Six Major Trends of Geopolitical Realignment

Special Reports

Six Major Trends of Geopolitical Realignment

George McMillan
George McMillan
Founder and Head of Research

Thu March 21, 20244:42 PM EDT19 Minute Read

Last Updated: Thu March 21, 20249:17 PM EDT

  • The US decline as the sole superpower due to geopolitical shifts and energy sanctions on Russia.

  • The center of gravity is shifting to a Moscow-Beijing axis or a broader Eurasian alliance, influenced by the cost-effectiveness of overland integration with pipelines and railroads.

  • Sea power geopolitical strategies of Western nations focus on controlling access to maritime chokepoints to undermine this land power integration.

  • Western sea power geopolitical strategies are logistically expensive and now require containment along energy routes to thwart Eurasian integration outside the US Dollar.

  • The article presents six major trends driving geopolitical realignment to exhibit the land power versus sea power geopolitical race

Introduction

Six major trends are leading to the decline of the United States as the sole superpower, which will likely be compounded if the United States and the United Kingdom lose their key Western European and Pacific Rim allies over rising energy costs due primarily to sanctions on the Russian Federation, which is a major producer and exporter of oil and natural gas.

The Six Major trends listed in this article will likely lead to a shift of the global political center of gravity away from Washington and London towards the evolving Moscow and Beijing alliance, or possibly between Berlin, Moscow, and Beijing on the “Eurasian World Island” of Halford Mackinder if (1) the Alternative for Deutschland Party (AfD) gains power in the 2025 election cycle in Germany and (2) Japan and South Korea continue their purchase of Russian petroleum and coal supplies while investing heavily in Russian petroleum extraction projects.

Strategic plans are primarily based on the evolution of economic growth and development theories that evolved from Rostow’s basic models developed in the 1950s into the more sophisticated Solow-Swan-type models over the course of the 20th Century. Geopolitical models add the military, intelligence, and naval-power-maritime-choke point components facilitate the economic growth of allies and debilitate the economic well-being of rivals. 

(See W. W. Rostow, Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, Cambridge, 1960; Economic Growth Theorists from David Hume to Present, Oxford, 1990. The Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructural, Informational (PMESII) models and simpler Diplomatic, Infrastructural, Military, and Economic (DIME) models are placed into a Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis in various slide sets and articles that will be part of this ongoing series. Rostow was a contributor to Paul Nitze’s NSC-68 strategic plans for the Kennedy Administration to operationalize Kennan’s Strategy of Containment and five industrial power center strategies. See also John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment: A Critical Appraisal of American National Security Policy During the Cold War (Yale, Oxford 1982/2005))

Geopolitical Strategies

In contrast to Rostow’s economic development theories, geopolitical strategic models are based on thwarting each stage of development by blocking a rival’s access to strategic resources by various means. Alfred Thayer Mahan while teaching at West Point was strongly influenced by the writings of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (Glasgow, 1776) and David Ricardo’s Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (1817) and defined the end goal of geostrategic thinking in terms of preventing an adversary from being able to convert production into wealth through overseas trade (See: Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783; and The Influence of Sea Power Upon the French Revolution and Empire, 1783-1812).

Where Mahan focused on sea power versus sea power strategies in his writings from America, Halford Mackinder focused on sea power versus land power strategies at Oxford. Since he was writing from Great Britain, in essence, he formalized the sea power strategy of Britain’s Great Game of continually trying to blockade the seaports of the Russian Empire in St. Petersburg since 1703 and in Crimea since 1783, where the goal was to prevent the Russian empire from ever becoming a global naval power. Mackinder’s writings warned of the dangers posed if Russia in the “heartland” of Eurasia built a network of railroads and either partnered with a coastal rimland industrial power or gained a warm water port via Baluchistan in Iran. 

In the conclusion of The Geographical Pivot of History (Oxford 1904), Mackinder shifted the focus away from sea power strategies based on sailing ships and coal-powered ships to the potential land power advantages of transcontinental railroads, which could efficiently move large quantities of resources and goods long distances across the Eurasian supercontinent. The concern was that an overland logistical supply route would link the vast number of resources in the Russian heartland to coastal industrial centers, thus creating a synergy of increased access to raw materials and energy to feed the industrial-scale production of consumer goods that could then be exported and converted to considerably higher levels of wealth and power.

Hence “The Great Game” of Great Britain has been focused on blockading the three major Russian seaports of St. Petersburg in the Baltic Sea since 1703, Crimea and the Rostov-on-Don region of the Azov Sea inside the Black Sea since 1783, and Vladivostok region inside the Sea of Japan since the Russo-Japanese war in 1906. 

Fast forwarding to the post-World War Two era, the great game was transformed by Ambassador George Kennan’s Strategy of Containment explained in his “Long Telegram” of 1947 from Moscow, and his five industrial power center strategy explained in his “X” article in Foreign Affairs in 1950. The thinking of Mahan, Mackinder, and Spykman carried over to Kennan and his influence on the Truman administration in the late 1940s and early 1950s. As stated in NSC7, “Between the United States and the USSR there are in Europe and Asia areas of great potential power which if added to the existing strength of the Soviet world would enable the latter to become so superior in manpower, resources, and territory that the prospect for the survival of the United States as a free nation would be slight” (Gaddis, ibid, page 56).

The concern of British and American foreign policy has been to contain the Russian heartland and keep it from using its overland logistical supply routes to either conquer or infrastructurally integrate with coastal rimland industrial powers. With the advent of oil and natural gas supplies delivered by pipeline and the ever-growing dependency of modern industrial power centers on energy, the ability of the Soviet Union, and now the Russian Federation, to infrastructurally, economically, and diplomatically integrate with Germany, China, South Korea, and Japan became significantly easier to achieve and harder to block.

While classical liberals celebrated the fall of Communism and the return of Russia to a market system and Orthodox Christianity, the neoconservative geopolitical theorists principally presiding at Oxford, London School of Economics, Yale, and Harvard saw natural gas delivered by pipeline—not Communism—as the biggest threat to Anglosphere dominance. Russia’s ability to supply the fundamental resource of energy to other industrial power centers via pipelines gives them a significant land power advantage. As other industrial powers integrate industrially and economically to gain access to Russia’s energy reserves, they are naturally inclined to integrate diplomatically and militarily to ensure the continuation and security of the flow of energy to their industrial centers; that in a nutshell, is DIME integration.

This explains why the US hastily moved the EU and NATO eastward to the Russian border despite Secretary of State James Baker promising Mikhail Gorbachev that “NATO would not move one inch farther to the East” than the German border with Poland. However, the neoconservatives proceeded to move the EU and NATO eastward during Clinton’s second term and moved even faster during George W. Bush’s two terms. They advanced NATO east to blockade all ports, pipelines, railways, and highways leading to Belarus and Russia and heavily financed the election of Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia in 2004.

The play is to have the EU and NATO charge exorbitant transfer fees to debilitate Russia’s ability to turn production into wealth and develop their economy, as well as to extoll among EU countries a fear of a Russian military resurgence. However, in truth, the infrastructural and economic integration would undermine Kennan’s Five Industrial Power Center alliance strategy and threaten to shift the global political center of gravity towards the Russian heartland; and that is what truly drives the West’s policy positions towards Russia.

Threats to US Military Alliances in Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific Rim

The evidence to the idea that the real fear of the Anglosphere was the spread of Russian oil and natural gas rather than the spreading of Communism is evident the more one knows about the CIA’s war on Russian natural gas pipelines since the Kennedy administration, as discussed in the DW Documentary series of videos on YouTube titled “Russia’s Energy Empire: Putin and the rise of Gazprom” (February 3, 2024) and “Russia’s Gazprom—Corrupt politicians and the greed of the West” (February 10, 2024). 

The critique of these videos is that they do not properly represent Reed’s book or the US Department of State energy experts’ thoughts on the topic, nor the need to prevent European countries from becoming dependent on Russian oil and natural gas. The presented assertions are not properly nested in the context of the history of the Great Game and the subsequent post-Mahan and post-Mackinder sea power versus land power geopolitical strategies. Where Mahan and Mackinder focused on controlling the maritime chokepoints to prevent the conversion of Russian domestic production to wealth via international trade, the Anglosphere at large, led by the US and UK, began to focus on containing natural gas delivered by pipeline to stymie Russia from converting energy production to wealth and diplomatic power.

The problem is that an integration of Russian logistical systems with (1) China’s Silk Road oil and natural gas pipeline network in Central Asia; (2) China’s Silk Road railway network that connects all of Europe and Asia by a robust overland transportation system; and (3) China’s Belt and Road seaport network on the Pacific and Indian Oceans combine to maximize a land power strategy that promotes trade in Eurasia, thus allowing the landlocked countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) to more easily convert production into wealth and develop greater industrial power. The combined Russian and Chinese overland logistics systems being linked to more and more seaports mitigates the US sea power advantages and maximizes the advantage of Russia and Eurasia’s vast reserves of natural resources.

The fact is that oil and natural gas delivered by pipeline is, in Mackinder’s geopolitical language, a land power advantage that sea power cannot match with LNG delivered by ship. LNG by ship is just too expensive to keep industrial powers competitive in global markets. Therefore, industrial power centers that can gain access to oil and natural gas via pipeline will be in a position to out-compete other industrial powers that must rely on LNG via ship.

Viewed from this perspective, Russia’s and China’s economic development strategies and their respective geopolitical counter strategies complement each other. They both know that each of their economic development and geopolitical strategies work together or not at all. What the DW Documentary series of videos indicates is that the intelligence agencies of the world powers realize this and seek to oppose it.

“NATO will not move one-inch Eastward”

In the previously mentioned DW Documentary series, it is reported that 80 percent of Russia’s income is from the exports of oil, natural gas, coal, and minerals. All of these exports are shipped via one of their three ports in St. Petersburg, Rostov, or Vladivostok, or else sent via pipelines to Europe or China.

The United States and the United Kingdom have steadily moved the EU and NATO Eastward to control all of Russia’s ports, pipelines, railroads, and highways going into Europe after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992. However, the Russian Federation finally responded with an overt military response only after NATO placed extensive offensive military capability in Eastern Ukraine which precipitated the attacks on the Russian-speaking breakaway Oblasts in the Donbas region in 2014.

After 2014, US weapons ended up in the Azov Sea region of Ukraine with the offensive ‘opportunity, intent, and capability’ (OIC) to seize Crimea with the Russian Black Sea Fleet in it. This would make Ukraine a US proxy to blockade Russia’s only warm water port in Rostov-on-Don. The OIC elements are commonly understood in the tactical world as pre-attack indicators.

The US exerted extensive political influence, not to say coercion, to stop the South Stream project from Novorossiysk in Russia to Vargas in Bulgaria under the Black Sea, and the Nordstream pipeline project was objected to ever since Gerhard Schroder and Jurgen Hambrecht of BASF proposed it over a decade ago. Ultimately, it was sabotaged after President Biden had explicitly stated prior that the US would put an end to it. As Seymour Hersh explained in his 2022 article, the Biden administration certainly possessed  “Opportunity, intent, and capability.”

There are plenty of YouTube videos on Russia’s energy supplies and the problems of delivering them to the industrial power centers in Europe, Asia, and the Far East. There are also plenty of videos and articles on the steep industrial decline of Germany now that the US Department of State and the Green Party have successfully severed BASF and the German automobile industry from affordable Russian natural gas.

The Difference of Economic Growth Theories and Geopolitical Strategies

The fundamentals of economic development theory are concerned with the various processes associated with the extraction or production of raw materials in the initial stage, turning raw materials into consumer products in the intermediary stages of value-added production, and then delivering them to the consumers in the final logistical stages. Economic modernization and development theory is primarily concerned with a preindustrial society extracting or producing raw materials and transporting them to market in order to receive payment; and ideally to continually reinvest the profits domestically to enhance an export-led growth strategy of development that leads to some sort of import substitution strategy.

The goal of continually reinvesting profits is to gradually build value-added phases after extracting raw materials, turning them into more consumer products domestically, and finally ship finished goods to the world—this converts increases in production into increases in wealth. It is this import substitution phase of industrialization which increases gross domestic product and job growth as quickly as possible, moves a country towards a tighter wage labor equilibrium rate, and raises the modal living standards of the population.

This is important because the United States has adopted a strategy of limiting its allies from becoming independent by limiting access to competitively priced energy from Russia while also  antagonizing Russia and China in an attempt to prevent them from becoming rival superpowers. This strategy of maintaining vassal state allegiances and thwarting near-peer powers is expressed through the writings of Wolfowitz in his 1992 NSC paper, Brzezinski in The Grand Chessboard (1997), and Kristol in his Weekly Standard periodical.

If a rival’s trade is blocked anywhere along the major phases of a primary sector export-led growth (ELG) strategy, then a country’s import substitution investment phase and development phases are thwarted, rendering them hostage at a certain level of growth according to the Prebisch-Singer dependency theory. This will be explained in terms of Rostow’s five stages of economic growth in the next section to help analysts understand geopolitical and geostrategic strategies from a common reference point.

Economic Modernization and Development Theory

Rostow outlines the five major phases of economic growth as (1) a traditional society, (2) preconditions for take-off (initial structure and infrastructure development, i.e. roads, railways, and ports, electrical and communications grids, plus water and sanitation plant construction), (3) and take-off (development of a primary sector), (4) drive to maturity (adding secondary and tertiary sectors), (5) and the age of high mass consumption. Rostow established the five major stages as a means of establishing economic growth strategies for countries with different raw material and geological advantages or disadvantages as discussed earlier in the article. 

Geopolitical strategies are about anticipating another country’s economic growth strategy and either facilitating allies (to a certain point) or disrupting rivals, as initially discussed by the Mahan and Mackinder strategies taught at military and elite universities.

With this understanding, it is clear that the US is continuing its Strategy of Containment and is trying to stymie the infrastructural development of Russia and prevent it from leveraging its immense oil, natural gas, and coal reserves as an export-led growth strategy that would fuel secondary and tertiary sectoral development phases that would constitute an import substitution industrial strategy.

These phases would make Russia increasingly autarkic and stable, raise the living standards of its citizens, and fuel advances in military technology and capability. The goal of the US is to stop Russia from attaining all five of Rostow’s stages, which means that Russia has been necessarily devising a counter break-out strategy in response. Russia’s stratplan will be covered in detail in a separate series of articles.

Six Major Trends of Geopolitical Realignment

First are the two overarching primary trends of technology and population growth over deep time as discussed by Nobel Laureate Robert Fogel which contribute to logarithmic population growth in the Developing World; with the two secondary trends being the mass migration to developed world manufacturing sectors from the underdeveloped world in search of cheap labor as well as the mass migration of people from the underdeveloped world to the deindustrialized First World Western  democracies for a better life in their welfare states.

The three effects of the overarching primary and secondary trends are that the world is (a) headed toward a global wage-labor rate equilibrium, (b) the equilibrium is necessarily plummeting as population growth is vastly outpacing global job growth rendering the excess population below the subsistence level; meaning (c) global income disparity will be climbing as the developed world deindustrializes, destroying its middle class—the chief characteristic of a democratic republic.

Second is the effect of cheap Russian natural gas delivered via pipeline, which is likely to shift Ambassador George Kennan’s original Amero-centric Five Industrial Power Center sea power strategy to a Russo-centric Six Industrial Power Center land power reality in the near future.

The post-Mahan and Mackinder-based sea power versus land power grand strategies constitute the competing geopolitical strategic plans of the major powers which is manifested in the intensifying US-UK-NATO coalition versus the Russia, Iran, and Chinese coalition, and the current overt diplomatic rows, proxy wars, and covert conflicts spanning the coastal periphery of Eurasia consistent with Zbigniew Brzezinski’s The Grand Chessboard (1997). 

Third is the shift away from the petrodollar to purchase energy. This is certain to gain momentum as the US sanctions against Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022 compel countries to shift towards bilateral and multilateral foreign exchanges to facilitate oil and natural gas via pipeline and LNG by ship.

Fourth is the Chinese effort to develop its (a) Silk Road overland logistical supply route—its land power—counter strategy to link East Asia to Western Europe by railways, highways, and pipelines in response to the US sea power strategy of dominating the world’s key maritime chokepoints and key rivers; and its (b) Belt and Road Initiative to add ports, railways, highways, and pipelines to extend the Silk Road overland logistical infrastructure to the Indian Ocean and further mitigate US sea power strategies at all junctures. 

Fifthly, the traditional Christian conservative ruling class in the West has been eclipsed by the new ruling coalition of the neoconservatives in league with the neoliberal Left and the Green Left, who advocate bigger government in the form of larger militaries, larger welfare states, or both. 

These three groups are ultimately working at cross purposes. The neoliberal Left and the Green Left are fiercely anti-fossil fuel and pro-deindustrialization in favor of unrealistic beliefs in the efficacy of renewable energy forms to replace coal, as well as oil and natural gas delivered by pipeline or ship (though LNG delivered by ship is even too costly for energy-intensive industries such as aluminum production, metallurgy, and fertilizer production to be globally competitive). A utopian socialist society is therefore hard-pressed to emerge from these policy measures across the West.  

These two forms of Leftism are ultimately incompatible with the neoconservative factions in the US and UK that want the US to remain as the sole superpower despite Bismarck and Clausewitz’s linkages of military and diplomatic power being based on industrial economic strength. However, both adhere to one side or the other of the Newtonian-style dynamic between classical development theories and the geopolitical strategies, where the latter reacts proportionally to the former.

It was John Harsanyi in his 1969 article titled “Rational Choice Models of Political Behavior versus Functionalist and Conformist Theories” who argued that all of the social sciences should adopt rational choice Pareto-style models that reflect trade-off and opportunity costs. The Pareto-style models operate on the principle of linear programming, where maximizing one variable inevitably comes at the expense of another. Harsanyi aimed to challenge the ’Positive Correlation’ fallacy, which falsely asserts that a single policy can yield only positive outcomes, thereby overlooking the negative consequences that should be anticipated. The failure of the soft philosophical and social sciences to adopt Pareto-style models is certain to be catastrophic.   

Sixth is the inevitable clash among the tripartite ruling coalition of the neoconservatives, neoliberals, and the Green Left as the US rapidly approaches the highly inflationary $35 trillion national debt mark and races to the anticipated $40 trillion rampant inflationary threshold. 

The interest on the US National Debt already surpasses the entire Department of Defense budget and within a few years will eclipse the budgets of more and more executive branch law enforcement and social service agencies. The neoconservatives will resist any cuts to military and intelligence budgets because they want to remain the sole superpower of the world. Meanwhile, the neoliberals and the Green Left will resist any cuts to its social services because they measure progress in the Fabian Socialist terms of attaining socialism by the incremental expansion of the welfare state. 

The common bond between the three factions is that they are enamored with big government and the belief in modern monetary theory. The problem with that is that modern monetary theory is dependent on the use of the dollar outside of the US to purchase all oil and natural gas stemming from the petrodollar agreement between the US and Saudi Arabia in 1973 and its adoption by OPEC in 1975.

Conclusion

These trends and the principles they exhibit are key to predicting geopolitical risk in the Eurasian coastal rimland where geopolitical strategies seemingly defy classical development theories. Understanding the economic development and DIME integration strategies that rational nation-state actors are likely to pursue based on their comparative advantages is only primary to gauging their usefulness in the grand strategies of core players, as supercontinental land power alliances consist of series of bilateral agreements which favor supply chains holistically, and which therefore present as prime targets for containment strategies of Anglosphere sea, or rimland, powers.

[This paper was originally published on February 17, 2024.]

Be the First to Gain Access

We're busy crafting something remarkable, and you have the unique opportunity to be part of it from the very beginning.

By joining our exclusive list, you secure your place at the forefront of our launch with a considerable early-bird discount.

About the Author

George McMillan
George McMillan
Founder and Head of Research

As the Founder of the G3Strat Group, he combines business acumen with military precision to guide companies in risk resilience. With over a decade of experience, he has held multiple roles in security, intelligence, and training. His expertise includes risk assessment, national security, operational planning, and intelligence analysis.

Disclaimer

Important: Please take a moment to read and understand our disclaimer.

Geostrategic.Geoeconomic.Geopolitical.

Join G3Strat now to secure exclusive membership and limited-time early access discounts.