OPINION

Commentary

Although American rhetoric makes no mention of geopolitics, the nascent anti-terrorist campaign obviously has such a dimension. This will become clear when the military campaign against the Taleban regime is completed. Washington is not the only capital which would benefit from a severe blow struck at Islamic fundamentalism. Beijing and Moscow harbor similar desires. China permanently faces separatism from Muslims in the northwestern provinces. Russia has for years been engaged in a fruitless war in Chechnya and has suffered from terrorist assaults by Chechen fundamentalists. In return for their participation in the unfolding crusade, these two big powers could mobilize on the above fronts without being subjected to Western political pressure. The USA’s major geopolitical benefit from this settlement is that it will gain a foothold in the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia which lie at the heart of Asia and are rich in energy deposits. These republics may have become independent states but they essentially remain within a Russian zone of influence. Moscow has maintained bases in many of these countries. The Americans attempted to penetrate this region originally through Turkey and then through Afghanistan. Now, Moscow itself is allowing them to gain a foothold. It is no coincidence that many Russian military commentators and senior officials have objected to the move, fearing that the Americans will refuse to pull out after the operation has been concluded. In Afghanistan, the USA is obviously preparing the ground for the return of the former king. It is using the Northern Alliance in order to weaken the Taleban regime, but it does not see it as a genuine alternative. This is first because it is influenced by Russia and, second, because it is racially made up of Uzbeks and Tajiks. Afghanistan may be a wretched country but its geographical location lends it great strategic importance to the USA. Energy resources can be sent to the West using specific routes. The most profitable routes would be the one crossing Iran – which would be bedeviled by political obstacles – or via Afghanistan and Pakistan. This last route could function if the region came under control and became stable. It is obvious that much is at stake in the region.