Some called it the end of history when the Soviet Union lost the Cold War and collapsed with the attempted coup on the reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow in August 1991. Indeed, they went on to say that the term geopolitics has lost its significance. Actually, this view was suggested when the US and its allies launched the expedition to liberate Kuwait -- or rather, the oil in the Gulf -- from the Iraqi occupation.
According to the supporters of this view, geopolitics became history with the Cold War, and the focus of the winners of the Cold War should become geoeconomics. The trio of international economy, geopolitics and strategy should have been evaluated to serve the geoeconomical approach.
The effort of the People’s Republic of China, which claimed it is not after global hegemony, to expand its circle of influence through economic means in the beginning of the 21st century reinforced the expectation that it would solely focus on geoeconomics right until the global economic crisis in 2008.
Global economic crisis called on geopolitics to duty
While the People’s Republic of China survived the global economic crisis gaining further strength, it directed surplus value it achieved to the defense industry, and this created a sense of deception in Washington.
Until then, the US administrations retained the hope that the economic support to be put behind Beijing would make the country evolve into a liberal system.
Nevertheless, realizing that Beijing used the economic power it achieved as a means to expand its circle of influence in the Belt and Road Initiative and the western countries, as well as the Chinese army’s increased activities of aircraft carriers construction led to change of route by the White House in its relations with China.
As the US President Barrack Obama’s and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s discourses on China hardened as of 2011, China rose to the top in the list of threats of US’ national security reports, leaving Russia behind.
Convinced that China should be dealt with through military capabilities rather than on the ground of geoeconomics, the US carried this approach to the NATO allies as well. China is expected to be inevitably declared as a rival for alliance with Russia in the new strategic concept of the NATO, which will be updated in the 2022 summit.
The US turned the problems the world was grappling with during this period, such as energy and supply, into an opportunity for itself, and began using geoeconomics as a means to achieve its long term geopolitical goals.
US’ art of turning energy cooperation platforms into defense alliances
The new US strategy, which turned out to have imitated projects including China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Russia’s Nord Stream 2, has been designed as a means to use the weapon of geoeconomics that will enable the country to form global allies similar to NATO across the world.
The AUKUS alliance that Washington declared with the UK and Australia on Sept. 14 is one of the most recent examples of this strategy.
The international community still perceive this development only as an economic issue aiming at taking out France to sell Australia eight nuclear submarines. However, the fact that it was one of the most critical geopolitical moves to lay siege to China can be fully discerned only in 2030.
The formation of another alliance that appeared to be essentially economy-based started in the eastern Mediterranean in 2013.
Then, the project launched for gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean to cater to the energy needs of Europe turned into a geopolitical problem within the framework of the military coup in Egypt, Syrian civil war, problems in Turkey-Israel relations, and issue over sharing the natural resources of the island of Cyprus.
The countries which would benefit from the project the most, namely Israel, Egypt, Greek administration of Southern Cyprus and Greece united against Turkey simultaneously.
While these countries increased cooperation in the field of not only energy but in defense as well, France, which took on a tug of war with Turkey, joined the structure organized as the East Mediterranean Gas Forum.
Weaponizing Greece, the US participated in the forum as an observer, and the United Arab Emirates was another country that applied to be an observer. Consequently, the structure that started with a geoeconomics goal turned into an organization aiming at restricting Turkey’s domain over the eastern Mediterranean in only seven years.
Wall of three seas: From Baltic to Black Sea and Adriatic Sea
Another geopolitical weapon that the US is about to build against Russia using geoeconomic means on the common ground of energy needs stretches from Baltic Sea to Black Sea and Adriatic Sea.
Similarly, the foundations of the Three Seas Initiative that is formed to provide energy security of 12 European countries were laid in 2016. It became clear that the Three Seas Initiative had goals beyond energy cooperation during the summit that then US President Donald Trump attended in the Polish capital Warsaw in 2017. The initiative consisting of Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Crotia, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia rises like a wall before Russia. The US’ power shift to Poland under the pretext of strengthening NATO’s right wing, as well as building a military headquarter that would cost $30 million in Poznan province also indicates the importance that the countries that stretch along the line will gain against Russia not only in terms of energy cooperation only but also military.
Thus, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s visit to three countries around the Black Sea before the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence on Oct. 21 gave fresh insights into the defense structure that this energy-based cooperation would turn into. Visiting Georgia, Ukraine and Romania, the US Secretary of Defense argued that Russia’s activities on the Black Sea pose a threat for the economies of the regional countries while emphasizing that Black Sea is important for both NATO’s right wing and the US’ national security.
Simultaneously, the Chief of Staff of the UK, which turned out to have become the greatest ally of the US on the global scale through marine activities in the Indian-Pacific region after leaving the European Union, pointed at the geopolitical identity that the Black Sea will gain in the near future.
Stating that it was necessary to form temporary coalitions in which NATO would play a central role and that caution was needed on Black Sea as it was possible that alliances similar to AUKUS would emerge with the participation of Black Sea countries, Nicholas Carter was conveying the message that one more structure seemingly geoeconomical would be turned into a geopolitical weapon for military and political goals.
As geoeconomical crises turn into geopolitical opportunities
Crises over energy and supply chains that were understood to continue affecting the international community in the 2022-2023 term may change the nature of geopolitical balances. While the waves of economic crises in the world repeated with 30-year intervals, today these intervals have been down to 10 years. The US is using its rhetoric of freedom of navigation to form alliances against hostile countries on the certain sea trade routes, chiefly Black Sea, for the safety of free trade it commenced in the Indian-Pacific region.
Just as the economic volume created by the First Industrial Revolution became decisive in the struggle of international politics and sharing with the emergence of steam power, globalizing economy and its needs turned into means used by the superpowers to attain their geopolitical goals. The countries that held a place on the international map of trade for thousands of years thanks to the Silk Road, like Turkey, will have the opportunity to turn the power of geoeconomics into advantages as part of the new strategic concept to be presented by the NATO in 2022.
*Journalist Mehmet A. Kanci is an expert on Turkish foreign policy.
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.