You are here

Chaitanya Nagalla asked: How relevant is Mackinder's 'Heartland Theory’ in the contemporary geo-politics?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • S. Kalyanaraman replies: Mackinder's heartland theory highlighted the probability of Imperial Russia, which occupies the vast, interior, pivotal position in Eurasia, and which enjoys direct territorial access to all the other regions (Inner Crescent, or Rimland in Spykman's formulation) of the Eurasian landmass (West Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Europe), expanding its territorial extent along these axes and thereby seeking dominance over the whole world. This theory received additional purchase during the Cold War when the Soviet Union was seen as aspiring to establish a universal communist empire. Given, however, the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as Russia's current economic difficulties and limited power projection capabilities, Mackinder's heartland theory is not relevant as an organising principle for any country's foreign policy formulation.

    Further, while it is true that Mackinder himself observed, in the concluding passage of the paper he read at the Royal Geographical Society in 1904, that his concept of the geographical pivot of history would continue to be relevant even if Russia were to be subordinated by some other power, say, China, because control over Russian territories would enable such a power to attempt a grasp at world domination, the likelihood of such an occurrence is highly unlikely under current circumstances because Russia not only continues to wield significant conventional military capabilities as well as the world's second largest nuclear arsenal but has also demonstrated since 2008, first in Georgia and subsequently in Crimea and Ukraine, its will and intent to employ military power in defence of its national interests, including the preservation of a glacis around its borders.

    Finally, Mackinder's heartland theory is also not relevant because the foundational principles of the current international order, to which all countries continue to subscribe, have delegitimised the idea of colonialism and imperialism, which were accepted norms before 1945. In effect, the delegitimisation of colonialism and imperialism has meant that it is quite impossible that a few great and far-flung empires will emerge and compete with each other for world domination, as was the case when Mackinder postulated his theory and which is what made the idea of pivotal geographical position highly appealing and relevant.

    Posted on July 27, 2016