Interview with Nicholas DIMA, PhD
Vasile SIMILEANU: You was one of the initiators of the Ion Conea Geopolitical Association!
What is geopolitics, in your opinion?
Nicholas DIMA: The science of geopolitics has been im-portant ever since the foundation of the first states during the ancient world. In a brief definition, controlling the territory of a state internally is politics; managing its re-lations with other states is geopolitics. Over millennia, the evolution of geographic knowledge from local to global has been a very long one until it reached its earthly limits during the 20th Century.
The past century witnessed the rise of the United States as a global power and of the Soviet Union, former tsarist Russia, as a regional power that challenged America. Then, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the cold war led to a short period of American supremacy. The fall of communism also led to an era of ethnic revitalization and national renaissance in East Europe. At the same time, geopolitical studies have reemerged globally and the very term of globalization was coined. Consequently, the world has entered a new era.
V.S.: In Romania there are geopoliticians and pseudo-geopoliticians. Those in the second category do a disservice to this science and to the Romanian state. What is the reality in the US? How is geopolitics perceived in the US scientific and research circles?
Nicholas DIMA: In the United States geopolitics is first and foremost the domain of the federal government and of private think tanks that work closely with the government. There are numerous think thanks and some of them are international and have global prestige. The Council for Foreign Relations, as an example, is one of them.
Such research and analysis institutions connect the official aims of the American government with the private interests of the multi-national corporations. Prominent members of the CFR are hired for important positions in the State Department, for instance, and after leaving the government many of them are offered important positions in various think tanks. From such positions, they help and advice both the U.S. government and the corporations that sponsor them. The result, however, is that oftentimes people no longer know whose political and geopolitical interests think tanks serve…
V.S.: In the course of your scientific and research activity, you have tackled many topics of reflection and vast areas of research, under the aegis of prestigious universities. Please give us a short presentation of your scientific activity and concerns!
Nicholas DIMA: I specialized in the field of geopolitics in the United States while studying for my doctoral degree at Columbia University. I wrote and published my first academic article while still writing my dissertation on the topic of post-war evolution of the Soviet population. Then, after several years of research, I published a geopolitical monograph on Bessarabia and Bukovina – the Soviet-Romanian territorial dispute. Since then, I wrote scores of articles and several more books with the latest one being The United States vs. Russia 2009-2019 (Academic Press: Washington-London, 2020). Some of my English language books were translated in Romanian and, to my surprise, one of them, Culture, Religion, and Geopolitics, was translated in the Farsi language and was published in Iran.
In the United States, the field of geopolitics is learned mostly indirectly, and many specialists have backgrounds in history, political science or international relations. While some professors do offer geopolitical courses per se, expertise is pursued to a good degree through attending specialty meetings, courses and conferences. For exam-ple, as a former federal employee, I attended a good number of short and intensive courses in the fields of international relations, foreign policy, crisis management, cross-cultural-communication and others. Later, based on my background in geo-graphy and my own interest in global affairs, I put the knowledge together and specialized in Regional Studies, Global Affairs, and Inter-Cultural relations.
Further, as a professor with several American military schools of higher learning, as well as with different universities in the U.S., Africa and Romania, I put to good use my knowledge of geopolitics. For about four years, for example, I was the director for Euro-Soviet studies at an important American military school at Fort Bragg (now Fort Liberty) in North Carolina. At the time, the period of cold war, the USSR posed the greatest challenge to the Western world, but in the meantime the world has changed. The communist menace was replaced by the threat of international terrorism and, more recently, by the rise of China.
V.S.: What are the challenges in today’s world?
Nicholas DIMA: The American economic, political and military supremacy that followed the end of Soviet communism was short lived. The world is moving continuously and anticipating changes in general and geopolitical ones in particular is a true challenge. Currently, for example, Europe is confronted with the biggest military challenge since the end of WWII; the war in Ukraine. This conflict has triggered global bitterness and controversy. All of a sudden, the world is polarized again, but in unexpected new ways. Who is behind the war and what is at stake?
V.S.: How do you comment the situation in Ukraine?
Nicholas DIMA: According to the mainstream Western media, a media controlled and dominated by powerful international corporations, the Ukrainians are allegedly fighting for freedom and democracy while Russia under President Putin is considered an evil aggressor. This point of view is unreservedly sponsored by the United States, is pursued by Great Britain, and is followed, though hesitantly, by NATO. But, is Ukraine a democracy? Hardly! Yet, the war continues at a devastating cost for Ukraine. It is hurting the West economically and financially. And it is causing dangerous social crises in many developing countries. Who triggered the conflict and what do the belligerents really want?
V.S.: What caused the conflict in Ukraine?
Nicholas DIMA: In my articles and books published prior to the war, I stressed that Russia would never agree to a fully independent Ukraine, especially if Kiev aspired to join NATO. Such a perspective would be an existential threat to the very existence of post-Soviet Russia. As much as I dislike Russia, this was in my opinion the very reason of the Russian invasion.
And who stirred, encouraged and helped the Ukrainian government to challenge Russia? In my opinion there is only one answer: The powerful international corpo-rations which for some reason concluded that now is the right time to use Ukraine to fight and subdue Russia. In the minds of those Western corporations, once Russia is brought under control, it would be a lot easier to cope with China, a country aspiring to global prominence.
V.S.: How do you comment on the geopolitical challenges caused by the actions of Russia and China? How do you assess the new political-military and economic formats initiated by these states?
Nicholas DIMA: Neither Russia, nor China are, however, countries to be easily dismissed. Russia is a declining power, but it sticks stubbornly to its regional status. China, on the other hand, is slowly but steadily becoming a super power. Even though the geopolitical interests of Moscow and Beijing are different, they are now willy-nilly allies. And this trend is contrary to the advice of former State Department Secretary Henry Kissinger who helped improve Sino-American relations during the cold war. Now, the two biggest countries of the world are acting together against America.
During the last decades, Moscow and Beijing have had a number of international initiatives that are challenging the current international balance of power. So far the challenge is mostly economic and financial, but military prowess will soon ensue and would endanger the security of the world. Two such challenges are the new organization known as BRICS and the Shanghai Economic Cooperation Treaty. Neither one is explicitly against America or anti-Western, but implicitly, they have the potential to erode the global influence of the West. BRICS, standing for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is already attracting other countries willing to join the new bloc. This trend is obvious in Latin America and Africa. Ethiopia, for example, which was traditionally strongly pro-American, is now a pro-China country. I know this first hand because for two years I was a professor in Addis Ababa.
As for the rise of China, which seems to be unstoppable, it did not have to be so. It was to a high degree Washington’s fault. While China, as any country, invests to make a profit, Beijing also keeps in mind the interests of the countries of investment. By contrast, the private American corporations put forward first and foremost their profits and use the political power of Washington to foster their agenda. In Ethiopia, for example, when the country finished the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile and began to fill up the reservoir, the Trump administration agreed with Cairo on the intent to bomb the dam, allegedly because it threatened the flow of the Nile waters to Egypt. No wonder such countries as Ethiopia are turning away from America, are becoming increasingly pro-Chinese, and want to join the BRICS group and the Shanghai Treaty.
The new organizations initiated by Russia and China have the potential to change the current world order. Together, these initiatives encompass about half of the world land mass, population and resources. And unlike the West, the economies of the member countries are fast growing and their population is still increasing. For the time being, the conflict between East and West is only potential at a global level, but it is real in Ukraine. This is reason enough for worrying because neither Russia, nor those who back Ukraine, are willing to compromise. This war in is most likely going to end in a frozen conflict, but only temporarily. A future war, potentially nuclear and catastrophic, is still possible.
V.S.: What are your forecasts for the future? What should we expect: peace or war?
Nicholas DIMA: Future wars in our era pose unexpected challenges for military and civilian leaders as well as for various specialists and for the population at large. And, unfortunately, past knowledge of previous wars seem to be of little use in this regard. There are now a host of new weapons and new fighting systems: cyber-space arms, satellite technology warfare, artificial intelligence, new psychological operations and methods, media manipulation and disinformation, and so on. Of all these new factors, artificial intelligence is probably the most dangerous because it may supplant the judgement of man and may push the entire civilization toward oblivion. Hopefully, reason will prevail…
Dr. Nicholas DIMA is a Romanian geographer who graduated in 1967 from the department of Geography of Bucharest University. After moving to the United States, he continued his studies at Columbia University of New York where he specialized in Euro-Soviet affairs. In 1975 he received a doctoral degree with a dissertation on the post-war evolution of the Soviet population focusing on ethnic implications. He then worked as a radio-journalist for Voice of America and as a professor with several American military schools and universities. After retiring, he returned to university teaching, first in Africa (Ethiopia and Djibouti) and then in his native Romania. Dr. DIMA wrote countless journalistic reports, offered numerous public lectures, authored hundreds of articles and published seven books in English and five in Romanian. His main interests are global geopolitical issues with a special focus on Euro-Russian affairs.