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