Archive for the ‘Eurasianism’ Category


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.


China’s Continental End Run

October 21, 2013

Alexandros Peterson and Raffaello Pantucci write in this month’s National Interest about what they call “China’ s Inadvertent Empire” in Central Asia.  They detail the growing economic ties between China and the resource rich but (relatively) sparsely populated and poor nations of the Eurasian Heartland.  While Peterson and Pantucci correctly point out that this is a growing strategic threat – precisely the kind of single power dominance that Halford Mackinder first warned about over a century ago – I do believe that they are underplaying the central organizing role that Beijing policy makers are playing in this Chinese expansionism.  While it is undertaken on an ad hoc basis and has no formal strategic white paper guiding it., there is certainly more than economic opportunism behind it.  The admirals of the PLAN know that their A2/AD strategy designed to push US naval power away from their home waters has no real strategic capability – that the nation’s economic lifeblood courses through sea lines of communication that it will not be able to secure for at least a generation, if ever.  The pipelines, railways, and highways that they are building through the heart of Asia, on the other hand, serve as an end run around US naval power.  It makes obvious sense that, as the world’s most powerful naval force pivots toward Asia, Asia’s most powerful nation would pivot toward the Heartland.   So obvious that to call such a turn “inadvertent” seems naive.

international maritime route

Global Maritime Traffic Flows



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.


China’s Geostrategy: A Eurasianist Response

May 6, 2013

Last week, I posted several items about US geostrategy that, together, paint a picture of a maritime picket being drawn around China.  China, of course, is not simply a passive participant in all this.  She, too, has cards to play.  She is building up her own naval forces, maintaining her own military alliances, and pursuing her own advantageous economic and diplomatic positions.  The Anglo-American strategy has for over a century called “Atlanticism” and has been confronted with various versions of “Eurasianism” as a challenger.  “Atlanticism” no longer holds as an accurate descriptor, as most of the maritime buildup is focused on the Indo-Pacific region.  However, Eurasianism is still a viable counterweight to this naval strategy.  Like Russia before her (and Germany before that), China seeks to build up a power base by dominating the Eurasian heartland.  Robert Cutler, writing for the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, examines China’s deliberate movements into the Eurasian energy heartland and some of its geopolitical ramifications.

From Dr. Cutler’s conclusion:

If Putin’s greeting of Xi in Moscow on the latter’s first foreign trip as Chinese president represents Russia’s playing of the “China card” against the U.S. four decades after U.S. President Richard Nixon played it against (Soviet) Russia, then Xi’s visit to Moscow together with his focus on the Asia-Pacific region may be taken as his own reply to the American “pivot to Asia.” And if Putin appears to be seeking a grand bargain from Berlin to Beijing, excluding the U.S., then Xi may be seen as seeking his own, from Moscow to Manila (or Mindinao, or indeed Melbourne). From this diplomatic confluence, and given its richness in natural resources, Kazakhstan only gains advantage from both sides, by following its long-established “multi-vector” foreign policy strategy.


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.


Clinton: US seeks to prevent the Eurasian Union

December 18, 2012

Vladimir Putin’s plan for a common Eurasian economic space dominated by Russia will face the resistance of the United States.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the objective to be a “re-Sovietization of the region” and that the US intends to prevent it, or at a minimum to slow it down.

Clinton is the author of the much discussed “reset” in US/Russian relations – although that “reset” has been more rhetoric than reality, as the two nations have continued to jostle on most of the same issues that separated them during the Bush presidency.

The Eurasian space contains the Strategic Energy Ellipse, the most intensive concentration of fossil fuels on the entire globe.  The US, Russia and China are engaged in a tripartite struggle to maximize their own access to those resources and to prevent their domination by either of the other two.  This is the primary conflict between these nations, and everything else – missile defense, Syria, Iran, etc – is secondary.  Of course the US will resist Russian imperial impulses in Central Asia.  The reset was never anything more than a feint, a trick, a dodge.


This map shows the Strategic Energy Ellipse in Central Asia, relative to the four primary energy consuming centers of the world.



Classical geopolitics and energy geopolitics: a state of play

February 2, 2012

One of the earliest theoretical disputes in classical geopolitics was the relative value of sea power vs. land power.  Alfred T. Mahan was a proponent of the primacy of sea power, while Halford MacKinder believed that if any nation was able to obtain primacy in the Eurasion heartland, then the corresponding landpower would overwhelm the advantages of seapower.

From the perspective of Long Cycle Theory, the conflicts of the modern world system have always been between a sea power and a land power – and the dominant power has always been the nation that can rule the waves.

Nor is this dichotomy is not limited to Anglo American perspectives on geopolitics and hegemonic power.   Russian geopolitical theorist Aleksander Dugin argues that it is the core of international conflict (he uses the terms “thalassocracy” for sea power and “telluocracy” for land power) and, in a geographically deterministic conclusion, contends that the two different positions create profound cultural differences that will always be in conflict.

In the original dispute between Mahan and MacKinder, the latter feared that the connecting of the Eurasion Heartland via a network of railroads would give the land power a mobility equal to or surpassing that of the naval powers; that a land power would be able to project power as efficiently as formerly only sea power could, and that would allow a nation to dominate all of Asia and bring its vast resources to bear in creating an inexorable global empire.

Today, the Eurasian Heartland and its vast resources are once again the field of contest among great powers.  The technology brought to bear has changed, however.  Whereas a century ago, it was railroads pitted against battleships, today it is pipelines vs. super tankers.  The resource of primary interest in Central Asia is energy – oil and natural gas resources that the energy-dependent economies of the world hunger and thirst for.  The pipelines would seem to have the upper hand, as described in the purple prose of Pepe Escobar, who foresees a MacKinderian nightmare of an Asia integrated on energy trading that he dubs “Pipelineistan.”

Escobar’s vision would be a nightmare development for the West.  Europe would be dependent on Russia for energy and the United States would be marginalized.  It is through this lens that Escobar understands US military and foreign policy, and he may be correct.  But, the shale revolution may completely reshuffle the deck.  The gas bonanza that hydraulic fracturing promises would collapse the price structure on which the intricate network of pipelines depends; it is conceivable that, within 25 years, the United States could at once become the world’s greatest consumer, producer and exporter of energy.  The Pipelineistan behemoth would be stillborne, and the US would remain the world’s greatest power.  All that such an outcome requires are the proper policy decisions in Washington, DC over the next decade.