Geopolitical Realism


Geopolitics and International Relations

Geopolitics is completely separate science, based on its own principles and methodologies. However, the geopolitics and the International Relations studies the processes of the international sphere, that’s why both science have quite a big number of common issues. The geopolitics like the International Relations was founded in the begging of the XX century in Anglo-Saxon sphere, but its scientific institutionalization was developing in the different way and tuned out to be quite problematic. However, there is a number of authors that are considered both in the geopolitics and in International relations, even from different positions and perspectives.

The first definition of the geopolitics was given by the Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellén, calling it as the “science on the relations between the State and the space”; and if all the authors strictly follows the interpretation, the geopolitics would be the part of the International Relations, as the science studies the interaction and territorial aspects of them can become an independent brunch of it. But the first geopolitical works (H. Mackinder) showed that the sciences is much more than just an International Relations brunch and claims for its own structure and objects for studying, turning into new level of such a generalization, that’s makes new coordinate system. That’s why, to tell the truth, the geopolitics must be regarded as completely independent science, being on the crossroad of the political science, military strategic, economic geography, sociology and civilizational researches.

Such a presentation of geopolitical theories and main authors is introduced in a special books, monographs and reading-books on the geopolitics proper, and in the context of the realism in the International Relations, only some sides of the geopolitical theories may be useful, which are directly introduced inti the context of the school, i.e. studying the interaction structure between the States.

Alfred Mahan: Seapower

An American admiral Alfred Mahan (1840-1914) didn’t use the term “geopolitics”, but prepared conceptually the appearance of the science. It was him who introduced the “seapower” term that was turned by Mackinder into the main concept of the geopolitics.

Mahan believed that Manifest Destiny of the USA is consisted in the becoming of the world sea empire that have to get the batalon from the Great Britain. That’s why the main objective of the American politics is the developing of Navy and establishment of the control over the World Ocean. According to Mahan, only global expansion may provide the security and maintenance of the US national interests. During the expansion, the USA, soon or later, will face the States that will resist the global domination as it was in case of Napoleon’s France of Bismarck’s Germany, on the one hand, and England and, on the other hand. But every time the winner is that who control the Sea as the most privileged space of the World Trade. That’s why, as soon the US will realize its global destiny and the mean to gain it thought the control over the Sea, the more efficient beat down its rivals (as land Russia, first of all) and reach the planetary hegemony.

Halford Mackinder: Sea VS Land

The founder of the geopolitics is a British geography, diplomat and political activist, a co0-founder of the London School of Economics, sit Halford Mackinder (1861-1947). It was Mackinder who introduced the terms the “Sea” and the “Land” as the fundamental categories of the geopolitics. He understand the “Sea” as the sea empire, in the case, the Great Britain, and the “Land” – land continental State, first of all, Russia. The fight between the Sea and the Land was a key to decode the “Great Game” that was played by the UK and the Russian Empire in the XIX-XX centuries and drew in the space form Baltia, East Europe, Black Sea, Caucasus to the Central Asia, Far East and Pacific Ocean. Most likely, the dualism of both civilizations, the Sea and the Land, the thalassocracy and the tellurocracy, was discovered by Mackinder as the fundamental geopolitical law, on the basis of the systematic comprehension of the strategic contest that the “Great Game” is played within its framework.

Mackinder is often added on the list of the realists in the International Relations as he believed that the confrontation between thalassicracy and tellurocracy, i.e. between the Sea and the Land is the objective historical processes connected not to the particular circumstances, political regimes, cultural codes or religious differences, but with the special arrangement of the space that is shown in in the society structure and its fundamental tendencies and that reviled in the biggest periods of time and most notably in the confrontation with the other form of the arrangement. Thus, Mackinder shared with the other realists the principle of potentially military confrontation between the State as it is usual for the for standard and natural environment where the all International Relations exists. But, on the contrary to the classical realists, Mackinder explained it not by the chaos and anarchy caused by the sovereignty, but by the principle dualism of the geopolitical orientations and fundamental contradictions between the geopolitical strategical interest if the Sea and the Land. In practice, Mackinder and his followers were usually fallen within the realist’s squad  (however, there is some exceptions, for example the Atlantist geopolitical liberalist Zbigniew Brzeziński), i. e. they were skeptical on the possibility of the deep and transformation qualitative of the society that were in the opposite geopolitical families. No ideological changes in the Land States could help to come nigh unto the Sea States structure, so the geopolitical contradictions must be regarded as something unchangeable, permanent and more fundamental than political systems and regimes fluctuations.

Mackinder, being the British High Commissioner in Southern Russia in the period of the Russian Civil War, regarded the Bolsheviks, controlling the Heartland of former Russian Empire as the direct followers of the Russian emperors geopolitics, and called upon to support the White Army in the different ways which could help to break down Russia as the Land civilization – the permanent enemy of the British Empire, representing the Sea civilization. In general, the analysis of the Russian Civil War by H. Mackinder and by E. Carr were quite similar, but the conclusions of the analysis were opposite. The majority of the British politicians and analyst, at that time, were sure that the Bolsheviks is something different for Russia, so their governing would have no chances to be for long time. Mackinder, as well as Carr and some Eurasianists (particularly, P. Savitsky) regarded the Bolsheviks as the direct successors of the Land civilization, the Russian continentalism and predicted their win in the Civil War and further might. However, if Carr offered to London just accept it as the fact and build the pragmatic and constructive relations with the USSR as with the future Great World State for the very begging, Mackinder, on the contrary, found the same prediction as the threat for the British Empire and urged London to do everting possible to do no end of mischief to the Bolsheviks. Carr brought pressure to the authorities in the completely different way. Thus, two realists, basing on the same analysis of the particular historical situation, made two completely different conclusions. The example shows quite graphically how different the spheres of the scientific ascertaining and creation on its basis of the recommendations on the sphere of particular policy. The same analysis, made within the framework of the same science, can bring to the completely opposite conclusions.

Nicholas Spykman: Who Does Control Rimland?

Mackinder made a great influence on the American geopolitical scientist Nicholas Spykman (1893-1943), the co-founder if American geopolitics and also the representative of the US realism in the foreign politics. Spykman made a revision of the Mackinder’s geopolitical ideas stressing the intermediate “coastal zone” (Rimland), i.e. the territory from the West Europe thought the Middle East to the Asia and Pacific zone. Spykman believed that the area was crucial in the fight if the Sea and the Land. Mackinder stated that “who rules Eurasia, rules the World”, Spykman changed the formula in the way that “who rules the Rimland, rules the World”.

Spykman is thought to be the main creator of the “containment” theory that became the main US strategy toward the USSR in the Cold War period. It means not to allow the expansion of the Soviet influence that was the main competitive world hegemon, far from the Heartland and establish direct and indirect control over the Rimland; first of all, to establish direct American domination over the West Europe, not allowing Germany to strengthen its positions. Then it was important to Turkey entering NATO, to redirect some Arabic countries toward the USA. To receive the loyalty to the US from the Iran. To strengthen its position in Pakistan without breaking-off with India. To separate China and Russia supporting Japan, occupied by the West after 1945.

Carl Schmitt: Order of Great Spaces

Carl Schmitt (188-1985), the German jurist and political theorist, made a great contribution to the geopolitics, as well as the International Relations. The Schmitt theories covers the wide range of the issues connecting with the different sides of politics, including the international one, and many of his concepts and definitions became classic. In the term of the geopolitics, he offered to make the philosophical basis of the Mackinder concepts of the Sea and the Land, describing the sociological and political differences between thalassicracy and tellurocracy comprehended as the different civilizational systems. The Sea is a trade system, individualism, commercialization, disposing the technical development, industrialization, modernization and social dynamic. The Land is the conservative hierarchical social system, hierarchy, values of self-sacrifice, service, fidelity and honor; it is more traditional society. Thanks to Schmitt geopolitics gained the great social base taking into account cultural and social codes.

Simultaneously, Schmitt developed the theories if the legal registration of the “order of great spaces” that he was studying carefully from the Jus Publicaum Europeum to the English Admiralty law, American Monroe Doctrine and the legal grounds of the Treaty of Versailles. Schmitt shows that the concept of the “great space” (Grossraum) isn’t directly political or legal concept, but is the strategic project of the global and regional arrangement respecting the national interest of one or another Great Power or alliance. He correlates it with the concept of the “Empire”, including different political forms, even the whole States. One or another global arrangement of the political space is called by him the “Nomos of the Earth”.

Schmitt believes that any Great Power aims to take privileged place in the Nomos or to create a new one. It cases the global geopolitical transformations, wars, colonization, block organization ect.
Schmitt follows Hobbes in the State comprehension which he consecrated several works. He believes that the State is the social expression of the world religious interpretation. Hierarchical and monotheist religions build the vertical political systems. The polytheism favors the dispersion of the decision-making centers on the different institutional levels (subsidiarity).

The Schmitt ideas are fundamental arsenal for the International Relations as they give the tools for detailed philosophical analysis, as well as legal content of the international processes and its connection to the politics, the State and social systems. At the same time, in the term of the geopolitical approach, Schmitt unites any issue consideration with space factor.

Schmitt can be added to the realist because of his convictions that the political changes and, respectively, the State are the important characteristic of the human society, and any attempt (liberal and communistic) to question on the withering away of the State is demagogical cover to establish “potestas indirecta” that is able to turn into the dictatorship. Instead of it, Schmitt offers to recognize openly the inevitability of the political (he determines “political” as the sphere where there is the division on friends/enemies) and discuss all its aspects, including the dictatorship, openly and responsibly.