Geographic connectivity vs chaos
Eurasia holds major part of the global demographic and geographical potential, however it has not been able to achieve connectivity dividends because of a long history of wars and conflicts.
With 55,000,000 square kilometers of land mass, Eurasia covers around 37% of the Earth’s total land area including 5 billion people, which translates to 70% of global population.
21st century is a century of global connectivity, no wonder some of the leading powers of Eurasia like China and Russia are actively working to connect the globe through a system of land and maritime routes, on the other hand, the old globalists led by the West, who thrived on creation of blocks, division of regions and creation of shatter zones and barrier belts, are trying hard to create a fear of the rise of new powers so as to maintain the status quo. Science and technology developments, especially in the field of infrastructure and material sciences have made it possible to surmount physical and geographic challenges, bringing down strategic barriers. There is a need to review the potential of connectivity and geographic proximity within Eurasia and Africa to develop a framework of global peaceful coexistence, economic development and interaction between various nations, civilizations and societies.
The West led by the US dominated the geopolitical discourse in 20th century with different theories of containment of Eurasian powers; American strategist Spykman’s Rimland theory was extensively utilized during Cold war. Initially it was the containment of USSR along the periphery of the Eurasian heartland stretching from Western Europe through Turkey, Iran and Pakistan and then going as far as Japan. Although the fancy words like ‘Rimland’ satisfied Western strategic thinkers, it has two purposes, one, it kept the dependent state in good humor as being part of a global alliance, and two, helped Euro-Atlantic alliance led by the US to contain the Soviet Union as well as China.
Post-Cold War, it was believed that the world will have a sigh of relief and dream of global peace will become a reality, even Gorbachev agreed to pulling out Russian military from the periphery of Russian Federation, however the US led NATO became intoxicated due to power vacuum in Eastern Europe and started expanding its reach.
Dave Majumdar, writing in the National Interest on 12 Dec 2017, highlighted the Russian version on NATO expansion towards East. As per Majumdar, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was given a host of assurances that the NATO alliance would not expand past what was then the East German border in 1990 according to new declassified documents. Russian leaders often complain that the NATO extended an invitation to Hungary, Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia to join the alliance in 1997 at the Madrid Summit in contravention of assurances offered to the Soviet Union before its 1991 collapse. The alliance has dismissed the notion that such assurances were offered, however, scholars have continued to debate the issue for years. Now, however, newly declassified documents show that Gorbachev did in fact receive assurances that NATO would not expand past East Germany.
One of the hawks of Cold War era Zbigniew Brzezinski in his famous book ‘The grand chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives’ (1997) stated: “how America “manages” Eurasia is critical. A power that dominates Eurasia would control two of the world’s three most advanced and economically productive regions. A mere glance at the map also suggests that control of Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa’s subordination, rendering the Western Hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the world’s central continent. About 75 per cent of the world’s people live in Eurasia, and most of the world’s physical wealth is there as well, both in its enterprises and underneath its soil. “Eurasia” accounts for about three-fourths of the world’s known energy resources”
The Eurasian Economic Union or EEU was created in 2014 as a union of states located in central and northern Eurasia, initially included Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia later Armenia and Kyrgyzstan joined the union. Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia were offered by both the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union to join their unions. All three countries opted for the European Union by signing association agreements on 21 March 2014.However, break-away regions of Moldova (Transnistria), Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk) and Georgia (South Ossetia and Abkhazia) have expressed a desire to join the Eurasian Customs Union and integrate into the Eurasian Economic Union.
This political wrangling resulted in conflict within Ukraine as Eastern Ukraine decided to side with the EEU and Western Ukraine opted for EU.
It may be interesting to note that nationalist’ movements and rise of populist leadership on both sides of the Atlantic have affected the glue binding EU together, after Brexit there is a possibility of other major and minor states in Europe adopting an independent path, leading to melt down of EU as a monolith. Is this phenomenon going to leave the Eastern European states high and dry, and, what options are available to them within the concept of Eurasia?
While US led Western block is still living in fancy world of walls and strategic barriers, Eurasian powers like China and Russian Federation are initiating ideas and programmes for strategic connectivity, BR,CPEC etc. Asia will be 43 % and Europe 17% of the global economy by 2019, whereas US share will shrink to 18%
A stated by OpenSea Pro blog, OBOR(now named Belt and Road Initiative) was first launched during 2013, when the President of China announced a plan to develop the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st Century. This Maritime Silk Road (MSR) is part of a broader project Called “One Belt and One Road” and, along with the MSR, it also consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt which connects China with Central Asia, the Arabian Gulf and Europe via land. The MSR, on the other hand, connects China with South East Asian countries, West Africa and reaches up to Mediterranean Sea. The BRI region includes 3 continents and 66 countries with total share of 33 % of global GDP, 60% of the world’s population, and about 25% of all the goods which are moved around the world.
In addition to strategic corridors of land connectivity, Eurasia also has important corridors of energy transportation; Ukrainian gas corridor and Turkish energy corridor are two important ones, where an energy deficient Europe gets cheap energy from energy surplus Asian states in Middle East, Central Asia as well as the Russian Federation. The common sense of economics calls for bridging the barriers, easing trade and commerce and mutually benefitting each other. The costs of wars in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and West Asian regions has run into trillions of dollars and have devastated the entire landscape of number of states, could we turn the tables on war mongers and usher in an era of peace and economic development for the entire world? This is the major moot point of entire deliberation of this paper .I leave it to the people of Eurasia to ponder on this point and develop a universal brotherhood of peace, there is no other way.
The writer is a freelance journalist.
Source - Nation