Submitted by Paul Mylchreest of Monument Securities
Sir Halford Mackinder’s 1904 speach in which he outlined his “Heartland Theory” was a founding moment for geo-politics. He argued that control of the Eurasian landmass (Europe, Asia and the Middle East), which contained the bulk of the world’s population and natural resources, was the major geo-political prize.
As time passed, energy (first crude oil then natural gas), became increasingly integral to this concept and its strategic significance cannot be overstated.
Remarkably, Mackinder’s theory has remained equally valid, if not more so, in the modern era - although key “pivot areas” for exercising control have evolved. In addition to Central Asia and Trans-Caucasus in Mackinder’s day, the oil producing nations of the Middle East took on increasing importance in the “New Great Game”.
The geo-political confrontation between the US on one hand and China (in increasingly close cooperation with Russia) on the other, is evolving rapidly. We see a “New New Great Game” (NNGG) emerging and have “tweaked” the Heartland Theory to include....
....The “New New Great Game”
Mackinder’s “Heartland Theory”
The traditional “Great Game” obviously dates back to the geo-political rivalry between Great Britain and Russia for supremacy in the central Asian region during the nineteenth and early part of the last century. In his famous speech, “The Geographical Pivot of History”, to the Royal Geographical Society in 1904, Sir Halford Mackinder outlined his “Heartland Theory. ” According to Wikipedia.
“This is often considered a, if not the, founding moment of geo-politics...”
Briefly, this posited that the major geo-political prize is Eurasia (the “World Island”), i.e. the European, Asian and Middle Eastern land mass, which contained the bulk of the world’s population and its natural resources. Mackinder argued that control of the “pivot area“ of central Asia was the key to controlling Eurasia.
This is taken from his paper published in the April 1904 edition of the “The Geographical Journal.”
He also emphasised the important difference between sea power and land power. From Zurich-based ISN’s 2009 “Geopolitics and US Middle Eastern Policy: Mackinder and Brzezinski.”The Trans-Siberian Railway.“Mackinder’s theory was a counter-argument to notions that maritime supremacy was sufficient for a power such as Great Britain to safeguard its hegemony. He claimed that, with the emergence of new transportation routes [e.g. Trans-Siberian railway] and technology, a power that could control the centre (and the abundant resources) of the Eurasian landmass...would ultimately be able to attack the colonies of a sea power everywhere on the continent. “
In the wake of World War One, Mackinder argued the case for preventing a convergence of interests between Russia and new “pivot” states of Eastern Europe (Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland). This led to his famous dictum.
“Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island;
Who rules the World Island commands the World.”
It’s important to emphasise that the pivot area does evolve/fluctuate with changes in geo-political reality. Indeed, Mackinder included the Baltic states in one of his revisions.
As the world industrialised and became increasingly dependent on crude oil (and later, natural gas), energy resources became ever more integral to the Great Game. With such a large proportion of the world’s oil and gas reserves found on the Eurasian land mass, this was easily accommodated within Mackinder’s theory.
The period just before World War One, with the British Navy’s switch from coal to oil and the adoption of the automobile, set the stage for this. Indeed, in 1913, the British government acquired a 51% controlling interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the forerunner of BP.
Remarkably, the validity of Mackinder’s theory has stood the test of time, even though most people are unfamiliar with it. The following quote is from the Reagan Administration’s “National Security Strategy of the United States” published in January 1988.
Right now, it’s obvious that US national security interests are threatened by a combination of China and Russia.“The first historical dimension of our strategy is relatively simple, clear-cut, and immensely sensible. It is the conviction that the United States’ most basic national security interests would be endangered if a hostile state or group of states were to dominate the Eurasian land mass – that area of the globe often referred to as the world’s heartland.”
This was the influential globalist (and former National Security Advisor), Zbigniew Brzezinski, writing in his famous 1997 book, “The Grand Chessboard.”
In the “New Great Game”, (NGG) of the modern era, the major rivalry is between US/NATO on one side and China, Russia, other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the likes of Iran, on the other.“Ever since the continents started interacting politically some 500 years ago, Eurasia has been the centre of world power… For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia – and America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.”
The “pivot states” in the NGG are.
- The key nations in Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus: especially those with substantial energy resources and/or pipelines (e.g. Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc). Here is a chart showing the major gas pipelines
And the major oil pipelines: