Geopolitics of Europe

Geopolitics provides helpful insights on Europe’s history and its current politics. Topography, climate, and resources all affect relationships among states, and ‘‘doing the map’’ can help clarify the motives of statesmen and governments. In broader terms, geographic factors also shape social and cultural developments, which have political consequences of their own. Geopolitics rightly understood serves as a useful corrective to the view promoted by globalization advocates, who say that technology has surmounted the constraints imposed by geography, whether understood in physical or political terms. The challenge of applying geopolitics, however, lies in finding the correct perspective. Lord Salisbury once attributed his colleagues’ fears of Russian threats to the Turkish straits and their consequences for British control of the Suez Canal to looking at the wrong size maps. His point highlights the way political and technological factors alter geopolitics even where the physical geography itself remains unchanged. The best understanding of geopolitics comes from taking a historical approach, examining developments in the field over time rather than looking at a snapshot that depicts only a single period. Understanding the history of geopolitical conceptions in Europe also helps address the politically contentious question of defining Europe.

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