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How World Super Power Competition caused Myanmar Coup Explained - Part 1

To understand better what is happening now in Myanmar, predict the future and develop a better strategy, we need to go back to the root and understand the history. If we talk about the root of superpower competition, we have to go first the United States and Russia.

In this article, I am writing about United States, Russia, and their relationship over time. It will also cover the other partner countries which took as partners of either side and victim countries between superpower countries competition.

I dedicated this article to Myanmar people and I made research because I believe understanding the situations with factors and facts will make us understand the current conditions and can make better decisions. I also highly recommend you to read this article by removing all bias that you have in your mind now.

I am not an expert in history and politics. But this article helps me to better understand the current situation and I hope it will help you somehow too.

Geographic is Our Fate and Everything

Have you ever thought that how geography has a high influence on politics? If you are interested, we need to understand first about geography. You cannot skip it because the land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the war, the power, politics, and social development of the people. Every geographical factor of having mountains, access to rivers, flatland, and access to the sea are highly influenced that decide a country's fate. Nowadays technology has started to reduce that gap but geographic factors still remain far more important than anything.

Origin of Super Power or the United States of America (USA)

The United States is the most powerful country in modern human history. The United States was born as a New Nation by establishing Georgia in 1732. Since then, the United States has reached from East Coast to West Coast California in 1848 after taking around 100 years. In 1867, Alaska was bought from Russia with 7.2 million USD ( 2 cents USD for one acre). It was accused of buying just snow land and all mouths were shut up after the discovery of gold deposits in 1896 in Alaska. Decades later, a huge reserve of oil was also found in Alaska. At this point, I believe they bought it by knowing the potential of having those in advance.

When we look back at the United States Industrial Revolution from 1867 to 1896 (Period from Alaska was bought and gold deposits were found in Alaska), Economics was booming and the USA became wealthy and wealthy. It required more centralized states and bureaucracy to manage the growing economy. Power became concentrated on the federal government and it helped the president who was willing to expand United States influence globally like William McKinley. For the far most of the 19th century of foreign policy was dominated by expanding trades and avoiding entanglements outside the neighborhood but it was time to push out and protect the approaches to the coastlines. The key turning point came in 1898 and the United States declared war on Spain and gained control of Cuba. It also acquired Puerto Rico, Guam, Philippines too and they all are useful in terms of strategic assets. America was moving so quickly and it also annexed Hawaii (1898), Wake Island (1899), and American Samoa (1900) that would protect the approaches to its own west coast. In 1903, America signed a treaty leasing its exclusive rights to the Panama Canal. Trade was booming.

Since then America is unstoppable because it mostly already has control of its border surrounded by sea, ice, strategic location control such as Hawaii, and trade route control such as the Panama canal. LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. America is truly blessed with the location. Why am I telling those History and border control questions about America? Because those related to the conflict in Myanmar are related. Without understanding route and cause, we cannot estimate and assume better about the issues and truly understand what is happening currently.

Roadmap of Becoming Long Term Global Super Power

GDP per capita (PPP), selected countries, 1900–2010. GK$: international US dollars. Source: World Bank (WDI)

In War War I and War War II, American mostly managed to isolate itself from War until the Pearl Harbor attack by Japan on Dec 7, 1941. It made America the only country which could avoid economic ruin from War and they only suffered from the great economic depression from 1929 to the late 1930s.

Since the Harbor attack by Japan, American has been impossible for Americans to stay out of Global Affair and it brought the American to WWII and it changed everything about America`s global presence forever. America brought Japan to its knees with Atomic bombs. At the time, American is the only sole country that had the atomic weapon and was economically robust. They were the "last man standing". Europeans had exhausted themselves, and their economies, like their towns and cities, were in ruins. The Japanese were crushed, the Chinese devastated and at war with each other and the Russians weren't even in the capitalist game.

This makes America in a unique position to expand its expansion globally and to make the terms of peace to prevent another war from happening. One of the most famous examples is the United Nations and global financial system called Bretton Wood Agreements resulting in the world bank and IMF in 1944 to prevent another great Economic depression. You would also notice how the United States is controlling the world by having control with alliances on strategic locations and the US dollar through those financial institutions. Since then, the United States has been actively participating in all world problems.

Post War Second Largest Super Power Or Russia

Since the Soviet Union or Russia was the world's second-largest power country after WWII, America saw it as a threat to the vision of a free trading or democratic world. Because of this, the US, Western Europe, and other European nations created NATO ( North Atlantic Treaty Organization) on April 4, 1949. NATO is a military alliance to stop Russia from invading other countries in Europe.

Until WWII, Russia occupied the territory conquered from Germany in Central and Eastern Europe. But since NATO was formed, as you see in the above photo of NATO members, how Russia has been choked slowly over the last decades.

After WWII, the Soviet Union or Russia was the world's second-largest power country.

Russia is vast. It is the Vastest in the world and twice the size of the USA or China but it has a relatively small population of about 144 million. Its population density less than Nigeria or Pakistan and it has eleven time zones. Russia is everywhere geographically and it can reach to most of the powerful countries in the world from the United States, Europe, Japan, China and Middle East Countries. Russia's lack of a warm-water port with direct access to the oceans has always been their motivation to invade another neighboring country. Russia is at a geographical disadvantage and only its oil and gas is saving them to keep their current power.

Every superpower country has the cards why it has been powerful. Do you know that more than 30% of gas consumption in Europe is coming from Russia? If the country is closer and closer to Russia, the dependency on Russia becomes higher and weakens foreign policy. Latvia, Slovakia, Finland, and Estonia are 100 percent dependent on Russian gas. The Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Lithuania are 80% dependent and Greece, Austria and Hungary are 60% dependent . About half of Germany's gas consumption comes from Russia with extensive trade deals. That's why Germany is always slower in criticizing Russia compared to the UK which only does not need to depend on Russia's gas.

Victims between Super Power Countries Competition

If the country is located very close to the superpower country or located between two superpowers. If you look at all neutral courtiers located between NATO countries and Russia, they have suffered the instability between power competition. All pro-Western countries along to Russia borders like Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Albania, and Romania are all in NATO or EU. Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova would like to join the EU or NATO too and Europe is willing to offer them. Having a NATO base in those countries would be a nightmare to Russia.

Ukraine Situation Similar to Current Myanmar Situation

Western countries did not give options to Putin. The tension became higher when Russia made war with Georgia in 2008. It was the warning from Russia to NATO and European countries not to get closer anymore. In 2012, European Union initiated action for letting Ukraine join to European Union. Before that, Ukraine always played to have a political balance between Europe and Russia. Balances broke in 2012 and the wind was gone to the Europe Side.

Let me mention Ukraine very briefly. Ukraine has two sides, the East Side and West Side. The East Side is close to Russia and mostly Pro Russia people are living. West side is close to Europe and mostly Pro European are living. (Pro Russia means Ukrainian but closer to Russia and Pro European means Ukrainian but closer to European). Ukraine used to be part of Russia for two centuries before 1945.

Ukraine Revolution at 2013

In 2013, the newly elected Ukraine President (Viktor Yanukovych) was Pro Russia and he rejected the trade deals with European and took the bill from Russia. It made major Ukrainian especially Pro European angry and a revolution happened. Protest was not easy for Ukrainian that time and government cracked so badly and it leaded to around 70 Ukrainian dead. (Current Myanmar situation is worse. It has been that more than 300 Myanmar people were killed already for protesting since the coup happened - Feb 1, 2021).

That revolution succeeded in removing Viktor (Pro Russia) from the presidency and assigned the new elected president Petro Poroshenko (Pro European). Russia did not stop here and cannot lose influence in Ukraine and desperately needed to do something to defend itself from NATO. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Crimea is part of Ukraine, mostly Pro Russia are living and Crimea people speak Russian. Crimea is the only proper warm-water seaport access for Russia and they desperately need it and cannot lose while NATO is Ok for them.

Putin has no choice but to protect his tribe because it would be a nightmare if Ukraine has a NATO base in Ukraine which will be very easy to attack. If "God" puts mountains on the border of Ukraine, it will change everything and it will not happen to Ukrainian people who suffer like now. I think European Union is currently waiting for Ukraine to join their club because of instability and lack of Economic growth. (Please remember this part of Ukraine because I will recall this part when I talk about Myanmar Situation in next article)

What does Western do? Sanctions. As I mentioned in the above, Europe relies on Russian gas more than 30%. That's why they could only do limited Sanction on Russia because of the dependency of gas. Europe needs to diversify the source of gas in order to stop the threads of Russia. So America comes in. The massive boom in Shale gas production in the USA is not only enabling it to be self-sufficient in energy but also to export to other countries. Europe wants gas more than anything. It is a Win-Win for Europe and the USA. In order to do that Europe built LNG terminals along the European coastlines. With those terminals, Europe can accept the gas not only from America but also from other countries. It will strengthen Europe in both price negotiation and foreign policy.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration photo credit to EIA

Do you remember the day the oil price dropped to below $50 a barrel (which is more than half the price of normal price) in 2014 and still lower in 2015? Those are not coincidentally dropping and they all conflict with the above. We call it the Fracking Revolution. The American produce oil much more than ever from fracking. OPEC countries are keeping the taps to keep market share. The overall global economy is kind of slowing down. High supply and Low Demand made the oil prices drop harder. Of course, there are always winners and losers. I will not go deep about oil here.

Russia sees it as a long term danger and has started planning pipelines heading to the south-east and hopes to increase sales to China in order to prepare for a potential reduction in revenue. Russia is looking to China as an alternative customer because China has a higher hand in the buyer market and Europe has a long-term ambition to wean themselves off dependency on Russia Energy. Russia will supply China with a huge amount of gas rising to 38 billion cubic of gas a year by 2025 in a $400 billion thirty year deal. That makes Russia and China become allies. Russia was considered a military threat to China but not anymore. As I mentioned to you, all superpower countries have good cards and weak cards. Becoming together, make Russia and China stronger for global influences.

I am writing this blog in March 2021. When I look back at the time since Russia and China became alliances, they started to see each other as enemies because China has upper hand economic, navy, and influences in the border area. Most of the East part of Russia which existed near the China border almost lost their Russian identity and China immigrants grew so rapidly and Russia feels threatened and Russia wants to keep its hand open for the United States. Now America is declaring war (Currently trade war and seems like up to real war now). Lets see where Russia will stand between Russia and China when the times come.

Another Dark Cards of Russia

You would notice that I did not say the negative side about Russia that much until here. Most people know the facts that Russia does not care about human rights. Russia is the world second largest weapon exporter after the United States. Russia weapons are way way cheaper than United States weapons. Country leaders tend to buy weapons from Russia if they do not need to have special ties to the United States. Since they do not care about human rights, they also sell weapons to Dictatorship including Myanmar Junta who are breaking all kinds of human rights that you would name it. Since Russia and China became allies in 2015, Cyber attacks from Russia became more frequent. They even influenced to the last American Election and there is a lot of evidence that Russia had huge influence using technology and social media data that made Trump President. At the same time, China became more and more powerful in the Army. They are exchanging their good sides with each other to make them stronger.

At home Russia is facing many challenges, not least of which is demographic. Putin might be president for life long and he is the longest serving president in Russia or Soviet Union History. After such a long time, Opposition parties against Putin have been seen in recent years. The sharp decline in population growth may have been arrested, but it remains a problem.

I will write in next articles about the USA <> Middle East, USA <> China and will explain Myanmar's situation by comparing it with the facts that happened in other countries across the history.

My highlights take away from this article.

  1. The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars, the power, politics and social development of the peoples that now inhabit nearly every part of earth.

  2. Protecting our country is not just protecting the country's border. Having alliances, control or influences to neighborhood countries is also important.

  3. How America has made his country border secure first before power expansion globally.

  4. How Russia has controlled and slowly choked with border countries getting by NATO.

  5. All super power countries are involved and try to influence globally in different ways. Some use democracy, diplomatic as weapons. Some use economic power and debt as weapons. But one thing is common. They are seeking high ground from which to protect their tribe.


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