The Grand Chessboard:

The European Union, Oil & the Search for World Leadership

By Carl Teichrib  - October 24, 2003

Please visit his website at


See also  Globalization: The Final Demise of National Security &

The Globalization Strategy: America and Europe in the Crucible


Home | Articles by Carl Teichrib | Victory | Reinventing the World


     A global chess match is in play, but unlike other chess games, this one is being carried out on a wide range of playing fields – and the stakes are unbelievably high.

   The players in this match are as diverse as the game itself; rising regional groups such as the European Union, national governments with large economies and reputations at stake, international organizations such as the United Nations and NATO, worldwide financial agencies and banking interests, global governance lobby groups, plus many other organizations and categories too numerous to mention.

   The moves in this game are as awesome as the players themselves; national pawns are sacrificed for international security, knights check and countercheck each other over control of the world’s resources, rooks vie for political influence, and bishops scrap doctrine for global unity. The powerhouses of the world – the Kings and Queens who really pull the strings – continually shuffle and reshuffle the board, looking to leverage their supremacy in this globalization game.   

   It’s a perplexing contest; many of the players and issues are interconnected through treaties and alliances. At the same time, however, these players viciously compete with one another, often using and abusing the very alliances that enabled them to cooperate.  

   Take, for instance, the quiet but steady collision now occurring between US interests and the development of a European mega-state; a “friendly clash of titans” that has domestic and global ramifications, including the re-shaping of the entire international system.  

Playing Both Sides

    For decades, the United States has been deeply involved in what has been termed the “Atlantic Partnership” – an alliance between European and North American nations most often thought of in terms of NATO. But it goes much further.

   In the early days of the Cold War, the United States backed the concept of a politically and economically unified Europe. In explaining this historical linkage, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor and co-chairman of the Bush Sr., National Security Advisory Task Force, wrote,

"The United States has always professed its fidelity to the cause of a united Europe. Ever since the days of the Kennedy administration, the standard invocation has been that of 'equal partnership.' Official Washington has consistently proclaimed its desire to see Europe emerge as a single entity, powerful enough to share with America both the responsibilities and burdens of global leadership. (Brzezinski, The Grand Chessboard, p.48)

   But not all is what it seems. Speaking on the tensions between US power brokers and the planned amalgamation of Europe, Brzezinski elaborated,

   [Support for European unification] has been the established rhetoric on the subject. But in practice, the United States has been less clear and less consistent. Does Washington truly desire a Europe that is a genuinely equal partner in world affairs, or does it prefer an unequal alliance? For example, is the United States prepared to share leadership with Europe in the Middle East, a region not only much closer geographically to Europe than to America but also one in which several European states have long-standing interests? The issue of Israel instantly comes to mind. US-European differences over Iran and Iraq have also been treated by the United States not as an issue between equals but as a matter of insubordination. [p.48]

   Insubordination! This suggests that American powers have viewed Europe as subservient to US interests. Europe, however, is currently re-wiring itself to emerge as a new global player. Giscard d’Estaing, the chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe, recently explained that the EU of the future will be viewed both as an economically dominant force and as “a political power which will talk on equal terms to the greatest powers on our planet, either existing or future.”

   Without question, an American-Euro struggle is emerging, and nowhere is this struggle more potentially impacting than in the arena of global economics. 

Oil, Money, and Power

    In 1997, the European Central Bank was created as a legally chartered international institution. Shortly thereafter, the Euro dollar was introduced as an “accounting currency.” And by January 1, 2002, the Euro replaced twelve national denominations, linking together the largest market in the world through a single currency.

   When monetary unification was first tabled by the European community, many Western analysts scoffed. Nobody was laughing, however,  when the value of the Euro surpassed the US dollar during the last quarter of 2002. And the trend doesn’t appear to be reversing. Now, global markets and major central banks are accepting the Euro as an international alternative to the greenback. So much so that OPEC – the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, the principle body that shapes global oil flows – have been quietly eyeing the Euro as a potential long-term replacement for the US dollar.

   This is significant. When OPEC was formed, it agreed to use the US dollar as the foundational currency for its international oil exports, essentially creating a monopolized foreign-based oil standard for the dollar. Without going into technical detail, the easiest way to understand this is to realize that the use of the American dollar as OPEC’s sole currency for oil trading has massively subsidized the US economy. If OPEC was to switch from the dollar to the euro, the domestic and international monetary repercussions would be enormous.

   But is this currency switch a realistic scenario? In a speech to the Spanish government on April 14, 2002, Javad Yarjani, head of OPEC’s Market Analysis Department, clearly expressed an interest in this possibility. Furthermore, Yarjani noted that the new Euro-zone now imports more oil than the US, making this transition more alluring yet. Granted, there are many complex factors that need to be overcome before any switch occurs, but the fact that it’s being contemplated is unnerving to US interests.

   Ironically, the first and only OPEC nation to successfully adopt the Euro over the dollar was Iraq. In November 2000, the Iraqi government managed to have the United Nations oil-for-food program converted from US dollars to Euros. And while the Saddam regime had practically no real clout within OPEC, this turn-over demonstrated a vulnerable chink within the American armor.

   Since then, Iran – which is a strong OPEC leader – has shown a real interest in the Euro. In fact, the European Union has been economically courting Iran, and is now its largest trading partner. Venezuela, the current head of OPEC, has likewise recognized Europe as a new US counterbalance. And the Gulf Cooperation Council, a grouping of OPEC and non-OPEC Arab nations – including Saudi Arabia – has agreed to strengthen economic and petroleum ties to the European Union.

   With all this in mind, what counter-moves can the US make? And what role can the international community play?  

Looking For Checkmate 

   The US has a couple of options to counter Europe’s growing power. The first is to physically wrestle control of major Middle East oil supplies, not because of America’s need for petroleum per se, but because Europe is dependent on the region to fuel its energy needs. Hence, whoever controls the region’s oil wields an incredible leveraging tool.

   Contrary to what many may think, this is not a far-off scenario. During the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980’s, the Regan administration had circulated a memorandum stating that US military involvement was legitimate if the region’s oil sources and shipping points were threatened. Furthermore, a 1998 US Army War College strategy paper explained,

As the competition for resources and regional dominance intensifies, hegemons [dominant military/political powers] will likely develop where the intersection of sociopolitical zones collide. Since these regional fault lines contain abundant natural resources, particularly petroleum, these economic attributes will continue to capture the interest of the United States and other advanced countries. Between now and 2025, it is reasonable to assume that if an aspiring regional hegemony emerges to threaten either our interests or the interests of our friends and allies, conflict will likely occur.

   This shouldn’t be a surprise, military forces are often used as a political and economic tool. In 1997, the US General Accounting Office reported that military special forces are trained in achieving “political, economic, or psychological objectives by unconventional means.” Even Canada’s small but professional JTF-2 unit, a quasi-secretive military special forces group, is geared towards maintaining national economic interests.

   Of course, using the military in this manner is fraught with complications. It’s a chess-move that carries a tremendous amount of risk, danger, and death.

   The second US option in countering Europe is to create the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The FTAA, if carried through, would economically integrate North and South America into one colossal trading block. President George Bush, while speaking at the Quebec Summit of the Americas, openly suggested that we “combine in a common market so we can compete in the long-term with the Far East and Europe.”

   At this point, the FTAA common market is scheduled to come into play by December 2005. Ironically, this is exactly what Europe did as a first step towards political integration.

   Elements within the international community see a different option; some suggest that the only way to control regional and national rivalries is to create a global management authority, either through the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, or the International Monetary Fund – or possibly through some type of shared arrangement. Incidentally, the IMF held a forum on November 8, 2000 entitled “One World, One Currency.”  

   Taking this third option a step further, a document was circulated during the year 2000 State of the World Forum by one of the invited participants. Entitled Transformation of the World, this report examines current world problems and makes a startling suggestion,

Small doubt, that the world does need a civilized coordinator in international relations and in settling global problems. More than that, this coordinator must be a stabilizing factor, actually, the last ditch authority on Earth. He must win confidence of each man and each nation. People must be stark sure that this coordinator would solve any problem in a just and humane way. And one should be sure that in him he would find understanding and sympathy, that he would treat nations as his own son…can the world community do without a coordinator? Definitely cannot.

   Clearly, the world waits for an ultimate human chess-master to bring the game into check.  

Please visit Carl Teichrib's website at

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