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


The role that geography plays in states’ strategies falls under the geostrategy domain. Russia’s pragmatic, meticulous, and rigorous strategic ambitions 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 geostrategic scholarship. This was followed by identifying Russian geostrategic traits and a correlation between geo-static thought and Russian geostrategy.



The conceptual tie-up between a state’s geographical placement and warfare strategies 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 remains constant and unflustered are the mountains and geography.”

The reciprocal 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 the rival’s strategic maneuvers broadly encompassed the geostrategic thought. In the words of L.C. Peltier, taking geo strategy from a military standpoint 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 the geographical chessboard affects the interests of the states involved. The geographical patterns and processes, in the words of Fettweis, are irreparable and irrevocable fate. Strategic assessment, which plays a vital part in encasing strategies, is determined by the geographical setup. The strategic intellect of the strategist destines the complexity of framing geostrategy to tackle the errors of strategies. The importance of geostrategy is enclosed in the fact that is safeguarding 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 be never vs. endangered: know the weather your victory will then be total.”¬†Aristotle and Machiavelli have defined geostrategy along with modern-day geo strategists, mainly Aron, Gray, Solan, and Grygiel in these words. At one point, Machiavelli considered geostrategy vital for a state’s political survival or Aron as the prism for analyzing diplomatic attitudes along geographical lines.¬†Gray¬†treated the geostrategic thought as a house with five rooms of location, resources, skills, and historical experiences, shaping geographical significance ( Sloan, G. 2017). The critical assumptions of the geostrategic 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 specific 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. 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 geo strategists like¬†Owen’shave¬†framed their narrative that geostrategy is all about looking for proximate locations that could lead to local rivalries.
  • Geostrategy on military lines:¬†Geo strategy is primarily manifested on geographical lines where military strategists divide geography into “Nine Varieties of the ground,”¬†including frontier, communicative, critical areas, focal, serious, and challenging 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 to Political policies strategies on key political areas where individualistic assessment and international threat perceptions also shape the policies.
  • Geostrategy poses a security dilemma:¬†being an inherently human venture, it poses a security dilemma with the risk of being contingent on the strategic environment and threatening the geographical status quo.
  • Characteristics Of Geo strategy:¬†geostrategy is inherently hierarchical or cumulative, primarily focused on utilizing geographical means to achieve geographical benefits and outcomes. Geo strategy is considered proactive and subordinate to policy ( Sloan, G. 2017).
  • Geostrategy a Trinitarian perspective:¬†There exists a fundamental link between geography, history, and strategy, which is considered a Trinitarian perspective. At its core lies geographical factors. Geographical factors play a prime role in forming nation-states, according to this perspective, by influencing the strategies of a state. The dimensions are five-dimensional, comprising Seaward Peripheries, Seaward empire nation-states, and landward empire nations.



Geo strategy is about framing state policies based on state physical characteristics. The geographical boundary of states should be considered something other than 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, were replaced by the chains of navigation. The political narratives also shape the geopolitical dimensions ( 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 cartography techniques. The worldview of the strategists at the individual level helps shape the national strategies based on identity and cultural factors (Rhodes, A. 2019).



Classical geostrategic thought comprises thinkers and scholars who have contributed to the development of geostrategic 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 combined and gave the idea of geographical space in which states could geographically grow and extend their influence. He introduced the concept of Darwinism, in which only that state could survive, which accomplished the goal of geographical aggrandizement. A state should expand from land to sea, ultimately achieving geographical aggrandizement ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • COLIN GRAY:¬†He rightfully argued that geographical traits shape the strategic culture, which helps shape foreign policy and the strategies of a country are the product of geographical conditions where the natural constraints provide a script mot stage to frame states’ interests.
  • JAKUB GRYGEIL:¬†Geography provides objective strategic realities to states which, according to him, are rational; for example, the intermediary position of Italian city-states is between Middle and Far eastern spices supplies.
  • FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER:¬†To foster self-reliance, the American states need to create strong frontiers. His significant contribution is the propagation of sectional ideas.
  • FREIDRICH NAUMANN:¬†His theory rests on the Central European regions. He thought its alliance with Germanic states could pose a solid central military frontier to other European parts to protect the Mittel ‚Äď Europa.
  • RUDOLF KJELLEN:¬†His strategic thought rests on the Aryan methodology of gaining geographical expansion and the German realpolitik perceptive. He predicted the creation of blocs which were realized amid the world wars. He contented that a full governmental authority aligned with vigorous military posture under the idea of Reich is vital for framing a good strategy. He considerably emphasizes 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 geostrategic development where at first, was the age of exploration in which the closed Eurasian heartland was of prime importance then, followed by the 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. The broader geographical outlook of Rim land states bestows 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 realistic. ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • ALFRED THAYER MAHAN:¬†According to Mahan, the criteria for achieving hegemonic status rests on underpropping sea power commercially and militarily in times of war and peace. The struggle or tussle between powers to access sea markets is primarily economic. Constructing a solid maritime apparatus for states by taking hold of key economic choke points was the primary contention of Mahan ( ( Yadav, S. 2005).
  • COHEN:¬†His geostrategic thought primarily focused on the geographical importance of regions that have risen into prominence after the demise of the bipolar world. The significance of regions like East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, maritime, Heartland Russia, and South American regions rests in their geographical placement in the economic routes. His assumption that in the post cold war era, globalization, and technological advancement would lead to the cooperative patterns of the relation 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 the 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 critical strategic areas all across the world that result in first regional dominance and then transformed 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 include the inclination of Russian elites to achieve preponderance. Secondly make Russia a great power, curbing US global influence worldwide (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 centers of world powers in its limelight, including the Asia Pacific region, Gulf states, China and India. Russia wants to extend its strategic roots militarily, culturally, economically, and politically post-soviet Russia.
  • RUSSIAN STRATEGIC SCHOOL OF THOUGHTS:¬†Russian strategic thinking has three schools of thought: Russian conservationism revived in¬†sovereign democratic doctrine,¬†neo-Eurasianism, and Liberal trend.¬†Conservationist strategic thought¬†provoked the start of third alternative thought (neither western nor eastern) and was deemed as the return of the Leviathan in 2000, marked by the return of Leviathan were call for solid 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,¬†which propagates pan-continental/ orthodox ideas laid by Prince Nikolai, Nikolaevich Gumilyov, and Aleksandr Dugin centered around Russian cultural distinction from European and Asians, anti-globalization, contention between thalassocracy led by US and plutocracy led By Russia. This school of thought encourages a three-tier axis approach comprising Moscow with Berlin, Paris, Tehran, and Tokyo. The intentions behind these aims include constructing a bipolar world order by strengthening the Arab world, Africa, Central Asia, and Central Asian empires. 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¬†Attaining the future: Strategy 2012¬†or the rise of Dimitry Medvedev or the legacy of the Yeltsinian millennium legacy. But this holds little relevance to another school of thought (Perrier, E. 2014).
  • DIMENSIONS OR ELEMENTS OF RUSSIAN GEOSTRATEGY:¬†The Prime factor for Russian engagement is establishing its benign leadership role in the geographical backyard. The Basic tenant of Russian geostrategic involved ensuring compliance 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 centered around regional contingencies rather than a global dimension. Russia has shifted its geostrategic tactics from noncontact warfare primarily focused on propaganda and cyber-attacks towards full-scale invasions. Russia has considerably armored its maritime fleets ( Stock, A. 2021). The paradigm of building a more excellent framework of Euro-Atlantic common security space is replaced by Russia focusing on the Eurasian continent amid China extending its muscles in the central Asian region under the umbrella of BRI. Russia has notably recognized the fatality of noncontact warfare means used by adversaries as a significant security risk for Russian strategy, as stated in the 2014 Military doctrine and the 2016 foreign policy concept. The focus is now shifted towards capacitating the 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 involves limited, regional, armed conflict, or large-scale warfare (Charap et al., 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 regular or irregular military strikes like in Georgia and Ukraine, and Russia constantly disrupts the information chains with cyber attacks. The Russian tactics for the ethnic tensions in the Eurasian continent by manipulating and propagating the inter-ethnic tensions through¬†divide and rule policy.¬†The international scholarship has focused on the Russian strategy being confined along¬†economic lines/ energy warfare¬†where it cuts states’ supplies and imposes restrictions by opting for¬†debt for assets swap.¬†A¬†Swedish Defense Research Institute report¬†has gathered 50 instances of sophisticated Russian economic attacks. Across the former Soviet spaces, under the idea of gaining global dominance, the Russians were involved in sabotage, terrorism, etc. In Ukraine and Ryazan where 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 information supplies by the Russians is considered¬†the sine qua non¬†for the Russians, who conceive propaganda warfare as essential to controlling North Caucasus(Perrier, E. 2014).



  • CHALLENGES:¬†There exists a list of abstract conceptual or procedural challenges for policymakers to enhance their cognitive intelligence.¬†Technology¬†has replaced maps with cartograms and changed the navigation dichotomy. Where the spatial tool is reaching efficiency, they are prone to manipulation. The non-compliance of decision-makers with technological advancements has impaired geographical and environmental assessment techniques leading to¬†dangers of dependence.¬†Geo strategists face some practical technical issues (Rhodes, A. 2019).
  • OVERARCHING IMPLICATIONS OF RUSSIAN GEO STRATEGY:¬†The exogenous response of Russia to the Maiden Ukrainian revolution has led to its divergence from the strategic goals where the shift towards contact warfare has drained its economy, provoking Russia to lofty ambitions. Sometimes the tactical moves of Russia needed 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 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 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 has published multiple articles on topics related to foreign policy or strategic and defense studies domain.




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