Cheng Guangzhong, "Kosovo War and the US 'Python' Strategy," Hong Kong,  Ta Kung Pao, 2 June 1999


At the turn of the century, the Kosovo War has attracted extensive world attention and has caused many worries and deep thoughts. What kind of mark will the war make on the upcoming 21st century? Will war and chaos replace peace and development? The United States has never regarded the Balkan region of vital interest, and US politicians and military experts know very well the tremendous risks associated with getting drawn into the Balkan powder keg. Therefore, it is hard to understand why the United States has insisted on launching the Kosovo War, and its zeal to keep on going unless Milosevic is subdued. Actually, this is related to the "python" strategy promoted by the United States after the Cold War.

The US "Python" Strategy

The United States has conducted three major strategic expansions in history: the "Monroe Doctrine," the "Open Door" policy, and the "Truman Doctrine."

The first strategic expansion occurred between the close of the 18th century and the early half of the 19th century on the American Continent. At that time, under the "Monroe Doctrine" and the slogan "America is the America for America's people," the United States expanded into a country that stretched over the continent of North America, and had the entire southern part of North America as its backyard.

The second expansion occurred between the close of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. During that time, the United States put forward the "Open Door" policy, forcibly occupied the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, and Wake Island in succession. It stretched its territory 7,000 nautical miles west of the US West Coast, which was only 700 nautical miles from China, and turned from being a traditional Atlantic nation into a country stretching across two oceans.

The third expansion occurred between the end of World War II and the 1960s. Under the banner of the "Truman Doctrine," the United States replaced Britain as the global overlord, gained control of the European bridgehead by controlling Germany and stationing troops in Western Europe, and gained a foothold by controlling Japan, the ROK, and other islands on the outer fringe of the Asian Continent. However, its defeat in the Vietnam War thwarted its attempt to control the central south peninsula.

This third US strategic expansion was deeply influenced by such US-style geological strategic concepts as represented by Spikeman's. Spikeman opined: "The United States is geologically surrounded by the Eurasian Continent, Africa, and Australia. Eurasia, Australia, and Africa added together are one and a half times larger in area than the New World (America), have a 10-fold larger population, and produce equal amounts of energy. Western Europe to our east is a center of power in terms of population density and mechanical abilities. Another colossal center of power lies to our west, and most of its strength is manifested in population density." Therefore, the United States, "To prevent our security from being threatened, should always take heed not to let any country or a few allied nations emerge with superior strength anywhere in these two regions of the Old World (Eurasian Continent) during peacetime. It is obvious that the relations between the internal strength of Eurasian nations will dictate our policy orientation to a great degree." Spikeman also said unequivocally that the heart of the matter concerning the Eurasian Continent mainly is guarding against Soviet Russia, German in Western Europe, and China and Japan in East Asia.

During the Cold War era, the United States mainly surrounded and blocked the Soviet Union. After the Cold War, the United States began its fourth strategic expansion. It has become the only superpower in the world, and believes that it is in a historical period where it is most secure, is economically most prosperous, and has most effectively handled its domestic problems. It also believes that it is the most powerful country with the most extensive allied system since the beginning of mankind's history. The United State's strength is an organic combination of economic, military, and other tangible strength with culture, values, and other intangible strengths. Basically at present the multipolar world does not exist, instead this is a world where the United States has absolute superiority. The United States wishes to capitalize on the window of strategic opportunity for the next 20 years or so to intensify its control of the world, and use US gunboat policies and concepts to "mold" the world.

If we say that during the Cold War era, the United States mainly controlled Western Europe and Japan, and therefore controlled the fringe areas of the Eurasian Continent by manipulating the equilibrium of power, then we can say that after the Cold War, the United States practices the "python" strategy as its global strategy. It uses its thickset body to coil tightly around the world, and prevent any country from possessing the ability to stand up to it. This "python" strategy still regards the Americas as the US backyard, and the Eurasian Continent as the biggest and main stage for competition. On the Eurasian Continent, the United States has expanded its military presence in the Middle East by implementing a "twofold check" on Iraq and Iran, extended its power to Eastern Europe through NATO's eastward expansion, made preparations to extend its power to the Caucasus and Central Asia, and increased its guard against and restricted China by expanding US-Japanese alliance. The United States, the big python, has tightened its control of the world, particularly the Eurasian Continent, and has shown a tendency to choke every country.

Like all other countries, the United States has promoted a global strategy that is related to US ideologies and concepts. The United States is a very peculiar and rather successful country in the world. This country, built by British colonialists and other subjects who escaped feudal oppression from many European countries, upon its independence constructed a rather mature capitalist democracy system, established a set of values centered on individualism, and scored remarkable economic success in the process of pursuing scientific and technological progress. All these successes are envied and imitated by many countries in the world; this has caused the United States to become egotistical. The United States has gradually formed diplomatic concepts in which it has been most persevering.

First, it formed a concept of racial order that regards the American nation as the "chosen people of God." Benjamin Franklin, the "Father of Democratic Thinking" of the United States, who made outstanding contributions to the War of Independence, was a typical racist. He openly condemned native Indians as "barbarians who are exhilarated by battle and proud of killing people." Later, in the process of external expansion, US rulers formed a complete concept on racial order, which holds that "among the people of the world, the most outstanding are the Saxons, and in this British family, the most noble blood has been chosen to form our country." Among the Whites, Saxons rank first, Germans rank second, while the Slavs are half European and half Asian. Lower down in the rank of Whites are French, Italians, Spanish, and Latinos. Below the Whites are people of the yellow race, who have not heeded the calls of freedom, although they are hardworking, and who have poisoned any place they have gone to. The lowest in the racial order are "Red" Indians, "Black" Africans, and people of Indian and African mixed blood.

Second, it has peddled the US system and system of values. The United States regards its free election, multiparty system, and representative system as the world's most standard systems, and has actively peddled its systems and system of values to the world. To achieve its goal, in the early half of the 19th century the United States described itself as a "mobile republican nation" that has the right and even the duty to expand its territory to the Continent of North America. Around the end of the Cold War, it proposed that "human rights are above sovereignty," "the theory of democratic peace," and other theories and banners, to seek theoretical grounds for promoting its "human rights diplomacy" and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

Third, it has too much blind faith in military force. US President Jefferson believed that a war of arms could easily lead to despotism, and a democratic and free country should not place excessive blind faith in and worship military force. However, in reality, the United States has always held aloft a big stick when carrying out its diplomatic policy, sometimes to near insane levels. From 1990 to the present, the United States has deployed troops on 20 occasions on the pretext of enforcing UN resolutions, peacekeeping, providing humanitarian aid, opposing aggression, and protecting the life, property, and safety of its nationals. Among them were nine military interventions in other countries, including the 1990-91 Gulf War; 1992-94 Somali peacekeeping operation; 13-23 January 1993, establishment of a "no fly zone" in southern Iraq and air strikes on Iraq conducted jointly with Britain and Germany; 1994-95 deployment of 15,000 troops to force the Haitian military government into stepping down; 1995 air strikes on Serb bases in Bosnia-Herzegovina and deployment of over 20,000 people to form the Bosnia-Herzegovina multinational stabilization force; 3-4 September 1996, guided missile strikes on Iraq; August 1998 missile attacks on the Laden Camp, in Khost, Afghanistan and the northern suburbs of the Sudanese capital; 17-20 December 1998, the launch of "Desert Fox" operation; since February 1998, intervention in Kosovo and the decision to deploy 4,000 men to militarily intervene in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [FRY]. Such frequent and unrestricted use of force against other countries has shown that the homage paid by US policymakers to military force is already in the extreme.

Kosovo War Is an Important Step in the US "Python" Strategy

Historically, the Balkans was a land for which the Ottoman Turks Empire, Austria-Hungary Empire, Czarist Russia, and Italy contended; the fuse that ignited World War I; and an important battlefield during World War II. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed with each other to rope in Yugoslavia, but why does the United States use its butcher's knife on the FRY now? The reason is that this is an important step in the US "python" strategy. Specifically, the United States wishes to achieve the following strategic attempts: (1) Experiment with, (2) squeeze out one party, (3) hold one under duress, (4) remove one party, (5) form a line, and (6) guard against another party.

1) Experiment with means experiment with a NATO "new strategy." China and Russia, the two UN permanent members, will definitely oppose and prevent US efforts to promote the "python" strategy after the Cold War. Because of this, the United States is very unhappy with the United Nations, whose establishment it had initiated. In spite of its position as the world's richest country and its demeanor as a great and proud country, it has refused to pay the membership fees it owes the United Nations, and attempted to turn the United Nations into a personal rubber stamp. Now, it has simply bypassed the United Nations, and tried its best to globalize the role of NATO, the most powerful military alliance in the world, and turn the latter into an effective tool for promoting US "python" strategy worldwide, particularly on the Eurasian Continent. The initial objective of founding NATO, as described by Lord Ismay, NATO's first secretary general, was to "drive away the Russians, invite in US people, and suppress the Germans." It can be said that the end of the Cold War indicated that NATO had fulfilled the above objective. However, right now, the United States intends to further utilize NATO for global intervention. The "new strategy" adopted by NATO at the meeting held on the 50th NATO founding anniversary declared unequivocally: NATO has the right to intervene militarily in areas outside Europe on humanitarian grounds. The Kosovo War is the touchstone for NATO's "new strategy."

2) Squeeze out one party means further squeezing the strategic space of Russia. After the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States and West European countries were still worried that Russia might one day regain the magnificent style of a big power. To make sure that the latter will never stand up again, they took the opportunity to keep a tight bridle on a weakened Russia. Historically, Russia contested with West European countries for centuries over this key region in Eastern Europe, and the United States has capitalized on the traditional fear of Western Europe to rally NATO actively into expanding eastward. Besides expanding NATO's strategic borders and increasing the sense of security among West European countries, the expansion will intensify the conflicts between Western Europe and Russia, which will then provide the United States with an excuse for continuing to station troops in Europe. As for Russia, although the United States has superficially said that it wishes to develop a strategic partnership with Russia, it nevertheless feels deep down that "anyone who is not from its clan will harbor ulterior motives," and that when would it be a good time to fix Russia other than now?

3) Hold one under duress means to continue controlling Western Europe. Western Europe is the cradle of modern Western civilization. It has a strong sense of pride and independence. During the Cold War era, Western Europe relied on the United States out of extreme fear for the Soviet Union, but in its heart, it felt humiliated. By strengthening political, economic, and military cooperation after the Cold War, West European countries have stepped up efforts to form a coalition and grow stronger, and years ago harbored the hope of bypassing the United States and single-handedly dealing with the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflicts. Nevertheless, quoting Samuel P. Huntington: "The special relations between the United States and Britain provide a means for handling the continuously rising force of a united Europe." However, Britain's strength is limited. In particular, the euro, which made an official appearance on 1 January 1999, has directly challenged the greenback's dominant position and US economic interests, making the United States rather uneasy. Recent US-European trade wars clearly have shown that conflicts between the two sides have intensified. The Kosovo War has intensified the conflicts between Western Europe and Russia. It has forced increasingly independent Western Europe to seek protection from US military power, and also redirected large capital flows from the euro area to the United States. This has made US stocks completely bullish while continuing to keep West European stock markets down. This could cause the euro to "die prematurely" before it is officially circulated. At the least, it could mean the euro will face difficulty each step it takes after its launch, and make Britain and other countries flinch from joining the euro.

4) Remove one party means removing a thorn, the FRY. The FRY is one of the leaders of the Nonaligned Movement. Although it is a socialist country, its basically neutral policy during the Cold War era made it a candidate that the United States actively tried to woo and win over. After the Cold War, the United States has regarded the FRY, which pursues a policy of acting independently and with the initiative in its own hands, as a thorn in its side, whether it is from the point of ideology or geological strategy. Ideologically, the United States has eagerly desired to transform all socialist countries, and strives to build a purely capitalist world. From the point of geological strategy, the United States wishes to promote the "python" strategy, which includes not only Eastern Europe, but also the Caucasus and Central Asian countries, into NATO. Since the FRY has succumbed to neither threats nor promises of gains from NATO, the United States definitely will find an excuse to remove it so as to feel good.

5) Form a line means controlling the area around the Caspian Sea, Caucasus, Black Sea, and Mediterranean Sea. Gaining control over this line will help NATO counter ethnic, religious, and border conflicts, terrorism, and other transnational and cross-regional threats that originate from within Europe and its peripheral areas, and will also protect the energy supply for the West. Principally, NATO has focused on four key areas. (1) It has focused on the Caspian Sea's oil gas resources, and competed over them with Russia and Iran. (2) It has attempted to build a "democratic and powerful Turkey," so that the latter will become a powerful nation that straddles Europe and Asia, and a favorable link for expanding the influence of Western powers. (3) It has focused on strengthening military deployment in the Mediterranean because the latter is a place where complicated security issues concerning Europe, Africa, and the Middle East crisscross, as well as a channel for energy supply to the West. (4) It has focused on Central Asian countries, because these countries possess rich oil gas resources, and lie in close proximity to China's western border. NATO has built peace partnerships with the Caucasus and some former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and is prepared to absorb these countries into NATO when the moment is ripe. If the above objectives were achieved, NATO can surround Russia from the east and south, and threaten and disturb China from the west.

6) Guard against another party means to make preemptive strategic deployment in order to focus, in the future, on key aspects of the "python" strategy in the Asian-Pacific sphere and launch pincer attacks on China from the east and west. China and Russia are the principal bodies of the Eurasian Continent, they have vast territories, are stone pillars that the United States could not chop off, and are major obstructions to the US "python" strategy. Russia has to seek help from the United States because it is half surrounded by the United States-led NATO, and because it is facing serious internal crises, particularly economic crisis. In the short term, it will be unable to respond effectively to US hegemonist acts. The United States regards China as a major threat in the 21st century. However, maintaining a forward military presence south of the Korean Peninsula and on the Japanese archipelago, and playing the "Taiwan card" to disrupt China, simply will not restrain China. That is why the United States desires to expand NATO's strategic border to the line along Xinjiang, draw European powers into the conflicts with China, threaten China from the west, and make an important preemptive chess move for a possible conflict with China in the 21st century.

Possible Outcome and Effects of the Kosovo War 

After the initial success was won in the Kosovo War, military experts who attach importance to technologies opined that the war will end quickly with NATO completely victorious and Milosevic yielding because of the great disparity in strength between the FRY and NATO. On the other hand, military experts who attach importance to the FRY's consciousness about commands, national spirit, and factors such as external assistance from Russia opined that we could not dismiss the possibility of the war turning into a second Vietnam War. A third opinion held the belief that the war will end in compromise between the two sides. The war has already gone on for nearly 2 months, and NATO has achieved none of its war objectives. Although the US-led NATO has taken an uncompromising stand, it nevertheless has to agree to end the war through political means under UN auspices.

The possibility of NATO winning a quick, complete victory has disappeared. Will the Kosovo War become a second Vietnam War? Although the possibility is slim, we cannot totally dismiss it. This is because NATO and the FRY are still sharply divided over the issue of the composition of the international force to be stationed in Kosovo. After NATO barbarously bombed China's embassy in the FRY, Russia and China strongly demanded that an immediate halt in NATO bombing be made a prerequisite for politically settling the crisis under UN auspices, but NATO paid no attention to the proposition, and this has complicated relations between great nations surrounding the Kosovo issues. NATO's bombing alone could not make the FRY yield, and faced with large numbers of refugees and antiwar pressure from the international community, the best way to speed up the progress of war is to deploy ground troops. Although the deployment of ground troops could rapidly rout the Yugoslav main force, it would be difficult to avoid getting mired in guerrilla warfare. If NATO expands the Kosovo air raids into a ground war involving the whole FRY, it may invite military intervention from Russia, increasing the factors for a prolonged war. The most likely outcome of the war is compromise between the two sides, and ending the war through political negotiations under UN auspices. This will require NATO to denounce its homage to military force and its reckless way of using strength to bully the weak, to be not so conscious about saving face, and to adopt a more pragmatic attitude.

Regardless of its final outcome, the war will have a major impact on the world situation and the US "python" strategy.

1) The multipolarization trend will be reversed. Of the five major strategic forces -- the United States, Russia, China, Europe, and Japan -- the United States has put Europe and Japan under its leadership, and China and Russia are two poles whose strength is relatively weaker. Multipolarization will take a longer time.

2) It will intensify confrontation between blocs and the arms race. By striking a sovereign state violently, NATO will definitely promote stronger cooperation or even alliance between non-NATO nations, and therefore increasing the possibility of confrontation between blocs. The war will propel many countries into increasing national defense investment, and accelerate the transition from industrial warfare to information era warfare. Some Third World countries that have not participated in the arms race may vie with each other to develop and obtain weapons of mass destruction.

3) It will "fragment" the world. The open support of the US-led NATO for the separatist movement armed by Kosovo's Albanians will inspire ethnic separatists in many countries, some of the separatist movements may even succeed and further "fragment" the world. An increasingly "fragmented" world not only goes against globalization and regional trends, but will also produce more hot spots.

4) It will strike a serious blow to the principles of international relations that are based on the supremacy of a sovereign state; weaken the regulatory roles of international organizations, mainly the United Nations; lead to a state where power politics run amuck and rites and protocols collapse; and cast a dark shadow on the upcoming new century.

5) It makes the world more alert about and resistant to US hegemonism and "python" strategy. The US' recklessness in the Kosovo War has made many countries realize that an unrestricted "superpower" will become a world "Caesar," and will lead to international despotism and autocracy. In particular, if Kosovo evolves into the second Vietnam War, the US national strength will decline, domestic conflicts will intensify, the United States will have lower confidence, and this will force it to become more careful in conducting external military interventions and military aggression in future.

[Description of source: Hong Kong Ta Kung Pao in Chinese--PRC-owned daily newspaper]