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Geopolitics is the art and practice of using political power over a given territory. Traditionally,
the term has applied primarily to the impact of geography on politics, but its usage has evolved
over the past century to encompass a wider connotation.
In academic circles, the study of geopolitics involves the analysis of geography, history and
social science with reference to spatial politics and patterns at various scales (ranging from the
level of the state to international).
The term was coined by Rudolf Kjellén, a Swedish political scientist, at the beginning of the 20th
century. Kjellén was inspired by the German geographer Friedrich Ratzel, who published his
book Politische Geographie (political geography) in 1897, popularized in English by American
diplomat Robert Strausz-Hupé, a faculty member of the University of Pennsylvania. Halford
Mackinder also greatly pioneered the field, though he did not use the term geopolitics [1].


•1 Mackinder and the Heartland

•1.1 Nazis

•2 Ratzel

•3 Kjellen

•4 Huntington

•5 Definitions

•6 See also

•7 Notes

•8 References

•9 External links

[edit] Mackinder and the Heartland


/wiki/File:Pivot_area.png /wiki/File:Pivot_area.pngSir Halford Mackinder's

Heartland concept showing the situation of the "pivot area" established in the Theory of the
The concept of geopolitics initially gained attention through the work of Kazza Spoons and Sir
Halford Mackinder in England and his formulation of the Heartland Theory in 1904. Mackinder's
doctrine of geopolitics involved concepts diametrically opposed to the notion of Alfred Thayer
Mahan about the significance of navies (he coined the term sea power) in world conflict. The
Heartland theory hypothesized the possibility for a huge empire being brought into existence in
the Heartland, which wouldn't need to use coastal or transoceanic transport to The basic notions
of Mackinder's doctrine involve considering the geography of the Earth as being divided into two
sections, the World Island or Core, comprising Eurasia and Africa; and the Periphery, including
the Americas, the British Isles, and Oceania. Not only was the Periphery noticeably smaller than
the World Island, it necessarily required much sea transport to function at the technological level
of the World Island, which contained sufficient natural resources for a developed economy. Also,
the industrial centers of the Periphery were necessarily located in widely separated locations. The
World Island could send its navy to destroy each one of them in turn. It could locate its own
industries in a region further inland than the Periphery could,so they would have a longer
struggle reaching them, and would be facing a well-stocked industrial bastion. This region
Mackinder termed the Heartland. It essentially comprised Ukraine, Western Russia, and
Mitteleuropa (a German term for Central Europe). The Heartland contained the grain reserves of
Ukraine, and many other natural resources. Mackinder's notion of geopolitics can be summed up
in his saying "Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland. Who rules the Heartland
commands the World-Island. Who rules the World-Island commands the World." His doctrine
was influential during the World Wars and the Cold War, for Germany and later Russia each
made territorial strides toward the Heartland.

[edit] Nazis
Popular views of the role of geopolitics in the Nazi Third Reich suggest a fundamental
significance on the part of the geopoliticians in the ideological orientation of the Nazi state.
Bassin (1987) reveals that these popular views are in important ways misleading and incorrect.
Despite the numerous similarities and affinities between the two doctrines, geopolitics was
always held suspect by the National Socialist ideologists. This suspicion was understandable, for
the underlying philosophical orientation of geopolitics ran counter to that of National Socialism.
Geopolitics, deriving from the political geography of Ratzel, shared his scientific materialism
and determinism. Human society was determined by external influences, in the face of which
qualities held innately by individuals or groups were of reduced or no significance. National
Socialism both rejected in principle materialism and determinism and also elevated innate human
qualities, in the form of a hypothesized 'racial character,' to the factor of greatest significance in
the constitution of human society. These differences led after 1933 to friction and ultimately to
open denunciation of geopolitics by Nazi ideologists.[2]

[edit] Ratzel
The geopolitical theory of Friedrich Ratzel (1844-1904) has been criticized as being too
sweeping, his interpretation of human history and geography too simple and mechanistic. In his
analysis of the importance of mobility, and the move from sea to rail transport, he failed to
predict the revolutionary impact of air power. Critically also he underestimated the importance of
social organization in the development of power[3]. The theories of Mackinder fall into the
category of geo-strategy which is no more than a single sub-component within the broader study
of contemporary geopolitics and geopolitical change.

[edit] Kjellen
After World War I, Kjellen's thoughts and the term were picked up and extended by a number of
scientists: in Germany by Karl Haushofer, Erich Obst, Hermann Lautensach and Otto Maull; in
England, Mackinder and James Fairgrieve; in France Vidal de la Blache and Camille Vallaux. In
1923 Karl Haushofer founded the Zeitschrift für Geopolitik (Journal for Geopolitics), which
developed as a propaganda organ for Nazi Germany. However, more recently Haushofer's
influence within the Nazi Party has been questioned (O'Tuathail, 1996) since Haushofer failed to
incorporate the Nazis' racial ideology into his work.

[edit] Huntington
Since then, the word geopolitics has been applied to other theories, most notably the notion of
the Clash of Civilizations by Samuel Huntington. In a peaceable world, neither sea lanes nor
surface transport are threatened; hence all countries are effectively close enough to one another
physically. It is in the realm of the political ideas, workings, and cultures that there are
differences, and the term has shifted more towards this arena, especially in its popular usage.
Huntington’s geopolitical model, especially the structures for North Africa and Eurasia, is
largely derived from the "Intermediate Region" geopolitical model first formulated by Dimitri
Kitsikis and published in 1978.[4]

[edit] Definitions
“ The study of geopolitics has undergone a major renaissance during the past decade. ”
Addressing a gap in the published periodical literature, this journal seeks to explore the
theoretical implications of contemporary geopolitics and geopolitical change with
particular reference to territorial problems and issues of state sovereignty .
Multidisciplinary in its scope, geopolitics includes all aspects of the social sciences with
particular emphasis on political geography, international relations, the territorial aspects
of political science and international law. The journal seeks to maintain a healthy balance
between systemic and regional analysis. (Geopolitics Journal home page -
In the abstract, geopolitics traditionally indicates the links and causal relationships
between political power and geographic space; in concrete terms it is often seen as a body
of thought assaying specific strategic prescriptions based on the relative importance of
land power and sea power in world history... The geopolitical tradition had some
consistent concerns, like the geopolitical correlates of power in world politics, the
identification of international core areas, and the relationships between naval and
terrestrial capabilities.—Oyvind Osterud, "The Uses and Abuses of Geopolitics", Journal
of Peace Research, no. 2, 1988, p. 192

“ By geopolitical, I mean an approach that pays attention to the requirements of

equilibrium. Henry Kissinger in Colin S Gray, G R Sloan. Geopolitics, Geography, and
Strategy. Portland: Frank Cass Publishers, 1999. ”

“ Geopolitics is studying geopolitical systems. The geopolitical system is, in my opinion, the
ensemble of relations between the interests of international political actors, interests
focused to an area, space, geographical element or ways.—Vladimir Toncea,
Geopolitical evolution of borders in Danube Basin, PhD 2006. ”

“ Geopolitics as a branch of political geography is the study of reciprocal relations between

geography, politics and power and also the interactions arising from combination of them
with each other. According to this definition, geopolitics is a scientific discipline and has a
basic science nature.(Hafeznia, M.R. 2006. Principles and Concepts of Geopolitics. Popoli
Publications: Iran, pp 37–39.)


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House&Body=Thought you might find this interesting -

The New Geopolitics

By Michael Klare

02/01/06 " Monthly Review" -- -- The war in Iraq has reconfigured the global
geopolitical landscape in many ways, some of which may not be apparent for years or
even decades to come. It has certainly altered the U.S. relationship with Europe and the
Middle East. But its impact goes well beyond this. More than anything else, the war
reveals that the new central pivot of world competition is the south-central area of

The term “geopolitics” seems at first to come from another era, from the late
nineteenth century. By geopolitics or geopolitical competition, I mean the contention
between great powers and aspiring great powers for control over territory, resources,
and important geographical positions, such as ports and harbors, canals, river systems,
oases, and other sources of wealth and influence. If you look back, you will find that
this kind of contestation has been the driving force in world politics and especially
world conflict in much of the past few centuries.

Geopolitics, as a mode of analysis, was very popular from the late nineteenth century
into the early part of the twentieth century. If you studied then what academics now
call international relations, you would have been studying geopolitics.

Geopolitics died out as a self-conscious mode of analysis in the Cold War period,
partly due to echoes of the universally abhorred Hitlerite ideology of lebensraum, but
also because there were a lot of parallels between classical geopolitical thinking (which
came out of a conservative wing of academia) and Marxist and Leninist thinking,
which clashed with the ideological pretensions of Cold War scholars. So it is not a
form of analysis that you see taught, for the most part, in U.S. universities today.

Geopolitics was also an ideology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—
a self-conscious set of beliefs on which elites and leaders of the great powers acted. It
was the thinking behind the imperialism of that period, the logic for the acquisition of
colonies with specific geographical locations. The incidents leading up to the First
World War came out of this mode of thinking, such as the 1898 Fashoda incident over
the headwaters of the Nile River that gave rise to a near conflict between Third
Republic France and late Victorian Britain.

In the case of the United States, it became the dominant mode of thinking at the time of
Teddy Roosevelt and led very self-consciously to the decision by Roosevelt and his
cabal of associates to turn the United States into an empire. This was a conscious
project. It was not an accident. The Spanish-American War was an intentional device
by which the United States acquired an empire. The Spanish-American War and the
occupation of the Philippines were followed quickly by the seizure of Panama, openly
justified by geopolitical ideology. To see just how self-conscious this process was, I
recommend Warren Zimmermann’s First Great Triumph (New York: Farrar, Straus
and Giroux, 2002). The parallels to the current moment are striking.
Geopolitical ideology was later appropriated by Hitler and Mussolini and by the
Japanese militarists to explain and to justify their expansionist behavior. And it was
this expansionist behavior—which threatened the geopolitical interest of the opposing
powers—that led to the Second World War, not the internal politics of Germany, Italy,
or Japan.

This ideology disappeared to some degree during the Cold War in favor of a model of
ideological competition. That is to say, geopolitical ideology appeared inconsistent
with the high-minded justifications (in which “democracy” and “freedom” largely
figured) given for interventions in the third world.

But really, if you study the history of the Cold War, the overt conflicts that took place
were consciously framed by a geopolitical orientation from the American point of
view. The United States had to control the Middle East and its oil. That was the basis
of the Truman Doctrine and the Eisenhower Doctrine and the Carter Doctrine. The
United States had to control parts of Africa because of its mineral wealth in copper,
cobalt, and platinum. That’s why the United States backed the apartheid regime in
South Africa. And the reason for both the Korean War and the Vietnam War was
understood at the highest levels in terms of the U.S. interest in control of the Pacific

Today, we are seeing a resurgence of unabashed geopolitical ideology among the

leadership cadres of the major powers, above all in the United States. In fact, the best
way to see what’s happening today in Iraq and elsewhere is through a geopolitical
prism. American leaders have embarked on the classical geopolitical project of
assuring U.S. dominance of the most important resource areas, understood as the
sources of power and wealth. There is an ideological consistency to what they’re
doing, and it is this geopolitical mode of thinking.

Perhaps there is some question as to exactly how conscious this is, but you can see this
way of thinking in the overt discourse of many contemporary leaders. Dick Cheney
and some prominent neoconservatives especially, but also Democrats such as Zbigniew
Brzezinski, speak in this manner. They openly state that the United States is engaged in
a struggle to maintain its power vis-à-vis other contending great powers and that
America must prevail.

Now, you might ask, what contending great powers? From our point of view it is far
from obvious that any exist. But if you read what these folks write and hear what they
say, you will find that they are absolutely obsessed by the potential emergence of rival
great powers; Russia, China, a European combination of some sort, Japan, and even

This is the essence of the Wolfowitz Doctrine, first articulated in the Pentagon’s
Defense Planning Guidance document for 1994–1999, first leaked to the press in
February 1992. This document calls for proactive U.S. military intervention to deter
and prevent the rise of a contending peer (or equal) competitor, and asserts that the
United States must use any and all means necessary to prevent that from happening. At
the time this statement was met with such howls of outrage from U.S. allies that then
President Bush had to squelch the document, and it was revised to take out this

But this doctrine lingered in the think-tank writings of the 1990s, re-emerging as the
official global military policy of the Bush II administration. It has now been
incorporated as the core principle of the document known as the National Security
Strategy of the United States of America (September 2002), available for download
from the White House website. This document states explicitly that the ultimate
purpose of American power is to prevent the rise of a competing great power, and that
the United States shall use any means necessary to prevent that from happening,
including preventive military force when needed, but also through spending so much
money on defense that no other peer competitor can ever arise.

Against this background, it can hardly be questioned that the purpose of the war in Iraq
is to redraw the geopolitical map of Eurasia so as to insure and embed American power
and dominance in this region vis-E0-vis these other potential competitors.

Now let us step back for a minute and return to the classical geo-political thinking of
the early part of the last century, particularly the views of Sir Halford Mackinder of
Great Britain. This perspective held that Eurasia was the most important part—the
“heartland” of the civilized world, and that whoever controlled this heartland by
definition controlled the rest of the world because of the concentration there of
population, resources, and industrial might. In classical geopolitical thinking, world
politics is essentially a struggle over who will control the Eurasian heartland.

The strategists of the turn of the twentieth century saw two ways through which global
dominance could arise. One was through the emergence of a continental power (or a
combination of continental powers) that dominated Eurasia and was, therefore, the
master of the world. It was precisely this fear—that a German-controlled continental
Europe and Russia, together with a Japanese-dominated China and Southeast Asia,
would merge into a vast continental power and dominate the Eurasian heartland,
thereby reducing the United States to a marginal power—that galvanized American
leaders at the onset of the Second World War. Franklin D. Roosevelt was deeply
steeped in this mode of analysis, and it is this ideological–strategic view that triggered
U.S. intervention in the Second World War.

The other approach to global dominance perceived by early twentieth century

geopolitical strategists was to control the “rimlands” of Eurasia—that is, Western
Europe, the Pacific Rim, and the Middle East—and thereby contain any emerging
“heartland” power. After the Second World War, the United States determined that it
would in fact maintain a permanent military presence in all of the rimlands of Eurasia.
This is what we know of as the “containment” strategy. And it was this outlook that led
to the formation of NATO, the Marshall Plan, SEATO, CENTO, and the U.S. military
alliances with Japan and Taiwan. For most of the time since the Second World War,
the focus was on the eastern and western ends of Eurasia—Europe and the Far East.

What is happening now, I believe, is that U.S. elites have concluded that the European
and East Asian rimlands of Eurasia are securely in American hands or less important,
or both. The new center of geopolitical competition, as they see it, is South-Central
Eurasia, encompassing the Persian Gulf area, which possesses two-thirds of the
world’s oil, the Caspian Sea basin, which has a large chunk of what’s left, and the
surrounding countries of Central Asia. This is the new center of world struggle and
conflict, and the Bush administration is determined that the United States shall
dominate and control this critical area.

Until now, the contested rimlands of Eurasia were the base of U.S. power, while in the
south-central region there was but a very modest presence of U.S. forces. Since the end
of the Cold War, however, the primary U.S. military realignment has entailed the
drawdown of American forces in East Asia and Europe along with the buildup of
forces in the south-central region. U.S. bases in Europe are being closed, while new
military bases are being established in the Persian Gulf area and in Central Asia.

It is important to note that this is a process that began before 9/11. September 11
quickened the process and gave it a popular mandate, but this was entirely
serendipitous from the point of view of U.S. strategists. It was President Clinton who
initiated U.S. military ties with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, and
who built up the U.S. capacity to intervene in the Persian Gulf / Caspian Sea area. The
U.S. victory in Iraq was not a victory of Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld; it was Clinton’s
work that made this victory possible.

The war against Iraq was intended to provide the United States with a dominant
position in the Persian Gulf region, and to serve as a springboard for further conquests
and assertion of power in the region. It was aimed as much, if not more, at China,
Russia, and Europe as at Syria or Iran. It is part of a larger process of asserting
dominant U.S. power in south-central Eurasia, in the very heartland of this mega-

But why specifically the Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea area, and why now? In part, this is
so because this is where most of the world’s remaining oil is located—approximately
70 percent of known petroleum reserves. And you have to think of oil not just as a
source of fuel—although that’s very important—but as a source of power. As U.S.
strategists see it, whoever controls Persian Gulf oil controls the world’s economy and,
therefore, has the ultimate lever over all competing powers.

In September 1990, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney told the Senate Armed
Services Committee that Saddam Hussein would acquire a “stranglehold” over the
U.S. and world economy if he captured Saudi Arabia’s oilfields along with those of
Kuwait. This was the main reason, he testified, why the United States must send troops
to the area and repel Hussein’s forces. He used much the same language in a speech
last August to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I believe that in his mind it is clear that
the United States must retain a stranglehold on the world economy by controlling this
area. This is just as important, in the administration’s view, as retaining America’s
advantage in military technology.

Ten years from now, China is expected to be totally dependent on the Persian Gulf and
the Caspian Sea area for the oil it will need to sustain its economic growth. Europe,
Japan, and South Korea will be in much the same position. Control over the oil spigot
may be a somewhat cartoonish image, but it is an image that has motivated U.S. policy
since the end of the Cold War and has gained even more prominence in the Bush-
Cheney administration.

This region is also the only area in the world where the interests of the putative great
powers collide. In the hotly-contested Caspian Sea area, Russia is an expanding power,
China is an expanding power, and the United States is an expanding power. There is no
other place in the world like this. They are struggling with one another consciously and
actively. The Bush administration is determined to dominate this area and to
subordinate these two potential challengers and prevent them from forming a common
front against the United States. (For more on the emerging power struggle in the
Caspian Sea basin, see my Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict
[Henry Holt/Metropolitan, 2001].)

What then are the implications of this great realignment of U.S. geo-political strategy
made possible by the Cold War defeat of the Soviet Union?

It is obviously much too early to draw any definitive conclusions on this, but some
things can be said. First, Iraq is just the beginning of a U.S. drive into this area. We
will see further extensions and expressions of U.S. power in the region. This will
provoke resistance and self-conscious opposition to the United States by insurgent
groups and regimes. But the United States will also become enmeshed in local
conflicts that arose long before America’s involvement in the region. For example, the
conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and that between Abkhazia and Georgia—
both of which have a long history—will come to impact on U.S. security as the United
States becomes dependent on a newly-constructed trans-Caucasian oil pipeline. The
Chechen and Afghani wars continue and bracket the region. In all such disputes there
is a likelihood of indirect or direct, covert or overt intervention by the United States
and the other contending powers.

We are at the beginning, I believe, of a new Cold War in south-central Eurasia, with
many possibilities for crises and flare-ups, because nowhere else in the world are
Russia and China directly involved and supporting groups and regimes that are
opposed to the United States. Even during the height of the Cold War, there wasn’t
anything quite comparable to this. American troops will be there for a long time, with a
high risk of violent engagement and the potential for great human suffering. It appears,
then, that the U.S. and international peace movement will have a lot of work ahead!
All material © copyright 2003 Monthly Review

The Grand Chessboard

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The Grand Chessboard: American
Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives

Book cover
Author Zbigniew Brzezinski
Country USA
Language English
Subject(s) geostrategy of United States in Central Asia
Genre(s) Non-fiction
Publisher Basic Books
Publication date 17 September 1998
Pages 240 pages
ISBN ISBN 0-465-02726-1
The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives is one of the
major works of Zbigniew Brzezinski, former United States National Security Advisor under the
administration of President Jimmy Carter.
Regarding the landmass of Eurasia as the center of global power, Brzezinski sets out to formulate
a Eurasian geostrategy for the United States. In particular, he writes, it is imperative that no
Eurasian challenger should emerge capable of dominating Eurasia and thus also of challenging
America's global preeminence.
Much of his analysis is concerned with geostrategy in Central Asia, focusing on the exercise of
power on the Eurasian landmass in a post-Soviet environment. In his chapter dedicated to what
he refers to as the "Global Balkans", Brzezinski makes use of Halford J. Mackinder's Heartland

Geostrategy in Central Asia

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Central Asia has long been a geostrategic location merely because of its proximity to the
interests several great powers. The region itself never held a dominant stationary population, nor
was able to make use of natural resources until recently with the development of a natural gas
pipeline in Turkmenistan and booming oil industry in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Thus it has
rarely throughout history become the seat of power for an empire or influential state. Much like
Poland throughout European history, Central Asia has been divided, redivided, conquered out of
existence, and fragmented time and time again. Consequently, Central Asia has served more as
the battleground for outside powers than as a power in its own right.

•1 Strategic geography

•1.1 Strategic locations

•2 The Great Game

•3 Debated and Debatable zone

•4 The Heartland

•5 Soviet collapse

•6 Oil politics

•7 War on Terror

•8 See also

[edit] Strategic geography

Central Asia had both the advantage and disadvantage of a central location between four
historical seats of power. From its central location, it has access to trade routes, or lines of attack,
to all the regional powers. On the other hand, it has been continuously vulnerable to attack from
all sides throughout its history, resulting in political fragmentation or outright power vacuum, as
it is successively dominated.
•To the North, the steppe allowed for rapid mobility, first for nomadic horseback warriors
like the Huns and Mongols, and later for Russian traders, eventually supported by
railroads. As the Russian empire expanded to the East, it would also push down into
Central Asia towards the sea, in a search for warm water ports. The Soviet bloc would
reinforce dominance from the North, and attempt to project power as far south as

•To the East, the demographic and cultural weight of Chinese empires continually pushed
outward into Central Asia. The Han, Tang, and Ming Dynasties would conquer parts of
East Turkestan and Tibet, and the later Manchu dynasty, which conquered China in 1644,
consolidated Chinese control over this area. China would project power into Central Asia,
most notably in the case of Afghanistan, to counter Russian dominance of the region.
•To the Southeast, the demographic and cultural influence of India was felt in Central Asia,
notably in Tibet, the Hindu Kush, and slightly beyond. Several historical Indian
dynasties, especially those seated along the Indus River would expand into Central Asia.
India's ability to project power into Central Asia has been limited due to the mountain
ranges in Pakistan, and the cultural differences between Hindu India, and what would
become a mostly Muslim Central Asia.
•To the Southwest, Middle Eastern powers have expanded into the Southern areas of Central
Asia (usually, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan). Several Persian empires would
conquer and reconquer parts of Central Asia; Alexander the Great's Hellenistic empire
would extend into Central Asia; two Arab Islamic empires would exert substantial
influence throughout the region; and the modern state of Iran has projected influence
throughout the region as well.

[edit] Strategic locations

In terms of strategic geography, Central Asia has several important routes through Eurasia,
which conquerors would seek to dominate and utilize.
•Wakhan Corridor: In Afghanistan, with Tajikistan to the north, Pakistan to the south and
China to the east

•Khyber Pass: Between Afghanistan and the Pakistan

•Torugart Pass: Between Kyrgyzstan and China

•Nathula, Jelepla Pass: Between India and China

•Khunjerab Pass: Between Pakistan and China


•The Steppe

•The Hindu Kush

•Aksai Chin

[edit] The Great Game

Main article: The Great Game
From 1813 to 1907 Great Britain and Tsarist Russia were engaged in a strategic competition for
domination of Central Asia, known in Britain as "The Great Game", and in Russia as the
"Tournament of Shadows." The British sea power and base in the Indian subcontinent served as
the platform for a push Northwest into Central Asia, while the Russian empire pushed into the
region from the North. The powers eventually met, and the competition played out, in
Afghanistan, although the two never went to war with one another.
The British feared that Russian control of Central Asia would create an ideal springboard for an
invasion of Britain's territories in the subcontinent, and were especially concerned about Russia
gaining a warm water port. They would fight the First and Second Anglo-Afghan Wars in an
attempt to establish control over the region, and to counter the slowly creeping expansion of
Russia. Losing badly both times, the British signed the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention which
divided Afghanistan between the two powers and outlined the framework for all future
diplomatic relations.

[edit] Debated and Debatable zone

Alfred Thayer Mahan, the father of U.S. geostrategy, outlined the geostrategic divisions of
Eurasia in his 1900 piece The Problem of Asia and Its Effect Upon International Policies. He
divided Asia into three parts:

•Russian dominated land to the north of the 40th parallel;

•British dominated lands to the south of the 30th parallel; and

•the Debated and Debatable zone located between the 30th and 40th parallels on the Asian
Within this vast zone lie significant parts of Central Asia, including sections of what are now
Tibet, Xinjiang, Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Iran, and
the Caucasus.
Mahan believed that the clash between the Russian land power from the North, pushing down
toward warm water port, and the opposing coalition of sea powers from pushing upward from the
South (including Britain, the U.S., Japan, and Germany), would play out their conflict in the
Debated and Debatable zone. This zone featured areas of political vacuum, underdevelopment,
and internecine conflicts which made it both unstable and ripe for conquest.
Even today, the above areas of Central Asia are politically weak or unstable, and riven by
separatism, ethnic, or religious conflict.

[edit] The Heartland

Halford J. Mackinder, a British geographer and geopolitician, would describe this region of the
world as the Heartland in a 1904 speech The Geographical Pivot of History to the Royal British
Geographical Society. This idea would become the foundation of his contribution to geostrategy.
Geographically, the Pivot encompasses all of Central Asia, with the addition of large parts of
Iran, and Russia as well.
The Geographic Pivot is an area on the continent of Eurasia which is either landlocked, or whose
rivers and littoral fed into inland seas or the ice-locked Arctic Ocean. The Volga, Oxus, and
Jaxartes drain into lakes, and the Ob Yenisei and Lena drain into the Arctic. The Tarim and
Helmund rivers also fail to drain into the ocean. Most of the region Mackinder defines is steppe
land, mottled with patches of desert or mountains. Because of the rapid mobility that the steppe
lands allow, Mackinder points to the historical tendency of nomadic horseback or camel-riding
invaders coming from the east into the west.
The Pivot's projection into Central Asia is defined on one side by the Caspian Sea and Caucasus,
and on the other side by a mountain range running from Pakistan northeast up to Mongolia and
southern Russia. This triangular projection south into Central Asia was part of an area
inaccessible to the sea powers (Britain, the U.S., Japan, and France primarily). As such, it was a
strategically important area from which land power could be projected into the rest of the
Eurasian landmass, virtually unimpeded by the sea powers.

[edit] Soviet collapse

The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 once again created a situation of political vacuum
in Central Asia. The resultant authoritarian but weak former Soviet satellite republics were still
considered part of Russia's sphere of influence, but now Russia was only one among many
competitors for influence in the new Central Asian states. By 1996, Mongolia would also assert
its independence from Russia's influence. Further, the North Caucasus Russian republic
Chechnya would claim independence, leading to the First and Second Chechen Wars with Russia
winning the latter.
Geostrategist and former United States National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski analyzed
Central Asia in his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, terming the post-Soviet region the "Black
Hole" and post-Soviet Central Asia (the Caucasus, former SSRs, and Afghanistan) in particular
the "Eurasian Balkans." The area is an ethnic cauldron, prone to instability and conflicts, without
a sense of national identity, but rather a mess of historical cultural influences, tribal and clan
loyalties, and religious fervor. Projecting influence into the area is no longer just Russia, but also
Turkey, Iran, China, Pakistan, India and the United States:

•Russia continues to dominate political decision-making throughout the Caucasus, Central

Asia, and former SSRs in general. As some of these countries shed their post-Soviet
authoritarian systems and integrate with Western organizations such as the EU and
NATO, Russia's influence has decreased in those nations. Yet, Russia continues to be the
primary power in both the Caucasus and Central Asia, especially in light of the Russian
victory over Georgia - and by proxy Western powers - in August of 2008, and the many
hydrocarbon deals signed between Moscow and the Central Asian states.
•Turkey has some influence because of the ethnic and linguistic ties with the Turkic peoples
of Central Asia, as well as serving as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline route to the
Mediterranean and a route for natural gas pipelines (South Caucasus Pipeline; Nabucco

•Iran, the seat of historical empires which controlled parts of Central Asia, has historical and
cultural links to the region, as is vying to construct an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea
to the Persian Gulf.

•China, already controlling Xinjiang and Tibet, projects significant power in the region,
especially in energy/oil politics.

•Pakistan, armed with nuclear weapons, and employing its security forces, among the largest
in the world, has massive influence in and around Kashmir and Afghanistan. Kashmir is
hotly contested for with India, while Afghanistan has been used by the Pakistan army as
part of its 'strategic depth' in case of war and is now a new proxy war between India and
•India, as a nuclear-armed rising power, exercises some influence in the region, especially in
Tibet with which it has cultural affinities. India is also perceived as a potential
counterweight to China's regional power. The Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan gives the
Indian military the required depth and range in seeking a larger role in South Asia and is
a tangible manifestation of India’s move to project its power in Central Asia, a policy
goal formally enunciated in 2003–2004.

•And the United States with its military involvement in the region is also significantly
involved in the region's politics but on a lower level than either China or Russia whos
relations with the Central Asian states are more comprehensive, and lack the
democratization factor which Washington espouses.

[edit] Oil politics


•Caspian Sea

•Petroleum politics

[edit] War on Terror

In the context of the United States' War on Terror, Central Asia has once again become the
center of geostrategic calculations. Pakistan's status has been upgraded to a "major non-NATO
ally" because of its central role in serving as a staging point for the invasion of Afghanistan,
providing intelligence on Al-Qaeda operations in the region, and leading the hunt on Osama bin
Laden, believed to still be in the region as of 2005[update]. Afghanistan, which had served as a
haven and source of support for Al-Qaeda, under the protection of Mullah Omar and the Taliban,
was the target of a U.S. invasion in 2001, and ongoing reconstruction and drug-eradication
efforts. U.S. military bases were also established in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan (the Uzbek
presence was later withdrawn), causing both Russia and China to voice their concern over a
permanent U.S. military presence in the region.
Western observers and governments have claimed that Russia, China and the former Soviet
republics have taken advantage of the War on Terror to increase oppression of certain ethnic
groups, including minority separatist movements, as well as some religious groups. Washington,
which considers Russia and China as strategic partners in the War on Terror, has largely turned a
blind eye to these claims. The ethnically diverse former SSRs, especially Uzbekistan have
reclassified ethnic separatist attacks as terrorist attacks and pursued more aggressive policies.