Regarding Russian Sovereignty

Lately we have been witnessing a formidable ideological and informative offensive, encouraged by the US and the globalist centers of power, against Putin’s Russia. The media sepoys keep repeating a series of mantras, in which present-day Russia seems to be some dictatorial hell, where “dissidents,” homosexuals and immigrants are persecuted. For right-wing neoliberals, Russia is still communist. For left-wing neoliberals, Putin’s Russia is a kind of reincarnation of “fascism.”

However, this aggressive attitude of Biden’s is nothing new. From time immemorial, long before the Communist Revolution, the Anglo-Empire has been at odds with Russia for geopolitical reasons. England first and the US later (its successor), as thalassocratic powers, have seen Russia as an enemy to be defeated, regardless of the political regime.

The Crimean War

The Crimean War was a conflict fought between 1853 and 1856 by the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of Greece against a league formed by the Ottoman Empire, France, the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Sardinia. It was triggered by British policy, determined to prevent Russia’s influence over Europe, given the possibility that the Ottoman Empire might collapse, and was fought mainly on the Crimean Peninsula, around the naval base of Sevastopol. It resulted in Russia’s defeat, which was embodied in the Treaty of Paris of 1856.

Since the end of the 17th century, the Ottoman Empire had been in decline and its military, political and economic structures were unable to modernize. As a result of several conflicts, it lost to Russia territories north of the Black Sea, including the Crimean Peninsula. Russia sought to undermine Ottoman authority and assume protection of the large minority of Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman European provinces. France and the United Kingdom feared that the Ottoman Empire would become a Russian vassal, which then might upset the political balance between the European powers.

British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston was a decisive player in the development of this anti-Russian strategy, which would become a constant in British foreign policy, and continued later in the 20th century by Halford John Mackinder, one of the creators of geopolitical science, and ideologue of the Treaty of Versailles and of British support for the White Russians.

The Russian Civil War (1917-1923)

Although this civil war was an internal conflict, geopolitics and conflicting links with foreign powers played a considerable role. The Reds (Bolsheviks) fought against the Whites. The Bolshevik bloc had a clear ideological, political and geopolitical identity. They were Marxists; they were committed to the dictatorship of the proletariat; and geopolitically they were oriented towards Germany and against the Entente (England, France, USA).

In contrast, the White bloc was not uniform, neither ideologically nor politically, ranging from revolutionary socialists to tsarist monarchists; but from the geopolitical point of view, the Whites tended to favor an alliance with France and England. Only small segments of this movement maintained a pro-German orientation, as was the case of the Cossack leader Krasnov and the Northern Army.

Mackinder, the main ideologist of British support for the Whites, was convinced that, because of the disparity of this bloc, in case of victory, it would lead to a segmentation of Russia into small states, since each general or “war-lord” would end up becoming the founder of a new state. The British strategy for the dismemberment of Russia followed, step by step, that employed in Latin America after independence from Spain. There it succeeded, and what could have been a great continental bloc was dismembered into innumerable small states at odds with each other.

In Russia, this was not the case. The victory of the Bolsheviks frustrated English pretensions. Mackinder was perfectly aware that, after this victory, the USSR was going to be a great power, as happened.

After World War II, the USA took over from England as the vanguard of the Anglo-Empire. The Cold War was not only (but also) a confrontation between liberal-capitalism, represented by the USA (and its allies/vassals, England, France and Germany), and Marxist socialism or real communism, represented by the USSR. The geopolitical component was also very important.

Collapse of the USSR

The changes in the USSR began with Gorbachev’s ascension to the post of General Secretary of the CPSU. The situation he found was not good at all. The defeat and humiliation in Afghanistan hung over Soviet society. The social, economic and ideological engine was starting to grind to a halt. The economy was suffering from military expenditures and the ineffectiveness of absolute statehood. The Marxist worldview had lost all its appeal, and even the Western communist parties were dissociating themselves (at least in the eyes of the public) from the USSR and proclaiming their “Eurocommunism.”

Gorbachev had to take a position on the future strategy of the USSR, and he did so by adopting the theories of convergence, as a foundation, and starting rapprochement with the Western world through unilateral concessions. [Convergence: theories emerging between 1950 and 1960, according to which, as technological development progressed, capitalist and socialist systems would form an increasingly close group, i.e., they would tend to converge].This policy, which was called perestroika, was based on the assumption that the West should respond to every concession with analogous moves in favor of the USSR. This was clearly not the case.

Perestroika was a chain of steps aimed at the adoption of parliamentary democracy, the market economy, glasnost (transparency) and the expansion of area of civic freedom. But in the Eastern bloc countries and in the periphery of the USSR itself these changes were perceived as manifestations of weakness and unilateral concessions to the West. Secessionist movements began in the Baltic republics, Georgia and Armenia.

After the failed coup attempt of 1991, led by the most conservative sectors of the CPSU, the rise of Boris Yeltsin was unstoppable. On December 8, 1991, he met with the presidents of Belarus and Ukraine in the Bialowieza Forest, where an agreement was signed for the creation of a Commonwealth of Independent States, which meant, de facto, the end of the existence of the USSR. However, from this point on, a process was set in motion that threatened not the existence of the USSR, which was already extinct, but of Russia itself.

It seemed that Mackinder’s dream would indeed be put into practice. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Yugorussia and Dagestan began their independence processes. Yeltsin’s declaration, made in Ufa on August 6, 1990, went down in history: “Take as much sovereignty as you can swallow.” The new republics appealed (of course!) to the right to self-determination of the peoples. Thus, for example, the constitution of the Republic of Sakha, adopted on April 27, 1992, declared “A sovereign, democratic and legal government, based on the right of the people to self-determination.”

The national policy of the Russian Federation itself was established by Ramzan Abdulatipov [President of the Chamber of Nationalities] and Valery Tishkov [Chairman of the State Committee of the Russian Federation on Nationalities], both of whom openly advocated the conversion of the Federation into a confederation, with complete separation of the national republics.

The conflict in Chechnya had a special impact. Since 1990, and thanks to self-destructive tendencies operating in Russia, various nationalist movements had arisen, most notably the National Congress of the Chechen People, led by Dzhondar Dudayev, a former general of the Soviet air force. On June 8, 1991, Dudayev proclaimed the independence of Chechnya, initiating an protracted armed conflict, which was complicated by the intervention of Islamic fundamentalism.

Reaction

In the face of all these events, broad sectors of Russian public opinion began to see that Yeltsin’s policies were leading to the destruction of Russia. And to make matters worse, there was the problem of tremendous economic chaos, which had plunged the majority of the population into misery, while a few oligarchs enriched themselves with savage privatizations. In September and October 1993, a revolt broke out, with the Supreme Soviet (the parliament) itself at the center. On October 4, military units loyal to Yeltsin put an end to the revolt by bombing the Supreme Soviet.

The political forces that united against Yeltsin were very diverse: communists, nationalists and supporters of the orthodox tsarist monarchy. But they all had one thing in common—the defense of Russian sovereignty and Eurasianism. It was this coalition of forces that would support the emergence of Vladimir Putin and the rebirth of Russia.

Vladimir Putin and Russian Sovereignty

As we mentioned, Boris Yeltsin’s period of government in Russia led the country into unprecedented economic chaos and a real danger of fragmentation. The savage privatization of companies and infrastructures gave birth to the emergence of the so-called “oligarchs,” former officials and politicians of the communist regime who accumulated a great deal of power and wealth with these privatizations, wealth that contrasted with the growing misery of the majority of the Russian population.

In September and October 1993, the discontent of a large part of the population against Yeltsin’s policies led to the uprising of the Duma (parliament) against the president. The previous elections had given a majority to Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a populist and nationalist leader, but the very presidential-structure of Russian politics meant that in reality the Duma had very little power. In this uprising converged the patriotic and anti-liberal forces that would form the basis of the patriotic movement that would be led by Vladimir Putin, namely, Zhirinovsky’s nationalists, the Russian communist party (actually national-communist) of Gennady Zyuganov, and tsarist and orthodox religious groups. Despite their ideological differences, these groups had in common their opposition to liberalism and Westernism, and their defense of the integrity and sovereignty of Russia.

The rebel deputies made a strong stand in the Duma building, which was shelled by military units loyal to Yeltsin. The uprising was crushed—but from that point on Yeltsin’s political course began to waver. Yeltsin’s eight years in power had been a truly dark period in Russian history, with an anti-national government allied to the interests of foreign powers. His policy of change towards a Western-style liberal society was based on Western foreign investment and large loans from international financial institutions. However, none of this materialized in reality—the loans from the International Monetary Fund came in dribs and drabs, immensely smaller than promised and served only to pay the interest on the foreign debt.

In a way, a certain parallel can be drawn between the Russian and Spanish transitions: Governments that respond to foreign interests by dismantling industry, privatizing companies face the danger of fragmentation due to growing nationalism. The only difference is that in Spain there has not been the patriotic reaction that took place in Russia.

Although the uprising in the Duma was crushed by force, it showed the failure of the Yeltsin project. The oligarchs, enriched by savage privatizations, and who supported liberal and pro-Western policies, withdrew their support for the president and promoted an unknown Vladimir Putin, thinking that he would carry out a policy more in line with their interests. Yeltsin resigned on December 31, 1999. Thus, the year 2000 was the beginning of a new era in Russia.

Vladimir Putin was an Apparatchik. He had nothing to do with the patriotic and sovereigntist forces that had led the 1993 uprising. But Putin came from the Security Services (the former KGB) and was educated in the idea that these services, together with military might, were meant to defend the national interest.

From the beginning of his mandate, Putin suggested a more assertive and nationalistic foreign policy, which would not be subordinated to the interests of the Western powers, which gave him the support of the Russian military elite. But, at the same time, he skillfully enlisted the support of Boris Berezovsky, the leading oligarch of the Yeltsin era, who thought, wrongly, that Putin would further his interests.

Putin forced the oligarch Vlaadimir Guzinsky into exile. He also brought about the fall of Roman Abramovich and Alexander Voloshin, other powerful oligarchs. Subsequently, the new leaders of these oligarchs helped him to drive Berezovsky out.

In fact, from the very beginning, Putin initiated a battle for control of the economy, which led to a confrontation with the oligarchs. He succeeded in exiling Berezovsky and Abramovich. Later, in July 2000, he arrested Vladimir Gussinsky, the largest media owner, accusing him of having stolen ten million dollars from the state-owned Russian Video company.

In late 2003, at the end of his first term, Putin arrested the powerful oil industry millionaire, Mikhail Kodorkovsky, accusing him of tax evasion and corruption. At this time, and using these arrests as an excuse, the West began to accuse Putin of “authoritarianism” and of returning to the police methods of the Stalinist era. This campaign was joined by the media (New York Times, 2003, Washington Post, 2003) and the U.S. State Department itself claimed that the basic freedom of Russians was in danger. As we can see, the Western (more specifically US) animosity towards Putin goes back a long way—from the moment he refused to be a puppet like his predecessor, Yeltsin, had been.

Kodorkovsky perfectly represented the former functionary of the communist apparatus, enriched by the savage privatizations of the Yeltsin era. He tried to use his immense fortune to finance his campaign for the Russian presidency, emboldened by Western support, which presented him as a representative of “liberal and democratic” values.

The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few oligarchs had caused some 31 million Russians (more than 20% of the population) to subsist on the equivalent, or less, of 50 dollars a month. According to a UN study, half of the Russian population lived in poverty, and according to figures from the Russian State Statistics Committee, in 2002, more than forty million Russians suffered from malnutrition. In such circumstances, it no longer seemed so strange that many Russians longed for the Soviet era.

Along with this data concerning the quality of life, the destruction of the state health care system should be noted. All this led to a drop in life expectancy from 70 years for men in the Soviet era to 57 years.

The Putin government’s political offensive against Kodorkovsky was central to President Putin’s second election in 2003. He projected an image of fighting the oligarchs that made him very popular among a population that, in the words of political scientist Yuri Tziganov, wanted to see all Russian gangsters prosecuted and punished for the social destruction they had wrought in Russia.

Kodorkovsky had been characterized, not only by the accumulation of great wealth, but by his intention to use it politically. He had made large contributions of money to what he called “democratic opposition parties,” and had tried to exploit social discontent to instigate a change of regime.

In view of all this, the Western propaganda that keeps talking about “Putin’s oligarchs” is pathetic, when precisely what has characterized Putin’s domestic policy has been the persecution and economic and political neutralization of these oligarchs, enriched during the Yeltsin period, and who had been characterized by their support for liberal and Western ideas in Russia.

Towards the end of his second term, in 2007, Putin gave an important speech at the Munich Conference on security policy. In this speech he set out a whole doctrine of international relations based on multipolarity, a doctrine that is essential to know in order to understand the deep roots of the current conflict with Ukraine.

This doctrine can be summarized in the following points:

  • The unipolar model of the world is not only unacceptable, it is impossible.
  • The USA has overstepped its national borders in every sense, imposing its economic, political, cultural and educational policies on other nations.
  • Decision making on the use of military force should be within the UN.
  • NATO is advancing its border forces to Russia’s borders.
  • Whatever happened to those promises given by our Western partners after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?
  • With one hand “charitable aid” is given, with the other hand economic backwardness is preserved and profits are collected.
  • The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has become an instrument for securing the interests of some states against others.
  • Russia, in its millennia-long history, has always had an independent foreign policy. We will not change this tradition.

With these eight points Putin clearly laid down the basic lines of his international policy. The mere fact of maintaining the unity of Russia against the policies of balkanization and disintegration of the Yeltsin era readily implied a confrontation with the unipolar “New World Order,” cherished by the USA ever since the collapse of the USSR. Maintaining Russian national pride, its refusal to ask for forgiveness, the uninhibited assumption of its own history (from Tsarism to the USSR) constituted a provocation against the ideology of this “New World Order,” which consists of nothing more than exporting and imposing the values of American society on the entire globe.

To all this must be added the low permeability of Russian society as a whole to the ideological project of Agenda 2030, with all its tentacles: neo-feminism, climate hysteria, gender ideology, immigrationism and multiculturalism. Russia has become a problem for the “New World Order,” a “problem” with a vast expanse, reserve of raw materials and nuclear weapons.

During the Trump period the globalist rubber never met the road. This president proved to be the least globalist of all US presidents (he did not initiate any war), more concerned with domestic issues of the American nation, and whose moves in international politics did not clash (at least head-on) with Russia.

With the arrival to power of Biden everything changed. This character, who is nothing more than a puppet of the neo-con sectors of the Democratic Party, made it very clear in his electoral campaign that his policy would be aimed at making the USA once again the world LEADER. This meant that the USA would return to the policy of Unipolarity (disguised as “multilateralism”) and, therefore, the confrontation with any power that opposed it.

Let us recall that the neocons are the spokesmen of a messianic vision of America as a nation united only by a creed that can be extended to all mankind. In the neocon theory, the USA is a “universal nation” that has “human rights” as its foreign policy axis, in the same way as the Soviets had Marxism-Leninism. Biden’s America is thus once again the expansive epicenter of “liberal democracy.”

For the neocons, that is, for Biden, liberal democracy and the market economy can be built anywhere in the world, with the help, if necessary, of American fighter-bombers and missiles; or, better still, a puppet state, as in the case of Ukraine. Any opposition is “tribalism,” Nazism, Stalinism or all of them at once. Naturally, the arms lobby smiles complacently.


José Alsina Calvés is a historian and philosopher who specializes in political biography, the history of science and the history of ideas and edits the journal Nihil Obstat. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.


Featured: Cover of the magazine, Chasovoy (The Watchman), 1932. Inscription on the shield reads, “God with us. Russia will rise again.” The title below, “Christ is risen.”

Introduction to Geopolitics

In this introductory article to Geopolitics, we want to discuss some issues related to this discipline.

First of all, we would like to combat the misunderstandings and lies that certain war propaganda has spread at a certain time concerning this science. Geopolitics is not part of the “Nazi” doctrine. In the first place, its origins are much earlier. Secondly, one of its creators, Halford Mackinder, was an Englishman, very committed to the foreign policy of the British Empire, to the point of being one of the ideologists of the Treaty of Versailles. Thirdly, another of its creators, the German Karl Haushofer (contrary to what was disclosed at the time by the British press) was not Hitler’s “eminence grise,” but was persecuted by the Nazis, interned in Dachau and his eldest son murdered.

But fourthly, and above all, the essence of the Nazi doctrine was not geopolitics, but raciology. The major strategic decisions taken by Hitler and his collaborators were based on his theory of the “Aryan race,” according to which the expansion of Germany was to be at the expense of the Slavic peoples, supposedly “inferior races,” while alliance with the English and French, who were also of the “Aryan race,” was to be sought. Haushofer, based on geopolitical presuppositions, defended the Germany-Russia alliance, following Mackinder’s idea of uniting Europe with the “Heartland;” he also defended German support for the peoples subjugated by the British Empire to rebel against it. None of these proposals pleased Hitler, who despised the Slavs, and who had written in Mein Kampf that the British Empire and the Catholic Church were the main bastions of Western Civilization. The real ideologue of Nazism was not Haushofer, but Alfred Rosenberg, the author of The Myth of the 20th Century.

Another interesting question is the epistemological and gnoseological status of geopolitics: Is it a science? Is it a technology? Is it an interdisciplinary field? What are its relations with other disciplines? In the light of possible answers to these questions, we will outline a short history of geopolitics.

Finally, we will analyze the possible role of geopolitics in the elaboration of a new discourse in International Relations Theory and in the theoretical foundations of a multipolar world, as advocated by Alexander Dugin.

Vindication of Geopolitics

At the end of World War II, with the victory of the Allies over Germany, Italy and Japan, there was a formidable ideological and propaganda offensive aimed at showing that the defeated nations were ruled by political regimes that represented the incarnation of “Absolute Evil.” The National Socialist regime was the favorite target of these campaigns, especially when the existence of concentration camps was discovered, where members of certain racial or religious minorities (Gypsies, Jews) had been exterminated. Propagandists magnified the crimes of the defeated, while concealing their own (atomic bombing of two Japanese cities of no strategic interest, napalm bombing of the city of Dresden, murder and rape of the civilian population, especially by Soviet troops).

But the viciousness of the propagandists did not stop there. Personalities of German intellectual life, who had been silenced, side-lined and even persecuted by Nazism, were accused of collaborating with it, solely on the grounds that they had flirted with it in its origins (what German could not sympathize in principle with a movement that sought to revise the Versailles Treaty?) Such was the case with Ernst Jünger, Martin Heidegger or Karl Haushofer.

Karl Haushofer, one of the creators of geopolitics, was born on August 27, 1869 in Munich. In 1887 he chose a military career, and in 1890 he became an artillery officer in the Bavarian army. In 1896 he married Martha Mayer-Doos, a woman of Jewish origin (a curious choice for a supposed “Nazi”). From this marriage two sons were born, Albrecht and Heinz.

Professor at the War Academy in 1904, he was sent to Japan in 1908 to organize the Imperial Navy. In 1913, back in Germany, he presented his first work for the general public, Dai Nihon, Betrachtungen über Groß-Japans Wehrkraft, Weltstellung und Zukunft (“Dai Nihon [Greater Japan] Reflections on Greater Japan’s Military Strength, World Position, and Future“). The same year he began studying geography at the University of Munich. He was mobilized in 1914, and, after the armistice, appointed commander of the 1st Bavarian Artillery Brigade. He returned to the university, received his doctorate in 1919, and left his military career to devote himself to teaching.

In 1919, he met Rudolf Hess, with whom he struck up a close friendship, and through whom he came into contact with National Socialist circles. Hess would protect Hauhoffer’s wife, of Jewish origin, and their children, considered semi-Jewish after the promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws. Bad start for the supposed “Hitler’s eminence grise” according to English propagandists.

In 1924, he founded the prestigious Zeitschrift für Geopolitik [Journal of Geopolitics], together with his colleague Ernst Obst, gathering around it a prestigious team of researchers. Initially, the ideas developed by Haushofer were well received by Hitler and National Socialist circles. In fact, the geopolitical concept of Lebesraum (living space) was incorporated into Nazi terminology, but always subordinated to the racist idea of the “Aryan race.” In 1936, the NSDAP defined geopolitics as “The science of the territorial and racial foundations which determine the development of peoples and states.”

Soon things changed. The defense of the German-Russian alliance advocated by Haushofer, based on the geopolitical criterion of the “heartland” and not on racist criteria, did not please Hitler and the Nazi leadership. The idea of supporting the peoples subject to the British Empire (supposed “inferior races”) so that they would rise up was not to the liking of the hierarchy either. In fact, since 1933, Haushofer was watched by agents of the regime, although for the time being he was not harassed, thanks to the protection of his friend Rudolf Hess.

From 1941, with the flight of Hess to England and his disappearance from the political scene, the situation of Haushofer and his sons grew complicated. His son Albrecht was arrested and Haushofer himself was interrogated by the Gestapo. After the failed attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20, 1944, Haushofer was interned in Dachau, and his son Heinz imprisoned in the Moabit prison in Berlin. Later, he was released, but his other son, Albrecht, was murdered in April 1945.

In spite of all this, with the Allied victory the persecution of Haushofer intensified, because according to the British press he was “the Hitler’s eminence grise.” Judged in Nuremberg, he was acquitted. But his title of honorary professor was withdrawn, along with his right to a pension. In March 1946, Haushofer and his wife Martha committed suicide. A little before, he had written his last work, “Apologie der Geopolitik” (“An Apology of Geopolitics”), where he clearly disassociated his work from Nazism.

The Gnoseological Status of Geopolitics

Gnoseology, epistemology or theory of knowledge is that part of philosophical discourse which deals with the problem of knowledge, the scientific method, the demarcation of scientific knowledge and the classification of sciences. It is within this conceptual framework that essential questions arise: What is geopolitics? Is it a science? Is it an interdisciplinary field? Is it a technology?

Some authors have tried to solve the problem, arguing that geopolitics can actually be subsumed under geography. They are partly right, for in the origins of geopolitics we find geographers as the main protagonists. Frederich Ratzel’s pioneering work, published in 1896, bore the title, Politische Geographie (Political Geography), and Mackinder (author of The Geographical Pivot of History) and Haushoffer himself were also geographers.

However, subsuming geopolitics in geography does not solve the problem of its gnoseological status, since, as Lacoste has pointed out, the absolute absence of any theoretical reflection among geographers is surprising. The epistemological debate, the crisis of foundations or the methodological problems that have arisen in many disciplines have led to the emergence of so-called “particular philosophies” (philosophy of history, of physics, of biology, etc.). None of this has occurred in geography, when paradoxically, the situation of this discipline as a “hinge” between the natural sciences (geomorphology, botany) and the social sciences (history, economics) seems to make it an ideal field for this type of debate.

To define the gnoseological status of geopolitics, we will take into account the following variables:

  1. The existence of an object of study and a method.
  2. The relationship with other sciences or disciplines
  3. The existence of a scientific community or “invisible college.”
  4. The existence or not of a unifying theory (paradigm) and of research programs or traditions.

There are various definitions of geopolitics, but all of them refer to the influence (determining or conditioning) of geographic factors on the politics of states. This places geopolitics in a “hinge” situation between the natural sciences (geomorphology, climatology) and the social sciences (politics). The object of study of geopolitics is therefore dual (or triune): geographical factors, the politics of states and the influence of the former on the latter.

Its methodology also presents a duality: in its analysis of geographical factors, it uses methods from the natural sciences, while in its analysis of political factors it uses methods from the social sciences.

As for its relationship with other sciences or disciplines, it should be noted that geopolitics was born within the framework of geography (in fact it can be considered a branch or specialty of the same), but it ended up having its own identity.

Another interesting aspect to note is that geopolitics has never been configured as a “knowledge for the sake of knowledge,” but rather theory has always been deeply linked to praxis. Moreover, we can affirm that before geopolitics was constituted as a discipline, even before the name itself existed, there was already a geopolitical praxis. In the dialectic of States and Empires, in the development of diplomatic and military strategies, the geographical factor, the domination and appropriation of space, has always been taken into account.

It was at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century when the name “geopolitics” was born, and scientific communities began to form, basically in universities (in geography faculties) or in military schools. The appearance of specialized journals was another characteristic linked to the birth of scientific communities, such as the Journal of Geopolitics, founded in 1924 by Haushofer and Obst, which was the first of its kind.

Finally, there is no unified theory or paradigm shared by all schools and authors of geopolitics. Since geopolitics is a “science of space,” the place occupied by a school or an author is fundamental. Thus, one can speak of a “geopolitics of the sea,” of a “geopolitics of the land,” and, more recently, of a “geopolitics of the air.” However, there is a set of basic concepts, elaborated by Mackinder, such as “Heartland,” which are shared by most schools.

Brief History of Geopolitics

In attempting to describe the historical development of geopolitics, it is necessary to distinguish what would be geopolitical praxis from the birth of geopolitics as a discipline. Geopolitical praxis is inseparable from the dialectics of states and empires. As Gustavo Bueno has rightly pointed out, in every political society we must distinguish a Basal Layer (control or sovereignty over a territory, which will be the Land of the Fathers or Homeland), the Conjunctive Layer (the institutions of government) and the Cortical Layer (relations with other political societies, i.e., diplomacy and war). Both the Basal and Cortical Layers imply a geopolitical praxis.

The term “geopolitics” and the beginnings of the discipline date back to 1897, when Friedrich Ratzel published Politische Geographie (Political Geography). Ratzel’s ideas were later developed by Rudolf Kjellén, in his book, Der Staat als Lebensform (The State as a Way of Life), published in 1917. He defined geopolitics as “the influence of geographical factors, in the broadest sense of the word, on the political development of peoples and states.” For Kjellén, Geopolitics is one of the five branches that make up the state; the others being Cratopolitics, Demopolitics, Sociopolitics and Economopolitics.

In the first half of the twentieth century, the two great figures who emerged were Karl Haushofer, whom we have already dealt with, and the Englishman Sir Halford Mackinder.

The geopolitical concept of the “Heartland” was introduced by Mackinder, and linked to the geographical existence of endorheic basins, i.e., large river basins that flow into enclosed seas (Caspian Sea, Black Sea). The Heartland is the sum of a series of contiguous river basins whose waters flow into bodies of water inaccessible to oceanic navigation. These are the endorheic basins of Central Eurasia, plus the part of the Arctic Ocean basin frozen in the Northern Route with an ice cover of between 1.2 and 2 meters, and therefore impracticable much of the year—except for atomic-powered icebreakers (which only the Russian Federation possesses) and similar vessels.

Mackinder’s golden rule may be summarized as follows: “Whoever unites Europe with the Heartland will dominate the Heartland and thus the Earth.” The Heartland lacks a clear nerve-center and can be defined as a gigantic and robust body in search of a brain. Since there are no natural geographical barriers (mountain ranges, deserts, seas, etc.) between the Heartland and Europe, the most viable “head” of the Heartland is clearly Europe, followed at a great distance by China, Iran and India.

The march of European humanity into the heart of Asia culminated when Greek culture was introduced as far as Mongolia—today the Mongolian language is written in Cyrillic characters of Greek-Byzantine heritage, meaning that the fall of Constantinople actually projected Byzantine influence much further East than the Orthodox emperors could ever have imagined. However, Europe’s task does not end here, for only Europe can undertake the enterprise that will turn the Heartland into the powerful enclosed space, prophesied by Mackinder.

In order to delve deeper into the subject, it is necessary to familiarize ourselves with the Mackinderian cosmogony, which divided the planet into several clearly defined geopolitical domains.

The World-Island is the union of Europe, Asia and Africa, and the closest thing there is in the emerged lands to Panthalasa or Universal Ocean. Within the World Island is Eurasia, the sum of Europe and Asia, which is a reality all the more separate from Africa ever since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, which allowed maritime power to envelop both continents.

The Heartland no longer needs any introduction. Mackinderian theory assumes that the Heartland is a geographical reality within the World Island, just as the World Island is a geographical reality within the World Ocean.

The Rimland, also called the Inner Crescent or Marginal Crescent, is a huge strip of land surrounding the Heartland and consists of the ocean basins annexed to it. Pentalasia, the Balkans, Scandinavia, Germany, France, Spain, and most of China and India lie in the Rimland.

The Outer or Insular Crescent is a set of peripheral overseas domains, separated from the Inner Crescent by deserts, seas and icy spaces. Sub-Saharan Africa, the British Isles, the Americas, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia and Australia are in the Outer Crescent.

The Mediterranean Ocean (Midland Ocean is the Heartland of maritime power. Mackinder defined the Mediterranean Ocean as the northern half of the Atlantic plus all the tributary maritime spaces (Baltic, Hudson Bay, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico). Recall that the largest river basins in the world are those that flow into the Atlantic—then come those of the Arctic and only in third place come the Pacific basins.

Notice that these geopolitical ideas have guided British foreign policy and strategy. In both World War I and World War II, British diplomacy succeeded in preventing a German-Russian alliance that would have united Europe with the Heartland. In fact, Mackinder, far from being a simple intellectual, was a person very committed to British diplomacy and foreign policy. He was one of the ideologues of the Treaty of Versailles, whose purpose was the political and military neutralization of Germany. He was also one of the ideologists of the English support for the White Russians, in their fight against the Bolsheviks. The aim was to fragment Russia into a series of small feudatory states of the British Empire, although the Bolshevik victory frustrated this plan.

As we have already mentioned, after World War II the term “Geopolitics” was stigmatized and associated with the Nazi regime. This propaganda campaign, directed mainly against Haushofer, did not prevent geopolitical concepts from continuing to be used in the dialectics of states and empires, especially in the US-USSR confrontation that led to the Cold War.

The first European to publish a non-German version of geopolitics was the Frenchman Jacques Ancel, with his work Geopolitique, in 1936. Although very critical of the Germans, whom he accused of being “pedants with a scientific appearance,” Ancel revised the concept of “frontier” and “nation” along the lines initiated by Ratzel.

In the United States, thanks to the work of German geographers, who had taken refuge in that country, works related to geopolitical issues began to be published in 1941. The most significant example is that of Hans W. Weigert, a refugee in the United States since 1938 and a professor at Trinity College in Chicago. In 1942 he published Generals and Geographers: The Twilight of Geopolitics, where he describes the central concepts and ideas of the classical authors, and vindicates the work of Haushofer, exempting him from any relation with the Nazi regime. Other North American authors, such as Alfred Thayer Mahan, Andreas Dorpalan or Nicholas J. Spykman were not so sympathetic to Haushofer and devoted themselves to distorting German geopolitics, and even to rejecting the term as opposed to that of “Political Geography.”

We must also mention the Austrian-born geopolitical scientist, Robert Strausz-Hupé, who published, in 1942, Geopolitics: The Struggle for Space and Power, in which he emphasized geographical factors in politics and power relations.

In the foreign policy of the United States, the use of concepts and strategies based on geopolitics had been a constant, ever since James Monroe, in 1823, announced his doctrine “America for the Americans,” which is logical, since geopolitical praxis has been a constant in the history of the dialectics of States and Empires. Along the same lines, we should cite Manifest Destiny (1840), the Roosevelt Corollary (1905) or Wilson’s Fourteen Points (1918).

Logically, the beginning of the Cold War meant the reuse of these concepts and strategies, even though the term “Geopolitics” was rejected and associated with Nazism. Along this line, we must quote Nicholas Spykman, who in his work America Strategy in World Politics, published in 1942, tried to reach a balance for the term “Geopolitics,” which on the one hand he associated with the Nazi regime, and on the other hand considered synonym for “political geography,” and finally recognizing its important utility in security policy.

For Spykman, the United States was to be the world’s hegemonic power, with enough power to impose its law both at home and abroad. In fact, he was the ideologue of the policy of control over the Latin American nations, with the imposition of puppet military dictatorships. Many of his postulates were included in the National Security Act (1947) of the United States.

Inspired by Spykman (and also by Mackinder) was George F. Kennan’s article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” published in 1947 in Foreign Affairs magazine, under the pseudonym “X.” The practical conclusion of these policies was an expansive foreign policy, aimed at creating “clones of the US doctrine” in Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, to contain “communist expansion.” It should be noted that current globalization is nothing more than an extension of these policies to the whole world.

Finally, mention should be made of various geopolitical schools of thought that emerged in Latin American nations. In Mexico we must mention Jorge A. Vivó Escoto and Alberto Escalona Ramos. The former published in 1943 La Geopolítica Sobre la necesidad de dar una nueva organización a la geografía política del Caribe (Geopolitics. On the Need to Give a New Organization to the Political Geography of the Caribbean), in which Haushofer’s thought is still associated with Nazism, although Escoto also recognized that Geopolitics and Nazism are not equivalent. Much harsher was Leonardo Martin Echevarria, professor of the UNAM, who, in his book Human Geography (1948) defined Geopolitics as “a partial and vicious contemplation of human Geography, distorted by German geographers.”

Geopolitics received a new impulse in Mexico in 1959, with the publication of Geopolítica mundial y Geoeconomía (World Geopolitics and Geoeconomics) by Alberto Escalona Ramos, in which the author extensively develops the historical, geographical and political arguments of a global nature that support his proposals.

In Brazil, we must mention Milton Santos as the great representative of the Brazilian school, which emerged from the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters of the University of Sao Paulo, and the foundation of the journal Geógrafos Brasileños in 1934.

In Peru, mention should be made of Israel Lira and the Centro de Estudios Crisolistas which, although not specifically dedicated to Geopolitics, but to the dissemination and adaptation of Dugin’s Fourth Political Theory, often uses geopolitical concepts.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the interest awakened by Geopolitics at the Escuela Superior de Guerra in Argentina and in intellectual circles linked to radical Peronism.

Geopolitics and Multipolarity

Geopolitics is a fundamental instrument in the elaboration of Aleksandr Dugin’s theory of Multipolarity. Dugin basically uses two concepts drawn from geopolitics: that of “Heartland,” which we have already examined, and the distinction between Earth and Sea Civilizations, as developed by Carl Schmitt.

Telluric or Earth civilizations are characterized by a series of ideological and sociological features: Conservatism, Holism, Collective Anthropology, and worship of the values of asceticism, honor and loyalty. They are civilizations rooted in the Earth, and the values of Tradition and continuity. In contrast, the Thalassocratic or Sea civilizations are dominated by individualistic, universalistic and commercial values. The Ocean lacks borders and the navigator easily loses his roots. In antiquity, the opposition between Rome (the Land) and Carthage (the Sea) is a good example of this duality. In modernity, England is a pristine example of Thalassocratic civilization, as is the USA from a certain point in its history.

Carl Schmitt, to explain the differences between these two types of civilizations, cites the myth of the cabalist doctrines, which represented universal history as the struggle between the powerful whale, the Leviathan, against a no less powerful monster, the Behemoth, which was represented as a bull or an elephant. Both names come from the book of Job. In their struggle, the Behemoth tries to tear the Leviathan apart with its horns and tusks, while the Leviathan closes the beast’s jaws and snout with its flippers to prevent it from eating and breathing. For Schmitt, this mythical image represents the blockade of a terrestrial power by a maritime one, which cuts off its means of supply to starve it out. Schmitt adds that for the kabbalistic Jews everything ends with the death of the monsters (that is, of the powers in struggle); while they, who have remained on the sidelines, eat the flesh of the dead beasts and build tents with their skins.

For Dugin, Russia has always been a telluric civilization. From Kievan Rus to the Muscovite Tsarate, the USSR or the current Russian Federation, above (or below) political or ideological differences, there is a set of common features in the course of Russian history—the continuous confrontation, both ideological and geopolitical, with the “Sea” civilizations. The Cold War and the current confrontation of Putin’s Russia with the US and its allies are a good illustration of this confrontation, even with different political and ideological motivations.

To the policy of Globalization, which is an attempt to extend, in a totalitarian way, the presuppositions of Western civilization (and especially of the USA) to the whole Earth, imposing its values (market, individualism, formal democracy) even if by force, Dugin opposes a multipolar conception, with the idea of Great Spaces that coincide with the great civilizations.

In this sense, the bloc formed by Russia and its allies coincides with Eurasia and the domain of the Heartland and has to play a fundamental role in the geopolitics of the future, in alliance with China and other emerging countries (India, Brazil) to oppose Globalization.

From this point on, the concept of Eurasianism takes on two different meanings. In its more restricted and original sense, it refers to the affirmation and defense of the Eurasian bloc and the values of the Christian-Orthodox civilization, capable of opposing the unipolar policy of the USA. But in a general sense, wherever there is defense of a national or cultural identity against globalizing homogenization, one can speak of Eurasianism in a more generic sense.

Thus, when the Poles affirm their national and Catholic identity, when the French or the Greeks stand up to the neoliberal policies of the EU, or when we Spaniards defend our Hispanic identity against separatism or against the fads “made in the USA,” even without knowing it, we are doing Eurasianism.

Eurasianism thus becomes the ideological banner of all those who fight for a multipolar world, respectful not only of the differences of the great civilizations (European, Eurasian, Arab, etc.) but also of the ethnic differences and cultural particularities of the different peoples that make up each of these great civilizations.

For our part, we believe that this generic use of the term “Eurasianism” can be misleading, or be interpreted as a kind of Russian “doctrinal imperialism.” We think that the application of Dugin’s ideas to Spanish reality should be called Hispanism (just as in Peru our friend and colleague Israel Lira calls “Chrysolism” the application of the Fourth Political Theory to his national reality).

Dugin points out, in this sense, that the Nation State, despite its liberal origins and its contribution to the homogenization of populations as a first step towards the total homogenization of Globalization, can play a role in resisting it. While it is true that no nation state, on its own, can resist globalization, its resistance to losing power can slow down the advance of globalization. A good example is France, where the defense of the French National State by Marine Le Pen’s National Front has become an obstacle to the migratory processes and the neoliberal policies sponsored by the EU.


José Alsina Calvés is a historian and philosopher who specializes in political biography, the history of science and the history of ideas and edits the journal Nihil Obstat. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Posmodernia.


Featured: “The City Of Candahar,” from sketches by James Atkinson; engraved by Charles Haghe and Louis Haghe; published by Henry Graves in 1842.