Archive for the ‘Atlanticism’ Category

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Putin’s Eurasianism

March 3, 2014

I have posted several times on Eurasianism and Russian geopolitical thinker Aleksander Dugin.  Students of either are unsurprised by Russia’s actions in the Ukraine.  Dugin has always seen the world as a contest between land and maritime powers, and the contemporary world as a contest between Russian-led Eurasianism and Anglo-American Atlanticism.  Ukraine is and always has been a core geopolitical interest for Russia, and she was never going to meekly allow that nation to simply walk away from Russia and become a member of The Atlantic Alliance.  The current crisis, or something like it, would be fully anticipated by Long Cycle Theory as a part of the Coalitioning phase.

Writing at National Review, Bob Zubrin has a brief but acceptable review of Dugin’s theories.  Read it, and the various posts I have made on Dugin and Eurasianism, to get a handle on the deeper geopolitical meanings of the current situation.

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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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Island powers and maritime conflict

May 13, 2013

The latest issue of The Professional Geographer features a research paper from Dr. Elizabeth Nyman at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette which examines the concept of “island exceptionalism.”   Are island states really different from mainland states in their behavior on the international stage?  Nyman concludes that, yes, there are very real differences.  You will have to have access to Taylor and Francis journals in order to read the full paper at the link, but here is the abstract:

Scholars have argued that due to their special geographical circumstances, island states develop a different relationship with maritime space than their continental counterparts. This is generally attributed both to island residents’ greater access to and benefit from oceanic resources and also to the metaphysical qualities of life that uniquely develop on islands. This article investigates deeper into the phenomenon of geographically determined island exceptionality by considering whether island states and mainland states truly behave differently when it comes to their treatment of and behavior in maritime spaces. Through an analysis of disputed areas in the International Correlates of War maritime data, I consider whether island states are more likely to try and confirm sovereignty over disputed maritime waters than mainland states. My examination of disputed maritime areas in the Western Hemisphere and Europe from 1900 to 2001 shows that indeed island states are both more likely to try and settle a disputed maritime area, whether by force or by negotiated resolution. This finding is then used to raise new questions about the geographic differences that characterize island states in the world political system.

I find this interesting because, in the era of the modern world system, the hegemonic powers have (a) always been maritime powers and have usually been either insular (Great Britain), peninsular (Portugal).  The exceptions have been the Dutch and the US, which themselves have unique geographic features which push them to the sea.  I am thinking about extending Nyman’s analysis beyond island nations out to any nation on MacKinder’s “outer crescent” which has oceanic frontage.    It would not surprise me to see Nyman’s effects enhanced by this data, in which case I might be able to conclude that what is exceptional is heavy participation in maritime disputes (in which case we might be able to consider Portugal and Holland as functionally  part of the Outer Crescent).

pivot area

On another topic – from Nyman’s bio page, I read that she has a forthcoming book on maritime matters in the Arctic, which is another topic explored frequently on this blog.  I look forward to reading more of Dr. Nyman’s work.

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Turkey reshuffles the Eurasian coalitioning deck

April 29, 2013

In Modelski’s version of Long Cycle Theory, coalitioning is the final phase before the final conflict between the existing hegemonic order and its challengers.  The coalitioning phase sees shifts in alliance structures, sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic.  EnerGeoPolitics has been watching the coalitioning efforts of the United States, Russia and China in Eurasia from its inception.  Early in this century, the US tried (and failed) to form an alliance of Caspian Sea states under the name of the Caspian Guard.  It has has better – though limited – success in expanding NATO to Eurasian states through its Partnership for Peace program.   China and Russia came together to create the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) with several Central Asian nations.  Russia has organized several of the former Soviet Republics into the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which has been the most successful effort – success which has led Russia to de-emphasize its participation in the SCO.

Late last week, there was an upheaval in the coalitioning field as charter NATO member – a lynchpin of US efforts in Eurasia – officially became a “dialogue partner” of the SCO.  This is not full membership, and Turkey has not left NATO, but it has been drifting away from the Atlantic alliance and toward the Heartland for a decade.  Atlanticism, it seems, is in retreat, and Eurasianism is on the march.  The good news (from this American’s perspective) is that the competing versions of Eurasianism (Russian, Chinese and don’t forget pan-Islamic) will have to settle things out among themselves before they can look outward.

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The Geopolitics of a Thawing Arctic

January 4, 2013

James Rogers, writing in the journal of the Royal United Services Institute (subscription required), identifies the United Kingdom as a potential pivot state that can assert leadership over a growing “Arctic crescent” as that ocean thaws and opens to seasonal traffic in the coming decades.

The UK has served as the protector of the North Atlantic for centuries – first during its own eras of hegemonic dominance, then in partnership with the United States.  The old  G-I-UK line (for Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom) was the name given to the virtual fence line that was supposed to pen the Soviet sub force.  Rogers forsees a similar role for Britain in an Arctic Era – commanding the western exit of the Northern Sea Route as the US focuses its forces on the Western Pacific in its much discussed pivot, thus containing the Mackinderian Heartland in the jaws of an Anglo-American pincer.

This is a very interesting article and if a free version becomes available, I will link to it.

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Isolationist vs Internationalist Republicans

December 8, 2011

The GOP has always had a foreign policy split between its isolationists and its internationalists.  This week, we got to see a preview of the future of that intra-party struggle, as two rising GOP stars took opposite sides on a key foreign policy question.  The issue was NATO membership for the Republic of Georgia.  For internationalists, Georgia is an important ally in a key strategic region, formal ties to which will give the US military flexibility in the Strategic Energy Ellipse.  For isolationists, getting too close to Georgia means tying us to a nation that has already fought a recent war against Russia and could drag the US into a deeper and more dangerous conflict in an already dangerous region.

On the internationalist side last week was freshman Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who tried to move a motion for Unanimous Consent that would have sped full NATO membership for Georgia.  Rubio was foiled, however, by fellow freshman (and fellow Tea Party favorite) Rand Paul of Kentucky.

On the one hand, I agree with Rubio that Georgia is an important friend in a vital region, and that they along with Ukraine and Azerbaijan should be seriously considered for NATO membership.  But, on the other hand, I think this is too important and nuanced an issue to be done in sub rosa manner, so I agree with Paul blocking the motion (although not with his actual motives for doing so).  In the long run, I hope that Rubio’s position prevails, but this is the sort of decision that should require a serious national conversation before we commit to it.  Already, plans are afoot by unelected bureaucrats to possibly station US troops in Georgia – a move that Russia would certainly see as provocative.   Policy positions with such portentous outcomes must be aired fully and publicly.

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Atlantic Council floats idea of US troops in Georgia

October 13, 2011

The Atlantic Council has today released a report titled “Georgia in the West:  A Roadmap to Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic Future.”  A summary at the linked page states:

The report makes recommendations for policymakers in Washington and key European capitals to strengthen Georgia’s ongoing integration into NATO and the European Union, by offering a clear vision and concrete intermediate benefits to reward Georgia’s progress. It offers recommendations for the Georgian government and all sectors of Georgian society to undertake important internal reforms that advance Georgian democracy and in turn secure Georgia’s place in the West. It also lays out strategies to counter Russia’s creeping annexation of the occupied territories and to solidify an international commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity over the long-term.

Russia sees Georgia as firmly within its own sphere of influence, and any moves by the West to move into the Caucasus via Georgia is likely to antagonize them.  However, two recommendations within this report are certain to draw quick responses from the Russians.  First, the proposal to sell weapons to Georgia; second, the notion of deploying US troops there:

Bolster the US footprint in Georgia. Georgia’s security strategy is premised on deterrence. Any US presence in Georgia helps to augment that deterrence, and just as importantly, reinforces a psychological sense of security among the population. In the absence of formal security guarantees, the United States should augment a small military footprint associated with its: 1) program to train Georgian forces for coalition operations; 2) support to NATO’s Partnership for Peace Training Center; and 3) facilities and logistics to handle transit of forces and equipment from Afghanistan now and, in smaller numbers, in the future, and to serve as a logistics hub for access to Central Asia.

EGP is fully supportive of Atlanticism in general and certainly supports and encourages the expansion of the US geopolitical footprint in the Black Sea and Trans Caucasus regions in particular.  However, this particular set of proposals seems prematurely aggressive.  The Atlantic Alliance is spread thin militarily and its component nations are all in a financial bind – it is unlikely that they could effectively respond to a similarly aggressive Russian response to a move like this.  Also, stripped of its boilerplate idealism about promoting democracy and extending Western institutions, there is next to no geostrategic rationale offered for the need to offer such a commitment to Georgia.  Certainly, such a rationale exists – this blog is partially dedicated to that idea itself.  But, the rationale needs to be debated openly and publicly, not hidden behind the old platitudes about democracy promotion.  In the wake of the Iraq War, the public will not fall for that deception anymore.  This report proposes that we plant a flag on the doorstep of Putin’s Russia and defend it with a US military commitment.  The public needs to know the truth – that the region is a gateway to vast stores of fossil fuels and the domination of that region by a single nation or alliance opposed to our system and values would have devastating consequences.  That is why we were in Iraq, that is why we are interested in Georgia and Azerbaijan.  The world is going to see a global struggle for oil and gas over the next few decades, and the US and the West need to be positioned for that fight.  Democracy promotion is a tool to leverage access to those positions, not the goal itself.