On October 31st the NATO-Ukraine Commission reunited in Kyiv to discuss regional security and Ukraine-related issues. The joint conference held in the aftermath of the meeting confirmed that Russia’s most-feared nightmare is expected to come true in the next years: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that the country is going through a process of deep comprehensive reform preparatory to join NATO, a process that is widely supported and warmly welcomed by the organization.
In reality, Zelensky’s words are not surprising nor unexpected, as the country’s leadership has been showing increasing interest in joining the military alliance since Euromaidan occurred in 2014, bringing to an end the centuries-long Russian influence over Kyiv and marking the beginning of a new cold war between the West and the Kremlin. Former President Petro Poroshenko declared in 2017 that the country was to implement all the reforms required to officially start the accession path by 2020.
But even before the bloody revolution took place, somewhere in the world, many years ago, a farsighted Polish-born American strategist and geopolitician predicted such traumatic rupture in a book destined to help posterity take advantage of the victory in the cold war. That man was Zbigniew Brzezinski and his book, “The Grand Chessboard“, is proving itself incredibly prophecy-powered year after year.
Brzezinski passed away two years ago but his ideas keep driving America’s vision and agenda in Eurasia, particularly in the post-Soviet space. As regard to Europe, he highlighted the importance of exploiting the Soviet Union collapse to proceed to the EU and NATO enlargement to the East. Former Communist and Soviet-ruled countries would play a key role in the new century’s containment due to the deep-rooted and historically-motivated Russophobia that would make them one of Nato’s most important bulwarks. Such enlargement occurred and is likely to be extended to Ukraine, North Macedonia, and Georgia.
He also preached the need to focus the efforts on Poland, his native country, to use its historic regional influence exerted over the neighbouring Slavic and non-Slavic world to prevent Russia from re-entering Eastern Europe again. Today, Poland leads the so-called Visegrad Group, the anti-Russian front within the EU and NATO, and is pursuing a region-level hegemonic agenda that may turn the country into a energy and military powerhouse partly self-sufficient by mid-2020s.
After incorporating the Balkans and Eastern Europe to the West, the US should proceed to create a profound fracture within the Russian world’s very heart, namely in Ukraine. According to Brzezinski, such a move would bring to a historic event: the death of Moscow’s European dimension and the consequent birth of a new Russia, no longer Eurasian but merely Asian.
Brzezinski proved right once again. After the loss of Ukraine, Russia quickly re-oriented its foreign agenda to Central, Eastern and Southern Asia, it took advantage of the US-China growing tensions to forge a partnership with Beijing which is increasingly game-changing and world hegemony-seeking, it has been strengthening and enlarging the Eurasian Economic Union, and so on.
But Russia’s turn to the East is going to be limited by another Brzezinski’s prophecy: the fall of North Caucasus and post-Soviet Central Asia into Islamist-driven instability. It is no secret that the above-mentioned regions are among the world-largest recruitment centres for Jihadist organizations and they are likely to be turned against Moscow again after the successful Afghani experience. But this time, Islamist insurgency will pursue a new objective apart from Russia’s weakening: the New Silk Road.
The US is close to make checkmate not because of Brzezinski’s infallibility but due to the Kremlin’s underestimation of the West’s purposes in the post-Soviet space. It should have been very clear in 1999 and 2004, with the NATO enlargement to Baltic states and Warsaw pact former members, that a new cold war was secretly underway.
More recently Russia has been trying to create a fracture within the NATO by flirting with Turkey. Such a strategy could prove very successful or self-defeating, and some facts seem to indicate that the direction of such a marriage of convenience is likely to be the latter. Erdogan’s Turkey is led by a foreign agenda which is inherently anti-Russian because based on neo-Ottoman and pan-Turkic ambitions over a wide range of Russian-influenced and Russian-ruled lands such as Moldova, Turkestan countries, and Muslim-inhabited regions like Crimea, Tatarstan and other North Caucasus’ republics.
Furthermore, the Trump administration did not retaliate against Erdogan’s decision to buy Russian-made S400 systems and this could be seen as the main self-proving evidence of the fact that Washington is allowing Ankara to temporarily flirt with Russia with the hidden goal to disorient it and weaken further its remaining influence over Eastern Europe and Balkans.
Another severe mistake was to increase the reliance on the West, in particular the EU, from trade and energy exports to tech acquisition. Such dependency proved harmful in the aftermath of the Ukraine-related sanctions regime and has been obliging Russia to elaborate a China-based contingency plan that, again, may prove successful or extremely detrimental. Such situation was forecasted by Brzezinski, who strongly believed that an eventual Moscow-Beijing axis would be Chinese-led and would accelerate Russia’s run to demotion from a world-leading power to an ever-decliningly regional power belonging to China’s sphere of influence.
22 years later the publication of The Grand Chessboard, the Asia’s New Great Game seem headed near to the end and the US who is going to make checkmate.