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Think Again: European Geostrategy

Published on 14 March 2010 by James Rogers and Luis Simón • GEOSTRATEGY LEADS TO IMPERIALISM It doesn’t have to. It is true that geostrategy is about the exercise of power over particularly critical spaces on the Earth’s surface; about crafting a political presence over the international system. It is aimed at enhancing one’s security and prosperity; about making the international system more prosperous; about shaping rather than being shaped. A geostrategy is about securing access to certain trade routes, strategic bottlenecks, rivers, islands and seas. It requires an extensive military presence, normally coterminous with the opening of overseas military stations and the building of warships capable of deep oceanic power projection. It also requires a network of alliances with other great powers who share one’s aims or with smaller ‘lynchpin states’ that are located in the regions one deems important.

It is correct that many geostrategies have in the past been built on imperial conquest: countries have annexed land to provide themselves with the means to protect or extend what they have already got. Britain, France and Spain conquered countries near their trade routes to protect and extend them; and Germany and the United States annexed land to acquire more living space. But these all turned out to be costly enterprises which were often ruinous. Imperialism is a particular kind of geostrategy, but not all geostrategies are imperialist. In fact, a good geostrategy should counsel against imperialism, which is extremely costly in terms of both moral courage and matériel. • THE EUROPEAN UNION IS A ‘PEACE PROJECT’; IT DOES NOT NEED A GEOSTRATEGY Mumbo jumbo. The European Union was a ‘peace project’. But peace is not a neutral, politically free, concept. A balance of power always lies behind peace. For most of the nineteenth century, world peace was underpinned by British hegemony – it was the age of the Pax Britannica. From the second half of the twentieth century Western Europe was part of a broader geographical area, encompassing the Western hemisphere and much of the Eurasian

recently asserted. energy pipelines and fibre optic cables. Globalisation has thrown back at us as many issues as it solves. Even if the European Union did not have a traditional geostrategy. prosperity and entrenching our values. globalisation has amplified the need for a European geostrategy. goods and services come to us via numerous maritime routes. gone are the days where Europeans could simply sit back and lead by example. which was governed by the Pax Americana. • EUROPEAN GEOSTRATEGY HAS BEEN MADE REDUNDANT BY GLOBALISATION No. on whose stability we all depend. globalisation also elevates the importance of the planetary ecosystem. many Europeans have grown very timid about the exercise of power. the United States’ Secretary of State for Defence. when we were so overwhelmingly powerful normatively that others would accept our vision and fall into line. ultimately. some treat it almost like an aberration. increasing our security. its very existence was underpinned by one – that of the United States. Globalisation has not made geostrategy redundant. democracy and social justice – both at home and abroad. provide us with the ability to undergird European values like freedom. air routes. These are the aims of geostrategy. of where Europeans must focus their resources to uphold their interests and where they should not. The European vision of society and international relations is no longer universal and is challenged more and more by the visions of our competitors. Globalisation also brings the domestic problems of foreign countries to our shores. however.rimland. Enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe became a most effective form of geostrategy. it was a success. But European power provides the means to amplify European security. which causes trouble for us in the form of extremism and terrorism. particularly in the European continent. prosperity and. This is the main lesson Europeans must learn from the Copenhagen Summit in 2009. A global geostrategy implies that Brussels must develop an understanding of which parts of the world are central to the European interest and which are less so. it brought prosperity where there could have been poverty and stagnation. Why? The reason is simple: the European economy has become more globalised than at any other period in history. Today. It needs to develop a worldwide focus. • EUROPEANS HAVE ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO INFLUENCE GLOBAL POLITICS . It worked. something so repulsive that it should not even be mentioned in polite conversation. But since the end of the Cold War the European Union has come to play an increasingly active geopolitical role. • GEOSTRATEGY IS ABOUT THE EXERCISE OF (HARD) POWER So what? As Robert Gates. in fact. the European Union’s geostrategy needs to go beyond the European continent. facilitating the expansion of the European Union to cover most of our continent. Insofar as they ever existed. If any of these get severed. Enlargement consolidated order where there could have been chaos. meaning that we as Europeans will suffer. our economy will suffer.

prayers and clinging to the past do not a good strategy make. The truth of the matter is that we Europeans have nowhere else to run: in a world that will be dominated by great economic and military superpowers. Less so at a time when the United States’ commitment to European stability will be put to the test by the challenges it faces elsewhere. . But hope. through strengthened international structures.Do they? Seriously? Many still seem to believe that there remain alternatives to the European Union’s emergence as a global power. Only by pulling our weight together through a European framework can we effectively gain the thrust and velocity needed to exert our power in the twenty-first century – and guarantee our geographic security. prosperity and values at that. Others continue to think nationally when even the biggest of the European Union’s Member States have become too small for today’s world – let alone tomorrow’s. Others pray that the world is destined to become a better place. where nation will come to speak peace unto nation. Some hope that the United States will remain forever committed to our security and defend our interests and values globally. the European Union is the only way forward.