Eurasia. Geographic importance
* War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. George Orwell
The break-up of the Soviet Union ushered new political and economic dynamics in Eurasia. With Eurasia’s vast geography, and its potential to promote European energy security and democratic transformation, its promise for the future has captured the attention of world leaders like never before.
Situated between existing powers, Russia and the European Union, and emerging powers, China and India, Eurasia is of significant geographic importance. For the sake of this argument, the term “Eurasia” is used instead of Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) countries.
The area is very roughly comprised of the landmass that is bounded by Turkey, Russia, India and China, not including the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Home to some 350 million people, the area generates a GNP of US$1.65 trillion and another US$1 trillion in foreign trade that is growing 10% annually. But more importantly, Eurasia’s vast energy resources could be the world’s answer to overdependence on unreliable Russian or Middle Eastern sources. International Energy Agency estimates show that, excluding Russia, the region has 10 percent and 32 percent of global oil and gas reserves, respectively.
But despite initial sucesses in harnessing the huge potential of Eurasian projects like the BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Crude Oil Pipeline), the United States and the European Union have so far failed to reach out effectively to facilitate further energy imports from the region and to engage countries such as Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
If the West wants Eurasian energy cooperation, it should acknowledge the wider economic and political issues which ultimately also affect energy development in the region in their discussions with their Eurasian counterparts These issues include the so-called frozen conflict in (NK) Nagorno-Karabagh, the status of the Caspian sea and delimitation issues, wider implications of the perilous struggle in Afghanistan, and diversification and integration of national economies. Failing to admit these wider concerns is taken as indifference to the region by both regional countries and bigger actors.
Sustained and strong external support from the West is necessary to foster Eurasian political stability. So far none of the above mentioned issues re-emerging after the end of the Cold War have been resolved. Nor will they be resolved until there is more cooperation between the regional countries, Russia and the West. So far no Western institution has been successful in developing and instituting a working strategy for the region.
Particularly, the European Union has fallen short in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The paltry sum of €750 million (US$1.18 billion), stretched over five years, that it allocates to the region shows how much they devalue the region’s importance. Of the European Unions’s members, only Germany has diplomatic representation in all five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan).
OH, EAST is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. Perhaps that was true when an Iron Curtain ran down the middle of Europe, and Mao Zedong’s China had turned disastrously inward. But now? This week leaders of the European Union and China met at a summit in Beijing to praise “EU-China connectivity”.
It is more than an empty phrase, even if European leaders, distracted by political and migrant crises at home, are less clear-sighted about its implications than are their Chinese counterparts.
China has hugely ambitious plans to connect the commercial worlds of Europe and East Asia via infrastructure links that will knit the vast—and till now seemingly inchoate—land mass of Eurasia together. But Chinese efforts are only the most notable of many modernising impulses that are beginning to mesh Eurasia into something resembling a whole.
In a stack of recent books and papers, a growing number of strategists argue that the emergence of a cohering Eurasia is the key feature of a new world order that is taking shape. In truth, Eurasia never went away. Nor are musings on its significance especially new. Over a century ago Halford Mackinder, a founding father of geopolitics, placed Eurasia at the centre of world affairs. In his so-called “heartland theory”, he reasoned that whoever controlled the geographic core of Eurasia could rule the world.
Stephen Kotkin, Birkeland Professor in History and International Affairs, Director of Institute of International and Regional Studies, and co-Director of Program in the History and Practice of Diplomacy, Princeton University
“What is Eurasia? ”
Is Eurasia a coherent region? What shared features – political, religious, social, economic — have knit together the region that stretches from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean. What factors have divided the region?
YOUTUBE: OH, EAST is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: Foreign Policy Research Institute