Archive for the ‘GEOPOLITICS’ Category


December 9, 2018

The Monroe Doctrine was declared in a few paragraphs of President James Monroe’s seventh annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823. Monroe warned European countries not to interfere in the Western Hemisphere, stating “that the American continents. . .are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” The Monroe Doctrine became a cornerstone of future U.S. foreign policy.

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803, when the United States bought 900,000 square miles of territory west of the Mississippi river from Napoleonic France, has been mentioned as the true start of the westward movement of the Americans.

Twenty years later the Monroe Doctrine heralded the coming policy of the government in Washington D.C. The United States would not involve itself in European affairs and European nations were to keep away from the Western hemisphere. During the whole nineteenth century America mostly stood outside of history and concentrated on its own development. The position in the Western hemisphere was continually strengthened.

The Western frontier in America was closed around 1900. In the century that passed the United States has become a powerful protector of the West. It is now a power to be reckoned with internationally and it has taken over the British role?



November 14, 2018

European unity should be more than just a photo opportunity, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in an exclusive interview to Global Handelsblatt, Germany, on November 12, 2018. But while France is more than willing, Germany remains reluctant. Excerpts below:

It is all very well to express European unity during memorials for the fallen in past world wars. But genuine unity – political, financial and military – is still lacking inside the European Union, according to France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. In an exclusive interview with Handelsblatt, he indicates that Paris is more than willing for more Europe and the ball is now in Berlin’s court.

The European Union should become “a peaceful empire” in order to stand up to China, Le Maire argued. And although thanks to their wartime history, some Germans may find his talk of empire unattractive, Le Maire explains that, “I am using this phrase because, in tomorrow’s world, it’s going to be all about power … technological power, economic, financial, monetary, cultural power – all will be decisive. Europe cannot be shy any longer about using its power.”
Le Maire won’t go as far as to say that German politicians have been two-faced about European unity. But he did set a small deadline: “We have talked about it for a long time. Now it’s time for decisions. And there will be decisions made on December 4, at the next meeting of the economy and finance ministers. I cannot imagine anything else.”

“The people of Europe have had enough of the babble from Brussels. They want to see action.”

One of the most striking recent examples where European power proved lacking was with the latest US sanctions on Iran.

Comment: Does France really want a ”peaceful empire”. Empires generally seek to expand their territory like China in the South China Sea and Russia in Ukraine. America, for instance, is not an empire. It is a hegemon, and it should be. A hegemon, like ancient Athens, is a first-among-equals, a very powerful nation that nevertheless deals with its neighbors and allies as much as equals as circumstances will permit, respecting their sovereignty, their internal processes, the rights of their people. It functions together for the greater good of the whole, not simply of the center as does an empire.


November 6, 2018

The German geographer Friedrich Ratzel in his book “Politische Geographie” (1897) developed a number of concepts of space, that interested both the father of classical geopolitics, Swedish Professor Rudolf Kjellén, and Sir Halford Mackinder of Great Britain. The latter’s central term was Heartland, more or less Russia (or later the Soviet Union), although the more exact area of the Heartland was in Siberia.

Brazil is regarded as the most notable school of classical geopolitical thought in Latin America. The output has been prolific and imaginative but also because Brazilian geopolitical concepts have been incorporated into its national development policies and its international relations.

It has influenced the country’s strategic culture. Focus has been on several distinct objectives: protection of its large coast line, the expansion into the interior, particularly into the Amazon Heartland, and the integration of the national territory. Expansion of influence in the Rio de la Plata Basin and the establishment and consolidation of a leadership role in Latin America are two other important objectives. Seeking great power status has been a strategic feature.

Brazilian geopolitics had two founders, Everardo Backheuser (1879 – 1951) and Mario Travassos (1891 – 1973). The former was greatly influenced by the Swedish father of geopolitics, Rudolf Kjellen. Backheuser focused on southern Brazil, border disputes with neighboring countries and the formation of Amazonia.

Travassos systematized Brazil’s geopolitical imperatives. In his 1935 book, ”Projecao Continental do Brasil” (Brazil’s Continental Projection), Travassos linked “integral security” and “development”. This would later be central to Brazilian geopolitics and influenced governments. Brazil according to Travassos should expand both internally and internationally along two main lines and not concentrate only on the coast.

First it was an East-West axis into the Amazon basin for the empty spaces. He called it ”longitudinal Brazil”. The transfer of the capital of Brazil from Rio at the coast to Brasilia into the interior must be seen as part of this development.

The second axis of expansion would be toward the former Mato Grosso state and into the so called Southern Cone. This was to minimize Argentina’s influence over states such as Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay extending influence into the River Plate Basin. Travassos regarded Mato Grosso, Bolivia and Paraguay as the South American Heartland.

Backheuser adapted the principles of Kjellén’s geopolitical theory to Brazilian circumstances, particularly the concept of “living frontiers”. This concept advocated the idea that borders, as organic entities, are fluid and flexible. They for instance respond to pressures exerted by neighboring countries.

He also believed that Brazil was emerging as a leading power in the region. Thus it should expand to the west and seek to develop ”empty spaces” to secure the nation.

In spite of Brazil’s efforts during many decades population and economic activity is still mostly concentrated in the region along the Atlantic coast. Nearly 80 per cent of the country’s population lives less than 200 kilometers away from the Atlantic coastline. The states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are responsible for 43 per cent of Brazil’s GDP.

The large landmass of Brazil was secured already during the colonial period. Between 1854 and 1907 the territory was further enlarged in settlements of territorial disputes with Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and French Guiana.

After World War II geopolitical theorists of the Escola Superior de Guerra (Superior War Coillege; ESG) came to play an important role in developing the theory of Brazilian geopolitics. ESG was established in 1949. Its motto “Security and Development” was the two pillars upon which the ESG formulated the National Security Doctrine (NSD). The doctrine incorporated the geopolitical concept of the nation-state as an organic entity. It also placed great emphasis on the aspects of a nation’s power: population, territory, economic and military capabilities, military strategy, a national grand strategy, and national will.

A leading geopolitician was General Golbery de Couto e Silva (1911 – 1987). With Carlos de Meira Mattos Couto e Silva’s projections were based on the large size of the country. Important was also Brazil’s support for the Western alliance in the struggle against international communism. To strengthen Brazil quick integration of Amazonia had to be supported.

Building the infrastructure was also crucial. This included roads in the interior and as well as airfields. Brazil’s strong position in South America today would not have been possible without the development during the 1960s and 1970s.

Couto e Silva in 1964 presented his views on how to best integrate and develop Amazonia:

-to articulate the ecumenical basis of the continent-wide projection of Brazil. The Northeast and the South would have to be connected to the center.

-it would be important to colonize the Northwest to integrate it with the rest of the country.

-the new frontier population would hold the frontier following the axis of the Amazon River.

Couto e Silva was also one of the founders of ESG and served as the Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Republic from March 1974 to August 1981. Couto e Silva is by many regarded as a “Brazilian Henry Kissinger”.

Brazilian geopoliticians have also expressed an interest in Antarctica. During the government of Jose Sarney Brazil promoted the creation of a South Atlantic Zone of Peace and Co-operation (SAZOPC).

The 1966 book ”Geopolítica do Brasil” (Geopolitics of Brazil), by Couto e Silva was probably the most important contribution to modern Brazilian geopolitics. His views were similar to those of Travassos and Backheuser as he supported national integration and effective use of national resources, effective occupation of internal territories, solidification of border areas, and economic development as vehicles to obtain national greatness. Couto e Silva differed from the older geopoliticians in that he placed Brazil in the global geopolitical arena.

Brazil’s prospect when it came to furthering its national political, economic, and military objectives did not rest only on its own abilities in South America. The country needed to project influence beyond South America.

It was important for Brazil not only to control her own national territories in continental projection. Brazil also needed international influence. These developmental goals would have the additional benefit of increasing Brazil’s international prestige and would serve as a means of achieving greatness.

Carlos de Meira Mattos (1913-2007) also linked geopolitical principles to a National Security Doctrine, looking beyond Brazil’s continental influence. Mattos argued that Brazil as South America’s largest country had a legitimate geopolitical interest in the South Atlantic Ocean and the Antarctic. It was also linked to the West by geography, history, and by choice. Brazil should play a role in the defense of the Western hemisphere, as a whole.

There are at present signs that the new Brazilian administration of 2018 will be on more friendly terms with the United States and might want to play an active role in the defense of the West. President Trump has indicated a willingness to work closely with Brazil ”on trade, military and everything else”.

Markets have surged along with Jair Bolsonaro’s opinion polls and election. The market seems to believe that he can deliver on a market-friendly agenda. It also seems that the new Brazilian president will bring back the military into the political limelight. His first international trip is planned to Chile, which has elected a president on the political right. Realignment with more advanced economies also seems to be on the agenda of the new administration after the long leftist rule.

The fight against corruption will continue as a likely candidate for minister of justice will be the anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro.

Closer ties between the two largest economies of the Western Hemisphere could be possible. In a call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo collaboration on foreign policy issues were discussed, including Venezuela. Bolsonaro has vowed to increase pressure on Venezuela’s authoritarian leftist government to hold free elections that could stem the flow of refugees into neighboring Brazil and Colombia, also governed by a conservative president.

Fiscal reforms proposed by Bolsonaro’s free market adviser, Paulo Guedes, could also be on the table.Brazil’s currency has gained around 10 percent against the U.S. dollar during October 2018. Guedes wants to erase Brazil’s budget deficit within a year, simplify the tax code and reduce taxes. The goal is to create 10 million new jobs.

The leftist ruled Brazil created a weak economic growth and a huge budget deficits. The new government will thus face tough challenges.

Retired General Augusto Heleno, the likely new defense minister, has said that Bolsonaro has a positive view of a planned $4.75 billion joint venture between Boeing Co and Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA.


October 29, 2018

The New York Journal of Books has published a review by American geopolitician Francis P. Sempa of Robert D. Kaplan’s 2018 book ”The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-first Century”. Excerpts below:

Modern classical geopolitical thought dates from the late 19th century when the world, in the words of British geographer Halford Mackinder, became a “closed political system.” The territorial discoveries of the “Columbian epoch,” he noted, were complete.

Classical geopolitics includes the works of Mackinder, the American naval strategist and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan, the Swedish political scientist Rudolf Kjellen, the British scholar James Fairgrieve…and the Dutch-American international relations scholar Nicholas Spykman.

Robert D. Kaplan, in a series of books and articles—most notably, ”Monsoon”, ”Asia’s Cauldron”, and ”The Revenge of Geography”—has compellingly applied and updated classical geopolitics to current international relations. His latest book, ”The Return of Marco Polo’s World”, is a collection of articles written between 2001 and the present that combines elegant writing with a masterful grasp of global geopolitical realities.

What Kaplan calls the end of the “Long European War of 1914–1989” resulted in the dissolution of Europe as a geopolitical region and its unification with the “supercontinent” of Eurasia. Moreover, the interaction of technology, geopolitics, and globalization has brought to fruition Mackinder’s concept of the “World-Island”—the combined Eurasian-African landmass. “Who controls the World-Island,” Mackinder warned, “commands the world.”

Kaplan views China’s Silk Road policy toward Central Asia and Europe, and its development of a maritime network involving the Pacific Rim, the Indian Ocean, and the Middle East (the land and maritime routes that Marco Polo traveled in the 13th century) as an effort to attain political primacy on the World-Island. Twenty-first century geopolitics will be defined by how other Eurasian powers and the United States respond to China’s moves.

During the “Long European War,” U.S. national security policy sought to prevent the political consolidation of the key power centers of Eurasia by a hostile power or coalition of powers. This in essence was the geopolitics underlying the First World War, Second World War, and the Cold War.

That same U.S. geopolitical imperative applies to the 21st century. China potentially replaces Imperial and Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Her pressure on Central Asia and the spread of her maritime influence in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean threatens to diminish U.S. predominance in the coastal regions of Eurasia—what Spykman called the Eurasian Rimland.

Kaplan believes that American security can be maintained by investing in sea and air power to ensure U.S. command of the sea in the Eastern Hemisphere. “Here,” Kaplan writes, “is where the ideas of Alfred Thayer Mahan meet those of Halford Mackinder.”

He praises the foreign policy realism of Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, and the scholarly realism of Hans Morgenthau, Henry Kissinger, Samuel Huntington, and John Mearsheimer.

Realists understand, notes Kaplan, that in an anarchic world of states order precedes freedom and interests trump values. Utopianism can be dangerous and costly. History is not linear. Progress is not inevitable. Nations, as Thucydides noted long ago, still act based on fear, honor, and interests.

Comment: To understand the basics of classical geopolitcs a politician just has to look at a world map and the central mega-continent on that map (from the Channel in the West to the Pacific Ocean in the East, from the Arctic in the north to the southern tip of India in the south). It is one land surrounded by one Great Ocean. Outside this World Island of Halford Mackinder are the islands of Great Britain, Japan and three island continents: North America, South America and Australia.

As in the period of circa 1890 to 1989 focus must again be on the great mega-continent after a unipolar moment when the United States was the sole superpower. Great power conflict is once more back on the agenda. Among the present challenges of the West is the possibility of a Russian-Chinese condominium that must be prevented. One of the main strategies of the West must thus be to reach out to the smaller states in Central Asia. Russia must not be allowed to keep that part of the World Island as a ”sphere of influence”. Even if Russia presently most likely is in a continuing decline it is still one of the world’s largest nuclear powers on par with the United States. There are signs that also the West is in decline. A forward strategy to prevent the further rise of the three empires of China, Russia, and Iran is thus necessary. The possibility that the global North is in decline makes it necessary to include this matter in grand strategy planning in the West.

One or more powers must not control the World Island. This dictum of Mackinder in 1904 stands as a continuing, lasting warning for the West.


October 23, 2018

Journal ”American Conservative” recently reviewed the 2018 book by prominent realist, Professor John J. Mearsheimer, ”The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities”, Yale University Press, 328 pages. Excerpts below:

…Mearsheimer does indeed revel in the uproars he causes (and he certainly appears to), he’s about to get a lot of enjoyment. His latest book, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, is a dagger pointed at the heart of America’s governing philosophy, progressive liberalism. His central thesis is that this philosophy has distorted U.S. foreign policy since America’s post-Cold War emergence as the world’s only superpower. The core of the problem, writes Mearsheimer, was America’s post-Cold War resolve to remake the world in its own image. The predictable result has been chaos, bloodshed, an intractable refugee crisis besetting the Middle East and Europe, increased tensions among major powers, curtailment of civil liberties at home, and generally an “abysmal record of failure.”

[There has been] a rare historical development—the emergence of America as a unipolar power. The country today enjoys the luxury of not having a single adversary capable of challenging its existence or global standing. Thus it can afford to indulge its relentless impulse to spread its own governing philosophy throughout the globe. But in the more normal circumstances of a multipolar world or particularly in a bipolar world, there would be no such luxury.

What’s new in The Great Delusion is Mearsheimer’s focus on nationalism and liberalism, as well as their relationship with realism. Exploring the three “isms” in tandem, he writes, led him to conclude that “this trichotomy provided an ideal template for explaining the failure of U.S. foreign policy since 1989.” Mearsheimer is known for his spare, muscular, unemotional prose, as well as his ability to marshal sturdy arguments that are intricately intertwined. In this book, true to form, he constructs a fortress of syllogistic argumentation.

There’s a paradox in his trichotomy: while progressive liberalism dominates American politics, including the country’s foreign policy, realism and nationalism ultimately are more powerful ideas. Mearsheimer notes, for example, that while liberalism and nationalism can coexist in any polity, “when they clash, nationalism almost always wins.” He adds that “liberalism is also no match for realism.”

Mearsheimer posits what he calls “two simple assumptions” about human nature. The first is that man’s ability to reason is limited, particularly when it comes to mastering the fundamental questions of existence. Enlightenment thinkers heralded man’s ability to reason to ultimate answers as humans worked their way toward their own perfectibility. This is the so-called Idea of Progress, so powerful in Western thought following the 18th century era of the French philosophes. Mearsheimer rejects it. “Reason does not rule the world,” he writes, adding that “people who believe their critical faculties can help them find moral truth are deluding themselves.”

The second assumption, related to the first, is that “we are social animals at our core.” Given that there can be no reasoning to core principles, there will always be disagreements on these fundamental and often emotional matters. That inevitably raises prospects for violence. For protection, mankind must divide itself into a great number of social groups, and the most fundamental of all human groups is the nation. “With the possible exception of the family,” writes Mearsheimer, “allegiance to the nation usually overrides all other forms of an individual’s identity.”

And this leads to Mearsheimer’s view of the essence of social groups—and, most particularly, of nations. He identifies six fundamental features of nationhood:

1) a powerful sense of oneness and solidarity
2) a distinct culture, including such things as language, rituals, codes, music, as well as religion, basic political and social values, and a distinct understanding of history
3) a sense of superiority leading to national pride
4) a deep sense of its own history, which often leads to myths that supersede historical fact
5) sacred territory and a perceived imperative to protect lands believed to be a hallowed homeland
6) and a deep sense of sovereignty and a resolve to protect national decision-making from outside forces

These features are found in all nation-states, and nation-states are where nearly all peoples of the world live. Hence these human impulses cannot be ignored or circumvented. And yet liberalism (here and hereafter, in using the term we’re talking about the country’s prevailing progressive liberalism) has declared war on many of these fundamental features of nationalism, emanating in large measure from human nature.

This universalist ideology has always been there, lurking in the liberal consciousness. Until recently it was seen most starkly in the humanitarian interventionism of Woodrow Wilson—hence the universally understood term “Wilsonism.” One of his biographers, August Heckscher, notes that he harbored a deep sense of national “honor” that he equated with America’s commitment to the rights of all peoples everywhere. Heckscher writes that “it was a vague concept…not necessarily identified with the basic interest of the [American] people.” Indeed, while Wilson took delight in the idea of deploying American power in behalf of humanity, the idea of using it in behalf of U.S. interests left him cold.

The universalist ideology presents a powerful allure, often leading to feelings among foreign policy liberals, per Wilson, that they are engaging in a monumental struggle of good and evil.

The result is that America has waged seven wars since the Cold War ended and has been at war continuously since the month after 9/11.

Can America pull its foreign policy away from liberalism and reclaim a realism-based approach? An end to today’s unipolar world would quickly upend liberal hegemony. But the only likely prospect for that would be the threat of a rising China, which of course would have the downside of necessitating a dangerous confrontation with that country. If China were to falter economically and thus be forced to abandon its pursuit of Asian hegemony, argues Mearsheimer, there would be little prospect that America would embrace realism. The foreign policy establishment is too wedded to hegemony and too entrenched at the pinnacle of foreign policymaking.

Mearsheimer does believe Donald Trump’s 2016 election demonstrated that liberal hegemony is “vulnerable.”

Although Mearsheimer doesn’t discuss the American elites in detail, he sprinkles into his argument several references to elite and establishment thinking as often being distinct from broader public impulses and sensibilities. “[I]t is important to note,” he writes, “that liberal hegemony is largely an elite-driven policy.” In another passage he notes that America’s foreign policy elites tend to be “cosmopolitan,” which isn’t to say, he adds, that most of them are like Samuel Huntington’s caricature of those Davos people “who have little need for national loyalty” and see “national boundaries as obstacles that thankfully are vanishing.” But, adds Mearsheimer, “some are not far off.”

The reviewer is Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington, D.C. journalist and publishing executive, and a writer-at-large for The American Conservative.

Comment: Mearsheimer believes there is good reason to think that with the rise of China and the res¬urrection of Russian power great power politics will be back on the table. This will force the United States to concentrate foreign policy on the two great power challengers: China and Russia.

In classical geopolitics it means that the United States would have to go back to what has been it’s foreign policy since the 1890s. Halford Mackinder’s heartland and Nicholas Spykman’s rimland are both based on the ”world island”, that is Eurasia. The basis of the heartland-rimland theories is that world domination would reward the possessor of these areas. While the main challenger, China, is based in the rimland Russia controls the heartland.

Another challenger in the rimland is Iran, an old foe of the West. The present Iranian regime seeks domination of the Middle East. In reality the United States and all of the West are facing the challenge of three Eurasia-based empires: China, Russia, and Iran. There is good reason for the rest of the West (Canada, the European Union and Australia) to join the United States in meeting the present challenges in Eurasia.

Mearsheimer has earlier expressed the view that containment is the United States’ only way to prevent China from achieving regional hegemony. This means that there needs to be “a balancing coalition” with China’s neighbors, which would require the United States’ active coordination and military backing.

Containment in the view of Mearsheimer will howevere not prevent current tensions between the United States and China from escalating into a direct conflict.


October 18, 2018

National Interest in its November/December 2018 issue has an interesting article on bipolar world systems by Norwegian Professor Oystein Tunsjoe at the Defense University College, Norway based on his book ”The Return of Bipolarity in World Politics: China, the United States and Geostructural Realism” (2018). Excerpts below:

Xi Jinping is determined to take China into a new era that sets his country and the United States apart from other power…

…the United States and China are not rivals in a multipolar system. International politics has entered a new era in which the United States and China are the two lone superpowers in a bipolar system. China has risen to top-ranking status, and the both nations are much more powerful than any third state.

[It]resembles the stability that characterized the U.S.-Soviet Union superpower rivalry in the second half of the twentieth century.

With the return of bipolarity, we might expect another period of what historian John Lewis Gaddis termed “the long peace” of the previous bipolar system between the United States and Soviet Union…

While it is important whether the international system is bipolar or has some other structure, stability is heavily affected by geopolitics and how geography shapes the two superpowers and their relationship. Since the previous U.S.-Soviet bipolar system and the new U.S.-China bipolar system are concentrated on two different geographic regions, systemic effects differ. The likelihood of limited war and instability is higher in a new U.S.-China bipolar system in the twenty-first century compared to the old U.S.-Soviet Union bipolar system of the twentieth.

Two factors suggest that that the international system has returned to bipolarity. First, the power gap between the United States and China has narrowed considerably during the last two decades. China’s nominal GDP currently accounts for about 65 percent of that of the United States’ own GDP. This contrasts sharply with the early 1990s, when the U.S. nominal GDP was about fifteen times larger than China’s. Currently, U.S. military spending is about two to three times that of China’s. This differs from the year 2000, when the U.S. defense budget was more than ten times that of China’s, not to mention the early 1990s, when U.S. defense expenditure was more than twenty times higher. While China has not obtained power parity with the United States, the relative increase in China’s combined power places it in the top ranking with the United States, even if only barely. Similarly, the Soviet Union was never as powerful as the United States, but it was still regarded as a superpower and a pole in the old bipolar system.

Second, no other states match China’s power in the aggregate, and the top two states are now much more powerful than any third state. In 2018, according to the International Monetary Fund, China’s nominal GDP was about ten times larger than Russia’s and roughly five times larger than India’s. The Chinese economy is almost three times as large as Japan’s, more than three times as large as Germany’s, and more than four times as large as France’s and Great Britain’s. It is wrong to argue that the international system is multipolar when Russia has about one-tenth and India has about one-fifth of China’s nominal GDP while China has reached more than three-fifths of the U.S. nominal GDP.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimated in 2017 that China’s and Russia’s defense spending amounted to $228 billion and $55 billion respectively. China’s defense budget is roughly four times India’s, Great Britain’s and France’s and almost six times larger than Germany’s and Japan’s, also estimated by SIPRI. The power gap between China and the power next in rank has become so large as to warrant the notion of a new bipolar system.

The features of the previous bipolar system were stability, strong balancing, and strong competition and rivalry at the periphery. The contemporary bipolar system is characterized by instability, moderate balancing, and limited competition and rivalry at the periphery. A bipolar system concentrated on maritime East Asia in the twenty-first century is likely to be more unstable and prone to limited war than the bipolar system concentrated on continental Europe was in the twentieth century. Instability at the power center in East Asia is likely to foster more stability at the periphery than during the previous bipolar era since the superpowers are more likely to be preoccupied with rivalry in maritime East Asia and less likely to be involved in proxy wars in other regions. The new bipolar system is not destined for another “long peace.” While nothing is preordained in world politics, and the new structural conditions can be resisted, they are likely to push the United States and China toward a limited war for the control and access to sea-lanes in maritime East Asia.

Comment: Tunsjoe has presented a strong case for an existing bipolar system since about 20 years after the end of the Cold War. But the US-Soviet confrontation also involved China. In the same way Russia is also involved in the new bipolar system. The latest developments in China mean that the United States will have to focus on China. It is reasonable that this includes defense against China’s economic aggression. Europe and Australia should also take defensive measures against the Chinese use of the present trade system, which is unfair.

All classical geopoliticians (Mahan, Mackinder and Spykman) warned that China’s geographical position, resources, immense population, and access to the sea made her potentially a formidable power on the Eurasian landmass. They argued that American and Western national security depended on the political pluralism of Eurasia. China is the leading challenger to this Eurasian pluralism but there are two other challengers in Eurasia – Russia, the former heartland, and Iran.

The Eurasian landmass or “great continent,” contains most of the world’s people and resources. The “pivot state” or “heartland” of Eurasia was Russia according to Mackinder in 1904. Since the fall of the Soviet Union Russia, the heartland empire, is no longer the main challenger to the West. Surrounding the heartland is a vast crescent-shaped region or coastland, which included Western Europe, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, India, China, and the continental nations of the Far East, all of which was accessible to sea power.

Spykman warned that China would one day be a “continental power of huge dimensions,” and her size, geographic position, natural resources and population would force the United States into an alliance with Japan to preserve the Asian balance of power. The American geopolitician was correct in his view on the future rise of China.

In a bipolar system the United States has a number of Asian allies. Of those Japan is the most important in the North Pacific and Australia in the South Pacific.


October 15, 2018

Washington Times on October 10, 2018, reported on warnings by top security officials in the United States that China, not Russia, presents ”the broadest most complicated, most long term counterintelligence threat” to America. Excerpts below:

In separate letters, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, South Dakota Republican, and Sens. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, questioned top executives at Super Micro Computer, Apple and Amazon over reports that Chinese spies siphoned information from the U.S. tech giants and possibly others via tiny chips inserted on server circuit boards made by Super Micro.

The Chinese government and the firms in question have soundly rejected the claim, which first appeared in a Bloomberg BusinessWeek report…

“If this news report is accurate,” Mr. Rubio and Mr. Blumenthal wrote, “the potential infiltration of Chinese back doors could provide a foothold for adversaries and competitors to engage in commercial espionage and launch destructive cyber attacks.”

The backdoor hacking scandal was expanding even as Justice Department officials were announcing charges against a Chinese government operative who they said tried to steal secrets from U.S. aviation and aerospace companies, including GE Aviation.

Yanjun Xu, a senior officer with the Ministry of State Security, is accused of luring U.S. executives to China in order to steal their company’s technology, officials said at a press conference…Mr. Xu was arrested in Belgium in April and returned to the United States…

On Capitol Hill, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen offered their own warnings to the Senate Homeland Security committee about the long-term threat posed by China’s economic and military rise.

“Russia is in many ways fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union,” Mr. Wray said. “They’re fighting today’s fight. China’s is fighting tomorrow’s fight.”

Committee members grilled the two top security officials on President Trump’s accusation last month that China is trying to meddle in the upcoming congressional midterm elections. Mr. Trump said Republican voters were being targeted because of his aggressive trade policies targeting Beijing.

Ms. Nielsen said China was “exerting unprecedented effort to influence American opinion,”…

Mr. Rubio unveiled the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s (CECC) annual report on human rights in China — a 300-page document that tracks what it calls a “downward trajectory” in human rights since President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

The CECC was created in 2000 and has long been critical of China’s economic, security and rights policies.

Comment: These warnings underline how important the American policies are in defending against China’s economic aggression. China seeks to supplant the U.S. as the world’s pre-eminent geopolitical power.

The longstanding assumption that America’s China policy of integration is good has been a problem since 2012, when Xi took power. During 2012 to 2016 the regime in Beijing was allowed to strengthen its position unopposed.

It is not only the question of Chinese economic aggression but also the rise of China as a more globally oriented military power.

The belief that China’s military challenge to the U.S. was regional in nature is clearly dangerous. Beijing now is seeking the capabilities that will allow it to project its own military power well outside its regional neighborhood.
China is however not the only challenger to the West in Eurasia. Two other empires, Russia and Iran, are also challengers. There seems presently no signs that these three empires are coordinating their efforts more in detail. China, for example, is exerting growing control in Siberia, which might worry Moscow. The nearest target of China is the Pacific. In the North Pacific closer cooperation between the United States and Japan is needed to oppose Chinese attempts at growing influence among the island nation states. As to the South Pacific partners of support against China would mainly be Australia and Chile.


October 12, 2018

Newsmax TV on October 10, 2018, reported that Asia expert Gordon Chang had told the network that Mr Trump is ”knitting together a coalition” to create leverage against China. Excerpts below:

“The USMCA [United States, Mexico, and Canada Agreement on trade] really is an indication that the Chinese are in trouble, because President Trump is knitting together a coalition…

“When you put that together with a handshake deal that he has with the Europeans and with the deal that eventually he’ll come to with Japan, it really means that China is isolated.

“That’s going to be a really important thing for us as we eventually — when we sit down and talk to Beijing about all of the grievances that we have. So, this is really good policy on the part of the Trump administration.”

“China right now looks increasingly fragile,” Chang told Winterble. “When their markets opened after the national week, they plummeted 4.8 percent, and that’s a real indication there’s a lack of confidence on the part of players: They don’t want to hold their stock; they don’t want to hold their own currency.

“So, President Trump has a lot of means to exert leverage…”

Comment: This is good news for all who believe it is important for the West to stand up against the rising superpower China (with North Korea) in Eurasia and the two other empires Russia and Iran.

Bad news for China was reported on October 11, 2018, by Geopolitical Futures, a leading US-based geopolitical think tank. The U.S. Treasury has presented plans to implement a review system concerning foreign investment in 27 different high-tech sectors that are critical to national security as for instance telecommunications and aviation bio-tech. Beijing thinks it will be possible to manage U.S. defensive moves against China’s trade aggression. If other major world economies start limiting Chinese investment, however, it will be a serious strike against China’s modernization plans. Other developments point to Chinese anxiety about being left out in the cold.


October 8, 2018

On October 4, 2018, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at Hudson Institute remarked on the administrations policy in relation to China. Below are some excerpts from the speech as it was published by National Interest the same day:

But I come before you today because the American people deserve to know… as we speak, Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic, and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States.

China is also applying this power in more proactive ways than ever before, to exert influence and interfere in the domestic policy and politics of our country.

Under our administration, we’ve taken decisive action to respond to China with American leadership, applying the principles, and the policies, long advocated in these halls.

In the “National Security Strategy” that President Trump released last December, he described a new era of “great power competition.” Foreign nations have begun to “reassert their influence regionally and globally,” and they are “contesting [America’s] geopolitical advantages and trying to change the international order in their favor.”

In this strategy, President Trump made clear that the United States of America has adopted a new approach to China.

Comment: In the following part of the speech Mr. Pence described how the United States early supported Chinese freedom. America advocated the ”Open Door” policy of freer trade with China. America stod as an ally of China during the Second World War. After 1949 China began to pursue authoritarian expansionism. After the fall of the Soviet Union ”we assumed that a free China was inevitable”.

The dream of freedom remains distant for the Chinese people. And while Beijing still pays lip service to “reform and opening,” Deng Xiaoping’s famous policy now rings hollow.

Over the past 17 years, China’s GDP has grown 9-fold; it has become the second-largest economy in the world. Much of this success was driven by American investment in China. And the Chinese Communist Party has also used an arsenal of policies inconsistent with free and fair trade, including tariffs, quotas, currency manipulation, forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and industrial subsidies doled out like candy, to name a few. These policies have built Beijing’s manufacturing base, at the expense of its competitors – especially America.

China’s actions have contributed to a trade deficit with the United States that last year ran to $375 billion – nearly half of our global trade deficit. As President Trump said just this week, “we rebuilt China” over the last 25 years.

Now, through the “Made in China 2025” plan, the Communist Party has set its sights on controlling 90% of the world’s most advanced industries, including robotics, biotechnology, and artificial intelligence. To win the commanding heights of the 21st Century economy, Beijing has directed its bureaucrats and businesses to obtain American intellectual property – the foundation of our economic leadership – by any means necessary.

Beijing now requires many American businesses to hand over their trade secrets as the cost of doing business in China. It also coordinates and sponsors the acquisition of American firms to gain ownership of their creations. Worst of all, Chinese security agencies have masterminded the wholesale theft of American technology – including cutting-edge military blueprints.

And using that stolen technology, the Chinese Communist Party is turning plowshares into swords on a massive scale…

China now spends as much on its military as the rest of Asia combined, and Beijing has prioritized capabilities to erode America’s military advantages – on land, at sea, in the air, and in space. China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies.

America had hoped that economic liberalization would bring China into greater partnership with us and with the world. Instead, China has chosen economic aggression, which has in turn emboldened its growing military.

Nor, as we hoped, has Beijing moved toward greater freedom for its people. For a time, Beijing inched toward greater liberty and respect for human rights, but in recent years, it has taken a sharp U-turn toward control and oppression.

But as history attests, a country that oppresses its own people rarely stops there. Beijing also aims to extend its reach across the wider world. As Hudson’s own Dr. Michael Pillsbury has said, “China has opposed the actions and goals of the U.S. government. Indeed, China is building its own relationships with America’s allies and enemies that contradict any peaceful or productive intentions of Beijing.”

China uses so-called “debt diplomacy” to expand its influence. Today, that country is offering hundreds of billions of dollars in infrastructure loans to governments from Asia to Africa to Europe to even Latin America. Yet the terms of those loans are opaque at best, and the benefits flow overwhelmingly to Beijing.

These are only a few of the ways that China has sought to advance its strategic interests across the world, with growing intensity and sophistication. Yet previous administrations all but ignored China’s actions – and in many cases, they abetted them. But those days are over.

Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States of America has been defending our interests with renewed American strength…

And at President Trump’s direction, we’re also implementing tariffs on $250 billion in Chinese goods, with the highest tariffs specifically targeting the advanced industries that Beijing is trying to capture and control. And the

President has also made clear that we’ll levy even more tariffs, with the possibility of substantially more than doubling that number, unless a fair and reciprocal deal is made.

Our actions have had a major impact. China’s largest stock exchange fell by 25% in the first 9 months of this year, in large part because our administration has stood up to Beijing’s trade practices.

The American people deserve to know that, in response to the strong stand that President Trump has taken, Beijing is pursuing a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the President, our agenda, and our nation’s most cherished ideals.

Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach to advance its influence and benefit its interests. It’s employing this power in more proactive and coercive ways to interfere in the domestic policies and politics of the United States.

The Chinese Communist Party is rewarding or coercing American businesses, movie studios, universities, think tanks, scholars, journalists, and local, state, and federal officials.
Worst of all, China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections…

In June, Beijing circulated a sensitive document, entitled “Propaganda and Censorship Notice,” that laid out its strategy. It states that China must “strike accurately and carefully, splitting apart different domestic groups” in the United States.

To that end, Beijing has mobilized covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans’ perception of Chinese policies. As a senior career member of our intelligence community recently told me, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.

But China’s actions aren’t focused solely on influencing our policies and politics. Beijing is also taking steps to exploit its economic leverage, and the allure of China’s large domestic market, to advance its influence over American corporations.

Beijing now requires American joint ventures that operate in China to establish “party organizations” within their company, giving the Communist Party a voice – and perhaps a veto – in hiring and investment decisions.

Chinese authorities have also threatened U.S. companies that depict Taiwan as a distinct geographic entity, or that stray from Chinese policy on Tibet. Beijing compelled Delta Airlines to publicly apologize for not calling Taiwan a “province of China” on its website. It also pressured Marriott to fire a U.S. employee who liked a tweet about Tibet.

Beyond business, the Chinese Communist Party is spending billions of dollars on propaganda outlets in the United States, as well as other countries.

China Radio International now broadcasts Beijing-friendly programming on over 30 U.S. outlets, many in major American cities. The China Global Television Network reaches more than 75 million Americans – and it gets its marching orders directly from its Communist Party masters. As China’s top leader put it during a visit to the network’s headquarters, “The media run by the Party and the government are propaganda fronts and must have the Party as their surname.”

That’s why, last month, the Department of Justice ordered that network to register as a foreign agent.

These and other actions, taken as a whole, constitute an intensifying effort to shift American public opinion and public policy away from the America

Our administration will continue to act decisively to protect American interests, American jobs, and American security.

As we rebuild our military, we will continue to assert American interests across the Indo-Pacific.

As we respond to China’s trade practices, we will continue to demand an economic relationship with China that is free and fair and reciprocal, demanding that Beijing break down its trade barriers, fulfill its trade obligations, and fully open its economy, just as we have opened ours.

We will continue to take action until Beijing ends the theft of American intellectual property, and stops the predatory practice of forced technology transfer…

And to advance our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, we’re building new and stronger bonds with nations that share our values, across the region – from India to Samoa. Our relationships will flow from a spirit of respect, built on partnership, not domination.

We’re forging new trade deals, on a bilateral basis, just as last week, President Trump signed an improved trade deal with South Korea, and we will soon begin negotiating a historic bilateral free-trade deal with Japan.

As our National Security Strategy states: “Competition does not always mean hostility.” As President Trump has made clear, we want a constructive relationship with Beijing, where our prosperity and security grow together, not apart. While Beijing has been moving further away from this vision, China’s rulers can still change course, and return to the spirit of “reform and opening” and greater freedom. The American people want nothing more; the Chinese people deserve nothing less.

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that tells us that “men see only the present, but heaven sees the future.” As we go forward, let us pursue a future of peace and prosperity with resolve and faith…

Faith in President Trump’s leadership, and the relationship that he has forged with China’s president…

Faith in the enduring friendship between the American people and the Chinese people…

Faith that heaven sees the future – and by God’s grace, America and China will meet that future together.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

Comment: The Cold War was to a great centered on the Atlantic. In case of Soviet aggression aid from the United States would come from the western side of the ocean. Large armies tood ready in the Soviet Union, in Eastern Europe and as far west as in Germany. As the Soviet regime collapsed in 1991 it was not clear that a new challenger would appear on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Communist China later abandoned its destructive socialist economic policy and the regime in Beijing was invited to join global trade in the false belief that this would lead to a more free society in China.

As remarked by Vice President Pence this did not happen. China has chosen economic aggression, which has in turn emboldened its growing military.

Beijing has not moved toward greater freedom for the Chinese people. In recent years the regime has taken a sharp U-turn toward control and oppression.

The important actions of the present American administration of President Donald Trump in relation to China is of great geopolitical significance. As early as 1893 American geopolitician Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan in a letter to New York Times recommended U.S. annexation of Hawaii as a first step to secure the North Pacific. A failure to act could be catastrophical if China would burst its barriers eastward.

In his book ”The Problem of Asia” Mahan described a future struggle in central Asia, which he called ”debatable and debated ground”. China had an ”immense latent force” as potential geopolitical rival. Mahan understood that Western science and technology would at some time be globalized…”it is difficult to contemplate with equanimity such a vast mass as the four hundred millions of China concentrated into one effective political organization, equipped with modern appliances, and cooped within a territory already narrow for it.”

Europe should join with Western allies in the Pacific in supporting the new American strategy of defense against Chinese economic aggression and preparing against possible future Chinese military aggression.


October 5, 2018

On September 30, 2018, Washington Times published an article on the China military buildup in the Indian Ocean Region. Excerpts below:

In May 2018 the United States military renamed the “U.S. Pacific Command” to the “U.S. Indo-Pacific Command” in a largely symbolic gesture as no significant policy changes or shifts in military activity have been announced in conjunction with the move to rename.

The aggressive military build-up of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the South China Sea, and the ongoing conflict this has created with the United States and others in the region, has been the focus of a substantial amount of attention by U.S. foreign policy-makers and U.S. armed forces in the Indo-Pacific Command region for several years now.

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR), by contrast, has neither been a region of serious concern for Washington nor an arena of significant action for the U.S. armed forces at any point in recent memory…

The Indian Ocean Region [is] one of the globe’s last economic and strategic frontiers. For two decades the Chinese government has “quietly” placed substantial focus on developmental and strategic projects in Africa largely unimpeded by any other great or regional power. This monumental Chinese effort is part of the well-known “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative fixated on economic dominance, military prowess and “soft-power” (influence) necessary for challenging the United States as the global hegemon.

The most immediate concern for U.S. strategic interests in the region is China’s establishment of a new major military base in Djibouti, China’s first ever beyond the South China Sea region. The base, capable of housing up to 10,000 soldiers at a time and in close proximity to the strategically significant Bab-el-Mandeb strait, includes a port, a free-trade zone, and provides logistical support for China’s naval force which protects China’s commercial fleet from piracy and other threats in the region.

The large, permanent presence of Chinese forces in the region now allows the PRC to militarily and strategically contend with Western powers…

Chinese strategic ambitions in the Indian Ocean Region are also reflected in their serious uptick in relations with Pakistan, a major component of which is the One Belt, One Road-based China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project that includes the construction of Gwadar port, which provides China a direct point of access to the another critical energy shipping chokepoint in the Straits of Hormuz. Construction has also commenced on China’s second overseas military base in Jiwani, Pakistan.

The aforementioned developments allow China to militarily project power further than they ever have before as well as the ability to maintain any territory, seaway(s), or otherwise that they deem to be strategically significant.

The strategic placement of military installations across the Indian Ocean Region also gives the Chinese an extensive supply-line from Beijing to Dar es Salaam that significantly optimizes the operational logistics of their participation in any future conflict throughout the entirety of the region.

Not since the peak of the Cold War has the United States faced another nation with the desire and potential capability of challenging its status as the sole world superpower. Challenges to global hegemony start with challenges to regional hegemony, and Beijing has made China’s intentions very clear. It is only with U.S. military strength where this challenge will be met.

Comment: The growing military strength in the IOR of China is reason for the United States to reflect on the precepts of American geopolitician Alfred Thayer Mahan. American policy in the Pacific Ocean is still based on Mahan’s precepts: forward operation bases and positioning of assets around chokepoints. There also needs to be a capability to intervene at key strategic points. Another American geopolitician, Homer Lea, insisted that the United States needed a triple line of defense in the Pacific Ocean: Japan-South Korea-Taiwan-Thailand-Singapore, Japan-Guam-Philippines-Australia, and Alaska/Aleutian Islands-Hawaii-Samoa.

Forward operation bases needed to be in the form of a triangle. In Lea’s “strategic geometry” it was necessary to take into account the number of triangles the bases would form and the frequency with which the main base is at the intersection of these triangles. It was also important to always keep an eye on the presence of enemy bases inside the network.

A future contribution to this blog will discuss American China policy as reflected in Vice President Mike Pence speech on the subject in the beginning of October 2018.