[OPE] End of Act One

From: Gerald Levy <Gerald_A_Levy@msn.com>
Date: Tue Sep 16 2008 - 08:03:30 EDT

Commentary [by Immanuel Wallerstein] No. 241, Sept. 15, 2008

"The New World Geopolitical Order: End of Act I"

It would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of the
agreement on September 9 between Nicolas Sarkozy of France in his
capacity as current president of the European Union (EU) and Dmitri
Medvedev, President of Russia. It marks the definitive end of Act I
of the new world geopolitical order.

What was decided? The Russians agreed to withdraw all their troops
from what are called "central Georgian areas" or "Georgia proper,"
that is, those parts of Georgia the Russians recognize as Georgia.
These troops are being replaced by 200 monitors from the EU. This is
done on guarantees by the EU that there will be no use of force
against South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The issue of Russian recognition of the independence of South Ossetia
and Abkhazia has been left entirely open. Sarkozy and the EU's
Foreign Minister, Javier Solana, "hope" that Russia will agree in the
future to allow EU monitors into these two areas. Russia's Foreign
Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said they had made no such promise and
that "all future monitoring arrangements would require ratification
by the Abhaz and South Ossetian governments." Lavrov said that
Russian troops would remain in the two areas "for the foreseeable
future." And the secretary of Georgia's National Security Council,
Alexander Lomaia, while applauding the clear deadlines for Russian
withdrawal from Georgia proper, did note that "the bad news is that
[the agreement] doesn't refer to [Georgian] territorial integrity."

This accord was reached between Europe and Russia, and the United
States played no diplomatic role whatsoever. Medvedev charged the
United States with having given its blessing to the original Georgian
action of entering South Ossetia. He said that, by contrast, the
Europeans are "our natural partners, our key partners." Georgia's
president received the strong encouragement of John McCain, and Vice-
President Cheney flew there to say that the United States was giving
$1 billion in aid for Georgian reconstruction. But Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates, explaining why this aid would not include
military aid and why there would be no economic sanctions against
Russia, said that "if we act too precipitously, we could be the ones
who are isolated."

So, what is the bottom line? Russia has gotten more or less what it
wanted in Georgia. Its "irrevocable" recognition of South Ossetia and
Abkhazia could well be something it might trade in the future for a
basic turn-around in Georgia's relations with Russia. If not, not.
The fact is that Europe believes it needs to come to terms with
Russia, and has ruled out renewing what the Chinese call "the
European civil war."

The United States finds it has no real cards to play. Meanwhile, in
the Middle East, it finds itself publicly rebuffed by its closest
allies. In Iraq, Prime Minister al-Maliki is being a very tough
negotiator about the continued presence of U.S. troops, and it is not
impossible, barring further major U.S. concessions, that the current
agreements that terminate on December 31 will simply run out.

In Afghanistan, President Karzai is so exasperated with the bombing
missions of U.S. special troops that he has demanded "a review of the
presence of U.S. and NATO troops in the country," in what CBS News
calls a "harshly worded statement." The immediate provocation was an
air raid in Azizabad that the U.S. army said had few casualties and
attacked a Taliban group. The Afghans insisted there were no Taliban
there and a large number of civilians were killed. When UN officials
and others gave credence to the Afghan version, the senior U.S.
general in Afghanistan, David McKiernan, back-tracked on the U.S.
position and called for a further high-level U.S. investigation by a
general who would come from the United States.

And in Pakistan, President Bush authorized U.S. hot pursuit of
Taliban from Afghanistan into Pakistan against the advice of the
National Intelligence Council who said it would carry "a high risk of
further destabilizing the Pakistani military and government." The
incursion brought what the New York Times called "an unusually strong
statement" by the chief of the Pakistani army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani,
who said his forces would defend Pakistan's sovereignty "at all
costs." Since the U. S. government has been looking on Gen. Kayani as
its strong supporter in Pakistan, this is not exactly what the United
States has been hoping to hear.

So, ignored in Georgia and under attack by its closest allies in
Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the United States is somewhat
unhappily entering the realities of the post-Cold War world, in which
it has to play by new rules that it seems to find rather unpalatable.

Meanwhile, as an ironic but not unimportant footnote, on September
10, a major development in particle physics was celebrated in Geneva
when the European laboratory called CERN achieved a scientific
breakthrough after 14 years of work and $8 billion in expense. This
was such a major moment in world science that their U.S. counterparts
at the Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois opened the champagne bottles at
4:38 in the morning to celebrate. Nonetheless, Pier Oddone, the
director of the Fermilab, admitted this was a "bittersweet moment."
Until 1993, the United States ruled particle physics. That year, the
U.S. Congress, flush with the self-confidence of having "won" the
cold war, believed it was too expensive - and no longer
geopolitically necessary - to build the kind of supercollider needed
for this new advance in particle physics. The Europeans made a
different kind of decision, and the United States now finds itself in
second place here too.

I call this the end of Act I because it has sealed the reality of a
true multilateral geopolitical arena. Of course, there are still
further acts to come. And any faithful playgoer know that Act I
merely establishes who are the actors. It is in Act II that we see
what really happens. And then there's Act III, the denouement.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

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Received on Tue Sep 16 08:09:38 2008

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