Towards a Multipolar Geopolitics (more on Distributed Heartland concept)


Today we must begin discussing a geopolitical problem which, in my view, is central to the construction of a multipolar world. Those who know geopolitics, know that one of the main laws or concepts of geopolitics is the notion of Heartland. All the classical schools of geopolitics – including the models of Mackinder, Spykman, Haushofer, Brzezinski, etc. – recognize a deep dualism between Heartland – the Continent, the Civilization of Land – and the Civilization of Sea, embodied today in the Anglo-Saxon world, first and foremost the US and its maritime policy. The Civilization of Sea, or Sea Power, attempts to surround Heartland – the Continent, Eurasia – from the sea and control its coastal territories. Sea Power strives to deter the development of Heartland, and thereby realize its domination on a global scale. As Mackinder said, “he who controls Eastern Europe, controls Heartland, and he who controls Heartland, controls the world.” This idea was subsequently developed by Spykman into: “He who controls Rimland (the coastal zone from Europe to China and South-East Asia), controls Heartland, and he who controls Heartland, controls the world.”

The fight to rule Heartland – by Sea Power from without, or in Heartland itself from within – is the main formula of geopolitical history, the very essence of geopolitics. Geopolitics is the battle for Heartland. All schools of geopolitics are founded upon and proceed from this model.

In the bipolar world of the Cold War, Heartland was represented by the Eastern camp, first and foremost the USSR, while Sea Power was the Western camp (Western Europe, the countries loyal to the West in the Middle East, etc.). Heartland, in the face of the USSR, lost this war in the early 1990’s, which marked the beginning of the unipolar moment. The defeat of Heartland in the Great War of Continents initiated the unipolar moment, a unipolar architecture in which the civilization of Sea and Sea Power achieved total domination. Fukuyama thus proclaimed the End of History. Sea Power ruled Heartland externally, such as by means of the Fifth Column at the head of Russian state, as was the case in the 1990’s. Heartland was blocked. Since Putin came to power, Russia has once again begun to step onto the path of sovereignty, and NATO has continued to blockade Russia. In the 1990’s, the battle against Heartland was won by Sea Power, and Heartland was “withdrawn from the system.” Thus began the unipolar moment: the global victory of Sea Power.

Today we often speak about a multipolar world and how Russia, despite its terrible losses, has preserved its identity, come to its senses, returned to itself, returned in history, and has ever so slightly squeezed itself out from under the total domination of the Fifth Column within Russia itself. At the same time, the unipolar domination of Sea Power has somewhat retreated, as Russia has won certain gains. It is obvious that Fukuyama declared the End of History and the global victory of liberalism prematurely. We were indeed close to this being the case, and we can say that we have lived in the unipolar world, but this unipolar world could not be made eternal, could not affirm itself, and thus became but a moment, an episode.

Just as the multipolar world arises, so does a contradiction. If we take into consideration only one Sea Power and one Heartland, then when it comes to speaking of a multipolar world, Russia cannot possibly be the only Heartland. Russia cannot achieve a multipolar world on its own. In the very least, multipolarity entails four or five of the most important poles in the world. Russia could be the center of this multipolar world or only one of its poles. But Russia cannot be the only Heartland.

Over the course of numerous discussions, conferences, speeches, lectures, and articles, I have come to the conclusion that it is high time to introduce the notion of an apportioned, or “distributed Heartland.” To this end, I think it is important to attentively examine the German geopolitics of the 1920-’30’s, which proclaimed Germany to be the European Heartland. Of interest to us is not so much Germany itself as the very possibility of considering an additional Heartland.

Naturally, there is the Russian, Eurasian Heartland, but it cannot assert itself as Land Power alone. As follows, it is necessary to look attentively into a European Heartland, a European pole: for example, a Franco-Germanic alliance, or the Paris-Berlin-Moscow axis. Continental Europe can be seen as one Heartland which could and should be friendly towards the Russian Heartland, while being an independent phenomenon.

A Chinese Heartland is an altogether different question. China, after all, is Rimland, a coastal zone. If we recognize China as bearing the status of a Heartland, then we are recognizing China as an independent strategic space. If we qualify China as Heartland, then we are emphasizing the conservative aspect of China – China as Land Power. But if China declares itself to be a Heartland against Russia, just as Hitler’s Germany declared itself to be the heart of Eurasia against Soviet Russia, then conflict will immediately arise.

If Russia retains the status of an independent pole, then this “distributed Heartland” acquires a completely different meaning. Then it is possible to consider such Heartlands as a Russian Heartland, as in all traditional geopolitical maps as the “geographical pivot of history”, and a European Heartland. We also arrive at considering a Chinese Heartland, and this means that we consider China as a traditional, conservative, independent, and sovereign state as it is today – and it will only become more so in the future. In the very least, it is important to reconcile the Chinese Heartland with the Russian Heartland, and partially even the European Heartland. But even this is insufficient to constructing a multipolar world. We necessarily have to consider an Islamic Heartland (covering the historical spaces of at least 3-4 empires, stretching from Turkey to Pakistan). The concept of a distributed Heartland can further be expanded to India, and projected onto Latin America and Africa as well.

As follows, there should be an American Heartland in the multipolar system. We have become too accustomed to thinking in the terms of classical geopolitics that the US and Anglo-Saxon world can only be Sea Power. In a multipolar world, America will not be able to play this role, its global maritime range will naturally be reduced, thereby changing the very nature of America. As follows, an American Heartland should arise which, in a multipolar system, should not be seen exclusively as in opposition to other Heartlands. The vote for Trump represented the contours of this American Heartland.

If we begin to conceive of Heartland as a distributed type of culture associated with the reinforcement of conservative identity, then “Make America Great Again” is the thesis of an American Heartland. Stop being a Sea Power, and you will be Great Again. As a Sea Power, you will be miserable, the Deplorables, but you will be Great Again when you become an American Heartland.

Distributed Heartland is the imperative of the new geopolitical model, of multipolar geopolitics. I think that this concept deserves very serious cogitation, pondering, and description. There should be a number of conferences, or an even entire volume devoted to this inevitable question. The efficacy of this concept of distributed Heartland is, in my opinion, extremely important, insofar as the construction of a multipolar world now demands clearer and more precise roadmaps.

In my opinion, the notion of a distributed Heartland is the main, most key moment in the development and materialization of the Theory of the Multipolar World.

Transcript prepared/edited by Jafe Arnold