapped oil fields in Kashagan (the largest oil discovery in the past 27 years) and Tengiz (discovered in 1979 to be comparable in size to the former), with its little domestic consumption and growing export capacity. “Its prospects for increasing oil production in the 2010–20 time frame are impressive, given the recognized potential offshore in the North Caspian. Production estimates for 2010 range upward of 1.6 mmbpd, and by 2002 Kazakhstan could be producing 3.6 mmbpd.” 42

Kazakhstan views the development of its hydrocarbon resources as a cornerstone to its economic prosperity. However, Kazakhstan is land-locked. In other words, Kazakhstan cannot ship its oil resources. Therefore, it is required to transport its oil through pipelines, which would cross multiple international boundaries. Thus, “one thing that is now confusing to foreign oil company producers in Kazakhstan is the ultimate US strategy there with regard to exit routes. If the goal is to have multiple pipelines bypassing Russia and Iran, any policy that would encourage additional oil shipments from the Caspian across Russia, beyond what an expanded CPC can carry and existing Transneft option, works against the multi-pipeline strategy and further solidifies Kazakh-Russia dependence.” 43 In addition to Russia, China also considers Kazakh oil resources as vital to its energy security as elaborated below.

“Therefore, the countries of Central Asian region represent a chess board, harkening back to Brzezinski's imagery, where geopolitical games are conducted by great powers, mainly the United States, Russia, and China. And Kazakhstan is at the center of this game.” 44 Hence, Kazakhstan has become the focal point of strategic rivalries in twenty-first century.

Since Kazakhstan's untapped oil reserves at the Eurasian Heartland have great potential to underpin stability of US controlled international energy market, these resources play a viable role for the US grand strategy. For the stability of a worldwide market space, Kazakh oil development and its flow to the international energy market, just like Iraqi oil, plays a viable role. In that regard, it is not a surprise to acknowledge that George W. Bush created the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPD) commonly known as the Cheney Energy Task Force's report on May 2001, 45 which recommends initiatives that would pave the way for Kazak oil development. US Senator Conrad Burns indicates, “Kazakh oil can save the United States from energy crisis” and avert the US's long dependence on Middle East oil. 46 He also argues that Caspian oil could be very important both for strengthening world energy stability and providing international security by noting the importance of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project for the export of Kazakh oil. Hence, Kazakhstan could become a major supplier of oil in the international energy market, whereby it would alleviate the disastrous consequences of coming global peak oil to the US.

The non-OPEC character of Kazakh oil is also a fringe benefit to the US`s interests in diversifying the world`s supply of oil in order to underpin stability of its internal oil market. “Non-OPEC supplies serve as a market baseload, consistently delivering the full level of production of which those resources are capable. Clearly, diversifying and increasing these non-OPEC sources provides a more secure core of supplies for the United States and other consumers to rely upon.” 47 Thus, “the question is not OPEC versus non-OPEC. Rather, the issue to address is how to continue encouraging non-OPEC supply growth and diversity, preferably with the involvement of international oil companies (or IOCs, including US oil companies).” 48 Hence, non-OPEC Kazakh oil development and its secure flow to Western markets would enhance stability of the international energy market.

One should also note that US interests in Kazakh oil development and this secure export is not restricted to oil. It also provides political leverage to the US in the Eurasian landmass. The flow of landlocked Kazakh oil to the international energy market though BTC would not only bypass Russia and Iran`s influence in the region, but also shift Kazakhstan's security orientation towards the US and would open the channels of cooperation in the war on terror. Thus, joining Kazakh wide, rich oil reserves to the BTC will accelerate this pipelines' geo-strategic importance. Hence, BTC`s fringe benefit to the US will be “to project power into the Caspian/Central Asian arena in order to check Russian, Chinese and Islamist influences (Iran in particular).” 49

In that regard, rivalry over regional energy resources and their export routes are only a part of a multi-dimensional strategic game to politically control the Eurasian landmass. “Although new strategic developments might determine the choice, but the export options for Caspian oil in 2020 remain the same: the old North to Russia, South to Iran, West to South Caucasus and Turkey, East to China, or Southeast to India.” 50 For our purposes, we will analyse Russian, Chinese and European interests in Caspian hydrocarbon resources.



Russia has been playing an important role in the Caspian region. It has a significant influence in the region as the largest trading partner for each newly independent state, and the principal export route for regional energy resources. Thus, analysis of Caspian energy and its development should take Russian policy dimension into consideration.

“Russian policy toward the development of the energy resources of the Caspian Basin is a complex subject for analysis because it nests within several broader sets of policy concerns.” 51 These policy concerns could be classified under three dimensions: First, Russia's relations with the US, which has been actively pursuing its interests in the region. Second, Russia's relations with former Soviet states or its so-called ‘near abroad’. Third, Russian policy toward its own domestic sector should be considered.

Before analysing Russian policy on Caspian energy resources, one should take a closer look at her monopoly over existing pipeline routes. Russia had provided the only transportation link through Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline and most of the rail transportation from the region until the opening of an ‘early oil’ pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan to Supsa, Georgia in April 1999. Currently, the Russian route is the most viable option for Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to export their oil reserves to the world markets. With the completion of the Chechen bypass pipeline, Azerbaijan commenced exporting its oil reserves through Russian territory in the second half of 2000. Moreover, completion of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) pipeline has led to the flow of Kazakh oil exports from the Tengiz oilfield to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk. Russia has been developing its own oil fields and expanding its existing pipeline system in the Caspian region. State owned oil company Lukoil, gas company Gazprom, and pipeline network operator Transneft were the principal tools at the hands of Russian diplomats. In June 2002, conclusion of a wide range of agreements with Kazakhstan marked a decisive victory for Russia over Kazak oil export channels. As indicated below, this set of agreements also opened the way for Kazakhstan to link its oil resources to the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. Meanwhile, Russians have been looking for ways to increase their Caspian oil exports. In that regard, Moscow has ambitious plans to increase the total capacity of its pipeline network around the Caspian.

To make it straight, Moscow considers maintaining its monopoly over the flow of Caspian energy resources would lead Russia not only to gain political leverage over European countries with ever-increasing energy needs, but also regain its political dominance over the newly independent countries. In that regard, not only American physical presence but also US-origin oil companies' investments at the ‘back garden’ of Russia are perceived as a vital threat to Russian national security. This is simply the case for the US-sponsored Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project. “The Russian government has always understood that this pipeline was part of the broader US strategy to cut all links with Moscow among the former Soviet states in the Caucasus, building a new economic infrastructure that would dissuade the Caucasus group from ever renewing these ties.” 52

Moscow anticipates that sooner or later the US will project Turkey as a regional energy hub for the export of hydrocarbon resources of the Middle East and Central Asia to Europe. Therefore, the US has supported an East-West energy corridor and pushed forward several pipeline projects bypassing Russia such as BTC, BTE, and NABUCCO. Moscow perceives the US's insistence on an East-West energy corridor as a strategy to isolate Russia strategically from the EU. At the end of the day, Russia graphed its famous energy weapon and developed an energy strategy to break this process. Thus, Russia has been pushing ahead the trans-Balkan project known as the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline. The pipeline will be 280 kilometres long and carry oil from the Bulgarian port of Burgas on the Black Sea to Greece's Alexandroupolis on the Aegean. The $1 billion project has significant geo-political implications that go beyond exporting Caspian region hydrocarbon resources to Europe. First, the Russian project will undermine the US attempt to dictate the primacy of the BTC as the main Caspian export pipeline to Western markets. Second, Russia considers the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline as an extension of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) that already connects the oilfields in western Kazakhstan with the oil terminal at Novorossiisk . Thus, Kazakhstan will continue to depend on Russia to export the bulk of its oil to the Western market, even if BTC will be linked to Astana. Finally, the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline will lessen the amount of Caspian oil required to be exported through the Odessa-Brody pipeline in Ukraine. Through the Odessa-Brody pipeline, Poland and Ukraine had been expecting to have direct access to the Caspian oil reserves; however, it looks like their hopes to bypass Russia will not be realised. Thus, Moscow has revealed to Washington that it will not let Ukraine gravitate towards the US orbit.

According to M. K. Bhadrakumar, former Indian ambassador to Turkey, “A spectacular chapter in the Great Game seems to be nearing its epitaph.” 53 In that regard, Russia's influence over Kazakhstan has been enhanced with the signing of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline project on March 15, 2007 contrary to Western media reports speculating on Russia's declining influence on Kazakhstan.

Besides its pipeline initiatives, Russia prefers to play a zero-sum game through its national oil companies (NOCs) to produce Caspian hydrocarbon resources. In that regard, the US's initiatives to develop regional resources in a more efficient manner do not attract much attention from Russian diplomats who rely on ‘relative gains’ rather than ‘absolute gains’. 54 In order for cooperation to flourish between them, the US should find a way to convince Moscow that Russian NOCs do not have the technological and financial resources to develop hydrocarbon reserves, whereby Russia will need Western oil companies, preferably American-origin ones, to produce its hydrocarbon reserves. Apart from regional hydrocarbon resource development, the US needs Russian help to foster peace and stability in Eurasia. It looks like a modus vivendi can be reached only if Russia adopts free market principles and considers absolute rather than relative gains . However, there are no clear signals in that respect.



China has incrementally given the Caspian region increasing geo-strategic importance since the end of the Cold War. According to Guo Xuetang, “As the US established a military presence in Central Asia and the United States carried out preventive military activities against China in East and South Asia by strengthening the US-Japan alliance, deploying more strategic submarines and other deterrent weapons, and ingratiating with the Indians to counterbalance China's rising power, China's leadership has faced tougher geopolitical competition over Central Asia.” 55

Since the mid-1990s, energy security has gradually become an important concern for China as domestic energy supplies have failed to meet domestic demand. China is the third largest coal producer and second largest consumer in the world. Thus, this shortfall arises from a shortage of energy in the forms required. Dramatic growth of the use of road transport in China has also accelerated the demand for oil products. Therefore, domestic oil production has failed to keep pace with the demand, whereby China became dependent on imported oil in 1995. With this trend of growing oil demand, domestic production will soon reach its peak point. Apparently, energy supply security, and the availability of oil in particular, has become an increasingly urgent concern for the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Despite the fact that there are several interrelated and independent variables to calculate China's future oil demands, “a consensus seems to exist that annual demand is likely to rise from a present level of around 230 million tonnes to 300 million tonnes by 2010 and at least 400 million tonnes by 2020, though unexpectedly low rates of economic growth would reduce demand to below these levels. Over this period China's share of world oil consumption will probably rise from its current level of about 6% to as high as 8–10%.” 56

Hence, China has been looking for ways to build pipeline routes to export Caspian oil reserves eastwards while the United States has been looking to export Caspian energy westwards. Dekmeijan and Simonian have observed that “as an emerging superpower with a rapidly expanding economy, China constitutes one of the potentially most important actors in Caspian affairs.” 57Its rapidly increasing energy demands and declining domestic energy supplies indicate that China is increasingly becoming dependent on energy imports. According to Dru C. Gladney, “Since 1993, China's own domestic energy supplies have become insufficient for supporting modernization, increasing its reliance upon foreign trading partners to enhance its economic and energy security leading toward the need to build what Chinese officials have described as a ‘strategic oil-supply security system’ through increased bilateral trade agreements.” 58 In that regard, China, as the second largest oil consumer after the United States, has defined its energy security policy objectives in a manner “to maximise domestic output of oil and gas; to diversify the sources of oil purchased through the international markets; to invest in overseas oil and gas resources through the Chinese national petroleum companies, focusing on Asia and the Middle East; and to construct the infrastructure to bring this oil and gas to market.” 59

For our purposes, China's objective to diversify the sources of imported oil from the Caspian region plays a vital role. As Speed, Liao, and Dannreuther have observed, “Since the mid-1990s official and academic documents in China have proclaimed the virtues of China's petroleum companies investing in overseas oil exploration and production in order to secure supplies of Chinese crude oil, which could then be refined in China.” 60 In that regard, China has begun to make generous commitments, the largest of which were in Kazakhstan. According to these scholars, “At the heart of this strategy lies the recognition that China is surrounded by a belt of untapped oil and gas reserves in Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East.” 61 In the Kazakh region, there is high potential for further hydrocarbon discoveries.

The target for China's oil industry is to secure supplies of 50 million tonnes per year from overseas production by 2010. The fulfilment of this objective is directly related to China's involvement in strategic rivalries over the Caspian basin energy resources. Due to the emergence of Japan as a competitor for Russian hydrocarbon resources and Russia's indecisiveness about the Siberian pipeline, which would export high amounts of Russian crude oil to China, former Soviet members, in particular Kazakhstan, have emerged as more viable options. 62

China made generous commitments through its state-owned oil company, CNPC, to actualise the West-East energy corridor. This is particularly the case for the commitments made in Kazakhstan to develop two oilfields in Aktunbinsk and an oil field in Uzen. One should note that this pipeline has crucial political dimensions that supersede the significance of its commercial returns. As William Engdahl indicates, “the pipeline will undercut the geopolitical significance of the Washington-backed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline which opened amid big fanfare and support of Washington.” 63 Thus, it would be plausible to assert that, to use a similar phrase to the one of Mackinder's, who controls the export routes, controls the energy resources, who controls the energy resources, controls the Eurasian Heartland. However, these arguments are valid only to a certain extent.

One should also note that, as Dru C. Gladney has stated, “the pipeline is important for the United States but hardly a vital concern… . The United States is interested in the stability and economic development of the region and in ensuring that a mutually beneficial relationship is established with the Central Asian republics. Because the Central Asian region of the CIS shares borders with China, Russia, and Iran, these newly independent states are important to the United States with or without oil.” 64 Another point that should be kept in mind is that “alternate sources of hydrocarbons for China would mean decreasing reliance on the Middle East as a sole source, thus decreasing competition in the region and the potential for tensions in the Persian Gulf.” 65 One should be clear on the point that so far as pipeline initiatives would promote the establishment of free-market democracies, the United States would welcome them on the condition that the oil flow would not be in substantial amounts. Gladney concludes, “In this regard, a pipeline to China could help to bring Kazakhstan into the global economy, as well as to wean it from sole dependence on Russia.”66 Hence, it will contribute to the US grand strategy in the twenty-first century.



From an offensive realist perspective, I have argued that the principal objective of US grand strategy in the twenty-first century is global hegemony. I have underlined that a true grand strategy is a combination of wartime and peacetime strategies, therefore, I asserted that American wartime (the US-led wars in Afghanistan, and Iraq) and peacetime (political support for the costly BTC pipeline project) strategies all serve the US grand strategy in the twenty-first century. I have also argued that the region surrounding the Caspian basin plays a vital role the US grand strategy. In that regard, I preferred to call that area, to use term of Sir Halford Mackinder, the Eurasian Heartland. I have demonstrated that this area has significant untapped non-OPEC oil reserves, particularly in Kazakhstan, that will underpin stability of US-controlled international oil markets. Interests and policies of Russia and China, two main Eurasian challengers of US grand strategy in the twenty-first century, are also analysed. It is concluded by noting that as long as the Caspian region's untapped oil reserves are developed in a manner contributing to regional stability and economic development, there is not much cause for concern over the success of the US grand strategy in the Eurasian Heartland.

Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that unless the US finds a way to stabilise international oil markets and decrease the price of oil, the success of the US grand strategy in the twenty-first century is dubious. Volatile high oil prices not only hurt the proper functioning of US-controlled international economic structure, but also make it more difficult for the US to manipulate oil producers (i.e., Russia and Iran) and consumers (i.e., China and India) in order to serve its grand strategy.




Professor Emre İşeri is a full-time member of the Department of International Relations, Yaşar

University, İzmir. He is also an associate member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Global


After completing his undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Department of Politics and Public Administration at İhsan Doğramacı Bilkent University in 2002, he completed two Master educations, one at Marmara University from EU Politics and International Relations department and the other at the University of Kent from International Conflict Analysis department in 2005. Dr.İşeri completed his Ph.D. at Keele University from the International Relations department with his thesis titled “US Grand Strategy and the Eurasian Heartland in the 21 st century” in 2008. He started his academic career as Teaching Assistant at Keele University of International Relations department. He continued his academic career as a full-time lecturer at the University of Kadir Has from 2009 to 2013. Serving as one more year as Assistant Professor at Yaşar University, he was appointed to the Associate Professorship at the same university in 2014. He has been also teaching part-time on energy politics at the MA program in Mediterranean Studies of the University of the Peloponnese. He has been currently teaching courses on International Political Economy, American Foreign Policy, Middle Eastern Politics ( both in undergrad and grad levels), Turkish Foreign Policy.

His areas of current research agenda include energy policy, political communication, Euro-Asian politics, and Turkish foreign policy. He published articles/chapters in numerous books and journals, including Geopolitics, Journal of Balkan and Near East Studies, Energy Policy, Turkish Studies, Security Journal, South European Society and Politics (SESP), European Journal Communication (EJC), Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, and International Journal of Communication (IJC).