Category Archives: Geography

Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz joined the prestigious 40th Writers’ Workshop as a speaker

Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz was invited to give a lecture at the prestigious 40th Writers’ Workshop, which took place in Washington D.C. on September 25, 2016. The Workshop’s topic this year was immigration. In his lecture, Intermarium, the Land between the Black and Baltic Seas, Dr. Chodakiewicz discussed the characteristics of the migrant crisis in various parts of Europe as well as possible American response to it.

He began his analysis from the history of the Intermarium region and its crucial role for the stability of Europe and world peace. He stressed Intermarium’s Christian identity dating back to 966 A.D. as well as its unique democratic tradition. Peoples inhabiting Intermarium have developed an original form of government – an elective monarchy, in which 1 million people had the right to participate in the political process. This level of political freedom was reached by other countries of the world only in the 19th (U.S., the UK) and 20th century. This political system, known as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, is responsible for the countries of Intermarium being somehow culturally different from the countries of Western Europe. Their strong republican and individualistic tradition makes them more akin to the Unites States of America.

Historical part of the lecture provided background information allowing to understand different approaches to immigration in the Western Europe and in the Intermarium region. By virtue of its cultural identity, stronger individualism and stronger beliefs, as well as a worse economic situation, the countries of Intermarium are less interesting a location for the migrants. However, the migrant crisis still results in the destabilization of the whole continent. With Russia pushing for the reintegration of what it believes to be its sphere of influence, the situation of Europe becomes more and more unpredictable. Therefore, it would be good for the United States to monitor the situation in the region and support those European allies, which are the most similar to the United States in terms of absolute values and democratic tradition.

Europe, including the Intermarium, needs America’s leadership. This concerns not only defense issues via NATO, but also the Old Continent’s immigration crisis. If the United States solves its own immigration problems, this also can serve as a paradigm for its European NATO allies about the ways to address theirs.

Dr. Chodakiewicz discusses freedom and security of the Intermarium region at the Cornell Club

On November 21 2015, Dr. Chodakiewicz has given a lecture entitled Polish Freedom and Democratic Traditions in Anglo-Saxon Perspective for the Polish American Business Club. The event was held at the Cornell Club in New York and discussed the matters of freedom and security in the Intermarium both in the historical and the contemporary perspective.

The lecture may be watched here:

Questions from the audience are here:

Dr. Chodakiewicz on the “Exceptional Conservative” Radio Show

Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz was interviewed on the “Exceptional Conservative” radio show on Thursday, 4 April. The show is available worldwide, including to our servicemen and women on all fronts.

The topics included the current crisis in the Far East, the future of NATO, and situation in the Levant.

Dr. Chodakiewicz advised that the first step to defuse the war scare on the Korean Peninsula would be to negotiate with China. After all, Beijing uses Pyongyang as a proxy to divert American energies, and it can also rein the North Koreans in. He continued that the most likely cause of Kim Jong-un’s saber-rattling is a scheme to extract more aid from the United States and to intimidate both his own subjects and his neighbors with a show of force. Undoubtedly the young Kim wishes to breathe new life in the perpetual state of emergency that is North Korea’s raison d’etre and, perhaps, to upstage his own predecessors. Dr. Chodakiewicz also pointed out that one of the reasons preventing South Korea from reuniting the peninsula and wiping out the communist tyranny in Pyongyang is internal subversion. For instance, leftist teachers whitewash the north and inculcate young South Koreans, including army recruits, to blame the US for the Korean War of 1950-1953.

In any case, the United States must not “lead from behind,” but should assure the regional players and allies that Washington is committed to their defense. To accomplish this, we would be prudent to exhaust all of the available instruments of statecraft. For example, missile defense installations in Guam may be part of a strategy to deter North Korea, even if states such as China and Russia perceive US-led missile defense as a “threat.” Naturally, countries which view us as enemy number one will always view any strengthening of our defensive capabilities as a “danger.” Otherwise, if the United States fails to lead, other East Asian states threatened by North Korea and China—including Japan—may pick up the sword once again, further destabilizing the Pacific Rim.

Dr. Chodakiewicz also discussed the situation on the western edges of Eurasia. He argued that, in spite of the weakening of its cohesion after the implosion of the Soviet Union, NATO should be maintained. In short-run, we need NATO for logistical reasons. It is important to remember that we would be unable to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without the hub in Germany. In the long-run, we have nothing else to replace NATO with. Further, dismantling the alliance would only embolden post-Soviet Russia and anti-American forces in Europe. Thus, a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing axis would be a likely result.

To listen to the entire broadcast, please visit the “Exceptional Conservative” Radio Show.

Red China’s grand strategy

The Moving Wall of China’s Red Dragon Empire

SFPPR News & Analysis
By Marek Jan Chodakiewicz

March 15, 2013

In case you haven’t noticed, post-Maoist China has been moving. Quite a bit. China’s ubiquity is jarringly palpable, for instance its demographic and economic presence in all major maritime chokepoints save for Gibraltar. This is the logic of a waxing empire. A growing economy demands raw materials; goods produced require markets. Supply and trade routes as well as sources of minerals necessitate military and diplomatic protection. Each outpost must be shielded: on land, sea, space, and cyberspace. Protecting entails securing neighboring space. Each new outpost requires further protection. Hence, we are witnessing multidimensional Chinese expansionism everywhere. It is not spontaneous but, instead, follows a grand imperial strategy. For now, China is ostensibly satisfied with a status of a regional empire in eastern and southern Asia, but its ambitions are obviously global.

However, most observers view China as stationary. Its serpentine land borders are supposed to be set in stone as is “the Great Wall,” but in fact they are increasingly porous and flexible as evidenced by Beijing’s robust meddling among its contiguous neighbors along the great crescent running from Vietnam to South Korea. The Chinese satellite system is sometimes referred to as “the Great Wall in space,” notwithstanding its dynamic, aggressive attributes. And the Chinese government’s muscular naval policy is, of course, dubbed a “maritime Great Wall.” This allegedly defensive naval feature has a capacity to project Beijing’s power well beyond the country’s territorial waters. Many observers seem to overlook the fact that the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) with a modern war fleet – which includes its freshly acquired first aircraft carrier – is no longer just an ancillary to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with its primitively ruthless human wave attacks. A large navy is a sure sign of imperialism, or at least an ability to operate globally. So is a nation’s ambition to project its power into space via missile and satellite systems, both evident in Beijing’s growing arsenal.

To continue reading, please visit the SFPPR News & Analysis section.

Dr. Chodakiewicz discusses Robert Kaplan’s The Revenge of Geography

The Revenge of Geography, KaplanRobert Kaplan’s new book, The Revenge of Geography, was the subject of a lecture with Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz on November 28. The event was part of an ongoing series of presentations on the Intermarium region, on which Dr. Chodakiewicz has just published a monograph.

The text of Dr. Chodakiewicz’s lecture appears below.

Mugged by Geography

An old saw has it that a neo-conservative is a liberal mugged by reality. And, to paraphrase, a neo-conservative becomes a realist because he is mugged by geography. When? It happens soon after “the end of history” in the wake of 1989, rendering geography allegedly obsolete with a little help from modern technology. And so the airpower of Gulf War One putatively liberates us from the shackles of distance and terrain. But then the Balkans blow up and the Twin Towers collapse. We are back in Iraq after 9/11 and “it is surely wrong to suggest that physical terrain no longer mattered” (p. 22). Suddenly, geography is back with a vengeance. “Geography constitutes the very facts about international affairs that are so basic we take them for granted” (p. 30). And it is our permanent thing in the battle for power. “Geopolitics and the competition for ‘space’ is eternal” (p. 88). The objective now is therefore “to have an appreciation of the map so that, counterintuitively, we need not always be bounded by it” (p. 29) for “I wish to argue for a modest acceptance of fate, secured ultimately in the facts of geography, in order to curb excessive zeal in foreign policy, a zeal of which I myself have been guilty” (p. 36).

Thus, the newly minted realist develops a vision. A global “Mittleeuropa writ large” shall arise, “an ideal of tolerance and high civilization,” according to a liberal dream of Friedrich List and Timothy Garton Ash (p. 11). This will be apparently a worldwide community of liberal democracy triumphant, not to be confused with an artificial construct like “the super-state of the European Union [which] has only abstract meaning to all but the elite” (p. 48). Meanwhile, the United States shall continue to fade. No longer a hegemonic hyperpower, America can continue to dominate regionally, but only if it “fixes” Mexico. Yet, even if it avoids a calamitous ending, it shall dissolve into a federation of gargantuan city-states, horizontally integrating the union and, thus, maintaining the balance of power in Eurasia. “A world balanced is a world free” (p. 346). Yet, “the world will be both duller and more dangerous than ever before” (p. 128). This, at least, is the latest geopolitical vision of the globetrotting declineist Robert Kaplan. An aspiring master of a “closed system” (p. 73), the author conceptualizes the globe as a single cohesive unit. It is a tempting simplification, but no, thanks, in particular if it leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of America’s collapse.

Granted, all things human end. America will too. But its demise is far off. And so is Kaplan’s prediction. Or is it? Ultimately, the Lord only knows. But, perhaps, others can divine with some accuracy. Thus, the author treats us to Mackinder, Mahan, Ratzel, Spykman, Strausz-Hupé, and a whole parade of other strategic giants long forgotten, undeservedly, because of the association of their grand schemes with sexy intellectual fashions of yore, now recognized as noxious determinism, militarism, racism, social Darwinism, and so forth. Yet, let us remember that “geography informs, rather than determines. Geography, therefore, is not synonymous with fatalism. But it is, like the distribution of economic and military power themselves, a major constraint on – and instigator of – the actions of states” (p. 29). Both globalization and localism are the context. They influence one another, while the former also triggers both “conflict and cooperation” (p. 102). Further Kaplan ably marries the awesome geostrategists with the encyclopedic scholars of comparative civilizations like Toynbee, Hodgson, Lewis, and Huntington. By clinging fast to his belief in the individual’s free will, the author distills their teachings to stress that “of course, geography, history, and ethnic characteristics influence but do not determine future events” (p. 36).

Qualifying his analysis thus, the modern-day neo-geostrategist makes a strong case for the utility of geopolitics in prognostication. This applies both to short and long term predictions. The former, of course, sound more plausible than the latter. It is the present and not the future that Kaplan describes when he paints vividly the menacing specter of global chaos as Third World countries, in Asia in particular, go nuclear and more nationalistic. They suffer from the “crisis of room” (p. 115). Thus, they are prone to push against each other. It is “a world of crowded megacities” and soon “a world of multidimensional brinkmanship” as nuclear crises proliferate profligately (p. 119). These areas already heave with underage males prone to radical ideologies and easily mobilized through the new media for transnational causes, religious (Islamic) fundamentalism in particular. In the future, Kaplan promises more of the same but even more intense. Asia will become a battlefield of the 21st century, just as Europe was until the mid-20th century. And “the megacity will be at the heart of twenty-first-century geography” (p. 120).

The predictions are vividly grim: “A Eurasia and North Africa of vast, urban concentrations, overlapping missile ranges, and sensational global media will be one of constantly enraged crowds, fed by rumors and half-truth transported at the speed of light by satellite channels across the rimlands and heartland expanse, from one Third World city to another. Conversely, the crowd, empowered by social media like Twitter and Facebook, will also be fed by the very truth that autocratic rulers have denied it… In other words, politics in the mass media age will be more intense than anything we have experienced, because the past and future will have been obliterated… It is in the megacities of Eurasia principally where crowd psychology will have its greatest geopolitical impact” (p. 122-123).  Crisis management will be a daily pursuit: “With civilizations densely packed one against the other, and the media a vehicle for constant verbal outrages, as well as for popular pressure from oppressed groups, the need for quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy will never be greater. One crisis will flow into the next, and there will be perennial need for everyone to calm down” (p. 127).

Operating with bold strokes of a global brush, Kaplan is predictably and overly kind to the mighty. China grapples eternally with the dilemma of core vs. periphery; so does Russia.  Both are vulnerable to foreign attack.  In this telling, Chinese and Russian imperialisms are mere functions of self-defense. All those foreign invasions warrant expansion. Really? How many invasions has “Russia” experienced in the past 800 years in comparison to, say, Poland? A hundred times fewer, Moscow has. “A legacy of depredations against Russia” should be taken with a generous grain of salt, except by the Mongol Empire, Napoleonic France, and the Third Reich (p. 150). That is three serious incursions in 800 years. The same osmotic logic prompts the author to embrace other aspects of imperial propaganda. In particular, Kaplan accepts everything that Moscow dubs “Russia,” including historical places like Rus’. Ukraine anyone? It is pivotal only at present as an intended, and inevitable, victim of the reintegrating post-Soviet behemoth operating out of the Kremlin.  “Now Russia, greatly reduced in size, tries to reconsolidate that same Heartland – Belarus, Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Central Asia” (p. 78). At least Kaplan got this reintegrating post-Soviet drive precisely right, despite the tendency to take at face value the standard trope of Russian imperialist apologetics.

Unlike Stratfor’s George Friedman, Kaplan strangely has no room for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Is it because it would undermine his Moscow-centric paradigm of Eurasia? The Commonwealth is arguably European history’s greatest secret and should be listed in the same breath with “the legacies of Prussian, Habsburg, and Byzantine and Ottoman rules [which] are still relevant” (p. 146). At least the author has a soft spot for the western post-Soviet zone. “The degree to which Central and Eastern Europe can develop a belt of prosperous and stable states from the ashes of communism will go a long way to protect Europe from Russia, and, in the process, convert the dream of a revived Mitteleuropa into reality: a dream that liberal intellectuals actually share with Mackinder” (p. 136).

Yet, the Mittleeuropa does not really exist in the Mackinderian scheme of things. Someone must control “the geographic pivot of history” so the barbarians from the East would not pour into Europe. Too bad it has to be Russia, but better the Muscovite state than “the yellow peril.” Albeit unattractive, Russia is thus indispensible in Mackinder’s geopolitical imagination. “In short, strategically speaking, there is ‘no space’ for Central Europe” (p. 9). It is an artificial construct, a springboard toward a Haushoferian Lebensraum or a causeway from Asia into Europe proper, which, in itself, is just an Asian peninsula jutting toward the Atlantic Ocean. What is Europe then? It is a map in flux. It is constructed on the basis of Charlemagne’s ancient realm in the West, encompassing the post-Soviet zone and even North Africa, with power increasingly shifting to Berlin. The mighty rule.

Yet, the dwarves of the world are not helpless. Kaplan rejects geographic determinism and fatalism with this valuable piece of advice: “A small state in the midst of adversaries, such as Israel, has to be particularly passive, or particularly aggressive, in order to survive. It is primarily a matter of geography” (p. 34). Anyone listening between Berlin and Moscow? The same applies to “the power of statelessness” (p. 126). According to the author, “small stateless groups are beneficiaries of this new age of technology” of death (p. 126-127).

Still, one rejoices that this influential neo-conservative realist restores geography to its rightful place of permanence in the global calculus of power. “Geography offers a way to make at least some sense of it all” (p. xxii). And: “Just as geography is not an explanation for everything, neither is it a solution. Geography is merely the unchanging backdrop against which the battle of ideas plays out” (p. 177). Those who ignore geography do so at their peril. But the journalist qualifies this common sense observation by allowing that “the revenge of geography” is balanced by “the defeat of geography” by technology (transport and communication revolutions in particular). Geography remains relevant but not omnipotent. Thus, in this telling, geography serves as a reality check on our designs and actions, rather than a fatalistic determinant. Impersonal forces of geography rule. But they do not rule supreme.

It is a pleasure to read Kaplan if only to revisit thinkers too long out of favor. Naturally, one cringes at some of his sentiments. For example, “there are things worse than communism,” he deadpans, “and in Iraq we brought them about ourselves” (p. 21). This was not the author’s preference of Stalin over Saddam, one should hope, but, rather, an awkwardly phrased confession of his appreciation for order over chaos. Yet, if chaos is counter-revolutionary, then it is better than any Communist totalitarian order which is an order of the prison, if not an outright order of the grave, as Angelo Codevilla would remark. This applies to all totalitarian regimes: For a Jew, chaos under Nazism meant hope of survival; order spelled death. One derives such knowledge from a posteriori inquiries, the essence of conservatism. We are delighted that Robert Kaplan’s experience has been a corrective on his original liberal ideology. Now that the neo-geopolitician has been mugged by geography, perhaps he can be encouraged to delve into First Things, which are at the root of our understanding of the universe, including geography.

Robert D. Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate (New York: Random House, 2012).

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz
Washington, DC, 14 November 2012

Dr. Chodakiewicz speaks on geopolitics in the Intermarium

IntermariumOn 8 February 2012, Prof. Marek Chodakiewicz addressed the geopolitics of the Intermarium: the lands between the Baltic, Black, and Adriatic Seas. The lecture constituted the tenth in a sequence of an ongoing series of brownbag lectures on the history, politics, and culture of the region.

Geopolitics may be defined as the conjunction of and synergy between geography and power. While geography is not tantamount to destiny, the former certainly shapes the latter. TheIntermarium is a land-based region possessing few sea lanes of communication and vital chokepoints. Thus, the theories of the American geostrategist, Alfred Mahan, regarding the significance of sea power, were of little relevance.

The thinking of the British geographer, Sir Halford Mackinder, left a much more enduring imprint, however. Mackinder offered a geographically deterministic paradigm and claimed that the steppes of Eurasia – extending from Mongolia through southern Ukraine all the way to the Hungarian Puszta – form the “geographic pivot of history.” Hence, he argued that whoever controlled this “pivot” (pictured below) would inevitably dominate the world island of Eurasia, and, ergo, the entire world. Accordingly, a power must rule the “pivot,” lest chaos ensue and barbarians swoop in to fill the vacuum. After all, had not barbarians from the East – such as the Huns, Avars, and Mongols – utilized the Eurasian Steppe as a westward invasion route? This conception reflected not only the concerns of a satiated, status quo power (the British Empire) with maintaining a balance of power predicated on “order,” but also a strong hint of Social Darwinism, and an unspoken fear of the “Yellow Peril.” Thus, Mackinder sanctified “scientifically” the Muscovite domination of the Intermarium, whose southern part overlapped with the “pivot.”

Mackinder pivot

His policies also exerted a strong influence on American thinking on Central and Eastern Europe, as demonstrated by the Yalta Conference, the Sonnenfeldt-Kissinger Doctrine, the policies of George Bush Sr., and more recently, the approach of the Obama administration. From this perspective, freedom and independence movements of the Intermarium peoples, or more assertive policies by the region’s newly-independent states, are treated as irritants at best, and threats to stability at worst.

Dr. Chodakiewicz further discussed five layers of geopolitics presently impacting the region: the global, continental, regional (blocs of countries), national (bilateral relations between states), and local. The powers that matter on the global stage are the United States, post-Soviet Russia, and neo-communist China. At the same time, these actors – the Kremlin in particular – are also present in the other arenas. As America’s interest in the region has diminished in recent years, especially as a result of Obama’s “reset” policy with Russia, Moscow has launched a renewed offensive to further its goal – the imperial reintegration of the post-Soviet space. Meanwhile, Beijing has also penetrated the region, much to the Kremlin’s chagrin. Yet, the Red Chinese have been most active in Belarus, where they have courted “Europe’s last dictator,” Oleksandr Lukashenka. On the continental level, Turkey has been quite involved in the post-Soviet space as well, focusing on Turkic and/or Muslim peoples from Central Asia and the Caucasus to theIntermarium. For instance, Ankara has taken an interest in the Gagauz of Moldova and the Tatars of the Crimea and the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania (now inhabiting Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus), even helping to fund mosques throughout the region.

Although Poland and the Baltics are European Union members, the EU is not a power as such. In spite of the efforts of federalists striving to transform the Union into a super-state, the Union remains divided. A tendency towards undermining “nationalism” and the nation-state is strong, as exemplified by support for “regionalism.” At the same time, no coherent EU policy towards Russia has been formulated, for example. Germany is powerful but, simultaneously, reluctant to lead. Berlin nurtures a “strategic partnership” with the Kremlin, while Paris and Rome remain close to Moscow as well. As a result, the new post-communist EU members feel insecure. This fear is compounded by the increasing irrelevance of NATO, which, until 2010, had not even bothered to draft a contingency plan to defend the Baltic states.

The Russians are unlikely to resort to outright invasion in the near future, Dr. Chodakiewicz argued. After all, aggression generates negative PR and consumes huge amounts of resources. Instead, the Kremlin prefers to utilize the energy weapon as leverage to reward the cooperative and punish the recalcitrant. In addition, Russia employs such tools as cyberwarfare. Moscow also operates behind fronts, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) or the Eurasian Economic Union (a customs union). Russia allows Belarussian and Ukrainian citizens to cross its border unimpeded. Meanwhile, the EU has effectively closed its eastern frontier, which only assists the process of post-Soviet imperial reintegration. Yet, the August 2008 attack on Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgia – which refused to subordinate itself to Russia’ diktat – demonstrates clearly that the military option is never completely “off the table.”

Dr. Chodakiewicz emphasized, however, that it is a mistake to perceive “Russia” as a monolith. The post-Soviet entity remains the world’s last surviving colonial empire, and should certainly not be reduced to Moscow. It certainly contains other cities (e.g. St. Petersburg, Smolensk, or Vladivistok), political traditions (Novgorod the Great), and regions (e.g. the Far East, North Caucasus, or the Don River area), and this pluralism should be recognized and encouraged by the West. Yet, until we jettison our deeply-seated, Moscow-centric cultural prejudices, they will continue to cripple our policies towards Eurasia as a whole.

Currently, the Intermarium finds itself in a state of conceptual flux. The void is being filled by the return of nineteenth-century geopolitics on the national level. The old “concert of powers” appears to have been resurrected, much to the unease of small and medium states. Even so – contrary to the claims of geographic determinists – no outcome is written in stone. After all, political actors possess free will. In such a context, of course, much depends on America’s willingness to lead.