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    Russian President Vladimir Putin looks at a map of his country in his residence of Novo-Ogaryevo outside Moscow

    Putting Russia on the Map: Stratfor CEO's Analysis Makes Sudden Conclusion

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    The beauty of Russia's geographic position is that it gives the country "capabilities that can surprise its opponents and even make the Russians more dangerous”- this unexpected conclusion was made by an American political scientist and former chief intelligence officer in an attempt to compile Russia’s portrait with the help of several maps.

    In an attempt to draw up a strategic portrait of Russia and to understand President Putin’s "long-term intentions in Europe,” former US chief intelligence officer and founder and CEO of the private intelligence corporation Stratfor, George Friedman, has created ten maps designed to illustrate “Russia’s difficult position since the Soviet Union collapsed.”

    However, his research has produced some completely unexpected results.

    “Many people think of maps in terms of their basic purpose: showing a country’s geography and topography. But maps can speak to all dimensions — political, military, and economic,” Friedman writes in his article for the New York-based magazine Business Insider.

    “In fact, they are the first place to start thinking about a country’s strategy, which can reveal factors that are otherwise not obvious.”

    The maps provided by the political scientist, illustrate that “much of Russia is effectively landlocked”, its “access to the world’s oceans, aside from the Arctic, is also limited” and “what access it does have is blocked by other countries.”

    Russia is almost landlocked
    © Photo : Maulding Economics
    Russia is almost landlocked

    “A country’s access to the sea can greatly influence its economic and political strength,” the author states.

    “Russia’s population clusters along its western border with Europe and its southern border with the Caucasus (the area between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea to the south). Siberia is lightly populated. Rivers and infrastructure flow west.”

    Most of Russia's population lives along the western border
    © Photo : Geopolitical Futures
    Most of Russia's population lives along the western border

    As with population, he adds, Russia’s west and south are its most vital and productive agricultural areas.

    Russian agriculture is in the southwest
    © Photo : Geopolitical Futures
    Russian agriculture is in the southwest

    Russian transportation structure also suggests that “it is oriented toward the west.”

    Russia's railroad network is critical
    © Photo : Maulding Economics
    Russia's railroad network is critical

    All the above was supposed to explain that the “primary focus and vulnerability of Russia is in the west” and that “Russia’s national strategy is to move its frontier as far west as possible to be less at risk.”

    Friedman says that Russia’s primarily goal is to “push its frontiers as far west as possible” and to get hold of “the first tier of countries on the European Peninsula’s eastern edge — the Baltics, Belarus, and Ukraine — to provide depth from which Russia can protect itself, and also provide additional economic opportunities.”

    Europe controls Russia’s access to the oceans
    © Photo : Maulding Economics
    Europe controls Russia’s access to the oceans

    However, proximity to the sea brings its own dangers. Citing the example of Athens and Sparta, Friedman explains that while a maritime power is a lot wealthier than a landlocked one, “wealth creates luxury and luxury corrupts.”

    Secondly, he claims, “wider experience in the world creates moral ambiguity.”

    “Sparta enjoyed far less wealth than Athens. It was not built through trade but through hard labor. And thus, it did not know the world, but instead had a simple and robust sense of right and wrong.”

    “The struggle between strength from wealth and strength through effort has been a historical one. It can be seen in the distinction between the European Peninsula and Russia. Europe is worldly and derives great power from its wealth, but it is also prone to internecine infighting.”

    Russia, he says, is “more united than divided and derives power from the strength that comes from overcoming difficulty.”

    With regards to Russia, he says it “isn’t prosperity that binds the country together, but a shared idealized vision of and loyalty toward Mother Russia. And in this sense, there is a deep chasm between both Europe and the United States (which use prosperity as a justification for loyalty) and Russia (for whom loyalty derives from the power of the state and the inherent definition of being Russian).”

    “This support for the Russian nation remains powerful, despite the existence of diverse ethnic groups throughout the country,” he finally concludes.


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