Geography: Geopolitics

Figure 1.--This is a school photo taken in Bielendorf during 1929. At the time it was a part of Germany. Now it is called Bielice in Poland. The town is located in Silesia which arrguably is the most fought over province in modern Europe. While the Euopean powers fought repeatedly wars over Silesia and other small provinces, geography ordained that two countries on the perifery of the European power struggle (America and Russia) became continental powers. There was no great power to impede Russia's expansion east and America's expansion west.

Geopolitics became important long before the term appeared. It is no accident that river valley became the craddles of civilization and the most valuable land for long periods. Carthage and Rome were both placed at imprtant locations to dominate the Mediterranean and Sicily became a fought over province into modrn times (Greeks, Phoencians, Carthengians, Romans, Saracens, Normans, and Spanish as well as finally the Allies and Axis in World War II). The European maritime outburst came from Western Europe, the countries facing the Atlantic Ocean a major factor in the decline of the Ottoman Empire. And from that point the European naval powers sought to control vital locations such as Panama, Suez, the Staits of Malaca, and the Cape of Good Hope. England used its position at Gibraltar and Malta to control the Mediterranean. For America, control of New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi was vital. The Germans after unification (1871) were mesmerized by geopolitical theorists who developed the theory that industralized Germany needed the resources of the East. Both the Tsars and Stalin were intent on dominating the Ukraine with its agriculture and vital resources. This set in motion both Stalin's Ukranian Famine and the bloody World War II struggle on the Eastern Front between NAZI Germany and the Soviet Union. Surely the most important impact of geography was the formation of the modern superpowers. While Europe fractured into nation states were locked in intermenable wars over tiny provinces like Silesia. Russia and America were alble to conquer vast territory with little or no opposition, Russia expanded east and America expanded west. This was just the opposite of what occurred in China which was untited during the ancient era. Here other factors than geopgraphy seem responsible. In modern times the English Channel meant that Britain could act tp prevent any one European power (Spain, France, and Germany) from becoming dominant, but this was not the case in ancient times.


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Created: 7:10 PM 2/27/2018
Last updated: 7:10 PM 2/27/2018