Thoughts on geostrategy following World War II

Different countries celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II with mixed feelings.

There was almost no mention of this global affair in Turkey. Ankara did not have the global vision that the war required and has not developed one afterward. Turkish global thinking ended with World War I.

Different nations that participated in this debacle developed different geopolitical views. However, the first sweeping judgment about the Second Great War is that its end did not bring peace to the world despite the great losses experienced by so many. Great powers — empires — of the old world declined to be replaced by the United States and the Soviet Union. A new balance of power shaped up among these new hegemons. The instruments of power were no longer large armies with open-field, face-to-face fighting capabilities. High technology, nuclear arms and precision weapons guided by satellites replaced them. Geopolitics became more important than geography to be conquered.

The second lesson of the Second Great War is the importance of speed in the execution of decisions on the ground. The raid on Pearl Harbor and the fall of France are examples that changed the course of war and strategic thinking thereafter.

Starting with the Great Depression, followed by Pearl Harbor and rekindled by 9/11, the American people were led to think that unexpected things can happen and destroy their security no matter how protected they are. So being constantly ready and on vigil (constant mobilization) is the best defense strategy.

Today’s American geopolitical doctrine is based on the notion that no identified enemy will be allowed to get strong enough to attain the capability of a first strike. The American view toward Russia and Iran and sub-state actors like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) are of this sort.

The lessons the Russians derived out of World War II are as follows: They tried to avert foreign aggression (Nazi Germany) with a series of treaties (i.e., the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact with Berlin) and alliances. But this did not prevent German armies from attacking Russia (1941).

The second lesson that the Russians derived from the war was to create a deep zone of defense away from home. Their invasion of a number of Eastern European countries and turning them into satellites is a result of this strategy. The Warsaw Pact countries, all satellites, provided that defensive depth for Russia against a possible US or NATO attack.

The third lesson the Russians (Soviets) derived was that while building diplomatic relations and alliances, the most reliable instrument of defense is a robust and capable army. This army must be kept at par with the most advanced armies of the times in technology and weaponry.

What Britain learned was no less valuable: They lost an empire but held on to their island. They averted a German invasion of Britain but the Americans invaded it, fortunately to help its defense. The British saw the limits of their power and adopted a policy of being a part of a wider defense organization (NATO) since then. Yet they built the naval and aerial capacity to defend the island until the wider defense apparatus they belonged to could come to the rescue.

The Second Great War transformed the US from being a potential great power into an actual one. Its productive capacity, coupled with technological breakthroughs and the manpower to do it, built a global powerhouse. Its contender, the Soviet Union, collapsed under the economic pressures of the Cold War. But Russians are used to the idea and pride of an empire. Their leader, Vladimir Putin, promises them power and glory, this time with a reliable economic foundation. While Russia is trying to come back as a global player, it is securing its immediate neighborhood both to the east and to the west consonant with its former geostrategic vision. Ukraine in the west and alliances with the Asian republics (its former satellites) in the east are all part of this strategy.

All of the new and old superpowers seem to be affected by World War II, and the lessons they have derived are guiding their defense strategies.

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SOURCE: Today’s Zaman