Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Heart of Darkness, the Core and the Gap - 4

Continued from here.

First post in the series here, second post here, fifth and final here.

Russia in the Gap: the cost

To recap from the previous instalment, Thomas PM Barnett reasons that in his strategic model of the world, Russia must be included in the Core, which means “those parts of the world that are actively integrating their national economies into a global economy and that adhere to globalization’s emerging security rule set,” as opposed to the Gap, “regions of the world that are largely disconnected from the global economy.” According to his model, present and future strategic threats come from the Gap, and the Core must close the Gap by expanding economic globalisation, backed by the use of military force where necessary. Core states are not a strategic threat to each other in TPM Barnett’s model.

His reasoning for including Russia seems based on two points. One, Russia’s economic connections with the wider world are strong enough to qualify, and two, not including Russia in the core is too costly in terms of greater demands on remaining Core nations, both in dealing with Russia and with dealing with the rest of the Gap without help from Russia.

In the previous post I argued against Russia currently qualifying as a core state. In this post I want to look at the argument regarding the cost of not including Russia.

In one way the question seems senseless. Either Russia qualifies as a Core state or it doesn’t. Surely the model should reflect reality? But it seems the model is as much intended to shape reality as interpret it. The Core states are those where TPM Barnett believes America should not expect to go to war. The priority is closing the Gap and all military resources possible should be directed in supporting that effort. The danger he sees is that treating Russia as a Gap state will divide military resources with a new cold war running alongside efforts to close the Gap, and closing the Gap will be further complicated by Russia playing a competing rather than complimentary role in Gap conflicts.

The problem I have with this view is that it seems to imply that Western opposition to Russian expansionism in the Caucasus will lead to Russian opposition to Western efforts in the Gap, ignoring that Russia has been opposing for some time, has in fact never fully stopped opposing, on Nato membership for former Soviet bloc states in Europe, on the Balkans, on Iraq, on Iran. None of these policies of opposition have been helpful in expanding and deepening economic globalisation. The former Soviet states slowest to connect with globalisation have been those where Russian power is greatest.

For globalisation to work as the means of eliminating military threat, TPM Barnett’s aim, we cannot have Russia sitting on subject states. We cannot have Russia propping up spoiler regimes around the world. The current Russian leadership is not a friend of globalisation. The threat to globalisation arising out of Russia’s invasion of Georgia is not that the West might provoke Russia into playing a spoiling game, it is that the West might allow Russia to think it can get away with carving out a little empire of subject states, economically isolated from the wider world and with the money going through Moscow. Stopping Russia now will cost less than allowing the problem to grow.

To be clear, TPM Barnett does believe that Russia will and should suffer a penalty for actions in Georgia, but he wants that penalty to be economic, not military. There is a degree in interdependence between economic and military though, and here I think he doesn’t fully weigh the economic and political costs of an inadequate military response. If Georgia as a whole had fallen to Russia, or if it were now left inadequately defended, the resulting insecurity would affect the rest of the Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and former Soviet states in Asia.

If Georgia had fallen, or if it falls in future, the immediate economic and political implications of Eastern European energy dependence on Russia would be severe. It is true that the energy route through Georgia can’t by itself solve this problem, but the bigger solutions will take time, and in the meantime East European confidence must be maintained if Russian influence is not to increase.

The cost of containing Russian military threats to its neighbours should not equal that of the cold war. Russia is smaller and weaker than was the USSR, even with its oil and gas, and more dependent on its economic connections with the West too. The case that needs to be made is of the need to accompany military support to Georgia and other concerned Russian neighbours with greater efforts at economic integration. The West needs to finish closing the Gap in Eastern Europe. The West needs to close the gap in the Caucasus rather than leaving them vulnerable. And to do this, the West needs to co-operate more in closing the Gap in Turkey.


The last in this series is here, and it includes comics!


Road and rail links between Georgia and Turkey. Note that the only rail link runs through Armenia. Detail from map copyright © Gizi Map. Buy it from Stanfords.

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