The worst thing to come out of 2020

If one thing can be said of George Friedman’s book “The Next 100 Years: a forecast for the 21st century”: it is that it’s provocative. It was published in 2009, and summarized the author’s views on what could be expected in the following century. One of the most interesting theses it asserted was the idea that, contrary to some people’s beliefs, the 21st century is to be the American Century, even more so than the 20th. The current big rivals of the US, that is, Russia and China, are expected to crumble in the following decades if Friedman is to be believed, being swiftly devoured by medium powers such as Turkey, Japan, and Poland.

Last July, Andrzej Duda was reelected as President of the Republic of Poland after a close election, “fraught with irregularities” according to scandalized progressives worldwide. Duda belongs to Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość – PiS), the right wing party which has been ruling the country since 2015. They represent the most “deplorable” faction in Polish politics: populist, rural, Catholic, hostile to Russia, and staunchly pro-American. Their bitterest rival is the liberal party Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska – PO), which is more EU-aligned and holds ideas completely in tune with the Current Year™ and Open Society Foundation-like projects.

Duda’s victory, if it is followed by the likely Trump victory in November 2020, will mean that the European country stays firmly on the Americans’ side for another five years. According to Friedman, US interest in the region of Central and Eastern Europe is dependent on the circumstances of Eurasian power politics: if China were to collapse, to avoid an unbalanced Russia the US would have to make their influence felt again in Europe. This assumption so far has not been fulfilled. Even in spite of the pandemic, China is still nowhere near crumbling. The alleged Chinese freedom-loving opposition against Xi Jinping does not seem to be any closer to overthrowing the Capitalist-Communist People’s Republic. And accordingly, Poland’s pushes for more American military presence in its soil have so far been to no avail.

In his book, Friedman asserts that a US-backed Poland is bound to grow stronger, leading a coalition of former Soviet satellites in an Eastward push as Russia loses its grip on Eastern Europe. After all, in the 17th century Poland’s dominions reached as far as the Black Sea, and Polish nationalism has not forgotten this fact. The old idea of an Intermarium, a geopolitical project of building a federation stretching from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. Poland’s relative isolation from naval trade routes makes access to ports outside the Baltic a paramount priority, justifying their reaching out to countries such as Croatia, and clashing with Turkish protagonism in the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Friedman points to this divergence as the origin of the next great European conflict: a US backed Poland confronting an assertive Turkey favored by a declining Germany.

While Friedman’s arguments seemed convincing in 2009, recent developments seem to be pointing towards a different state of affairs. Last June, the Visegrád Group countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) held another of their regular consultations with Turkey, listing energy, infrastructure, transport, and tourism as vital areas of cooperation. The project of Via Carpathia, a transnational highway network linking Lithuanian port of Klaipėda to Thessaloniki in Greece, is an example of this effort to build new geopolitical spaces.

Another topic was also discussed in the meeting: Polish support for Turkey’s European aspirations. The European Parliament (EP) is the EU’s first institution, and assigns the number of seats of member states according to their population. It is currently dominated by Germany and France, the two most populous European countries, with 96 and 79 seats respectively. Turkey has a population of 80 million people, just as Germany; it would have an enormous influence in European politics, even more concentrated after the UK’s exit. It is easy to understand, then, why the EP voted to suspend accession talks with its Muslim neighbor in February 2019.

Concerns for insufficient loyalty to the liberal-democratic religion are cited as one of the reasons Turkey does not belong in the EU. Interestingly, the same arguments are used against Eastern European enfants terribles Poland and Hungary, which are nowadays described as “illiberal democracies” by both American and European globalist progressives. The leaders of all three countries have made strong statements and cracked down on organizations linked to the Open Society Foundation, in actions similar to Russia’s suppression of foreign NGOs operating in its territory. They are not alone in this behavior: public figures from Romania, North Macedonia and even Pakistan have also been espousing anti-globalist talking points since Trump’s election in 2016, mimicking the President’s rhetoric against his domestic adversaries. And again, it’s no secret that Trump’s policy has led to friendlier relations with Putin than the ones expected from a Clinton presidency.

In an unrelated(?) chapter on shady occurrences in Eastern Europe, on July 29 thirty-three mercenaries with ties to Russian security firm Wagner were detained in the Belarusian capital of Minsk, accused of trying to destabilize the country for the elections set for August 9th. Belarus has been ruled by Soviet nostalgic Alexander Lukashenko, a.k.a. “Europe’s Last Dictator”, since 1994; the country’s relations to Russia, however, have been progressively deteriorating due to the latter’s push for deeper integration of Belarus in the Russian Federation. Moscow’s official excuse for the affair is that the detained operators were on their way to Istanbul, bound for deployment in Libya; a plausible explanation, as a replay of the 2014 Crimean crisis is risky and unlikely. Ukraine, who sees the mercenaries as criminals because of their role in Crimea, is demanding their extradition. If the event is portrayed as an attempt of disruption by Russia, the narrative could push Lukashenko towards the West’s arms, in spite of all his authoritarian sins. On the other hand, ethnic Poles are a significant minority in Belarus, and their close ties to Poland have been the cause of uneasy relations between both countries, as Warsaw mostly supports the Belarussian opposition.

If the economic crisis caused by the pandemic proves too much for Russia to handle, and conflict sparks up in Belarus, the situation is bound to become complicated quickly. Lukashenko’s antics could very well provoke a cornered Russia into starting a rushed hybrid campaign, in anticipation of Poland doing the same. Still, while it’s unlikely that Warsaw forgets past grievances from Moscow, shared international enemies and common interests might provide an opportunity for unexpected collaboration. Turkey is now arguably on better terms with Russia than with America, although the Nagorno-Karabakh question remains a sore point.

How will the American Empire handle this fragile situation? China isn’t any closer to collapse and internal chaos than it was in 2009, giving little reason for the US to enter new commitments in Eastern Europe. The Middle East and the South China Sea are more deserving of its interest, as long as Russia and China remain strong. The balance is so delicate, a small gust of wind in Belarus, Armenia or Libya could blow up the whole global system. Coronavirus might not be the worse thing to come out of 2020, after all. It’s going to be a Wild American Century. 

Age of the Corporate Drone

Capitalism is eternal, will never fall, and will not be replaced by any kind of socialism. Such was the accelerationist message encoded in the Communist Manifesto: a message intuited by Veblen and which was not difficult to decipher for Trotskyist James Burnham (1905-1987). At the core of Burnham’s view of communism was one notion: that the progress of capitalism depended not on the owners of Capital, but on those who controlled its flow.

Burnham saw a similarity in the economic fabric of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Roosevelt’s New Deal USA: the dominant role of huge hierarchical, permanent structures operated by credentialed bureaucrats. From this observation, he described the existence of a managerial class: a technocratic elite of administrators at the top of corporate and government organisms, making most decisions regarding politics, economy and culture. This managerial regime differed greatly from classical entrepeneurial capitalism, and was completely alien to democratic liberalism. Its nature was exploitative and totalitarian: a hive-like community of white-collared bugmen. A world lacking a guiding thread, simplified and run by an depersonalized elite expert in handling the chaos of reality. A portrait of this vision can be found in Adam Curtis’ famous documentaryHypernormalisation”.

Born out of capitalism’s universal voracity, the managers guarantee the most efficient satisfaction of capitalist desires. Their superior status is a function of their role; not the cristallization of any individual right, but the product of their corporate position. All the powers and privileges of possession are bestowed upon them, who nonetheless are not owners of the corporation, but owned by it as organs. There is no Protestant ethic of individual self-discipline and entrepeneurship at play here. As a class, the managers’ power increases with the mass and complexity of the system; their ideal habitat is a hyperconnected world of endless appetites, consumerist hedonism and multivariable change. As any MBA student knows, the more volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, the better opportunities for the manager.

Burnham’s book “The Managerial Revolution: What is Happening in the World” was published in 1941, signaling the author’s turning away from Marxism. It was a turbulent year. The Third Reich and the USSR started it as allies by way of the Molotov-Ribbentropp Pact; a collaborative effort which ended abruptly with Operation Barbarossa and the Wehrmacht’s Eastward push in June 22nd. Two months prior, the Soviets had signed a neutrality agreement with Japan, respected by both countries until 1945, when the defeat of the Empire of the Rising Sun was unavoidable. The net result of these actions, in the geopolitical sense, was the firm establishment of the Soviet State as a tool of the predominantly sea-borne Allies. By solely focusing on their Western flank, the Russians became the land power we all know and love, leaving East Asia for the budding American naval Empire: a prize ripe for the taking. These developments were later enforced through the US’s policy of containment, which sought to isolate the Communist block from the rest of the world in application of Nicholas Spykman’s geopolitical theories.

Burnham himself was critical of containment. He supported what in International Relations is known as rollback, the opposite strategy of promoting regime change which failed in Korea (1950) and Cuba (1961). This attitude was not meant to counter socialism with capitalism, as he considered the latter’s demise a fact. Instead, Burnham believed that the product of capitalist critical acceleration was not collapse and socialist reform, but a next step in the capitalist-communist dialectic: managerialism. And in the coming world of managers, he sought to ensure the USA’s leadership by calling for a World Federation against the rival Eastern block, a position which turned him into the first neocon. This idea served as an inspiration for George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, illuminated by the writer’s own experiences of totalitarianism and propaganda during the Spanish Civil War.

Just like Burnham, Francis Fukuyama famously did not buy into the notion that capitalism was dying and was going to be substituted by socialism. Quite the contrary. In his frequently oversimplified article “The End of History?” (1989), Fukuyama announced the triumph of capitalism. What he proclaimed, though, was nothing else that the materialization of the Marxist utopia of 1848. He made no attempt to hide this fact: “The notion of the end of history. It’s not original. The best known propagator was Karl Marx, who believed that the direction of historical development was a purpose determined by the interaction of material forces, and would come to an end only with the achievement of the communist utopia that would finally resolve all previous contradictions.”

It seems his objective was to try and encourage the Soviet leadership to destroy their own real socialist state, in order to facilitate the progress of communism in the world. In this, he wasn’t asking for any betrayal of Marxist principles. The text had been drafted with a specific occasion in mind: the visit of Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to the USA.  The arguments that the young State Department official proposed were aimed at helping Moscow communists understand the Communist Manifesto: that is, to continue to trust the doctrine of Marx and get rid of Socialism once and for all.

Veblen, the leisure class, techno-conspirators and the leftovers

As an interpretation somewhat removed from mainstream Marxism, the natural synergies between Communism and Capitalism are a favorite topic of this blog. This trait was best recognized by no other than an American, organic anti-capitalist Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929). Veblen had been a keen student of Marx’s ideas, and he was not at all convinced. He considered that Marxism, while critical of some tenets of Liberalism, in the end stood firmly within the latter’s premises. This is due to their shared origin in both Hedonism and the doctrine of Natural Rights, the basis of English Liberal thought and the foundation of Marxist ideas of property, economic development and social evolution.

Veblen had his own class theory, which was rooted in neither of these three elements. In his book “Theory of the Leisure Class”, he identified the dominant class in Capitalism as an “idle” sector of society, made up of individuals who held as a common characteristic not being industrialists nor carrying out productive work: the leisure class. This sector of society is derived from the social customs of primitive societies, and can be traced to the origins of the division of labor. Said division was established mainly between productive and non-productive work. The former was characterized by efficiency, industriousness, and a greater capacity to supply the tribe of material goods; the latter was more prestigious, and implied depredation on another living being, animal or human, usually as a display of prowess. Archetypal examples of both activities are agriculture and manufacture, on the one side, and hunting and combat on the other.

Sexual division of labor was embedded within this distinction, males being the dominant, leisurely class; practices such as wife kidnapping and slavery are derived from this culture, and thus were central to social organization. Thus, the leisure class grouped together men who did not engage in any materially productive activity. On the contrary, they dedicated themselves to spending and, especially, superfluous spending, while taking on unproductive tasks related to government, the military, religion, and sports. Their ability to spend was revealed by the accumulation of riches, slaves, servants and wives, all of which had to be mantained.

As shown above, the violent acquisition of goods and their display was a direct indicator of prowess and thus awarded prestige to the owner. As irrational beings, instinctively Humans will look for ways to increase their social status, even to the detriment of their material well-being. The original leisure class demonstrated their superiority not by producing more, but by their increased capacity for wasting resources. Thus, as a demonstration of power and social position, a culture emerged in which conspicuous consumption was a sign of prestige and honorability.  To be able to maintain servants exclusively dedicated to minor, ritualized and/or non-essential tasks (such as music playing, or help in dressing up) represented an enormous pecuniary power, a symbol of prowess. The subsequent refinement in form and manners and progressive stratification of social hierarchies was the prime characteristic of barbaric feudalism, eventually leading to civilized society.

According to Veblen, in the peace awarded by this blossoming civilization, the predatory instincts of the barbarian and feudal eras became more and more absorbed by economic institutions. Archaic practices such as concubinage and the violent capture of slaves were not repressed, but transformed. Bourgeois capitalists, who had earned a measure of respect from the authors of the Communist Manifesto, were in the American economist’s judgment a bunch of greedy simpletons, with the mentality of lower class criminals. Lacking an outlet in tribal warfare, their rapacious instincts had been reconfigured under the guise of corporate fraud. Capitalism isn’t built on owners and proletarians, as Marx thought, but on two types of men: those who create value through industry and those who feed on money itself. Society asks of the former to be diligent, effective, and cooperative; of the latter, to be aggressive, to exert power, and to live off the others.

The exercise of power is not a simple enjoyment for members of the leisure class: it represents their only means of life, and it depends completely on social status and credibility. Enjoying a luxurious lifestyle is a serious matter, requiring considerable effort and dedication. Social obligations are called obligations for a reason. Hierarchies are upheld by displays of pecuniary strength through a form of specialized spending: acquisition of luxury items for oneself and one’s dependants. Veblen explicitly cites women’s clothing as an industry capitalizing on this impulse, this being the quintessential example of conspicuous consumption of women and, especially, their men. Yachts are another example of this, their upkeep being enormous and their use being almost purely social.

Economic life is just an arena where individuals fight for power. There are is no social classes, no nations and no states in Veblen’s theory. In the same way, neither do politics have the function of managing the economy and responding to social demands. On the contrary: politics is just a vehicle of Man’s desire for power. Statesmen are not there to monitor compliance with supposed laws of balance and justice, nor to protect the ideal of the common good. Politics is a business. And as in any business, the goal is to make the most profit possible, with the least expenses (or, even better, with others paying the price). Politics is the fight in which, in order for one to win, the other has to lose: the ultimate social zero-sum game.

This system, of course, is not designed to select the cream of the crop. Its effect is as simple as can be: to eliminate those individuals who cannot keep up. Veblen speaks without reservation in this context of the physical elimination of human material. This is the real mechanism of Darwinian Capitalism, and the real reason why crafty commerce and unscrupulous state administration perpetuate themselves, only serving the purposes of their masters. In direct opposition to Marx, Veblen knows that Capitalism is not there to produce better, but to discard human material; this is the root of its accelerationist effect. It has to be noted that in Veblen’s time, these statements about human selection were not controversial in the slightest. They were seen as a feature and not a bug of the system, and were fully in consonance with the expectations of the American Capitalist elite. The capitalist “shock therapy” introduced in Eastern Europe and Russia after the fall of real socialism is a magnificent example of this mechanism.

The leisure class is made up of the men of the upper classes, although what is decisive about them is not their economic situation but their disposition to adapt to continuous change. If individuals from the lower classes are eliminated, says Veblen, it is not because of their material hardship, but because they do not have the capacity to evolve at the rate of change promoted by the leisure class. Furthermore, they are more easily purged when they commit the recklessness of emulating the conduct of the upper classes without belonging to them.

Like individuals, institutions are also subject to the selection process. Only the best can survive, the working definition of “best” being those which themselves contribute to further selection of the most convenient mental habits. Veblen sees in Capitalism an unproductive organism in service of financial power: a tool against the productive class. Unlike Marx, Veblen thought that the pure monetary, “unearned” profit obtained by financial capitalists was not the surplus value created by the workers’ exploitation. It was the result of a network of three institutions: price, property and contract; magic formulas of power and engines of spending to which everyone submits, some with pleasure, and others despite themselves.

The role of these institutions is to stimulate and ensure continuous spending, especially of the conspicuous variety. A required rate of consumption unattainable for those in the bottom is essential for the leisure class to maintain power. This is especially true in industrial societies with traumatic erasures of the past, like America or some East Asian countries. The ante-bellum South had a traditional, martial leisure class similar to those found in European or Japanese barbarian culture. Those elites who could afford slaves, the ultimate status sign, were a small minority and enjoyed an idle way of life rich in ritual and social etiquette; their conflict with the industrial, productive North was thus unavoidable. The former could not keep up with the weapons of the latter: the price system, artificial scarcity and planned obsolescence.

The Civil War, however, did not eliminate the leisure class, but only its most traditional and outdated exponent. The death warrant of Southern slave-owning gentry wasn’t signed due to its low productiveness, but of its lagging capacity to compete in spending with the emerging northern capitalists, the America of holds and robber barons. The trend of traditional, “barbarian” leisure classes being substituted by a capitalist and globalist working class accelerated throughout the end of the 19th century, as pecuniary power became progressively disengaged from war spoils and every day more connected to predatory capitalism. Conflicts with a similar root followed the American Civil War all around the world, such as the Meiji Restoration in Japan and to some extent the First World War, which ended most European monarchies and empires in one sweep (with President Woodrow Wilson’s explicit intent to do so). The new elites would take on occupations according to their rank: politics, the military, religion and sports.

Veblen can be described as an anti-Marxist militant throughout his life. This anti-Marxism is what made him an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian Revolution. A few months prior to his death, he said that he had set great hopes on Communism. The revolutionaries he had in mind, though, were not the same communists the authorities were thinking of when they opened an investigation against Veblen in response to the complaint of a Russian-born emigrant, who accused him of being “a traitor for hire who wishes for America what Lenin and Trotsky have done in Russia”. However, Veblen was no Trotskyist, but a Stalin devotee, in the sense he favored Stalinist emphasis on the material development of the USSR and not Trotsky’s theory of worldwide revolution.

In an essay with the title “Bolshevism is a threat – to whom?” he wrote that the Bolsheviks posed a threat to the establishment, but not because they could take over the United States. As happens with all revolutions, the threat was memetic in nature. Veblen explained it in a series of papers published together in 1921 under the title “The Engineers and the Price System”. It was his most subversive book; in it he encouraged engineers to create a “Soviet of Technicians” to attack the bankers, who were simply saboteurs unscrupulously hindering production to obtain better prices. The American leisure class was not endangered by the diverse soviets of workers, soldiers and peasants that Lenin had designed. The enemy it feared was a conspiracy of engineers and scientists revolting against their rule and way of life. Thus, any hint of utopian technocracy is to be coopted or destroyed.

The current crisis of Capitalism is both the manifestation of individualistic, internal competition within the leisure class, and the unavoidable result of its accelerationist, meat grinder-like nature. European Union mandarins, Blackrock finance druids, Silicon Valley technolords and Open Society spooks are all representative types of the contemporary leisure class; the same can be said of Joe Biden, Donald Trump and Kanye West. Their common enemy has not changed either: it is the productive class, now incarnated in the Chinese industrial juggernaut, itself a body infested by voracious and parasytical financiers and CCP bureaucrats. Meanwhile, ghetto thugs, BLM activists, lone-wolf jihadis, resentful incels and impoverished woke millenials go down the drain, leftover from pecuniary emulation of the leisure class and marked for physical elimination by way of death, prison or childlessness. The Dramatis personae for 21st century drama grows everyday more extensive.

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At the edge of the abyss: looking for a katechon in 2020

I recently wrote a guest post for possibilities broker Sonya Mann, whose blog boasts the coveted Seal of Approval of The Outpost. You can find it here.

Liquefying the Heartland: an experiment in wild geopolitical speculation

The Great Game, an expression popularized by Rudyard Kipling, was the geopolitical competition which existed between the British and Russian Empires over Central Asia during much of the 19th century. Russia was in the middle of its southward and eastward continental expansion. Britain, on the other hand, was making important advances from India. The two powers had clashed elsewhere, in the Crimean War (1853-1856), and an atmosphere of mutual distrust was prevalent. Britain intended to turn Afghanistan into a protectorate and set the Khiva Khanate, the Emirate of Bukhara, and the Ottoman and Persian Empires as buffer states between its Asian possessions and Russia’s. At the same time, and just as today, Russia was looking to get access to a warm water seaport in the Persian Gulf. The various Anglo-Sikh and Anglo-Afghan Wars of the 1800s were a direct result of these tensions.

Halford Mackinder’s life was spent during the Great Game and its aftermath. He is considered to be the father of geography, and specifically geopolitics. According to his theories, there were three concentric regions in the world (here’s a map). The combined landmass of Asia, Europe and Africa, he called the World Island. At its center there was a “pivot area” or Heartland. Encircling the Heartland was the Rimland, or Inner Island Crescent. It comprised peninsular Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Out of this area, an Outer Island Crescent could be found, encompassing the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania. The Heartland concentrated most of the world’s population and resources. It was its natural power center, especially with the advent of a new technological marvel: the railroad. Mackinder thought the British Empire, as a naval power, had to avoid at all costs the consolidation of a continental power block within it. His most famous quote is: Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World“. In practice, this meant antagonizing any effort made by the Russian Empire to establish itself as the main power in the Heartland.

Mackinder’s ideas were further developed, and sometimes contested, by American strategists such as Alfred Mahan and Nicholas Spykman. Spykman especially contradicted the notion of continental vs. naval power dynamics being the main factor shaping the World’s conflicts; a notion Carl Schmitt also reflected on in The Nomos of the Earth. According to Spykman, History’s greatest battles had instead been fought to prevent any single power from controlling the Rimland. Heartland and Outer Crescent powers always tried to avoid the Rimland falling into the other’s hands; they also readily joined forces when the Rimland became too powerful itself. Spykman’s adaptation of Mackinder’s aphorism was:Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia; Who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world”. This view was itself heavily influenced by the 20th century experience of Germany and Japan (both Rimland countries) becoming too strong to control. As such, it shaped the US Cold War strategy and influenced other thinkers like George Kennan, John Foster Dulles, Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski. NATO is a typical, now deteriorating, product of such thinking.

A more nuanced version of this geographical determinism still runs strong in International Relations. Perhaps one of the most influential modern writers on this topic is Robert D. Kaplan (b. 1952), an American reporter (and IDF veteran) who has written extensively on the American Empire and its vicissitudes. His 2012 book, The Revenge of Geography, is a great example of contemporary geopolitical theory. As happens with the authors referenced above, Kaplan’s portrayal of conflict is a product of his time; thus, he sees it as primarily involving civilization against primitive societes. Having come of age in an era of American quasi-hegemony and overseas interventionism, an added element of cultural confrontation to his thinking was almost impossible to avert. Samuel Huntington’s concept of the Clash of Civilizations is another good example of this line of thinking.

So what has the spirit of The Current Year™ contributed to geopolitical perspectives? The first generations of geostrategists lacked a dynamic conception of geographical characteristics. Theirs was a static, stable world: plate-tectonic theory was only accepted in the early 1960s; climate change is still debated nowadays. The impact of revolutionary technologies in the way Humanity navigates its physical environment was unforeseeable aswell. If you have checked the About page, you will already know that here at The Outpost we’re all about wild speculation. Let us take, then, some modern projections of what Earth might look like in the future, and apply to them the logic of Mackinder & Co. The North Pole seems a good place to start as any.

Arctic is derived from the Greek word ἄρκτος, “bear”, a reference to the Ursa major constellation. Whatever be the cause, it seems to be melting. Even if it doesn’t melt completely, an ice-free Arctic Summer in the 21st century is possible and likely. Nowadays, it takes a ship 15 days to reach China from Yamal (Russia), by crossing the Northern Sea Route (NSR) through the Bering Strait. The traditional route, bordering Europe and crossing the Suez Canal, is twice as long. It is also more vulnerable to security concerns and consequently rising costs, be it due to tension in the Middle East, Somali pirates or Indian Ocean cyclons. At the same time, the Transpolar Sea Route  is everyday closer to becoming a thing. It links the Pacific to the Atlantic, directly crossing the North Pole instead of following the coastline like the NSR, and it is the shortest possible route between both bodies of water. The whole area is full of mostly unexploited natural resources and possibilities.

The Russian Federation boasts the world’s longest Arctic coastline. It’s also a traditional settler there: its medieval predecessor, the Republic of Novgorod, was already collecting taxes from the natives at Kola Peninsula (now Murmansk oblast) as early as the 13th century. In Western eyes, Russia’s Arctic policy is mostly seen as an intent to expand and secure its continental shelf; this concept speaks volumes to the country being perceived as a typical land power, even in spite of its powerful navy. To use Alexandr Dugin’s expression, Russia is a tellurocracy, with all of the spiritual connotations Eurasianism assigns to it: a traditionalist, sedentary culture; a tendency to build centralist, authoritarian bureacuracies; and an appreciation for hierarchy and military values.

But perhaps Russia is not trying to solidify its control of the Arctic continental shelf; Russian activity in the Arctic is about advancing the ground as much as it is about engaging with its dark waters. If geography dictates the character of a people, the liquefaction of the Arctic can bring about the liquefaction of Northern Russia. Could the melting process turn Russia into a trading thalassocracy, a culture of merchants? A warmer Russian North Coast and an increased commercial activity there could promote the development of a new, amphibious geopolitical character. The ice now blocking the North of Russia is a strain, a corset which has forced the region to always gravitate towards Europe or the Far Eastern wilderness. Historically, Eastern Europe has always been the focus of Russia’s energies, be it in the form of armored divisions or gas ducts. A more open and liquid Northern horizon would dissipate this fixation. Around the 1860s, America was an isolationist nation of farmers and homesteaders, with the railroad as its lifeblood. In the 1940s, now a bicoastal country, it had taken the crown as Ruler of the Waves. A century from now, will the barren Arctic litoral host a new generation of Sea Peoples, from Murmansk to the Hudson Bay?

Were this to happen, another corollary of classical geopolitics becomes apparent: the displacement of the pivot area of the World Island. If the Rimland starts including the Arctic coasts, then the pivot area shifts. A new balance would have to be established, and other powers would have to strive for the role of land hegemon. Both China and Turkey seem particularly well positioned for this role in terms of their geography. China has bought 5% of Ukraine. The New Silk Road, the largest infrastructure project in History, pierces the deserts of the Middle East, still burning from the West’s “Forever Wars”. The tracks are bound towards a fracturing Europe. Meanwhile, Russian gas giant Novatek, perfects its new natural liquefying technology: it’s called “Arctic Cascade” It’s no wonder some people care less about Global Warming than others. A New Great Game is underway.

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