[discuss] (OT?) Toward a Global Realignment

willi uebelherr willi.uebelherr at riseup.net
Tue May 17 18:20:18 UTC 2016

Dear friends,

maybe, some or many of you think, this text from Zbigniew Brzezinski 
have not much to do with our themes, the telecommunication in form of a 

I see this very different. Zbigniew Brzezinski comes from another sphere 
and another time. But he know, that we live in the time of change to 
another epoche.

He works for the conservation of traditional geo-political structures 
and models. We, maybe, work for the global cooperation.

If anyone of you know the spanish version, please let me know. I need it 
for our friends in Latin America.

many greetings, willi
Manaus, Brasil

Toward a Global Realignment
Zbigniew Brzezinski

As its era of global dominance ends, the United States needs to take the 
lead in realigning the global power architecture.

Five basic verities regarding the emerging redistribution of global 
political power and the violent political awakening in the Middle East 
are signaling the coming of a new global realignment.
The first of these verities is that the United States is still the 
world’s politically, economically, and militarily most powerful entity 
but, given complex geopolitical shifts in regional balances, it is no 
longer the globally imperial power. But neither is any other major power.

The second verity is that Russia is experiencing the latest convulsive 
phase of its imperial devolution. A painful process, Russia is not 
fatally precluded – if it acts wisely – from becoming eventually a 
leading European nation-state. However, currently it is pointlessly 
alienating some of its former subjects in the Islamic southwest of its 
once extensive empire, as well as Ukraine, Belarus, and Georgia, not to 
mention the Baltic States.

The third verity is that China is rising steadily, if more slowly as of 
late, as America’s eventual coequal and likely rival; but for the time 
being it is careful not to pose an outright challenge to America. 
Militarily, it seems to be seeking a breakthrough in a new generation of 
weapons while patiently enhancing its still very limited naval power.

The fourth verity is that Europe is not now and is not likely to become 
a global power. But it can play a constructive role in taking the lead 
in regard to transnational threats to global wellbeing and even human 
survival. Additionally, Europe is politically and culturally aligned 
with and supportive of core U.S. interests in the Middle East, and 
European steadfastness within NATO is essential to an eventually 
constructive resolution of the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

The fifth verity is that the currently violent political awakening among 
post-colonial Muslims is, in part, a belated reaction to their 
occasionally brutal suppression mostly by European powers. It fuses a 
delayed but deeply felt sense of injustice with a religious motivation 
that is unifying large numbers of Muslims against the outside world; but 
at the same time, because of historic sectarian schisms within Islam 
that have nothing to do with the West, the recent welling up of 
historical grievances is also divisive within Islam.

Taken together as a unified framework, these five verities tell us that 
the United States must take the lead in realigning the global power 
architecture in such a way that the violence erupting within and 
occasionally projected beyond the Muslim world—and in the future 
possibly from other parts of what used to be called the Third World—can 
be contained without destroying the global order. We can sketch this new 
architecture by elaborating briefly each of the five foregoing verities.

First, America can only be effective in dealing with the current Middle 
Eastern violence if it forges a coalition that involves, in varying 
degrees, also Russia and China. To enable such a coalition to take 
shape, Russia must first be discouraged from its reliance on the 
unilateral use of force against its own neighbors—notably Ukraine, 
Georgia, the Baltic States—and China should be disabused of the idea 
that selfish passivity in the face of the rising regional crisis in the 
Middle East will prove to be politically and economically rewarding to 
its ambitions in the global arena. These shortsighted policy impulses 
need to be channeled into a more farsighted vision.

Second, Russia is becoming for the first time in its history a truly 
national state, a development that is as momentous as it is generally 
overlooked. The Czarist Empire, with its multinational but largely 
politically passive population, came to an end with World War I and the 
Bolshevik creation of an allegedly voluntary union of national republics 
(the USSR), with power resting effectively in Russian hands, took its 
place. The collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991 led to the 
sudden emergence of a predominantly Russian state as its successor, and 
to the transformation of the former Soviet Union’s non-Russian 
“republics” into formally independent states. These states are now 
consolidating their independence, and both the West and China—in 
different areas and different ways—are exploiting that new reality to 
Russia’s disadvantage. In the meantime, Russia’s own future depends on 
its ability to become a major and influential nation-state that is part 
of a unifying Europe. Not to do so could have dramatically negative 
consequences for Russia’s ability to withstand growing 
territorial-demographic pressure from China, which is increasingly 
inclined as its power grows to recall the “unequal” treaties Moscow 
imposed on Beijing in times past.

Third, China’s dramatic economic success requires enduring patience and 
the country’s awareness that political haste will make for social waste. 
The best political prospect for China in the near future is to become 
America’s principal partner in containing global chaos of the sort that 
is spreading outward (including to the northeast) from the Middle East. 
If it is not contained, it will contaminate Russia’s southern and 
eastern territories as well as the western portions of China. Closer 
relations between China and the new republics in Central Asia, the 
post-British Muslim states in Southwest Asia (notably Pakistan) and 
especially with Iran (given its strategic assets and economic 
significance), are the natural targets of Chinese regional geopolitical 
outreach. But they should also be targets of global Sino-American 

Fourth, tolerable stability will not return to the Middle East as long 
as local armed military formations can calculate that they can be 
simultaneously the beneficiaries of a territorial realignment while 
selectively abetting extreme violence. Their ability to act in a savage 
manner can only be contained by increasingly effective—but also 
selective—pressure derived from a base of U.S.-Russian-Chinese 
cooperation that, in turn, enhances the prospects for the responsible 
use of force by the region’s more established states (namely, Iran, 
Turkey, Israel, and Egypt). The latter should also be the recipients of 
more selective European support. Under normal circumstances, Saudi 
Arabia would be a significant player on that list, but the current 
inclination of the Saudi government still to foster Wahhabi fanaticism, 
even while engaged in ambitious domestic modernization efforts, raises 
grave doubts regarding Saudi Arabia’s ability to play a regionally 
significant constructive role.

Fifth, special attention should be focused on the non-Western world’s 
newly politically aroused masses. Long-repressed political memories are 
fueling in large part the sudden and very explosive awakening energized 
by Islamic extremists in the Middle East, but what is happening in the 
Middle East today may be just the beginning of a wider phenomenon to 
come out of Africa, Asia, and even among the pre-colonial peoples of the 
Western Hemisphere in the years ahead.

Periodic massacres of their not-so-distant ancestors by colonists and 
associated wealth-seekers largely from western Europe (countries that 
today are, still tentatively at least, most open to multiethnic 
cohabitation) resulted within the past two or so centuries in the 
slaughter of colonized peoples on a scale comparable to Nazi World War 
II crimes: literally involving hundreds of thousands and even millions 
of victims. Political self-assertion enhanced by delayed outrage and 
grief is a powerful force that is now surfacing, thirsting for revenge, 
not just in the Muslim Middle East but also very likely beyond.

Much of the data cannot be precisely established, but taken 
collectively, they are shocking. Let just a few examples suffice. In the 
16th century, due largely to disease brought by Spanish explorers, the 
population of the native Aztec Empire in present-day Mexico declined 
from 25 million to approximately one million. Similarly, in North 
America, an estimated 90 percent of the native population died within 
the first five years of contact with European settlers, due primarily to 
diseases. In the 19th century, various wars and forced resettlements 
killed an additional 100,000. In India from 1857-1867, the British are 
suspected of killing up to one million civilians in reprisals stemming 
from the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The British East India Company’s use 
of Indian agriculture to grow opium then essentially forced on China 
resulted in the premature deaths of millions, not including the directly 
inflicted Chinese casualties of the First and Second Opium Wars. In the 
Congo, which was the personal holding of Belgian King Leopold II, 10-15 
million people were killed between 1890 and 1910. In Vietnam, recent 
estimates suggest that between one and three million civilians were 
killed from 1955 to 1975.

As to the Muslim world in Russia’s Caucasus, from 1864 and 1867, 90 
percent of the local Circassian population was forcibly relocated and 
between 300,000 and 1.5 million either starved to death or were killed. 
Between 1916 and 1918, tens of thousands of Muslims were killed when 
300,000 Turkic Muslims were forced by Russian authorities through the 
mountains of Central Asia and into China. In Indonesia, between 1835 and 
1840, the Dutch occupiers killed an estimated 300,000 civilians. In 
Algeria, following a 15-year civil war from 1830-1845, French brutality, 
famine, and disease killed 1.5 million Algerians, nearly half the 
population. In neighboring Libya, the Italians forced Cyrenaicans into 
concentration camps, where an estimated 80,000 to 500,000 died between 
1927 and 1934.

More recently, in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 the Soviet Union is 
estimated to have killed around one million civilians; two decades 
later, the United States has killed 26,000 civilians during its 15-year 
war in Afghanistan. In Iraq, 165,000 civilians have been killed by the 
United States and its allies in the past 13 years. (The disparity 
between the reported number of deaths inflicted by European colonizers 
compared with the United States and its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan 
may be due in part to the technological advances that have resulted in 
the more productive use of force and in part as well to a shift in the 
world’s normative climate.) Just as shocking as the scale of these 
atrocities is how quickly the West forgot about them.

In today’s postcolonial world, a new historical narrative is emerging. A 
profound resentment against the West and its colonial legacy in Muslim 
countries and beyond is being used to justify their sense of deprivation 
and denial of self-dignity. A stark example of the experience and 
attitudes of colonial peoples is well summarized by the Senegalese poet 
David Diop in “Vultures”:

In those days,
When civilization kicked us in the face
The vultures built in the shadow of their talons
The blood stained monument of tutelage…

Given all this, a long and painful road toward an initially limited 
regional accommodation is the only viable option for the United States, 
Russia, China, and the pertinent Middle Eastern entities. For the United 
States, that will require patient persistence in forging cooperative 
relationships with some new partners (particularly Russia and China) as 
well as joint efforts with more established and historically rooted 
Muslim states (Turkey, Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia if it can detach 
its foreign policy from Wahhabi extremism) in shaping a wider framework 
of regional stability. Our European allies, previously dominant in the 
region, can still be helpful in that regard.
A comprehensive U.S. pullout from the Muslim world favored by domestic 
isolationists, could give rise to new wars (for example, Israel vs. 
Iran, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, a major Egyptian intervention in Libya) and 
would generate an even deeper crisis of confidence in America’s globally 
stabilizing role. In different but dramatically unpredictable ways, 
Russia and China could be the geopolitical beneficiaries of such a 
development even as global order itself becomes the more immediate 
geopolitical casualty. Last but not least, in such circumstances a 
divided and fearful Europe would see its current member states searching 
for patrons and competing with one another in alternative but separate 
arrangements among the more powerful trio.

A constructive U.S. policy must be patiently guided by a long-range 
vision. It must seek outcomes that promote the gradual realization in 
Russia (probably post-Putin) that its only place as an influential world 
power is ultimately within Europe. China’s increasing role in the Middle 
East should reflect the reciprocal American and Chinese realization that 
a growing U.S.-PRC partnership in coping with the Middle Eastern crisis 
is an historically significant test of their ability to shape and 
enhance together wider global stability.

The alternative to a constructive vision, and especially the quest for a 
one-sided militarily and ideologically imposed outcome, can only result 
in prolonged and self-destructive futility. For America, that could 
entail enduring conflict, fatigue, and conceivably even a demoralizing 
withdrawal to its pre-20th century isolationism. For Russia, it could 
mean major defeat, increasing the likelihood of subordination in some 
fashion to Chinese predominance. For China, it could portend war not 
only with the United States but also, perhaps separately, with either 
Japan or India or with both. And, in any case, a prolonged phase of 
sustained ethnic, quasi-religious wars pursued through the Middle East 
with self-righteous fanaticism would generate escalating bloodshed 
within and outside the region, and growing cruelty everywhere.

The fact is that there has never been a truly “dominant” global power 
until the emergence of America on the world scene. Imperial Great 
Britain came close to becoming one, but World War I and later World War 
II not only bankrupted it but also prompted the emergence of rival 
regional powers. The decisive new global reality was the appearance on 
the world scene of America as simultaneously the richest and militarily 
the most powerful player. During the latter part of the 20th century no 
other power even came close.

That era is now ending. While no state is likely in the near future to 
match America’s economic-financial superiority, new weapons systems 
could suddenly endow some countries with the means to commit suicide in 
a joint tit-for-tat embrace with the United States, or even to prevail. 
Without going into speculative detail, the sudden acquisition by some 
state of the capacity to render America militarily inferior would spell 
the end of America’s global role. The result would most probably be 
global chaos. And that is why it behooves the United States to fashion a 
policy in which at least one of the two potentially threatening states 
becomes a partner in the quest for regional and then wider global 
stability, and thus in containing the least predictable but potentially 
the most likely rival to overreach. Currently, the more likely to 
overreach is Russia, but in the longer run it could be China.

Since the next twenty years may well be the last phase of the more 
traditional and familiar political alignments with which we have grown 
comfortable, the response needs to be shaped now. During the rest of 
this century, humanity will also have to be increasingly preoccupied 
with survival as such on account of a confluence of environmental 
challenges. Those challenges can only be addressed responsibly and 
effectively in a setting of increased international accommodation. And 
that accommodation has to be based on a strategic vision that recognizes 
the urgent need for a new geopolitical framework.

*The author acknowledges the helpful contribution of his research 
assistant Paul Wasserman, and the scholarship on the subject of colonial 
brutality by Adam Hochschild, Richard Pierce, William Polk, and the 
Watson Institute at Brown University, among others.

Zbigniew Brzezinski is a counselor at the Center for Strategic and 
International Studies and was the National Security Advisor to President 
Jimmy Carter from 1977-81. He is the author, most recently, of Strategic 
Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power.

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