The battle for the Ukrainian buffer. Borderlands: A New Strategic Landscape - George Friedman
Friedman quite frankly tells of the centenary geopolitics of the United States on the continent of Eurasia. Noteworthy is the idea of Friedman that the current crisis in Ukraine, and, consequently, indirectly, the whole policy of the so-called. The "Eastern Partnership" of the European Union serves to consolidate the military alliance under the auspices of the United States on the territory of this buffer. This policy aims to perpetuate US domination over Eurasia by maintaining balance and blocking the possibility of the emergence of a local hegemon here. From this point of view, it is noteworthy that the US policy in the geopolitical buffer on the borders of Europe is directed not only against Russia, but also Germany. Friedman believes that geopolitical processes are objective. He admits that in the geopolitical crisis in Ukraine, Russia defends the interests of its own security. It is not yet clear to an American political scientist how far Russia is ready to go in re-creating its own security buffer on its border with Europe. However, in all likelihood, he is ready to recognize the transition under the control of Russia to Ukraine with the condition that Russia stops at this and recognizes US control over the rest of the buffer territory. An additional guarantor of this, from the point of view of the United States, could be the arming of buffer countries and the creation here of a "working alliance" under the auspices of the United States.
George Friedman: Borderlands: A New Strategic Landscape
This week I intend to visit a group of countries that are currently on the front line between Russia and the European Peninsula: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Azerbaijan. This tour allows you to see the details. stories. But it is impossible to understand these details out of context. The more I think about recent events, the more I understand: what happened in Ukraine can only be understood in view of European geopolitics from the First World War, 1914, which began a hundred years ago.
In August Guns, Barabara Takman wrote an excellent and accurate history of how the First World War began. (2) According to her version, it was a combination of circumstances, a distorted perception of personalities and decisions. This concerned leaders, and its history implied the idea that the First World War was the result of miscalculation and misunderstanding. I believe that if you focus on the details, the war may seem like a misfortune and an unavoidable occurrence. I hold a different opinion. World War I was inevitable since the unification of Germany in 1871. When this happened, and the way it happened, it was probably out of the will of the decision makers. That this happened was a geopolitical necessity. And an understanding of what geopolitical necessity is, this is what gives us the basis for understanding what is happening in Ukraine, and what is likely to happen in the next moment.
The unification of Germany created an extremely dynamic national state. At the turn of the twentieth century, Germany reached the level of the British economy. However, the British economy was tied to an empire that was built in the name of British interests. Germany did not have such an empire. It achieved parity through domestic growth and exports on a competitive basis. It just became one of the problems of Germany. The international economic system was based on the system of imperial possessions in combination with European industrialism. Germany lacked these possessions, and it did not have military-political control over its markets. While its economy was equal to the British, Germany’s risks were much higher.
Economic risks were compounded by strategic risk. Germany was located on the North European Plain - a relatively flat area, with only a few rivers flowing from south to north, serving as natural barriers. The Germans had Russians in the east and French in the west. Moscow and Paris became allies. If they simultaneously attacked Germany at any time of their choice, Germany would be subjected to strong pressure. The Germans did not know about the Russian-French intentions, but they knew about their capabilities. In the event of war, the Germans had to strike first in one direction, achieve victory there and immediately transfer their masses to the opposite direction.
In the event of a probable war, the uncertainty of its outcome remained, no matter what strategy the Germans ultimately chose. But unlike Tuckman’s view of the war, the war that began with the German strike was inevitable. The war was not the result of misunderstanding. Rather, it was the result of economic and strategic realities.
The Germans hit the French first, but did not beat them. Therefore, they were trapped in the war on two fronts, which they feared, but at least they completely mobilized their forces and were able to resist. The second opportunity to realize their strategy came to them in the winter of 1917, when the uprising began against the Russian Tsar, who abdicated the throne of March 15 of 1917. Germany, in fact, determined the March Revolutionary movement to repatriate Lenin to Russia by means of a notorious sealed train. There were serious concerns that the Russians might withdraw from the war, and in this case German military power would increase. The German victory seemed not only possible, but also probable. If this happened, and if German troops from Russia were sent to France, then it is likely that they could organize an offensive to defeat the British and French.
In April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. There were several reasons, including the threat that German submarines could close the Atlantic for American shipping, but the main fear was that, thanks to events in Russia, the Germans could defeat the Allies. The United States had a deep interest in not having the Eurasian continent fall under the control of any one nation. Labor, resources and technology under the control of the Germans would have surpassed those of the United States. The German victory was impossible, and therefore, during the year, the US sent over a million soldiers to Europe to help counter the German offensive after the October 1917 revolution of the year knocked out Russia from the war. Under the peace treaty, Russia ceded Ukraine to the Germans, which would put Russia in danger if the Germans defeated the Anglo-French alliance. Ultimately, the American intervention in Europe defeated the Germans, and the Russians regained control of Ukraine.
American intervention was a decisive factor and determined the US strategy in Eurasia for a whole century. This allowed us to maintain a balance of power between the powers. When the balance shifts, Washington increases aid, and in case of emergency intervenes decisively in the context of an existing and effective military alliance.
World War II was similar. The Germans again created a dangerous situation by concluding an alliance with the Soviets, ensuring war on one front. This time they defeated France. At the right moment, Germany turned against Russia in an attempt to achieve decisive dominance in Eurasia. The United States was neutral at first, but provided assistance to the British and Russians. And even after 1941 entered the war in December, the US abstained from decisive action until the very last moment. The United States did invade North Africa, Sicily, and the rest of Italy, but these were marginal operations on the periphery of German rule. The decisive blow did not follow until June 1944, the moment when the German armies were significantly weakened by the Soviet army, which received significant supplies from the United States. The decisive campaign in northern Europe lasted less than a year and was won with limited losses for the US compared to other combatants. It was a military intervention in the context of a powerful military alliance.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union positioned itself by creating deep buffers. He kept the Baltic states, Belarus and Ukraine as the first line of defense. His second defensive echelon consisted of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. In addition, the Soviet buffer was held in the center of Germany on the North German Plain. Given the lessons of history, the Soviets considered it necessary to create as deep a buffer as possible. And this line, in fact, excluded an attack on the Soviet Union.
The American response was more active than in the first two wars, but it was not decisive. The United States deployed forces in West Germany in the context of a strong military alliance. This alliance was most likely insufficient to block the Soviet attack. The United States promised to deliver additional troops in the event of war, and also guaranteed that, if necessary, they were ready to use nuclear weapons in order to stop the attacks of the USSR.
The model was similar in this sense. The calculation was to maintain a balance of power with a minimum American exposure. In case the balance was broken, the United States was ready to send substantially more troops. At worst, the United States argued, they were ready to use decisive power. It is important to note that the United States retained the possibility of strengthening its nuclear power.
The Soviets never attacked, in part because they did not need this — they were not in danger, and partly because the risk associated with the attack was too high. Thus, the United States pursued a consistent strategy in all three wars. First, they avoided cost overruns, limiting their presence to the minimum necessary. The United States did not participate in World War I until the very last moment. In World War II, America’s participation was expressed in peripheral operations at relatively low costs. During the Cold War, they positioned enough power to convince the Soviets of American intentions. The United States has always kept the conflict under control and has always been ready for full intervention at the latest and right time with minimal losses and in the context of an effective military alliance.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the 1989 revolution of the year were swept away by the buffers that the Soviets seized in World War II. Their strategic position was worse than it was even before the world wars or even from the seventeenth century. In the event that the internal buffer from the Baltic states, Belarus or Ukraine became hostile and part of the western system of the alliance, the threat for Russia would be enormous. The Baltic countries were admitted to NATO, and the alliance was now less than 100 miles from St. Petersburg. If Ukraine and Belarus went by the same route, the city of Smolensk, which was deep in the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire, would become a border city, and the distance to Moscow from NATO territory would be 250 miles.
A mitigating factor was that NATO was weak and fragmented. But it didn’t give much consolation to the Russians, who saw how Germany turned from a weak and fragmented country in 1932 to a mighty power by 1938. Where there is a production base, the military potential can be quickly created, and intentions can change overnight. Thus, as the events of recent months have shown, for Russia, the prevention of Ukraine’s absorption by the western system of the alliance is crucial.
The American strategy in Europe remains the same as it was in 1914 year - to allow the European balance of powers to cope. Public statements to the side indicate that the United States was comfortable with the weakness of the European powers as long as the Russians were also weak. There was no threat of hegemon lifting. The American strategy was, as always, to allow the balance to maintain itself, and to intervene with the help necessary to maintain the balance, and to carry out military intervention in the context of a reliable alliance at a crucial moment, but not earlier. From this it follows that the United States is not ready to do more than participate in symbolic efforts right now. The Russian military is able to seize Ukraine, although logistical problems are serious. But the United States is unable to deploy a decisive defensive force in Ukraine. The shift in the European balance of power is far from a decisive one, and the United States has time to look at the development of the situation.
At the moment, the United States is most likely ready to expand access to arms of the countries that I will visit, along with Bulgaria and the Baltic countries. But the problem of the United States is that its historical strategy relies on the existence of significant military forces — a working alliance in which several countries participate. It makes no sense for the United States to provide weapons to countries that will not cooperate with each other and are not able to position enough force to use these weapons.
After the events in Ukraine, many European countries discussed the increase in defense spending and cooperation. It is not clear that it is NATO that is the vehicle for this cooperation. As we observed during meetings between US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s readiness to take part in an offensive action is limited. The economic crisis is still raging in southern Europe. The desire to participate by the British and the French, or the "Iberians" is limited. It is difficult to recognize that NATO plays an effective military role.
The United States sees this as a situation where vulnerable countries must take decisive steps. There is no emergency for the United States itself. For Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Azerbaijan, along with other countries located along the buffer line, the situation is not yet an emergency one. But she could materialize with amazing speed. Russians do not have much power, but they are more powerful than any of these countries alone, or even all of them together. Given the US strategy, the United States would be ready to begin providing assistance, but substantial assistance requires significant actions from the buffer countries.
The First and Second World Wars were about the status of Germany in Europe. This was the essence of what was in the cold war, although it was decorated differently. We are once again discussing the status of Germany. Today it does not pose a threat to the West. Eastern threat is weak. The force that prompted Germany in two world wars is not there. Logically, there is little reason to take risks.
The American fear of the Eurasian hegemon also has a distant character. Russia is far from representing such a threat. She is still struggling to regain her buffers. Like Germany, she is not ready to engage in aggressive actions. So the United States can continue its age-old risk-reduction strategy for as long as possible. At the same time, buffer countries face a potential threat that prudence requires to prepare for.
However, it is not yet clear how the Russian threat materializes. It is also not clear how much the Russians, besides rhetoric, have the political will to act decisively. The best solution for buffer states would be a massive NATO intervention. It will not happen. The second best option for them would be massive American intervention. This, however, will not happen. Buffer states want to pass on the costs of protecting them to others — a rational strategy if they can achieve this.
Impersonal geopolitical forces attract Russia to try to bring back the borderland that is critically important to it. In the process, the peoples bordering on the Russian state will not know how far the Russians will try to go in this matter. For Russia, the deeper the buffer, the better. But, the deeper the buffer, the higher the cost of maintaining it. Russians are not ready for such a movement. But over time, when their strength and confidence increase, their actions will become less predictable. When faced with a potential existential threat, a prudent response is a greater response. Buffer states need weapons and ally. The United States will provide a degree of support, regardless of what the Germans will do, and therefore NATO. But the principal decision is in the hands of the Poles, the Slovaks, the Hungarians, the Romanians, the Serbs and the Azerbaijanis, along with that of other buffer states. Some of them, like Azerbaijan, have already decided to arm and are looking for a union. Some, like Hungary, are watching and waiting.
Mark Twain is believed to have said: "History does not repeat, it rhymes." There is a rhyme that we can hear. The process is in its early stages and is already enclosed in a course similar to the one in which Germany ended up in the 1914 year. Forces are beginning to gather, and if the process has begun, then it will not be controlled by free will. On my trip, I will listen to this rhyme. I need to see her if she is. And, if so, then I need to make sure that those most at risk also hear this rhyme. I'll let you know if I hear it.
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