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The century old contest for the Heartland continues

July 16, 2013

Yesterday, I posted about the US pivot to Asia and the matching British and French geostrategic turns to the Indo-Pacific region.    I wrote that this was all understandable and even predictable in classical geopolitical terms laid out a century ago by Halford Mackinder.  However, while the pivot to Asia is understandable and necessary, the traditional Western powers should not ignore their front yards.

Mackinder’s theories were directly applicable to Eurasia, not East Asia.  He was concerned primarily with Germany and the threat that German Imperialism could dominate the Eurasian Heartland and therefore threaten world domination.  In later years, Russia would come to supplant Germany in those fears and in the geostrategic planning of the West, but the theory was basically the same.  And, while the West is increasingly preoccupied with the rise of China, the struggle for the Heartland continues.

Last week, the Charlemagne blog at The Economist highlighted the ongoing tension between Russia and the European Union as the two struggle for ascendancy in the former states of the Soviet Union (the ‘Near Abroad’ as the Russians see it).  The piece is interesting in its detail of the maneuvering at the margins, but it misses the central activity:  the growing relationship between Russia and Germany.  Though it remains the central driver of the European Union and a dedicated member of NATO, Germany is increasingly finding its own path on geostrategic and, more importantly, geo-economic matters – and that path runs inescapably to Moscow.    German industry is heavily dependent on Russian energy, and German foreign policy has recently (see Libya and Syria) been more in line with the Russians than with the Americans, British or French.  Victor Waldemar Jensen examined the German/Russian relationship in a long paper published last week by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.  While Jensen concludes that there is little chance of Germany leaving either the EU or NATO in the near future, it is certainly a relationship that the Atlanticists should not take their eyes off while they pivot to the Far East.

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