Interview with dr. Alexandros STOGIANNOS
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?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: In my doctoral thesis I focused on the work of Friedrich Ratzel, spiritus rector of Geopolitics, thus becoming familiar with the multidimensional and interdisciplinary nature of the discipline.
At the moment, I am teaching the course Strategic Studies and Geopolitics at the University of Athens, Faculty of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies, where I try to highlight the commonalities between these two research fields. At the same time, I am conducting post-doctoral research at the Ionian University on Geopolitics of Tourism. My research interests also include the analysis and creation of geopolitical indicators, a subject which I also taught at the University of Athens.
Regarding the definition of Geopolitics, the constant of power, which is a common point in the multitude of recorded definitions, allows, in a minimalist approach, to define Geopolitics as a science of analyzing the redistribution of power.
Our research group adopts the definition of my supervisor, the founder of Systemic Geopolitical Analysis (SGA), Emeritus Professor Ioannis Mazis, who has defined SGA as a geographical method, that studies, describes and predicts the attitudes and the consequences ensuing from relations between the opposing and distinct political practices for the redistribution of power as well as their ideological metaphysics, within the framework of the geographical complexes where these practices apply.
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?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: It should be admitted that both in Geopolitics and in the wider field of International Relations there doesn’t exist (yet?) in strictly episte-mological terms – an International Theory, with principles and rules accepted by the entire academic community, so, instead of referring to “theories”, you will allow me to refer to the matrix of geopolitical thought or models, starting with the less known definition of modern Political Geography by Friedrich Ratzel, who defines as primary task of Political Geography the detection and description of telluric facts, based on the political and economic phenomena. As a second mission he mentions the description of the size, location, and character of these phenomena, and, thirdly, he defines Political Geography as “applied Ethnography”. Ratzel introduces very early the interdisciplinary approach your question implies, and this is clearly attributed both to the multiparametric nature of the mother science, Geography, and to the holistic, interdisciplinary and positivistic viewpoint of the “Positivist Cycle of Leipzig” (Leipziger Positivistenkränzchen), a scientific panel of eminent and innovative scien-tists, to which Ratzel belonged.
In this background, I see the traditional Anglo-Saxon geopolitical model, namely the distinction between continental and maritime Powers, the special value attributed to heartland (Mackinder) or rimland (Spykman), and especially to eastern Europe being firmly confirmed, although the melting of the Antarctic ice may create conditions to surpass the model.
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?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: At undergraduate level, the students of the faculty where I teach (Faculty of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies) can specialize on History, Social Studies, Strategic Studies, and Geopolitics. Besides, for 9 years now, our faculty offers the Postgraduate Program Geopolitical Analysis, Geostrategic Synthesis and Defense and International Security Studies.
Beyond that, individual Geopolitics courses exist in some undergraduate degree programs, oriented towards both, Classical and Critical Geopolitics. In general, I would say that since the 2000s the term Geopolitics has been used more and more in Greece by academics and NGOs, but I am not sure that its users use the term in a common, academically founded way.
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?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: The interdisciplinary approach of Geopolitics, as a science of power analysis, as well as the possibility of choosing various units of analysis, creates unlimited possibilities for synergies with other disciplines. The best way to make this happen would be to create interdisciplinary and international research teams, which could present their research results at diverse conferences and scientific journals.
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?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: The topic of public debate about geopolitical issues is extremely delicate, as it essentially concerns three important aspects: a. the temptation of popularizing science, b. the relationship between science and applied policy, and c. the distinction between rhetoric and applied policy.
Regarding the first, I believe that the scientific community should be extremely careful, as the public is not always able to perceive subtle aspects of the issues in dispute. The second point is the one I always start my lectures with, as I point out to my students the distinct roles of scientist and of policy makers. As for the third point, let me refer to John Mearsheimer, who touches precisely on the issue of the distance between rhetoric and action, using the example of his own country: Because Americans dislike realpolitik, public discourse about foreign policy in the United States is usually couched in the language of liberalism. Hence the pronouncements of the policy elites are heavily flavored with optimism and moralism. American academics are especially good at promoting liberal thinking in the marketplace of ideas. Behind closed doors, however, the elites who make national security policy speak mostly the language of power, not that of principle, and the United States acts in the inter-national system according to the dictates of realist logic. In essence, a discernible gap separates public rhetoric from the actual conduct of American foreign policy.
As for the establishment of an international organization, I would say that this is an imperative, not only in the interests of founding and promoting our science, but also in the needs of international politics.
V.S.: In the new global constructions, determined by geo-strategic actions, how do you perceive geopolitical pressures on your state?
How should state actors react to pressures from non-state actors?
Is there collaboration between geopoliticians and business?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: From a methodological point of view, your question refers to the unit of analysis. Systemic Geopolitical Analysis distinguishes 5 units of analysis: (i) people, (ii) subnational groups, (iii) nation states, (iv) transnational non-state groups and organizations, (v) international groups and organizations, whose members are states or their representatives, and (vi) the international system.
In the light of the above, a geopolitician can choose a research unit of analysis, since they all constitute geopolitical actors able of putting geopolitical pressures, or collaborate with actors belonging to these units.
Moreover, your question touches the core of a hot topic, namely the relationship between politics and economy, since markets are the main none-state geopolitical actors, trying to dominate in every sector, social, political and cultural.
In relation to Greece, I believe that the latest geopolitical pressures peaked with the exercise of hard power in the economic field during the period 2009-2018, when, under the pressure of the financial debt crisis, the country abandoned any ideas of adopting multidimensional foreign policy.
V.S.: What are the geopolitical and geo-strategic challenges of impact and how are they reflected in the strategies promoted by your state?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: We are in a de-globalization era, both economically and culturally, in which assumptions and postulates of the neoliberal globalization process, as it has evolved since the 1990s, are being called into question. For this reason, the geopolitical challenges (and discussions) of the future are, in essence, a repetition of previous ones. Future challenges will still concern state-economy relations, the new international architecture that will arise due to the transformation of the previous relationship, the control of wealth-producing areas (rare metals, energy and food), free trade and spheres of influence. Besides, issues related to the so-called cultural globalization will also be of high importance, as they have a important role in the rhetoric of the current Russia-West crisis.
The Russia-West crisis, the rise of China and the BRICS formation remind me strongly to the post WWII era, when the Soviets opposed the fundamental Anglo-Saxon principles of the Atlantic Charter, mainly the reduction of trade restrictions and the global economic co-operation.
V.S.: What impact do geopolitical theories have on the decisions of your country’s leaders?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: The lack of an institutionally functioning National Security Council does not create conditions for the exercise of a theory-guided and documented national foreign policy. Therefore, the theoretical conceptions of the policymakers can only be only assumed based on outcomes of their actions or on sporadic statements. It is evident that most Greeks, as well as the political leadership, see the country as economically and culturally connected to the West. In geopolitical terms, I would say that the bulwark role against the Russian descent into the warm seas, which was given to the country by the Truman Doctrine, under the clear influence of the ideas of Mackinder and Spykman, has been accepted.
At this point, I must underline the general reluctance of Greek politicians to refer clearly to geopolitical models, although it is obvious that they take them into account.
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 our magazine’s pages!
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: The honor would be mine!
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?
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: Since 2015, we have already published articles, in which we experimentally applied Machine Learning technique (Clustering) with the aim of mining data for geopolitical use, while in our research team a colleague deals with Space Geopolitics.
As a science of power analysis, Geopolitics is applicable to any field where power struggles are recorded. The methodology of Systemic Geopolitical Analysis, which defines power based on four pillars (defense, economy, politics, culture / information) can be applied in any field of power redistribution.
V.S.: Please specify the impact of geopolitics on your state’s international relations, military strategy, economy, energy resources and security!
Alexandros STOGIANNOS: Considering that the Eastern Mediterranean region is characterized by a fluidity in terms of forming alliances, I would say that in terms of defense and security, the biggest geopolitical problem concerns neighboring Turkey, which has shown clear revisionist tendencies and threatens to destabilize the wider Eastern Mediterranean region, which geographically coincides with the South-Eastern wing of NATO.
In the energy sector, Greece and Cyprus are faced with the neighbor’s refusal to implement the international provisions for the continental shelf and the Exclusive Economic Zone, with the clear aim of appropriating natural resources, which legally do not belong to it.
Economically, as I said before, the country has been the victim of hard power application at economic level, with the obvious aim of thwarting any thoughts and plans for a more multidimensional foreign policy.
As far as the intellectual and cultural part is concerned, I would say that many structural differences point to a differentiation from Western cultural experience and attitudes, which, however, did not prevent Greece from entering the core of the European family early on. This apparently contradictory situation is the fundamental argument of those who speak about a split identity of the modern Greeks, based on a heterogeneous symbiosis of 2 traditions: the east-oriented religious-political tradition of Byzantium and the 400-year-old Ottoman rule on the one hand, and the tradition of the European Enlightenment on the other.
Within the framework of this dipole, the influences of the East can be noted above all in the sphere of institutional organization and political behavior, such as the personification of institutions, the intertwining of state and church, the informality of roles, the individualistic conception of the public sphere, and hostility to reform. On the other hand, Greece is recognized as the homeland of classical culture, which in turn was an important part of western civilization. The Greeks have a distinctly Western lifestyle, share Western political-liberal values, have opposed the forces of totalitarianism in all major conflicts, and have embarked on a European course much faster than their Balkan neighbors.
Finally, another cultural aspect, which has turned the country towards the West, should be mentioned, namely that the Greeks materialistically approached since the 1990s the western standard of living.
Dr. Alexandros STOGIANNOS graduated the Department of German Language and Literature (University of Athens / UoA) and received his PhD in Geopolitics at the Faculty of Turkish & Modern Asian Studies / School of Economics and Political Sciences (UoA). He teaches the course “Strategical Studies and Geopolitics” at the Department of Turkish Studies and Modern Asian Studies of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens.
He conducts Post-Doc research at the Department of Tourism (Ionian University) focusing on the research object Geopolitics of Tourism. His research interests also include the analysis and creation of geopolitical indicators, a subject which he also taught at the University of Athens. He is also a Senior Researcher at the Laboratory of Geocultural Analyses of the Greater Middle East and Turkey (Faculty of Turkish & Modern Asian Studies), and a Lecturer at the MSc degree program Geostrategic Synthesis and Defence Studies and International Security of the same Faculty.
Alexandros STOGIANNOS has authored multiple individual articles in international journals. His research interests focus primarily on Systemic Geopolitical Analysis, as well as on the Theory and History of Geopolitics. In his published case studies, he emphasizes on the implementation of Machine Learning methods, such as Data Mining. Among his publications are the following: “The Genesis of Geopolitics and Friedrich Ratzel. Dismissing the Myth of the Ratzelian Geodeterminism”, Springer International Publishing, 2019, “Religion and politics: a complex geopolitical Greek – Russian rela-tionship”, Civitas Gentium (2020), “Friedrich Ratzel & Rudolf Kjellén: Comparative Approach to Political Geography & Geopolitics”. Civitas Gentium (2018), “Data-Mining Anwendungen in der Systemischen Geopolitik: EU-Staaten Clusteranalyse ohne das Vereinigte Königreich”. Zeitschrift für die Regionale Wissenschaft, (2016), Vol. ΙΙ, Nr. 1, Hellenischer Verband der Regionalen Wissenschaftler.