The Return of Geopolitics (2016)

The Engelsberg Seminar 2016

June 9th – 11th 2016 at Avesta Manor, Sweden

“Foremost among the countless blessings of war is its power of teaching geography”, an old joke goes. The geographical element of international politics endures despite technological advances, the forces of globalisation and the spreading of liberal democracy. The seas, the rivers, the deserts and the mountains continue to shape our world order. Would Russia, past and present, have acted differently had there not been the vast North European Plain? Would India and China have seen each other in a different light in the absence of the great Himalayas dividing them? And would Sweden have been able to keep its two hundred years of peace had it not been embedded in a buffer zone of friendly neighbors?

This seminar will address the question of geopolitics both as reality and ideology. The geographic foundations of a country will inevitably shape its identity and prospects. Natural resources, ecology and climate must be considered if one wants to understand a territory. Yet, as static as the geographic foundations might seem, our perception of them differs widely. As the history of cartography shows, there are many ways of mapping the world. Politics is shaped by geography, but the understanding of geography is also shaped by politics. The first day of this seminar will tackle the question of the “geography factor” and how we should define and comprehend geopolitics.

We will discuss the concept in relation to history and the attempts to overcome the cage that geography seems to impose on world politics. We will also discuss early empires and geopolitics – from the Greeks of antiquity to the Mongol Empire. The second day will focus on the issue of competition and strength embedded in the concept of geopolitics. We will discuss “sea powers”, interconnection and early globalisation; the dramatic history of France and Germany, also referred to as “the engine of Europe”, and the role geopolitics as ideology played in the horrors of World War II; and we will examine the competition between the United States and Russia over the past century and the renewed tensions visible today. The day will end with an analysis of the geopolitical situation of the High North. Is the two-hundred-year-old Swedish peace under threat? We will sum up The Engelsberg Seminar by examining present geopolitical hotspots like India, China and the Levant. What lies ahead and what lessons can we learn from history? What will the return to geopolitics mean for the world order?


The Geography Factor

Walter Russell Mead
Distinguished Scholar in American Strategy and Statesmanship for the Hudson Institute
Lecture: The Crisis of World Order: The Return of Geopolitics in the 21st Century

Sean McMeekin
Professor of History, Bard College
Geopolitics and History: Framing the Debate

Jeremy Black
Professor, University of Exeter
Lecture: Rethinking Geopolitics

Josef Joffe
Publisher-Editor, Die Zeit
Lecture: The End of the End of History and the Return of Power Politics


Early Empires and Geopolitics

Barry Strauss
Professor of History, Cornell University
Lecture: Hard and Soft, East and West, Land and Sea: The Greeks on Geopolitics

Richard Miles
Associate Professor and Head of the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney
Lecture: Mythology and the Geopolitics of Early Roman Imperialism

Peter Heather
Professor, Department of History, King’s College London
Lecture: Empire and the Creation of Europé

Morris Rossabi
Distinguished Professor of History, Columbia University and City University of New York.
Lecture:  Geopolitics and the Mongol Empire


The Sea, Globalisation and Connectivity

Lincoln Paine
Maritime Historian 
Elements of Sea Power – Past and Present

Roger Crowley
Author, Historian
Lecture: The Portuguese: Pioneers of Globalisation

John Maurer
Alfred Thayer Mahan Professor of Sea Power and Grand Strategy, U.S Naval War College
Alfred Thayer Mahan, Geopolitics, and Grand Strategy

Philip Bobbitt
Herbert Wechsler Professor of Jurisprudence, Columbia Law School.
Lecture: Geography, the Connectivity Paradox and the Rise of Market States


France and Germany

Michael Broers
Professor, University of Oxford
The Napoleonic Empire: Global Ambitions; the Creation of a Trans-National Euro-Region

Richard Overy
Professor of History, University of Exeter
Lecture: Geopolitics and Empire in the Third Reich: the Issue of Space

Christine Ockrent
Editor-in-Chief, France Culture
Lecture: Old Couple Fatigue: the French-German Relationship

Mikael Wigell
Senior Research Fellow, The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Lecture:  Geopolitics, Geoeconomics, and the Struggle for Supremacy


USA and Russia

Gabriel Gorodetsky
Professor of History, All Souls College
Lecture: “Continuum” – Persisting Geopolitical Factors in Russian Foreign Policy and Strategy

Anna-Lena Laurén
Moscow Correspondent, Dagens Nyheter
Lecture: Russia and Geopolitics

Andrew Preston
Professor of American History, Clare College, University of Cambridge
Lecture:  American Geopolitics: The Anatomy of a Tradition

Gregory Feifer
Lecture: Why did Russia Turn Its Back on International Integration, and What Does it Mean for the West?


The High North

Karin Enström
Deputy Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Sveriges Riksdag
Lecture: Forms of Cooperation for Better Security

Karl Engelbrektson
Chief of Army Staff, Swedish Armed Forces
Lecture: Military Strategic Challenges on Geopolitics From a Nordic Baltic Perspective

Frederick Kagan
Christopher DeMuth Chair and Director, Critical Threats Project, American Enterprise Institute
Lecture: The Northern Policy of Tsar Vladimir I (IV), Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias

Charly Salonius-Pasternak
Senior Research Fellow, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Lecture: The Changing Geopolitics of the Nordic Baltic Region – is Conflict Inevitable When Two Core Regions Overlap?


Geopolitical Hotspots

Noah Feldman
Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard University.
Lecture: Competition and the Future of Geopolitics

Banashri Bose Harrison
Ambassador of India to Sweden and Latvia
Lecture: The Security Landscape of India

Jonathan Fenby
China Director, Trusted Sources
Lecture: Geopolitics with Chinese Characteristics

Elisabeth Kendall
Senior Research Fellow in Arabic & Islamic Studies, Oxford University
Lecture: The Geopolitics of Jihad: From Global to Local


The Return of Geopolitics

Norman Stone
Professor of International Relations, Bilkent University
Lecture: Thoughts From the 1860’s

Kimberly Kagan
Christopher DeMuth Chair and Director, Critical Threats Project, American Enterprise Institute
Lecture: Russia in the Middle East

David Frum
Senior Editor, The Atlantic
Lecture:  The Empires Strike Back

Fraser Nelson
Editor, The Spectator
Lecture: Brexit: The Beginning of a New Era?


The Return of Geopolitics: interviews with contributors