Saturday, January 2, 2016

Merkel, Putin and the World Island

The US is trying very hard to persuade the Western world that President Vladimir Putin wants to recreate the old Soviet Union and also retake the countries of Eastern Europe that became Soviet satellites at the 1945 Yalta conference between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin.
What is never mentioned is the background for the Yalta decision: the fact that Eastern Europe was/is seen by Russia as the historical corridor from which Western attacks have come: the Teutonic Knights, Napoleon, then Germany, twice.  (Ghengis Khan’s Mongols came from the East and ruled Russia for four centuries….) Centrally located, Germany has historically been the dominant influence in the  region east of the Alpine barrier which, for the Russians, has been an open back door.
Having fomented two world wars in thirty years, a twice defeated Germany ultimately became the de facto leader of the European Union (however much France would like to believe in its equal role). Considering the current transformation of the Russia/German relationship, we can, for all practical purposes substitute ‘Germany’ for Europe.  
As a KGB agent, Putin was stationed in East Germany, where Angela Merkel lived until the age of 35, when Germany was reunited. The two leaders are fluent in each others’ language.  When in March, 2014 Merkel (Time’s 2015 person of the year) remarked that Putin was “living in another world”, Washington took the quip for more than it was worth, failing to realize it could be interpreted in many different ways.
The remark came on the heels of a long economic crisis brought about essentially by Europe foolishly following Wall St., and before it became the dumping ground for the victims of Washington’s intrusive policies around the world. The momentous arrival of up to 1,000,000 refugees in one year has led to a ‘European Awakening’: the old world’s movers and shakers - in particular its business community, but also, more cautiously its political leaders - are at last giving themselves permission to turn toward the European peninsula’s natural ally, the country that dominates the Eurasian continent geographically. 
The Eurasian land mass was designated by the early 20th century British geographer Halford Mackinder as “The World Island”, a notion that was dusted off to great effect in Natylie Baldwin and Kermit Heartsong’s Ukraine, the Grand Chessboard and How the West was Checkmated. This fascinating book shows that Mackinder’s affirmation that "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland and who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island”, inspired the Neo-cons to detach Ukraine from Russia.  They did this by getting the EU to back the deposition of the democratically pro-Russian President in 2014.  

The location of Ukraine, bordering on Poland, Bela Rus, Slovakia and Romania clearly marks it as the final lap of the invasion route from Eastern Europe to Russia, hence its strategic importance, aside from its minerals and black earth farmland, to the World Island theory. 

Often overlooked is the fact that Mackinder’s theory reflects the early twentieth-century colonial worldview according to which power rests with a white, mainly Christian center, to be exercised over a darker, tribal or Muslim periphery. Reprised by Zbig a century later, it remained a colonial theory, the only relevant difference being that a neo-liberal America rather than a ‘north’ that also included Europe, was now in charge..

The Neo-con commitment to permanent US leadership requires the world to believe that the threat lies with Russia. But just as crucial is the fundamental difference in world outlook between the US and an increasingly vibrant and relevant ‘south/third world’, led by Russia and China, with India close behind. Contrary to what the United States ceaselessly affirms, the challenge is neither commercial nor military, but philosophical: the colonial template is being challenged by the Eurasian-led affirmation that great powers must rule the world cooperatively.
The only solution Washington sees to this uncomfortable truth is to saddle Russia with its own motivation. The crisis engineered in Ukraine was intended to prevent Russia and China - the two powers that geographically dominate Mackinder’s World Island  from successfully organizing the globe on a collegial rather than colonial basis.
Two years after agreeing to engineer the so-called Maidan Revolution, an economically weakened Europe struggles with a refugee crisis that puts into question its very borders. As Russian speaking Eastern Ukrainians’ continue to defy Kiev, Brussels tries to gently back away from the Neo-Nazi monster it unwittingly helped empower. Still not daring to openly defy orders from Washington, it renewed sanctions against Moscow for six months, while its businessmen and academics trek to Moscow to mitigate the harm.
As the Europeans edge up to the Russia/China Silk road, the second part of the Heartland Theory is being confirmed: the British Isles have indeed become "outer islands”, while increasingly, the America’s are "outlying islands”. Merkel’s comment that Putin was living in ‘another world’ could refer to the World Island, which Europe is finally recognizing as its home.

Note:  The second article in this series will confront the phenomenon of ‘national denial’.

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