Vladimir N. Sokolov

Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), Primorsky branch, Vladivostok 

Abstract: The article deals with the problem of socio-engineering provision of spatial logistics in states of conflict and cooperation, interacting through security, in a multipolar transition. This story from a historical perspective focuses on the involvement of domestic logistics practices in larger social processes, in particular, in the policy of geo-economic development, national strategic operation in the geo-economic space. The conclusion is made about the need for special attention to the humanitarian and political preparation of the operational environment, the logistics of epistemic networks, and the practical use of images of the past.

 Keywords: history of geoeconomics, multipolar transition, economic warfare, FESCO, operating environment, historical politics

We are interested in the practical history of geoeconomics, which, with the help of the tools of hybrid wars, is undergoing a transformation, giving a special character to the currently observed multipolar or, more precisely, multi-civilizational transition (1, 2). What is the historical background for this event? What is its subjectivity? How was the interaction of military, economic and humanitarian-political aspects carried out at different stages of the “history of geoeconomics”?

The author of the term geoeconomics is the American historian, economist, specialist in international relations and military strategy E. Luttwak (3, 4). He is also known for introducing into the US-British military language the concept of operational level of war, borrowed from the tradition of continental military thought (5), as well as for his work on the “grand strategy” of the Soviet Union (6).

The connection of these concepts will be revealed in the course of our historical reconstruction of some moments in the formation of the geoeconomic worldview of this researcher[1]. The attribution of his cognition to the American-Soviet junction, interpreted as inter-civilizational, is decisive for us. We also proceed from the fact that the term geoeconomics introduced by Luttwak (like most other terms) was obviously prompted by his work experience as a security adviser in the “cabinet government” of US President R. Reagan in 1981-1984 (8).

The well-known American political scientist C. Robin characterizes Luttwak of that time as a person obsessed with anti-communism and free market, one of Reagan’s close intellectuals, a brilliant “hawk” who mercilessly criticized liberal defense policy and philosophically substantiated America’s military buildup in the 1980s. As a research fellow at the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), he argued that the United States should accelerate the high-tech arms race by drawing the Soviet Union into a competition it could not win, so Reagan’s closest advisers readily accepted Luttwak into their circle. He worked with Reagan’s first security adviser, R.V. Allen, who moved to the White House from the post of assistant director of the same CSIS (9, pp. 161-172).

However, at the end of Reagan’s first term, Luttwak sharply criticized the inefficiency of the Pentagon, headed by Secretary of Defense C. Weinberger. In 1985, he published The Pentagon and the Art of War: The Question of Military Reform (11), citing the influence of American corporate culture and business values – the search for the least risky and most cost-effective means of achieving the goals – as the cause of military failures in the Vietnam War. According to Luttwak, “what is good for business is not good for deadly conflict” (9, pp. 173-175). In 1987, he concretized this idea in his work Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace: “… the entire realm of strategy is pervaded by a paradoxical logic of its own, standing against the linear logic by which we live in other spheres of life. When conflict is absent or merely incidental to purposes of production and consumption, of commerce and culture, of social or familial relations and consensual government, whenever that is, strife and competition are more or less bound by law and custom, a noncontradictory linear logic rules, whose essence is mere common sense. Within the sphere of strategy, however, where human relations are conditioned by armed conflict actual or possible, another and quite different logic is at work and routinely violates ordinary linear logic by inducing the coming together and reversal of opposites” (10, p. 19).

In view of the foregoing, the polemical focus of the title of his article – From Geopolitics to Geo-Economics: Logic of Conflict, Grammar of Commerce (1990) – becomes clear, since he first spoke directly about geoeconomics. Obviously, Luttwak referred geoeconomics to “the sphere of strategy, however, where human relations are conditioned by armed conflict actual or possible.” He saw its task in giving “a theoretical justification for state policy aimed primarily at winning the economic competition between developed states, geopolitics with its emphasis on the use of military power to achieve foreign economic and foreign policy goals …” (12).  It turned out that for the purposes of national security, it was not the corporate business culture that should have subjugated the military, but the operational art of warfare should have become the basis of geoeconomic policy. In turn, operational art required special attention to the nuances of the operational environment, which subsequently moved to the forefront of strategic thought (41).

In 1987, in Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, Luttwak wrote that ” the significance of the operational level strictly depends on the extent that relational maneuver is present, … in which the aim is not to destroy the enemy’s physical substance as an end in itself, but rather to incapacitate by some form of systemic disruption— whether that ‘‘system’’ is the command structure of the enemy’s forces, their logistic support, their own method of warfare, or even an actual technical system… <…> … The starting point of relational maneuver is the avoidance of the enemy’s strengths, followed by the application of some particular superiority against presumed enemy weaknesses, be they physical, psychological, technical, or organizational” (13, pp. 150-151). In this logic of the attitude towards the enemy as a system, great importance was attached to manipulation (maneuver), capable of making the enemy dependent (relational) on someone else’s system.

At the same time, not only Secretary of Defense C. Weinberger, but also the director of the CIA and, at the same time, the director of US national intelligence, W.J. Casey played a special role in the state administration of the Reagan period. According to his special assistant at the CIA and Deputy Chairman of the National Intelligence Council (NIC), H. Meyer, it was Casey who was the creator of the American economic war against the USSR, although the US Deputy Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy R. Pearl also did this (14, p. 37). While studying at the London School of Economics, he was a roommate of E. Luttwak, and then they worked together for a while at the think tank of The Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) (15), established in 1976.  

The Hoover Institution Library and Archives Historical Note to Collection #92073 Reports of the Committee on the Present Danger states that the founders of the CPD were retired high-ranking government officials with experience in defense and security positions. The creation of the organization was prompted by neo-conservative skepticism about arms control talks with the USSR, which were conducted by the Republican and coDemocratic administrations during the era of détente. The SALT I strategic arms limitation treaty was signed In 1972, and SALT II – in 1979. The CPD opposed its ratification. It welcomed the election of Reagan as president in 1980, and was proud on the number of its members who were appointed to office in the new administration. With the collapse of the USSR, the CPD was liquidated in 1992 (16).

In its activities, the CPD closely intersected with the so-called “Team B” – a group formed of independent experts by CIA Director George H.W. Bush Sr. in 1976, by order of US President Gerald Ford to double-check the conclusions of CIA analysts (conditionally referred to as “Team A”) regarding the threats posed by the Soviet Union (17). Defense Minister D. Rumsfeld, who was interested in exaggerating the military potential of the USSR, stood behind this initiative. “Team B” was headed by R.Pipes, a historian from Harvard, a specialist in Russia and the USSR. Some of the CPD members lobbied for and/or were members of the team. L.J.Korb writes that many members of this organization worked in the Reagan administration (18).

Without going into the details of considering the subjectivity of the “economic war” launched by the United States against the USSR instead of the policy of détente, the initiator and executor of which in 1969-1977, as is known, was H. Kissinger, the National Security Adviser and Secretary of State under President R. Nixon and Secretary of State under President G.Ford, let us note the involvement of the US Congress and its committees in this process. Thus, within the powers of the 94th US Congress, which met during the last two years of the presidency of G. Ford (1975-1977), the Congressional Research Service headed by J. Hardt prepared a study of the economy of the USSR titled “The Soviet Economy in a New Perspective” for use by members of the Joint Economic Committee, other members of Congress and the interested public (19). (End of introductory fragment)

[1] The first attempt to refer to the works of E. Luttwak from the standpoint of intellectual history in Russia is, obviously, the preface by A. Gorev to the Russian translation of the book The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy. The author, in the first approximation, considered the dynamics of the development of Luttwak’s ideas about strategy, as well as the geoeconomic orientation of his research (7)