Geostrategic Dialect: A Case Study of Russian Geostrategy in 21st Century


The role that geography play in the strategies of states falls under the domain of geostrategy. The pragmatic, meticulous, and rigorous strategic ambitions of Russia in the contemporary multi-polar world are based on the geographical significance of regions like the Mediterranean. The first half of this article deals with assumptions, pillars, models, and geo-strategic scholarship. Followed by the identification of Russian geo-strategic traits and in the end a correlation between geo-static thought and Russian geostrategy.



The conceptual tie-up between the geographical placement of a state and the strategies of warfare falls under the theoretical scope of geostrategy. The words of Nicholas Spykman echo in the strategic domain where he once remarked that

“ ministers and political leaders die and come or go but what remain constant and unflustered are the mountains and geography”

The mutual link between national systems and geography is upheld by geostrategy. Geographical factors have long played a vital part in deciding the fate of military operations. The geographical constraints shape the foreign policy of the states. The collocation and juxtaposition of the strategic thought with that of the rival’s strategic maneuvers is what broadly encompassed the geo-strategic thought.  Taking geo strategy from a military standpoint in the words of L.C. Peltier is “ the sequel of geographical traits of a particular area on military strategies and prediction of the consequences that military operations could bear depending on the specific geographical locations is what that we term as geostrategy”. The task of the geo strategists is to determine how exactly the geographical chessboard affects the interests of the states involved. The geographical patterns and processes in the words Fettweis are irremediable and irrevocable fate. Strategic assessment which plays a vital part in encasing strategies is determined by the geographical setup. The complexity of framing geostrategy is destined by the strategic intellect of the strategist to tackle the errors of strategies. The importance of geostrategy is enclosed in the fact that in order to safeguard a state’s interests from getting outflanked and maneuvering demands strategic thinking to be fused between warfare’s three-dimensional nature and traits of the round earth. States like Russia significantly utilize their geographical placement for framing their strategies.




In the words of Sun Tzu “ know the enemy know yourself: your victory will never vs endangered: know the weather your victory will then be total”. Geostrategy has been defined by Aristotle and Machiavelli along with modern-day geo strategists mainly Aron, Gray, Solan, and Grygiel in these words. Where at one point Machiavelli considered geostrategy as vital for a state’s political survival or Aron as the prism used for the analysis of diplomatic attitudes along geographical lines. Gray gave treated the geo-strategic thought as a house with five rooms of location, resources skills, and historical experiences which in turn shape geographical significance ( Sloan, G. 2017). The key assumptions of the geo-strategic theory include the following premises

  • Geostrategy a normative strand: Geostrategy in the words of Grygiel is a descriptive or normative strand that provides a holistic approach to provide directions to the state power projection to achieve certain political aims. An indication of this is found in Sun Tzu that getting benefits from terrain depends on an understanding of one’s topography ( Sloan,G. 2017).
  • Geostrategy at operative lines: Geo strategy operates at operational or operative lines with the framing of military strategy based on the constraints imposed by nature. Where geo strategists have contented that the criteria for a successful military geostrategic construction lie in evaluating geographical traits on cost-benefit and competitive advantage lines ( Sloan, G. 2017).
  • Geostrategy a movement: Some of the geo strategists like Owen’shave framed their narrative that geostrategy is all about looking for proximate locations which could lead to local rivalries.
  • Geostrategy on military lines: Geo strategy is primarily manifested on geographical lines where military strategists divide geography on “ Nine Varieties of ground” including frontier, communicative, key areas, focal, serious, and difficult areas in the words of SunTzu which falls under the category of combat intelligence. It is all about the intelligent selection of locations for the transportation of forces ( Sloan, G. 2017).
  • Geostrategy is framed at a dual level: The policymakers in order to Political policies strategies on key political areas where individualistic assessment along with the international threat perceptions also shape the policies.
  • Geostrategy poses a security dilemma: being an inherently human venture, geostrategy poses a security dilemma with the risk of being contingent on the strategic environment and it also threatens the geographical status quo.
  • Characteristics Of Geo strategy: geostrategy is inherently hierarchical or cumulative in nature primarily focused on the utilization of geographical means to achieve geographical benefits and outcomes. Geo strategy is considered to be proactive of subordinate to policy in nature ( Sloan, G. 2017).
  • Geostrategy a Trinitarian perspective: There exists a fundamental link between geography, history, and strategy which is considered a Trinitarian perspective. With at its core lies the geographical factors. The geographical factors play a prime role in the formation of nation-states according to this perspective by influencing the strategies of a state. The dimensions are five-dimensional in nature comprising Seaward Peripheries, Seaward empire nation-states, and landward empire nations



Geo strategy is about framing state policies based on state physical characteristics. Geographical demarcation of states shouldn’t be considered the geography an irreversible fate. Geographical dynamics are changing with the introduction of technology because where at one time the seas and rivers which were considered barriers are replaced by the chains of navigation. The geopolitical dimensions are also shaped by the political narratives ( Scholvin,S. 2016). According to Waltz, there are three levels of geostrategic thinking with the strategic interpretation that comes at the individual level based on spatial cognition based on the techniques of cartography. The world view of the strategists at the individual level helps in shaping the strategies at the national level based on identity and cultural factors (Rhodes, A. 2019).



Classical geo-strategic thought is comprised of these thinkers and scholars who have contributed in the development of geo-strategic thought. These scholars have aligned their theories based on the geographical traits of particular regions and proposed their strategic perspectives based on geographical traits.

  • FREIDRICH RATZEL: He believed in the organic nature of the nation-state where he combines, and gave the idea of geographical space in which states could geographical grow and extend their influence. He introduced the concept of Darwinism in which only that state could survive which accomplish the goal of geographical aggrandizement. A state should expand from both land and sea side ultimately achieving geographical aggrandizement  ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • COLIN GRAY: He rightfully argued that the strategic culture which helps in shaping foreign policy is shaped by the geographical traits and the strategies of a country are the product of geographical conditions where the natural constraints provide a script mot stage to frame states interest.
  • JAKUB GRYGEIL: Geography provides objective strategic realities to states which according to him are rational in nature for example the intermediary position of Italian city-states is in between Middle and Far eastern spices supplies.
  • FREIDRICK JACKSON TURNER: In order to foster self-reliance its important for the American states to create strong frontiers. His significant contribution is the propagation of sectional idea.
  • FREIDRICK NAUMANN: His theory rest on the Central European regions where he contented that its alliance of Germanic states could pose a strong central military frontier to other European parts in order to protect the Muittel – Europa.
  • RUDOLF KJELLEN: His strategic thought rests on the Aryan methodology of gaining geographical expansion along with the German realpolitik perceptive. He predicted the creation of blocs which were realized amid the world wars. He contented that a string governmental authority aligned with vigorous military posture under the idea of Reich is vital for framing a good strategy. He considerably play an emphasis on the cultural and racial grounds making the state favorable for some ethnic groups. He focused considerably on the internal stability of a state based on the concept of Regierung which means that only an orthodox and authoritarian state could be stable   ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • HALFORD MACKINDER: Considering the fluctuating nature of geographical boundaries Mackinder advocated imperialistic policies. The statecraft in the eyes of Mackinder rests on geographical factors. He proved to be a Godfather of the geostrategic field. Mackinder has also given a historiographical account of geo-strategic development where at first was the age of exploration in which closed Eurasian heartland was of prime importance then followed by land transportation technological age and then at the end dominated by gaining the sea influence where the Eurasian continent played its part. ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • NICHOLAS SPYKMAN: Hegivesmulti regional or dimensional perspectives in elaborating the role of geographical traits playing their part in framing the strategies by the states. He conceived the control over the heartland as vital only for acquiring a considerable defensive posture. It’s the wider geographical outlook of Rim land states that bestow them with considerable potential to emerge in power. All of his predictions about the Chinese rise and defeat of Germany in the world war proved to be realistic in nature. ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • ALFRED THAYER MAHAN: The criteria according to Mahan for achieving hegemonic status rests on underpropping of sea power both commercially and militarily not only in times of war but also in peace times. The struggle or tussle between powers to get access to sea markets is primarily economic in nature. Constructing a strong maritime apparatus for states by taking hold of key economic choke points was the basic contention of Mahan ( ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • COHEN: His geostrategic thought was primarily focused geographical importance of regions that have raised into prominence after the demise of the bipolar world. The significance of regions like East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, maritime, Heartlandic Russia, and South American regions rests in the role of their geographical placement in the economic routes. His assumption that in the post cold war era, globalization and technological advancement will lead to the cooperative patterns of relation in between Shatter belts was somewhat similar to the Clash of Civilizations contention ( ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • KARL HAUSHOFER: He was heavily inspired by his travels in Asian region and his thought was centered around the concepts of geographical frontiers, autarky, lebensraum ( an idea that broadly encompasses the political ambitions of expansionary states where they intend to expand into pan regions which are key strategic areas all across the world that result in first regional dominance and then transformation into a global power. Then he enclosed this couplet of lebensraum with that of autarky a form of economic protectionism vital for the security and stability of that world power by asking for geopolitik.  ( Yadav, S. 2005).




  1. STRATEGIC IMPERATIVES OF RUSSIA:The motivations For the Russian grand strategy includes the inclination of Russian elites in achieving preponderance. Secondly make Russia a great power, curbing US global influence around the world(Czerewko, J.2019). The Russian grand strategists intend to limit not weaken the western influence by primarily orienting its foreign policy towards regional contingencies. Another strategic imperative of Russian foreign policy is to focus on achieving the role of benign leader in its immediate region. Russians are ambitious about putting new centres of world powers in its limelight that including the Asia Pacific region, Gulf states, China and India. Russia wants to extend its strategic roots in post-soviet Russia not only militarily but also culturally, economically, and politically.
  • RUSSIAN STRATEGIC SCHOOL OF THOUGHTS: There exist three schools of thought in Russian strategic thinking Russian conservationism revived in sovereign democratic doctrine, secondly neo Eurasianism, and Liberal trend.Conservationist strategic thought provoked the start of third alternative thought (neither western nor eastern) and deemed as return of the Leviathan in 2000 marked by the return of leviathan where call for string central authority amid the presence of hostile neighbor. Three strands of this doctrine were patriotism, Anti Westernism, and imperialism (Perrier, E. 2014). The second school of thought in Russian strategic thought is Eurasian or neo Eurasianism that propagate pan-continental/ orthodox ideas laid by Prince Nikolai, Nikolaevich Gumilyov and Aleksandr Dugin centred around Russian cultural distinction from European and Asians, anti-globalisation, contention between thalassocracy led by US and telurocracy led By Russia. This school of thought encourages a three-tier axis approach comprising on Moscow with Berlin or Paris, with Tehran, with Tokyo. The intentions behind these aims include constructing a bipolar world order by strengthening Arab world, Africa, Central Asia and Central Asian empire. This school of thought posed a cultural hegemonic and racist narrative where Russians are considered as true bastions of western civilization. The tactics involved spreading conspiracy theories. The liberal strategic school of thought was turned into relevance with the report of Attaining the future: Strategy 2012 or rise of Dimitry Medvedev or the legacy of the Yeltsinian millennium legacy. But this holds little relevance than other school of thought (Perrier, E. 2014).
  • DIMENSIONS OR ELEMENTS OF RUSSIAN GEOSTRATEGY: The Prime factor for Russian engagement is to establish its benign leadership role in the geographical backyard. The Basic tenant for Russian geostrategic involved ensuring a compliance in between military and internal security forces to ensure their coordination amid a crisis. Moscow tries. Considerably engaging with the new centers of power. The prime reason for this approach is to advance global domination. The Military poster of Russian expeditionary forces is centred around regional contingencies rather than global dimension. Russia have considerably shifted its geostrategic tactics from that of noncontact warfare primarily focused on propaganda and cyber-attacks towards full-scale invasions are incursions. Russia has considerably armored its maritime fleets ( Stock, A. 2021). The paradigm of building a greater framework of Euro Atlantic common security space is replaced by Russia focusing on Eurasian continent amid China extending its muscles in central Asian region under the umbrella of BRI. Russia have notably recognized the fatality of noncontact warfare means used by adversaries as the major security risk for Russian strategy as stated 2014 Military doctrine and the of 2016 foreign policy concept. The focus is now shifted towards capacitating Russian military in the aerospace domain and advanced command or control systems with exceptional surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. Primarily four kinds of warfare are identified in Russian strategy which involved limited, regional, armed conflict or large-scale warfare (Charap, 2021).
  • INSTRUMENTS FOR IMPLEMENTATION: The tactics and instruments implemented by the Russians in pursuit of their policies are as follows. The tactics of military warfare used by Russians involve both the regular or irregular form of military strikes like that happen in Georgia and Ukraine and Russia always disrupt the information chains by cyber attacks. The Russian tactics for the ethnic tensions that exist in the Eurasian continent by the manipulation and propagation of the inter-ethnic tensions through divide and rule policy. The international scholarship has focused that the Russians strategy being confined along economic lines/ energy warfare where it cut the supplies of states and imposes restrictions by opting for debt for assets swap A Swedish Defense Research institute report has gathered 50 instances of Russian sophisticated economic attacks. Across the former Soviet spaces under the idea of gaining global dominance the Russians involved in sabotage, terrorism etc. In Ukraine and Ryazan where through explosions have cut power supplies. The creation of frozen conflicts along with the high profile level of business diplomacy provides Russian with opportunities to hold relations with that the former Soviet states. Cutting of information supplies by the Russian is considered as sine qua non for the Russians where they conceive propaganda warfare as an essential step to controlling North Caucasus(Perrier, E. 2014).



  • CHALLENGES: There exist a list of abstract conceptual or procedural challenges to the policymakers to enhance their cognitive intelligence. Technology which has replaced the maps by cartograms and changed the navigation dichotomy. Where the spatial tool are reaching efficiency meanwhile they are prone to manipulation. The non compliance of decision makers with technological advancements have impaired geographical environmental assessment techniques leading to dangers of dependence. Geo strategists also face some technical and issues of practically(Rhodes, A. 2019).
  • OVERARCHING IMPLICATIONS OF RUSSIAN GEO STRATEGY: The exogenous response of Russia to the Maiden Ukrainian revolution have led to its divergence from the strategic goals where shift towards contact warfare have drained its economy provoking Russia to lofty ambitions. Sometimes the tactical moves of Russia fails to comply with the strategic rhetoric. Achieving direct control over the region is not the ultimate aim of Russia but to confront its rivals that place to direct confrontation with the US. The Russian military doctrines don’t comply with its strategic rhetoric.
  • CORRELATION BETWEEN STRATEGIC THOUGHT AND RUSSIAN GEOSTRATEGY: The Russian geostrategy is primarily complied with the Mackinder heartland and Nickolas strategic approach where they have laid prime contentions on the spheres under Russian influence. The characteristics of shatter belts and compressive zones are the traits visible in the Russian backyard.



Zunaira Malik is an international relations 6th-semester student at Kinnaird college for women university Lahore. She is an avid reader and have published multiple articles on topics related to foreign policy or strategic and defense studies domain.




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