The place of Ukraine in the geopolitical confrontation of Land and Sea has already been written about quite a lot and in some detail. Moreover, it is symbolic that the founder of geopolitics, Halford Mackinder, was the Entente high commissioner for Ukraine during the Civil War in Russia. And there, in the Wrangel government at the time, the founder of Eurasianism, geographer Peter Savitsky, who was the first in Russian-language journalism to mention the term “geopolitics” himself and outline the main points of this methodology, worked as an assistant to Minister of Foreign Affairs Peter Struve.
Geopolitics: the Continuous War of Land and Sea
Mackinder formulated the theory of the great continental war, the opposition between the civilization of the Sea (the West in general, the British Empire more narrowly) and the civilization of the Land (Heartland, Russia-Eurasia) somewhat earlier, in 1904, in his famous work “The Geographic Pivot of History”. Land (Rome, Sparta) and Sea (Carthage, Athens) represent two antagonistic civilizations, opposite in everything – traditional and modern, spiritual and materialistic, military and commercial. The conflict between them is a constant in world history.
Eurasia as a theater of geopolitical confrontation
In recent centuries, when the Great Game, the confrontation between the British and Russian Empires, was in full swing, the great continental war was embedded in the space of Eurasia. In this space the “Heartland,” represented Russia. And the “civilization of the Sea” — England. England tried to embrace Eurasia from outside, from the oceans. Russia fought back from the inside, trying to break the blockade.
The main strip of tension stood out in the special concept of Rimland, the “coastal zone”. It stretched from Western Europe through the Middle East, Central Asia, to Southeast Asia, India and China.
The Sea’s goal was to subjugate Rimland. The Land’s goal was to break this influence and break through the shrinking anaconda ring. This was the reason for Russia’s advance into Central Asia and the Far East.
Hence the main formula of geopolitics: “Who controls Eastern Europe controls the Heartland. Who controls the Heartland, controls the world”. This is the theory.
The dismemberment of Greater Russia
In his position as High Commissioner of the Entente, Mackinder tried to put theory into practice. The Russian Civil War gave the Sea Civilization a new chance to push the borders of Rimland to the east, at the expense of territories leaving Russian power – Finland, Poland and, most importantly, Ukraine.
Mackinder (like Savitsky) understood that the victory of the Bolsheviks would inevitably lead to a confrontation with the West and an attempt to recreate the Russian Empire in a new form (which is exactly what happened). And in the face of this prospect, Mackinder demanded that the British government be more active in helping the Whites, whom, in their midst, he tried to convince of the need to grant Ukraine independence. He also developed a plan to separate the South Caucasus, Belarus, Central Asia, as well as Eastern Siberia and even a number of southern Russian territories from Russia. Later in 1991, the collapse of the USSR largely repeated Mackinder’s plan.
Ukraine and the cordon sanitaire
Ukraine played a major role in Mackinder’s geopolitical picture. This territory, together with Poland and Eastern European countries, formed part of the “cordon sanitaire” (sanitary cordon), a strategic zone that should be under the direct control of England and France (the Entente allies at the time) and prevent rapprochement between Russia and Germany. Being held back by a “cordon sanitaire”, Russia-Eurasia could not become a full-fledged Empire. Without Ukraine, Russia is not an Empire. And besides, Ukraine, hostile to Russia and under the direct control of the Anglo-Saxons, would cut Russia off from continental Europe, where Germany, in turn, was a Heartland, only not a global one (like Russia), but a local, European one. England’s conflict with Germany (formerly with Austria) was a constant in European geopolitics.
Accordingly, the project of independent Ukraine was initially directed against Russia and was supervised by the Anglo-Saxons.
The Bolsheviks create and simultaneously dismantle Ukraine
We know that during the Civil War, the Whites adhered to a policy of restoring a united and indivisible Empire. At the same time they depended on the support of the Entente, which imposed certain conditions on them. In any case, and the British government did not agree with Mackinder about the need for strong support for the Whites in exchange for their agreement to the secession of the Ukraine, and the Whites lost the war. In that configuration, therefore, the subject was dropped from the agenda.
The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, initially supported Ukraine and actively promoted nationalist circles in the belief that they were oriented against “Tsarism,” but later switched to a centralist policy, seeing that Ukraine was not going to accept Bolshevik power without complaint and sought to yield to the Anglo-Saxons (which then meant “world capitalism”). Therefore, as Mackinder had foreseen, Lenin began the direct capture of Ukraine, which had no independent state history and was relatively easy prey for the Reds. The Reds did not manage to capture Poland by the same scheme. But the territory of Belarus, which was claimed by Poland of Piłsudski, remained with the Reds.
Then, already under the authority of the Bolsheviks in 1922, Lenin gave the Soviet Socialit Republic of Ukraine the vast territories that had been part of the Russian Empire – Slobozhanshchina, Donbass, Novorossiya, as well as vast areas in the north (Chernigov oblast) and west (Little Russia proper). Galicia remained under Poland, Bukovina was part of Romania. The Crimea belonged to the RSFSR.
But this territorial arrangement of Ukraine did not imply the creation of statehood. Bolshevik power extended to all the territories of the USSR and in the spirit of internationalist ideology, there could be no talk about statehood of the individual Republics. It was almost purely administrative division in the context of a single power. This is exactly what Mackinder was afraid of.
The Bolsheviks both created Ukraine and abolished it (as an independent state).
Ukraine in the USSR after the Great Patriotic War
Galicia, Volyn and Bukovina were annexed to Ukraine before the Great Patriotic War and Transcarpathia – just after the war. But at this point, Russia-Eurasia in the form of the USSR moved significantly westward, shifting the border of the land at the expense of Rimland, and establishing control over Eastern Europe, which was all under the power of Moscow. Thereby the USSR broke through and altogether abolished the “cordon sanitaire”, coming directly to continental Europe and seizing, in fact, the territories of Prussia (GDR).
In such a position – deep in the rear of Eurasia – Ukraine existed until 1991. At the same time, for the purposes of purely administrative expediency within the limits of absolutely unitary state, Khrushchev in 1954 transferred the Crimea to Kiev. From the geopolitical point of view, however, it meant nothing, because all the borders between the subjects of the USSR, the federative republics, were conditional and in practice meant nothing at all.
Atlanticism and the bipolar world
During the cold war the West returned to geopolitics. That’s how in 1949, following the models of Mackinder, NATO (NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization) was created. The term “Atlantic” used here, “Atlanticism” becomes synonymous with “civilization of the Sea” in the exact sense in which Mackinder understood it. “Atlanticism” is the West and its allies, the capitalist world with an Anglo-Saxon core, with the center in the twentieth century gradually shifting from London to Washington, from England to the United States.
Mackinder’s map corresponded perfectly to the balance of power in the Cold War, and the two camps – communist and capitalist – were strictly aligned with the Land and the Sea. The Eastern bloc was the Land, with the USSR at its center as the Heartland. The Western bloc was the Sea, centered in the Atlantic (the Anglo-Saxons), but included the postwar strategic colonies of the United States – the countries of Europe, Japan and other Third World states that proclaimed allegiance to capitalism. They were arranged in staggered order in Asia, Africa and Latin America, which made up the geopolitical map of global confrontation. Land and Sea rarely clashed directly (such as during the Cuban Missile Crisis), and usually acted through their proxy, pro-Soviet or pro-American regimes. And if the Land was directly involved – in Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, etc., then the Sea opposed it through proxies, anti-Soviet groups and movements without directly intervening. Whereas the Sea intervened openly – Korea, Vietnam, the Land helped indirectly – with advisors, diplomacy, economics, etc.
The Rimland Problem
During the Cold War, the problem of Rimland again became extremely relevant. Thus, the American geopolitical scientist Nicholas Speakman, revising the theories of Mackinder, came to the conclusion that it is Rimland that is the main zone of confrontation. He formulates the law of geopolitics as follows: “He who controls Rimland controls the world”. But this is not a new geopolitics, but a reinterpretation – a minor one – of the weight of the main zones in Mackinder`s theory. All the more so because Mackinder himself started with “Eastern Europe,” that is, with the “cordon sanitaire,” and it belongs to Rimland.
In any case, the Cold War from a geopolitical point of view was a battle for Rimland. Moscow tried to expand its influence – through leftist parties and movements – in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America. At one period, Maoist China was also part of a single socialist camp, that is, part of the Eurasian Heartland.
As the USSR began to weaken, Atlanticist geopoliticians (Z. Brzezinski, R. Gilpin, etc.) began to think and act more avant-garde. In addition to the bipolar model and partial shifting of the balance along the world periphery and along the contours of Eurasia, they began to build more daring concepts of a unipolar world. Thus Mackinder`s ideas regained their freshness and relevance. To achieve the decisive and final victory of the Sea civilization, it was necessary to break up the Warsaw bloc, then preferably the USSR, and then what was left of it. In other words, to significantly advance Rimland into the depths of the land, restraining it and blocking the access to the “warm seas”, where Russia was constantly trying to reach.
One of the consistent Atlanticist geopoliticians was Zbigniew Brzezinski. Back in the bipolar era, he fiercely supported anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan, up to and including al-Qaeda. Brzezinski and Kissinger made efforts back in the early 80’s to finally break away from the USSR China, seeking to include it in the global economy and gradually integrate it into the civilization of the Sea.
When the destructive processes in the USSR began, the Atlantists increased pressure on Eastern Europe, provoking, fomenting and supporting artificially anti-Soviet/Rusophobic sentiments in every possible way. From a geopolitical point of view, the Soviet and the Russian coincided at the time.
With Gorbachev, the rapid collapse of the socialist camp began. The Land was retreating, the Sea was advancing. So we should not be surprised by the expansion of NATO to the East. This was originally embedded in the geopolitical theory of Atlanticism. Nothing else could be expected from the Atlanticist policy.
The creation of the Anti-Russia
When it came to the collapse of the USSR, Mackinder’s projects to dismember Russia-Eurasia, became even more relevant. The conditional boundaries of the Republics within a unitary state, completely and tightly controlled by the Communist Party, suddenly turned into the boundaries of sovereign nation-states. All post-Soviet states were created according to the molds of the Atlanticists. These entities have no sense other than to be Anti-Russia. One of these “Anti-Russia” was the Russian Federation itself. But because the Russian Federation occupied the territory of the Heartland, even if significantly shrunk, it still represents the Land in the eyes of the Atlanticist geopolitical scientists, that is the enemy. And to finish off the enemy, it was necessary to push NATO deeper into Eurasia, and also to try to dismember Russia itself (the first Chechen campaign, the wave of internal Russian separatism, etc.).
Russia will never be able to revive itself without Ukraine.
All these processes Brzezinski comprehended and helped to implement in practice (as Mackinder did earlier). In his famous book “The Grand Chessboard” Brzezinski openly talks about the need to further dismember Russia, to strengthen the “cordon sanitaire”, etc. Most importantly, Brzezinski understands Ukraine’s role in this issue. Brzezinski says that the most important thing:
- to irrevocably tear off the then hesitant Ukraine from Russia,
- to turn it into an outpost of Atlantism and
- to impose Russophobic nationalism as the main ideology on its people.
Without Ukraine, Russia will never be able to become a full-fledged sovereign power, an Empire, an independent pole of the multipolar world. So the fate of unipolarity and globalism (for Brzezinski this is almost the same thing), depends on whether the West will be able to implement the breakaway of Ukraine. After all, if Russia and Ukraine unite – in one way or another, unipolarity will collapse and the geopolitical map will change irreversibly again.
The battle for Ukraine and against Russia is a historical constant in the geopolitical strategy of the West. This explains everything from the declaration of independence through the Yushchenko-Timoshenko Orange Revolution to the Maidan and eight years of intensified preparation by Kiev under Atlanticist instructors for military operations to seize Donbass and Crimea.
The birth of geopolitics in Russia: Eurasia as a subject
Since the beginning of the 1990s in Russia, just when the USSR collapsed and the Atlanticist agents came to power (former Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev directly admitted that he was an Atlanticist), contrary to the basic political and ideological attitude to liberalism and Westernism, Russia – primarily in military circles (in particular, at the Military General Staff Academy) – began to develop its own geopolitical school. It was based on Eurasianism, because it was the first Russian Eurasians in the 1920s who described the geopolitical map of the confrontation between Russia and the West, apart from communist ideology (the Eurasians were Whites). Their ideas were the most suitable in the current situation, in the face of NATO’s offensive in the East and Moscow’s own incomprehensible (in some places treacherous) policies. The military could not take as friends those whose aggressive intentions and actions against Russia they recorded on an hourly basis. But the liberal government remained deaf to geopolitics. Nevertheless, the geopolitical school could not be destroyed. Everyone was busy with the fascinating processes of total corruption.
Geopolitics perfectly explained what was going on in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space in the 1990s (the squeezing of the Sea of Land, the expansion of the “sanitary cordons” and Rimland territory), but this understanding remained inside military circles, which resented the official policy, but lacked any political weight or influence at the time. The Atlantists, on the other hand, methodically pursued their cause, nurturing and strengthening Anti-Russia, both outside and, in part, within the Russian Federation itself.
Putin is changing the geopolitical vector
Everything changed when Putin came to power. He began to restore Russia’s sovereignty, get rid of agents in the country’s leadership, focus and develop its military potential, and strengthen Russia’s unity. The second Chechen campaign, the introduction of Federal Districts and changes in legislation strengthened territorial integrity and reinforced the vertical of power. Putin gradually began to increasingly oppose the West and pursue a policy of Eurasian integration in the post-Soviet space. In short, Putin has returned Russia the status of a subject of geopolitics, not its object. He consciously and responsibly joined the great continental war on behalf of the Land.
This could not have been missed in the West, which led to increased pressure on the post-Soviet countries to take more and more anti-Russian position, to integrate more rapidly into Western structures. It affected all post-Soviet countries, but it was primarily Ukraine. It depended on Ukraine to determine whether or not Russia would be able to fully restore its geopolitical sovereignty. According to the laws of geopolitics, without Ukraine Russia is not an Empire, not a pole, not a civilization, but with Ukraine it is an Empire, a pole and a civilization. And this formula can be read from two positions – the eyes of the Sea and the eyes of the Land. Obviously, Putin read it through the eyes of the Land, as he was and remains the ruler of the Heartland, conscious and powerful.
Ukrainian nationalism as a geopolitical tool of Atlantism
At the same time the initiator of the cataclysms in Ukraine was the Atlanticist West. Even the neutral, moderately pro-Western – multi-vector – policies of Kuchma or Yanukovich did not suit them. The Atlantists pressured Kiev to turn into an aggressive and radical, attacking Anti-Russia as quickly as possible. Kiev had to attack.
This explains the Orange Revolution, the Maidan, and the reasons for the current Russian military operation.
The West was fighting for Ukraine. It should be taken into account that Ukraine has no state history at all, and the territories in which it is located are historically accidental and are the result of the administrative creativity of the Bolsheviks. When Putin justified the military operation in Ukraine by saying that “Lenin created Ukraine,” he was absolutely right. However, Lenin did not create Ukraine as such, but one of the zones of Bolshevik control along with others. The nationality, according to Bolshevik theory, had to be completely overcome in a socialist international society. Lenin created Ukraine and in fact immediately abolished it.
Therefore, after 1991 there were peoples and territories on the territory of Ukraine with completely different history, identity, language and culture. Half of them were not at all different from the Russians. The second half was more or less Russified Ukrainians. And only an overwhelming minority professed a self-styled nationalist ideology. But only this minority was capable, according to Western geopoliticists, of transforming Ukrainians into a “nation” at an accelerated pace. It was an Atlanticist geopolitical project. In other countries, the West has carefully eradicated nationalism, especially in its radical forms. In Ukraine, however, the West acted in exactly the opposite way, actively supporting all forms of nationalism up to the most extreme. According to Atlanticist strategists, this was the only way to speed up the formation of an artificial, rigidly Russophobic construct, a virtual simulacrum of a nation. That is why the information sphere was so important, as it obsessively inculcated Ukrainians with an unfounded hatred of Russians and everything that united our peoples. Any nonsense was used, up to “ancient civilization of ancient Ukrainians,” which would have caused only complete bewilderment in the West. However, the entire operation was supervised by the Atlanticist secret services, and that is why the West created an artificial image of Ukraine as a young and openly vulnerable democracy, suffering from the Russian threat. In fact, a Nazi mindset was obsessively asserted in society, inextricably linked with Atlanticism and even liberal globalism (no matter how much these systems contradict each other, because globalism denies the state, and liberalism any collective identity, and above all national identity).
The Final Confrontation
The sharp Russophobic turn by Kiev and the entire Ukrainian society was the result of the 2013-2014 Maidan events, culminating in the expulsion and flight of President Yanukovych. Yanukovych was neither a pro-Russian politician nor a Eurasianist. Rather, he was a short-sighted pragmatist, but even this, from the point of view of the West, was unacceptable. The West wanted “everything and not everything. Watching Putin’s Russia strengthening and taking into account the events of 2008 in Georgia, where the West also pitted Saakashvili against Russia, but the result was clearly not in favor of the civilization of the Sea, the Atlantists decided to act by the most radical methods.
The current U.S. President Joe Biden, then Vice President, and other members of his team, such as Victoria Nuland, etc., were very actively involved in the overthrow of Yanukovych and in the preparation of the Maidan. The goal was the same as that of Mackinder and Brzezinski: to finally tear Ukraine away from Russia and set the stage for a violent conflict between Kiev and Moscow.
Putin responded by reuniting Crimea and supporting Donbass, but this did not solve the problem geopolitically. Putin foiled the plan to accelerate Ukraine’s accession to NATO, which included expelling the Russian Navy from Sevastopol, prevented genocides in Crimea and the Donbass, but the scale of Ukraine was too great to continue its Eurasian offensive in 2014 and bring the defense of the Russian world to its logical conclusion. At that point, the Land came to a halt. The process of the Minsk agreements had begun, but from a geopolitical point of view, it was obvious that no peaceful solution could be found and direct confrontation would inevitably happen sooner or later. Moreover, Russian intelligence received information that the Ukrainian side was only taking advantage of the postponement to prepare a military operation in Donbass and then in Crimea.
The nationalist forces that had won the 2014 coup d’etat in Kiev hated Russia even more, deployed massive propaganda to brainwash the population, launched a brutal punitive operation against the residents of Donbass, who were victims of a systematic genocide, and were planning an attack on Donbass and Crimea by the spring of 2022. At the same time, Kiev, together with the West, was developing plans to build its own nuclear weapons. In addition, there were biological laboratories scattered throughout Ukraine engaged in illegal experiments to produce bioweapons.
All of this was part of a single Atlanticist geostrategy.
The White army (also known as White Guards or simply Whites) were military forces that fought against the Bolshevik regime in the Russian Civil War.
By Alexander Dugin Via https://www.geopolitica.ru/en/article/military-operation-ukraine-geopolitical-analysis