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U.S. strategists awake to new reality in Central Asia

Published Jul 15, 2005 10:58 PM

U.S. imperialists, still dreaming of exerting their economic, political and military hegemony over Central Asia, are awakening to a new reality.

The July 5 expanded Shanghai Cooper ation Organization (SCO) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, adopted a resolution calling on Washington to announce a timetable for Pentagon withdrawal from Afghanistan and for dismantling what were supposed to be temporary U.S. military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

“However, the SCO states would not allow a security vacuum to emerge following the anticipated coalition withdrawal from the region,” the July 6 Eurasia Daily Monitor added. “The SCO leaders would rather fill the vacuum themselves: they pledged to boost security cooperation. Chinese President Hu Jintao said after the summit meeting in Astana: ‘We have to make every effort to step up security cooperation or else all our talks about stability will be pointless.’”

China chaired this year’s SCO, which was established on June 15, 2001, in Shanghai. Other members of the alliance include Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. With the recently added semi-membership of Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia as official observers, the organization represents half of humanity, as Kazakh President Nur sultan Nazarbayev pointed out in his opening speech on July 5 welcoming the SCO.

An SCO-Afghanistan contact group is due to be established soon, as well, according to Russian Foreign Ministry Roving Ambassador Vitaly Vorobyov. (RIA Novosti, July 5)

Confidential U.S. sources told the Russian business newspaper Kommer sant that the demand to set a time limit on the Pentagon’s presence “was a great surprise, to put it mildly.” (July 7)

The declaration was made one day before Chinese leader Hu Jintao and Rus sian President Vladimir Putin were set to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush in Scotland at the Group of Eight summit.

Washington officials, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her spokesperson, Sean McCormack, imme diately and flatly refused to discuss the matter of pulling up U.S. military stakes. Rice rejected the SCO call on July 9 during a trip in which she met with Chinese government leaders. According to a July 10 Bloomberg report, “Afghanistan was one of the areas of disagreement in the talks, which focused primarily on the July 25 resumption of the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.”

Uniting against ‘regime change’

The SCO summit resolution also stated the inadmissibility of “monopolizing or dominating international affairs” and an end to outside intervention in the internal affairs of the countries of the region.

“The SCO declaration, as well as a bilateral Russo-Chinese declaration on ‘World Order in the 21st Century’ adopted on July 2, did not mention the United States directly,” explained the July 6 Eurasia Daily Monitor. “However, these documents are understood to target perceived U.S. domination in international affairs.”

Washington has been accused of engineering “regime changes” in three former Soviet republics in the last two years: Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

The SCO declaration was a warning to Washington to stop using nongovernmental organizations as instruments for carrying out destabilization and coups in the region, the July 11 New York Times explained.

This year’s SCO summit was the first since former Kyrgyzstan President Askar Akayev fled to Russia on March 25 after armed bands stormed his offices in what the media dubbed the “Tulip Revolution.” Akayev accused Washington of instigating his overthrow to expand its grip on Central Asia. He charged that when he let Russia set up a military air base 18 miles from the Pentagon installation in his country, “That marked the start of the preparation of plans for my ouster.” (MosNews, July 1)

A week after the SCO summit, Kur manbek Bakiyev, who had been a leader of the anti-Akayev protests in Kyrgyzstan, was elected president by a large majority. He surprised Washington, however, when he immediately reiterated the need for discussion about whether U.S. military forces needed to be in his country.

And at a July 5 SCO media conference Uzbek President Islam Karimov thanked China and Russia for their support. The U.S. had led demands for an inquiry into the reported suppression of rioting dissenters there in May. Uzbekistan officials restricted U.S. military flights from the Karshi-Khanabad airbase in retaliation. Karimov emphasized that outside forces had been threatening to “hijack stability and impose their model of development” on Central Asia.

Lily pads sinking into quagmire?

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Washington used the National Endow ment for Democracy, “Freedom House” and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into social forces in the former Soviet Central Asian republics that they judged were willing to collaborate with U.S. plans for the region.

What U.S. strategists wanted most of all was, 1) influence over the rich oil and gas deposits of the Caspian region and 2) military bases that could both “pacify” the area if necessary and put the Pentagon’s forward position closer to both Russia and China.

Little of the money made its way to the people who live and work in the mountains and plains. Poverty and unemployment have grown as the post-Soviet regimes that took over found it impossible to sustain the living standards of the broad masses on a capitalist basis.

These bourgeois regimes also found themselves collaborating with the imperialist power whose brutal wars and occupations against Iraq and Afghanistan have aroused the anger of most of the world, especially the Muslim areas.

When the 9/11 attacks took place, the U.S. had used them as a pretext to gain a military foothold in Central Asia. But its bases in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, for example, were supposed to be “temporary.” These military installations have been used for logistical support and deployment of 10th Mountain Division and Special Forces troops to Afghanistan.

But they are more than a “rear base” in the imperialist aggression against Afghanistan.

Central Asia sits atop some of the largest pools of petroleum and natural gas in the world. The massive Tenghiz oil fields of Kazakhstan lie just to the north of Uzbekistan. Huge gas reserves lie just to the south in Turkmenistan. To the west, across the Caspian Sea, is the Azerbaijan offshore oil industry.

Capitalist monopolies like ExxonMobil and Chevron/Texaco are determined to suck out these energy profits from resources that once fueled the revolutionary growth of production and living standards in these former workers’ states.

Central Asia is also a geopolitically strategic part of the globe over which the “Great Game” of big-power colonialists and imperialists has been fought since the 19th century. The five nations of Central Asia are today home to some 55 million people and the gateway to all of Asia. They stretch from Russia to Afghanistan, bordering China on the east and Iran in the southwest.

The establishment of U.S. imperialism’s military footprints on Central Asian soil has been described as the greatest change in Pentagon overseas military deployments since the end of World War II. (globalsecurity.com, July 26, 2004)

“This marks a new epoch in [U.S.] force posturing,” said John Pike, director of globalsecurity.com, which describes itself as a Washington clearinghouse for strategic intelligence. “It’s one of only a half-dozen similar reposturings since the American Revolution. It’s a very significant change.”

The strategy is to replace huge garrison bases that traditionally held more than 80 percent of U.S. troops overseas—like those in Germany, Japan and South Korea—with an arc of numerous small “lily pad” bases, arching from the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East to the Caucasus, Central Asia and southern Asia. Pentagon brass hope these small bases will enable them to quickly and flexibly airlift forces.

Pike concluded last summer, using the spin that presents imperialist aggression as self-defense, “We don’t know exactly where the next threat will be. It could be Iran, North Korea, China or other parts of the world. This redeployment is designed to allow us to quickly respond to any of those challenges.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 26, 2004)

Establishing U.S. bases in Central Asia was supposed to tighten the grip of Wall Street and the Pentagon on the region. But, in response, what was a loose coalition of the SCO is evolving into a defensive political, economic and military alliance encompassing more than half the population of the planet.