Military


Warm Water Ports - Afghanistan - Balochistan

While Czar Peter outlined the "Grand Design," Prince Gorchakov seems to have articulated the "operational strategy " by stating: "The position of Russia in Central Asia is that of all civilized states which are brought into contact with half savage nomad populations.... In such cases it always happens that the more civilized state is forced, in the interest of the security of its frontiers ... to exercise a certain ascendancy over those whom their turbulence and unsettled character made most undesirable neighbors ... the tribes on the frontier have to be reduced to the state of more or less perfect submission This result, once obtained, these tribes take to more peaceful habits, but are in turn exposed to attacks of more distant tribes."

This would seem to imply the necessity for yet further conquests to protect their earlier conquests. History shows that Tashkent was conquered in 1865, Samarkand in 1868, Khiva in 1873, Bukhara in 1876, Ashkhabad and Mary in 1886 till finally, subjugation of Panjdeh in 1885 brought Russia onto the borders of Afghanistan. This finally woke up Britain to the potential danger to her Indian Empire and began what Rudyard Kipling romanticized as "The Great Game." The end result, after much conflict, including two disastrous British invasions of Afghanistan, was the institutionalizing of Afghanistan as a buffer between the two empires. By 1880 the Russians had moved upto the Afghan border after taking control of the central Asian Khanates of Khiva, Samarkand and Bokhara.

The British feared that Russian control of Central Asia would create an ideal springboard for an invasion of Britain's territories in the subcontinent, and were especially concerned about Russia gaining a warm water port. They would fight the First and Second Anglo-Afghan Wars in an attempt to establish control over the region, and to counter the slowly creeping expansion of Russia. Losing badly both times, the British signed the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention which divided Afghanistan between the two powers and outlined the framework for all future diplomatic relations.

Since her defeat in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, Russian foreign policy concerns had become increasingly focused on the Balkans for two main reasons. Strategically and economically, the guarantee of access to a warm water port through the Dardanelle's was very important. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire threatened to let these fall into potentially unfriendly hands. For Russia any further Austro-Hungarian encroachment into the Balkans (particularly following the failures of the Bosnian crisis of 1908) potentially threatened both access to the Mediterranean from the Black Sea and also her position of influence in the Balkan area. Russia supported the Pan-Slavic movement. It was motivated by ethnic and religious loyalties and a rivalry with Austria, dating back to the Crimean War, but recent events, such as the failed Russian-Austrian treaty and a century-old dream of a warm water port also motivated St. Petersburg.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 stemmed from Soviet fears of unrest in its Muslim-dominated south and in the Communist regime installed just one year previously in Afghanistan. The Kremlin thought the Afghan Communist leader Hafizullah Amin was about to 'pull a Sadat' and expel the Soviets. The US, noting that the shah in Iran had been recently deposed, and fearing the Soviets were planning to capture a warm-water port by invading Afghanistan, responded by issuing diplomatic overtures to Iran, and by arming mujahideen in Pakistan.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 aroused American suspicions of a grand strategy aimed at seizing a warm-water port on the Indian Ocean and the oil of the Persian Gulf. Once the Soviets were in, the US whipped up the West and the Islamic world to strike fear in the Middle East by attempting to show that the Soviet army's real long-term ambition, if it could quell the Afghani resistance, was to reach a warm water port. The Soviet legions would move down through Iran to the Arabian Sea, and from there seize Iran 's oil-laden ships, backbone to the Western economies [needless to say, possibly the last thing the Soviets needed was a detour through the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan].

Rebellious Balochistan lay between Afghanistan and the sea. Since Soviet forces had militarily occupied Afghanistan in late 1979, the possibility had naturally arisen that Soviet leaders might be tempted to realize the long-cherished Russian goal of securing a warm- water port by exploiting lingering separatist grievances in neighboring Pakistan.




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