October 11, 2023

Maritime and land geostrategy

First Part

The geostrategy of both land and maritime routes has played a pivotal role in the territorial expansion of civilizations throughout history. Land routes, often following rivers such as the Euphrates, Tigris, and Nile, were critical for the growth of major civilizations. Early maritime explorers like the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks established trade relations across the Atlantic with regions like the North Sea, the Baltic, and the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Until the 9th century CE, Mediterranean powers such as the Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Arabs dominated the Atlantic routes, hugging the coasts of North Africa and Europe.
Phoenicians turned to maritime exploration to expand their trade networks in response to threats from neighboring nations like the Egyptians, Hittites, and others such as the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. This marked one of the earliest instances of oceanic geostrategy, a concept later embraced by the Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans.
While Greco-Roman expansions were primarily terrestrial, the Romans developed an extensive trade network following the Punic Wars, using their military might and diplomacy. However, this Roman model declined after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Europe found itself divided between two power centers, Byzantium and Rome. Meanwhile, Muslims favored land-based expansion due to navigation risks, poor hygiene on maritime vessels, and cramped conditions for family travel.
Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Western European countries sought to challenge the Eastern trade monopoly held by the Ottoman Empire and Italian city-states like Genoa and Venice. Europe attempted to control trade routes by circumventing the Mediterranean with Portuguese navigators.
Portugal, in a way, mirrored Phoenician expansion. Despite its small population and territory, Portugal sought protection from foreign powers like Spain and England and never pursued European territorial expansion. Maritime explorations allowed Portugal to establish geostrategic depth through commercial trading posts in Africa and Asia and colonies in the Americas, including Brazil. However, its land venture in Morocco ended in failure with the Battle of the Three Kings, resulting in the loss of its king, Sebastian, and the succession of its throne.
England is another country that experienced significant geostrategic expansion in North America and Asia, including Australia and New Zealand. Due to its insular geography and limited land area, England’s expansion was complex and challenging to sustain.
Wars and ongoing European conflicts over resources and control of trade routes led these powers to colonize other nations with fewer resources, especially after the discovery of the Americas. This colonial process lasted for centuries, allowing each European nation to acquire geostrategic territories. Western European countries like Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, England, Denmark, and France were the major beneficiaries. In contrast, other dominant nations like Italy and Turkey were trapped in the Mediterranean, while Germany and Russia were disadvantaged by their geographic locations.
The end of European colonialism following World War II forced colonial powers to adopt new strategies to maintain their influence. This led to the creation of various geostrategic depths, such as the British Commonwealth, the French Franc CFA system, Russian influence through the Warsaw Pact and communism until 1991, and American projection of power through free trade, NATO, and the supremacy of the U.S. dollar.
Indeed, maritime routes continue to shape modern geostrategy, to the extent that countries without a coastline have struggled to achieve significant development in recent centuries. Today, conflicts persist over the control of maritime trade routes, including the South China Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Horn of Africa, particularly off the coast of Somalia. These areas remain geopolitically significant due to their role in transporting goods and energy, making them major points of contention in contemporary geopolitics.

About the author 


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}