Interview with dr. Joseph E. FALLON
Vasile SIMILEANU: Geopolitics, as a science, was challenged after the World War II. After 1989, it became part of the new world order.
Please tell us about your activities in the field of geopolitics!
How do you define geopolitics?
Joseph E. FALLON: Geopolitics can be defined as the integration of geography into the planning and conduct of a state’s foreign policy. After 1945, geopolitics was revived with the commencement of the Cold War as the USSR and the US employed rival concepts to checkmate the other. Moscow followed the “Heartland theory” of John Halford Mackinder that “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.” It came closest to this objective with the Sino-Soviet alliance of 1950-1961 when one-third of the world’s population lived under Communist rule. As Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, stated “It is time to realize that of all the valuable capital the world possesses, the most valuable and most decisive is people.”
Washington countered with a containment policy of Soviet expansionism based on the “Rimland theory” of Nicholas John Spykman that “Who controls the Rimland rules Eurasia, who rules Eurasia controls the destinies of the world.” The Soviets and the Americans pursued their respective geopolitical objectives through military alliances (Warsaw Pact, Sino Soviet Treaty of Friendship, NATO, CENTO, and SEATO), foreign aid, proxy wars (Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan), and acts of political sub-version (coups).
The geopolitical chess game continues today among the US, Russia, and China with each employing essentially the same strategy and tactics of the Cold War.
V.S.: Geopolitics has become of impact in all analyses of political, military, social, economic, cultural and diplomatic developments. Do you think that the classical theories of the geopolitical schools are still relevant?
Joseph E. FALLON: Classical theories of geopolitics, in particular, the Mackinder and Spykman theories, still influence the conduct of international relations among Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. The US continues to pursue a containment policy of both Russia and China based on Spykman’s “Rimland theory”. To achieve the containment of Russia, the former Warsaw Pact countries were incorporated into NATO; advancing NATO eastward to Russia’s borders, increasing NATO’s presence in the Black Sea (with Romania and Bulgaria added to Turkey), posing a threat to European Russia from the North (Norway and Finland), West (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania), and South (Turkey). With the incorporation of the three former Soviet Baltic Republics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) NATO is now within 100 miles of St. Petersburg, Russia’s 2nd largest city. NATO seeks, and the US actively supports, the admittance of Ukraine into NATO. This would effectively enable NATO to command the Black Sea and put NATO forces within 280 miles of Moscow. Together with NATO’s ability to blockade Russian ports in the Baltic Sea, White Sea, and Black Sea, US/NATO strategy toward Russia resembles the “Anaconda Plan” devised by US General Winfield Scott in the US Civil War – defeat an enemy by blockading ports, stopping commerce, disrupting the economy, “the way the anaconda snake constricts its victims.” The same game plays out in Asia where Russia’s principle port of Vladivostok is in position to be blockaded by NATO allies, Japan and South Korea, and by US military bases in those two countries.
Russia has responded by increasing ties with China and Iran, militarily defeating Syrian rebels, invading Ukraine, having Japan economically break with the West over a de facto embargo of Russian oil, and allegedly installing ballistic missiles in the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad and on board Russian naval vessels in the Baltic Sea, in Belarus, and Ukraine.
Regarding China, the US is employing concentric rings of military bases and alliances to contain China in the Indo-Pacific Theater, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and proposed 4th island chains, centering on the US, UK, Australia, (AUKUS), – US, Australia, Japan, India (QUAD), and bilateral agreements with Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
While China’s response has been modernization, expansion, and projection of its military power into the Indo-Pacific Theater. Beijing now has naval facilities stretching from Djibouti to Pakistan to Sri Lanka to Bangladesh to Myanmar in the Indian Ocean and out to Kiribati and the Solomon islands in the Western Pacific. China is seeking to use the US island chains strategy against Washington. This military planning complements China’s economic strategy, the Belt Road Initiative, which adopts and adapts Mackinder’s Heartland theory. Beijing’s adaptation is its incorporation of the theories of Dr. Edward Luttwak on geopolitics, geostrategy, and most importantly geo-economics. Applying Dr. Luttwak’s advice “the firm subordination of tactical priorities, material ideals, and warlike instincts to political goals.” If successful the US would be restricted to the Western Hemisphere. And China would command Mackinder’s “World Island” – Asia, Europe, and Africa.
The military advantage in the Indo-Pacific Theatre is now tilting toward China. According to the US Department of Defense, the Pentagon has a crisis in military recruitment, is unable to provide logistical support to US troops in hostile theaters, and, at present, is unable to neutralize China’s ballistic missiles that could potentially not only take out US and Allied military facilities in the South China and East China Seas but inflict significant damage to US military facilities on Guam, a US island territory, in the Central Pacific.
V.S.: At university level, please tell us how geopolitics is reflected in the university curriculum (undergraduate courses, masters, doctorates)!
What research institutes, NGOs and other formats are developed for geopolitical studies?
Joseph E. FALLON: I do not know whether, or how, geopolitics is taught at US colleges and universities, but judging by US foreign policy if it is taught it is not being taught well.
V.S.: Do you think that there is a need for a better visibility of this geographical science in research environments worldwide? Through what forms and means?
Joseph E. FALLON: I believe there is a need for universities and research institutes worldwide to promote discussion and debate of the various theories of geopolitics, analyzing with case studies which geopolitical theory is being practiced by which major power – where, when, and how. But, at present, I do not know what would be the best means and forms for doing so.
V.S.: Should geopoliticians and their theories be made more popular in the media and social media? What about in relations with partner structures in other countries?
Who do you work with to promote geopolitics?
Should an international organisation be set up to promote the interests of this science?
Joseph E. FALLON: Geopoliticians and their theories should be made more popular in the media and social media. Both the media and social media would make excellent platforms for lectures, discussions, and debates on an important component of international relations. But, in my opinion, today’s media and social media are highly partisan and a free exchange of ideas would not be allowed. The same reason, cen-sorship of ideas, would prevent the establishment of a non-partisan, educational international organization for the study and promotion of the various theories of geopolitics. At this time, in my opinion, if such an institution was permitted to exist it would be only to promote the theories approved by the wealthiest donors.
V.S.: What are the geopolitical and geo-strategic challenges of impact and how are they reflected in the strategies promoted by your state?
Joseph E. FALLON: In the post-Cold War world order, the US seeks to maintain its position as the world’s only hyperpower in a unipolar world. It does this by continuing a containment policy of Russia, through proxy wars, sanctions, and colored coded re-volutions, of China through AUKUS, QUAD, and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd island chains in the Pacific, while employing its military resources against non-state actors throughout the “Arc of Crisis” stretching across Russia’s southern border from Central Asia to Turkey and the Caucasus extending then to the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. The result is the US military, one of the most prominent tools of US foreign policy, is now overstretched, underfunded, underequipped, undermanned, and unable to provide logistic support to US troops in hostile theaters.
V.S.: What impact do geopolitical theories have on the decisions of your country’s leaders?
Joseph E. FALLON: While there are numerous think tanks in the US that do address the subject of geopolitics, thereby, seeking to influence US foreign policy accordingly – private institutions, such as Center for Strategic and International Studies, RAND, Brookings Institution, Heritage Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Atlantic Council, Hoover Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and government bodies, such as the 18 intelligence agencies and 5 military war colleges – in the end, the US government foreign policy has remained constant since the establishment of NATO in 1949. The strategy is “containment” of USSR (now Russia) and China by adopting, adapting and implementing Mackinder’s Heartland theory. US strategy suffers, however, from two self-inflicted wounds.
First in foreign relations whether with China, Russia, or Iran, the US plays poker while its adversaries play chess. It practices bluff, not strategy. Its view is short term based on election cycles. It must produce a victory for the electorate. Therefore, it overthrows one government (by war or a coup), installs a new government and pro-claims “mission accomplished” leaving ensuing problems for the next administration to solve – which they do not.
Examples: the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan (2001) and Saddam Hussein of Iraq (2003). Prior to 2001, Iran had been contained by Saddam’s Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Taliban Afghanistan. By removing Saddam and the Taliban, Iran was able to expand its influence west into Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, south into Bahrain, Yemen, and Oman, and east into Central Asia. The overthrow of Saddam and expansion of Iranian influence led to the emergence of a new terrorist group, ISIS, which despite being military defeated by the US in Iraq, continues to wage guerrilla wars in the Middle East and North Africa.
Second, despite adopting Mackinder’s Heartland theory, Washington pursues a global strategy without proper logistical foundations. As the Pentagon reported, the US military today cannot provide logistic support to US troops in hostile theaters. Proving World War II US Army General Omar Bradley’s famous dictum “Amateurs talk strategy, professional talk logistics.”
V.S.: Do you consider it appropriate to collaborate with the Romanian GeoPolitica Magazine on these approaches?
We would be honoured to publish your analyses in the magazine’s pages!
Joseph E. FALLON: Yes.
V.S.: New technological changes have led to the emergence of new geopolitical theories such as GeoIntelligence: the geopolitics of information, which we promoted in Romania in 2014, Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence: the fifth dimension of geopolitics (2019) and Exopolitics: the geopolitics of outer space as the sixth geopolitical dimension (2021), theories that have been presented in the pages of GeoPolitica Magazine.
How do you assess these theories?
In the environment of an academic in your country are there such concerns?
Joseph E. FALLON: GeoIntelligence, Geopolitics of Artificial Intelligence, and Exo-politics, are dimensions of geopolitics that can easily be manipulated to foster pro-paganda and disinformation. The good such instruments can bring to the welfare of the general population is tempered by the use that can made of such systems to discredit and overthrow governments, religions, cultures, civilizations on the one hand and protect and promote illegal or criminal regimes and practices on the other. In my opinion, we may soon find ourselves in an Orwelllian nightmare scripted by Kafka.
Vasile SIMILEANU: Finally, please send a message to the GeoPolitica staff and our readers!
Joseph E. FALLON: First, Thank you! I am honored by your invitation to share my thoughts and opinions on these important questions.
Second, as we see in the various political competitions in the world today, geopolitics is alive and well as a concept that can best explain these rivalries. Foreign policy is a game of chess. In this game, geopolitical theories are not mere theoretical constructs; they are practical analyses by which to anticipate an opponent’s next move.
Joseph E. FALLON is a global political analyst with 20+ years’ experience in strategic advisory, research/writing and teaching with specific subject-matter expertise in national defense/security, terrorism and geopolitics. Author of two books and 80 published articles (e.g. Islamic extremism, U.S. foreign policy); co-editor of The World War Two Experience: The Internment of German-Americans; media appearances as Middle East expert (Fox News). US Army Certified instructor: ABIC, TRADOC, USAIC, SGI; accreditations: Basic/Advanced Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence Familiarization.
He is Senior Research Associate at the U.K. Defense Forum, London, UK and Steering Committee Member of the Working Group on Children Recruited by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups (CRTG), New York.
Joseph E. FALLON is the recipient of The Order of Saint Maurice, National Infantry Association, for work providing regional analysis and instruction to US military personnel.