Tomasz Klin: The Visions of the International Order in German and Anglo-American Geopolitical Thought During the Second World War

Tomasz Klin: The Visions of the International Order in German and Anglo-American Geopolitical Thought During the Second World War

mackinder_conceptDr. Tomasz Klin

In 1945 the New World Order was established. Before the all important decisions were made, politicians and intellectuals had debated about institutions, international law, and spheres of influence. The same debate took place earlier in Germany, mainly during first three years of World War II. Only a small part of those two debates concerned connections between geographical factors and the political order of the world, but they are interesting. This paper is an effort to answer the following questions: What were the proposals of German and Anglo-American geopoliticians, how were they conditioned, and what were the similarities and differences? How were they conceived, what sort of argumentation was used? Furthermore: why was the reality after the war so different in contrast to the geopolitical visions? The final section refers to certain interpretations of Haushofer’s, Mackinder’s and Spykman’s theses.

The notion of geopolitical thought is understood as a type of political thought which is concerned to a high degree with the problems of geographical conditions or which at least uses the specific geopolitical meanings, in other words as ‘production of knowledge to aid the practice of statecraft and further the power of the state.’[1]. The period of this analysis is 1939-1945, and the main subject is the geopolitical thought included in the publications edited in Germany, Great Britain and the United States[2]. The article is based strictly on authors’ texts, although sometimes interpretations are required because the nature of political thought consists in leaving some sentences unsaid.

German and Anglo-American geopolitical thought were formed by different factors. The former was shaped by the increasing power of Germany before World War I, and then by the unfair – as regarded by many German intellectuals[3] – geopolitical position caused by the Versailles Treaty. In the 1920s Karl Haushofer and other intellectuals attempted to create a definition of geopolitics[4], to prove that the location of their country and German minorities in Middle Europe created the need for an active policy against its neighbours, and that not only geographical factors but also the will of the people were necessary to make Germany a world power again. The geopolitical thought of Great Britain and the USA was above of all formed by famous intellectuals such as Halford Mackinder in a situation of relative supremacy of the British and growing expansion of the Americans. Distinguished Anglo-American geopoliticians acknowledged the danger of hostile supremacy in Eurasia.

This study is an attempt to compare the visions of six authors. The choice has been made taking into account the substance of their works – geopolitical considerations that are sufficiently developed, i.e. present political changes using spatial patterns, and contain a general vision of the international order. (Authors who carried out only fragmentary analyses are passed over). Some of these six geopoliticians should be well known: Karl Haushofer, the most significant German geopolitician; Halford John Mackinder, the creator of the concept of Heartland; Nicholas John Spykman, his main geopolitical critic. Another author is American political scientist Robert Strausz-Hupé, the founder of Foreign Policy Research Institute. Also, Erich Obst, a geographer who was beyond the main stream of the geopolitical thought of the era of Nazism, and Reinhard Höhn, an SS-officer, whose geopolitical considerations were connected with his thinking about the changes of the rules of law.

Comparison of these authors forms part of the article. It is divided into two main groups. One of them refers to the authors’ methods of argumentation. The first aspect applies to cohesion and multiplicity of visions. As we know, modern social science acknowledges the complexity of the social realm. It is necessary to define how the authors recognized insufficiency of pure geographical or political factors to predict or postulate the establishment of a new world order. In other words, how their works were “interdisciplinary”. This is the basic condition to answer to the question of whether their argumentation was properly prepared.

The second aspect examines geopoliticians’ approaches to war as an opportunity for international order’s changes. The six authors’ visions were created during one of the deadliest armed conflict in human history. Many questions thereby come to mind: How they perceived this war and generally armed conflicts? How they justify the world order changes wrought by war? Basically, they represented a typical approach to war during contemporary era: without reference to victims, suffering and damage – factors which shape our present-day perception of wars.

The third dimension analyses the meaning of geographical conditions in political life. The significance of physical geography in their perception is an essential aspect of geopolitical reasoning.

The fourth dimension is tricky, perhaps was even not consciously applied by the geopoliticians. We can distinguish two types of reasoning: either the international order would change as a result of progress or within a scheme of a historical cycle. The latter consists of a period of stabilisation and moments of disturbance leading to transformation of the order. Each vision is assigned to one of the two schemes of reasoning.

The second group of aspects consists of the main dimensions of the hypothetical international order’s variants. First, the main international actors are examined. The geopoliticians searched for new/old powers with the capability to control main changes and command lesser powers. This issue is essential for the authors’ considerations because the contemporary world order would still base on the state-centric configuration of forces. Hence of crucial importance was who would achieve the status of great power.

Second, the main scheme of world’s division will be considered. This section of the analysis is spatially-oriented. The six geopoliticians paid attention not only to the question who would command but also which parts of the world would become more significant. This leads to the consideration about the scheme of the globe’s division, i.e. what kind of spatial unit would dominate after the war.

The last aspect within this group refers to the main enemies of the postulated world order. Thus the authors’ perception of the opposition is presented. In so doing we can distinguish both insatiable powers and their leading ideologies or patterns of behaviours. This particular aspect is the result of the authors’ assumptions of the future world as an arena of competition or struggle, and as such constitutes the final part of the study.

Cohesion and multiplicity

Haushofer presented his opinions in many publications for approximately 30 years. First of all his conception of “the Continental Bloc” must be analysed[5]. This idea was presented for the first time before World War I[6]. Generally, “the Continental Bloc” would be an alliance between Germany and its European satellites (Mitteleuropa), Russia, and Japan. Only such a powerful structure was capable of balancing “oceanic” Western powers, and would compete with them for influences all over the world. Haushofer appealed to the ideological aspect of this conflict, considering “Anglo-Saxon” liberalism as hostile to “continental” ideologies[7]. In his vision ethnic groups, nations and races struggled permanently among each others for space, whereas the policy of states was only a mirror of this struggle. Therefore Germany should co-operate with powerful allies, attempt to expand and prevent any expansion against itself. In many publications rules were defined concerning Germany and European satellites as well as so-called Japanese Reich[8]. Africa was seen by Haushofer as a natural backup for Europe dominated by Germany who might simultaneously desist from attempts to re-establish of its colonies in the Western Pacific because of a lack of a well developed navy[9]. Haushofer ignored another aspects of the international order such as institutions, organisations and economic problems. He was interested mainly in racial and ethnic configurations of power. His vision of the international order was coherent as a logical continuation of his assumptions, however, it can hardly be called “interdisciplinary”.

Another German geopolitician, Erich Obst, was a co-editor of “Zeitschrift für Geopolitik” (Journal of Geopolitics) in 1924-1931. After his expulsion from this periodical his participation in the development of German geopolitics was limited. Nevertheless, as a geographer he did not resign absolutely from this subject-matter. The domain of his study was “the idea of the great space” throughout history[10]. The contemporary greatspatial transformation was made by the Axis, but Obst predicted that other great powers would join them. He supposed that the new international order would be based on at least four “greatspatial blocs” (units) managed by great powers including “Eurafrica” dominated by Germany and Italy. The blocs should be self-sufficient in their economies because of large spaces including moderate, subtropical and tropical zones. Therefore all necessary resources would be accessible, and thus would provide autarchy[11]. The relationship between the blocs should be peaceful because of the lack of conflict of interests. However, if some of the great powers attempted to interfere seriously in other great space, the rest could set up a coalition against renegades, therefore the maintenance of the balance of power would be easy[12]. Consequently, Obst treated the League of Nations as insignificant. He attached weight to economic and technical aspects of his vision of the world order which led him to the claim that more civilised nations were able to accelerate the development of subtropical and tropical zones[13]. His vision was quite coherent and multifaceted.

The last German author, Reinhard Höhn is not famous as a geopolitician. Perhaps the reason is that geographical factors were not used in his argumentation of politics and transformation of the international order. During World War II he considered many aspects of the order in Europe, although some world issues were also touched by him. He emphasized the increasing meaning of the German Reich as a great power: treating it as a template for states and nations of the European space, he was deeply convinced that all the European order would be changed. Höhn assumed the growing significance of people instead of states. Simultaneously he noticed the increase of supranational unions[14]. The relationship between the Reich and the rest of peoples would be based on the leaders’ authority, and new means of solving social and economic problems such as unemployment or financial inequality. The Reich could become guardian of peace and order, and the only power capable of defending Europe from external dangers[15]. The eastern frontier of the German-dominated great space would be established through war against the Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe would become an area of German colonization[16]. In principle, the major part of Europe would be constituted by a system of states, established by the Reich. Great Britain would be situated beyond it. Höhn did not define the southern frontier of this great space, however, it might be assumed that the geographical border of Europe or political and ethnic pattern would be applied. Like Obst, Höhn hoped for the same way of transformation of the order in other great spaces[17]. The rule of non-interference between the great spaces was also supported by Höhn[18]. His vision of the international order was multidimensional, however, his article and book were written during the actual transformation of the European order by Germany. Therefore he was a precise observer and supporter rather than a visionary.

During World War II Mackinder’s main considerations were the balanced configuration of power, therefore the most significant issue in his vision was the problems of co-operation between Heartland (the USSR) and the Midland Ocean Basin (the USA and Western Europe)[19]. The re-publication of Democratic Ideals and Reality indicates that his main theses remained at least similar. He addressed a considerable part of his analysis to the problem of fair international trade. The advantages of federal solutions in the British Empire were quite precisely described, whereas the ideological and educational issues – only partially[20]. There were also a few strictly political solutions created by the British geopolitician, e.g. the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine[21]. In general, Mackinder presented some detailed considerations of the future international order in his book, whereas his article was too brief to estimate precisely his entire vision. Therefore it is difficult to evaluate the cohesion of his considerations, even though he covered many aspects, even such details as the location the headquarters of the League of Nations in Istanbul (refereed to him by its former name of Constantinople)[22].

Spykman as a “political realist” focused first of all on the categories of power and factors which conditioned it. He was deeply engaged in polemics with Mackinder, as a result of which he defined Rimland (the parts of Eurasia minus Heartland) as the most important region of the world[23]. The basic category in Spykman’s considerations was the balance of power. He pointed how the elasticity of international law that should reflect the changes in the configuration of forces[24]. His vision of the international order was based on US alliances with certain states of Latin America, Europe and East Asia. The second essential component was constituted by the location of the American military bases in these regions. In addition, Spykman suggested creating a global international organisation and regional security organisations in Europe and East Asia[25]. He considered economic issues mainly in the context of national power and security, and referred to the problem of buffer states, the meaning of which was becoming at the time peripheral to foreign policies of the great powers[26]. Because of his death in 1943 his predictions and postulates about the future world order were surely not complete. Despite this, his vision of the international order seems coherent.

The second American geopolitician, Robert Strausz-Hupé researched configurations of forces in the world, and the category of balance of power was also acknowledged by him as crucial for the more permanent international order. Considering the power of a state, he addressed demographic, legal, economic and military aspects. The most important factor of the configuration of power was, he claimed, a combination of population, essential resources and technological potential to develop heavy industry. At the head of his scheme, stood powerful armed forces, by use of which a state could maintain the balance of power or look for a possibility to overwhelm the rest. He stated that increasing the authority of any international organisation would not be allowed by the great powers[27]. The cultural similarity of the West was also noted by Strausz-Hupé[28]. The British Empire, transformed as a result of World War II, would have serious economic and financial problems, and it was threatened by a rapid decolonisation, therefore it had to co-operate with the United States[29]. He also realized the growing power of Asia. The main rival of the USA, the Soviet Union was capable of interfering in other Asian states, therefore Strausz-Hupé advocated the United States took counteractions[30]. Interestingly, he assumed the disarmament and deindustrialization of the defeated Axis powers. Moreover, he postulated restrictions in access to modern technologies for possible future rivals of the USA[31]. Strausz-Hupé’s vision of the international order was multidimensional and coherent.

The degree of approving war as a method of rearranging the current order

Haushofer acknowledged the Versailles Treaty as the greatest harm made against Germany. He believed the next war would liberate his motherland from its all restrictions. A kind of an apotheosis of expansion can be noticed in many of Haushofer’s publications[32]. He defined World War II as “the liberation war of the Axis powers”[33]. Armed conflicts were treated by him as natural elements of clashes between states or nations. Perhaps he acknowledged certain negative aspects of armed conflicts, though, because the German aggression in 1939-1941 was excused by him[34].

World War II was considered by Obst as a decisive turning point in the transformation of the world order. Moreover, the consequences were acknowledged as positive. Although Obst did not directly regard war as an instrument of resolving disputes, he revealed belief in war as a necessary method of global transformation. Because he postulated coercion of the membership to Eurofrican greatspatial unit[35], it was certainly permissible to use armed forces. He also stressed a serious objection to the great powers’ interference in the issues of other greatspatial blocs[36], on the grounds that could lead to global war.

Höhn saw in World War II a great chance for changing the European order. Thanks to this, particularly because of its struggle against the Bolsheviks, the Reich became a new type of great power. He declared his support for using violence against weaker European subjects only in the last resort[37]. The most appropriate instrument to transform the European realm would be German authority obtained thanks to political, economic, social, and military acts. Even when Höhn referred to peace in Europe, he revealed approval for contemporary military violence[38].

Mackinder’s attitude toward war was opaque. Since he eschewed moralizing, no clear declaration was presented. He acknowledged armed conflicts as the inevitable result of accumulating tensions between states[39]. However, he considered stability and peace as to be the foundations of the post-war realm. Therefore it is possible to argue that Mackinder’s disapproved of war.

Spykman attended to both positive and negative aspects of war. He alleged that the more developed the civilisation, the more destructive were armed conflicts[40]. The main category which was used by the American geopolitician – the balance of power – should be an instrument of peace, which restrains the possibility of another great war[41]. Apparently, Spykman was a follower of peace, but under the condition of achieving a status of global hegemon by the United States.

War was acknowledged by Strausz-Hupé as one of the main forms of states’ conduct[42]. He affirmed the importance of national security and global hegemony of the USA in his publications. War as such was not approved by him. He labelled Germany as the perpetrator of World War II, thus he searched for one side’s responsibility for armed conflicts[43]. Furthermore, he claimed that victories solved one group of problems but led to others[44]. In a more ideological sense Strausz-Hupé was a follower of gradual integration of the world and liberating of the humanity itself from wars[45].

The meaning of geographical environment for human activity

There are certain controversies about Haushofer’s approach to geographical conditions of states’ and nations’ activity. Apparently, he should be placed in the stream of geographical possibilism rather than determinism. His statement that only 25% of political activity can be explained by geopolitical analysis[46] is widely known. Also many suggestions about taking geographical conditions into account by politicians were contained in Haushofer’s thought. Nevertheless, he often emphasized the role of human will, especially volition of peoples (Völker). The quintessence was obviously German policy during Hitler’s reign.

The importance of geographical environment in social and political life was not directly defined by Obst. However, it is possible to deduct from his argument the significance of geography in planning the expansion of states and nations, and in forming the borders of greatspatial blocs. The crucial aspect of each greatspatial unit would contain a variety of climatic zones with access to essential resources[47]. On the other hand, considering the future of the “Eurafrican” space, he was attentive to the rapid development of technology. Taking the above combination into account, Obst should be recognized as a geographical possibilist.

In the case of Höhn there is no reference to the geographical environment, hence it is impossible to assess these aspects of his thoughts. Otherwise, Mackinder broadly applied geographical explanation in his theses. Despite his emphasis on the decisive role of people, their will and thoughts, he revealed belief that to a large degree geographical factors determine states’ policy. The British geopolitician stated the constancy of topographical factors, and inequality of nations, caused by these factors to a large measure[48]. Taking the whole into account it is safe to allocate Mackinder’s approach to moderate geographical determinism.

Spykman was convinced that to a great extent a state’s activity was determined by geography. Although the power of a state was determined both by human and geographical factors, the latter was recognized as more constant and fundamental[49]. Despite this, Spykman should not be recognized as a typical geographical determinist, if only because of his distinction of three geographical and eight non-geographical factors of power[50]. There are also other arguments: he alleged that “natural borders” do not exist because actually any frontier is always made by people[51]. Therefore Spykman was rather a moderate geographical determinist.

Both geographical and social factors were analysed by Strausz-Hupé in his vision of the international order. The first might be various in different situations, and they could be modified and used to its necessities by human activity. As Strausz-Hupé acknowledged, the meaning of space as a factor of power was dynamic in history[52]. Another interesting opinion was presented about the USA as the most secure great power thanks to geography[53]. Taking the above into consideration, it is justified to recognize the American intellectual as a representative of the stream of geographical possibilism.

The scheme of transformation: periodic stabilisation or progress

In Haushofer’s consideration social life was developing within nations (Völker). The struggle for existence and living space (Lebensraum) was permanent, and was reflected in clashes between states and alliances. Although Haushofer recognized the beginning of World War II as liberation from the Versailles’ restrictions, he actually did not apply the category of historical progress (however, he stated that historical transformation might be “accelerated” by the war[54]). He assumed great territorial changes, which might be achieved both by war and diplomatic actions. Acquiring a decisive position in the new international system by Germany and its allies would have restored international stability, where two balanced alliances would exist. Nonetheless, that situation could not last permanently, because of further searching by peoples for a better and greater living space.

Obst was engaged in the idea of the great space in human history. In his approach a progressive consideration of this topic was clearly explicated. He divided lives of primitive social groups and primary empires into a few phases from which each consecutive meant to possess larger space, what leaded directly to greatspatial ideas. Afterwards powerful colonial empires were established[55]. Contemporarily another transformation took place: greatspatial blocs were gradually created, while colonial imperialism started to be anachronistic. In result these processes would lead to the technical and economic development in tropical zones. This kind of argumentation, presented by Obst, based clearly on the category of progress.

Höhn examined among others the notion of sovereignty, and found some positive aspects, mainly in the Third Reich’s activities. In his criticism, the connection between a state and sovereignty was acknowledged as anachronistic, and the product of liberalism: free-market economy and individualism, whereas all actions and phenomena represented by Nazism were exalted as positive and modern. Höhn admired economy controlled by the state, the law based on “live” peoples instead of formal institutions[56], and the whole new greatspatial order. Therefore the transformation of the international order outlined by Höhn should be recognized as being based on the category of progress.

In Mackinder’s considerations both realism and idealism were discussed. Interestingly, the latter was not rejected by the British geopolitician. Moreover, he explicated the positive role of various modern ideas in social life. He emphasized, however, that everlasting peace was only an illusion because of inevitability of international tensions. From thus the category of realism began – the methods of establishing a lasting peaceful order had also to base on geopolitical rules[57]. His category of idealism does not show any feature of progress, therefore it is safe to place Mackinder in the stream of periodic stabilisation.

Likewise, in Spykman’s approach there was not any progress but only cycles of war and peace. His consideration of the international order led to such categories as stabilisation, peace, and the balance of power. Thus enables us to put his considerations in the scheme of periodic stabilisation.

Strausz-Hupé’s considerations were generally clearly presented. Unfortunately, he did not leave clear signs of a scheme of reasoning which is the subject of this section. There was actually a statement about creating a voluntary world federation in the distant future[58], but it is methodologically incorrect to classify an object on the basis of two short sentences only.


Table 1. Brief comparative analysis of the methods of presenting the visions of the international order in German and Anglo-American geopolitical thought.


Cohesion and multiplicity

Approval for war

Importance of geographical environment

Scheme: periodic stabilisation or progress



almost unconditioned approval


periodic stabilisation



indirectly expressed approval




very high

almost unconditioned approval




approval for inevitability of wars

moderate determinism

periodic stabilisation



relative disapproval

moderate determinism

periodic stabilisation


almost complete

relative disapproval





















Despite the typical geopolitics related to considerations about factors and location of power in space, the authors presented in this study show also interest in additional subjects, apart from Haushofer whose vision seems to be more specific. There are certain differences of opinion concerning war and acceptance of it. The attitude to war as a method of transformation is notably more approved by the German authors. The most unexpected conclusions are regarded as being the significance of geographic conditions as factors transforming the order. Geographical possibilism was preferred by the German intellectuals, as opposed to the rather moderate determinism by the Anglo-Saxons. It seems surprisingly because the whole origin of German geopolitics resided in geographical determinism – especially in the case of Friedrich Ratzel. Why then the different thoughts of Haushofer and Obst? It seems the answer lies in both the contemporary international and internal political situation in Germany. The period before the Versailles Treaty was very beneficial for this great power. Its international position increased quickly. However, after the First World War German geopoliticians might have realised the possibility of rapid increases and decreases of even such a power as Germany, although the geographical conditions remained constant. Hence ethnovoluntarism which meant urging the Volk to expansion. Otherwise, Mackinder’s and Spykman’s moderate determinism as well as Strausz-Hupé’s possibilism should be acknowledged as the result of their own considerations and the proof of pluralism in Anglo-American thought. Because Spykman and Strausz-Hupé emigrated to the USA as adults, the lack of influence of the American myths of frontier and empty lands in their works should be not surprising.

The last point of the above analysis was unexpected, too. The category of progress was clearly noticeable in some German considerations: by Obst and Höhn. For both authors liberalism was obsolete (for Höhn Bolshevism, too), even though progressiveness was an essential feature of these ideologies. It means that progress as a category could be an important method of reasoning even in the reality of Nazism. On the contrary, periodic stabilisation as a category closer to Mackinder and Spykman should not be surprising because both intellectuals were rather conservative in a political sense, although it would true to say that they formed their standpoint simply as a result of their own individual observations. Although all six authors worked during World War II, the Germans seem to prefer stronger self-targeted propaganda. Progressive argumentation consists in inevitability, therefore might have been contemporarily perceived as more convincing.

The main international actors anticipated

It was assumed by Haushofer that after the establishment of “the Continental Bloc” there would be the following great powers in the world: Germany, the USSR[59], Japan, the USA, and Great Britain. The role of Italy would be secondary. Furthermore, in the Anglo-American alliance the position of the United States would increase, whereas that of Great Britain would decrease. Because of its subordination to Germany, France was excluded from the category of great powers.

Describing the transformation of the international order in the direction of the new “greatspatial ideas”, Obst acknowledged Germany, Japan, the USSR, and the USA as first rank powers. Because of his fascination with Africa, Italy was treated by him with more respect than the other authors. Actually, he often used the notion “Axis powers” without distinguishing between Germany and Italy. Therefore the latter might be recognized as a second rank power. Great Britain’s role in the new order was not described, but, considering the necessity of the cession of Africa’s territories, it would be not more than the second rank power. There was also the “problem” of South America. Obst indicated the possibility of creating the separate “ABC-bloc” with Argentina, Brazil and Chile as leaders[60]. That would mean that these states were powers as well, in each case of the second rank power.

Höhn did not devote much attention to the problems of powers in his vision of the international order. The most crucial of them was Germany, whereas Italy seems to be clearly less significant. It was not much explicated by Höhn about non-European powers. However, it is possible to recognize from his position on the German struggle against the Soviet Union and Great Britain that the latter two states were also treated as great powers, although less powerful than the Reich. Furthermore, his mention of the Tripartite Pact signed in 1940[61] tends toward the opinion that he acknowledged Japan as a great power, whereas the notion “the biological Monroe Doctrine” (the idea actually invented by Carl Schmitt, which meant first of all the rule of non-interference of one great space into the other[62]) should be realised as concerning another great power: the USA.

Mackinder emphasized the special geopolitical position of Heartland. He perceived the USA and the British Empire as the world powers, with France and China as the second rank powers because of their reduced capabilities of political activity. Interestingly, the anxiety towards a future powerful Germany was revealed by him, therefore it is safe to say that he assumed Germany would be a great power after the war, whilst being encircled by the hostile coalition.

Spykman stated that the geostrategic reality would not be changed to a great degree after World War II, i.e. that actually the same states would be acknowledged as the great powers. The USA, the USSR, and Great Britain were specified as the superpowers, whereas Germany and China as other world powers, perhaps India in the future. Surprisingly, Spykman assumed the impossibility of depriving Germany of the status of great power, while a similar prediction about Japan was not made.

Strausz-Hupé’s vision of the international order was based mainly on population and heavy industry as the essential aspects of states’ power. Therefore he recognized the United States and the Soviet Union as superpowers. Clearly less powerful would be Great Britain, even if it might maintain world influence. France would increase its international position as a power, unless the integration of (Western) Europe resulted in the creation of another great power[63]. Strausz-Hupé argued that Germany would be permanently weakened because of partial deindustrialization and the loss of the Ruhr region. In his considerations China and India could become another great powers because of the certain possibility of rapid industrialization[64].

The scheme of world division

Immediately after World War II Haushofer was fascinated by the idea of “the Continental Bloc”. In this vision the following division was seen: the bloc’s states, Anglo-American powers with their allies, and perhaps neutral states and territories. Taking the power of both great alliances into consideration, it was obvious for most international actors, declaring for one of the sides would be necessary. “The Continental Bloc” and “oceanic” powers would compete and struggle, causing instability at the borders of the alliances. In the background of this main world’s division so-called “creations of pan-ideas“ were situated[65], but these ideas were less significant for him during World War II.

Obst also presents a vision of clear world division. The globe might have been divided into greatspatial units (blocs, unions). Their number quantity of them was defined as four or five, and they would contain adequately large space with continental range, including tropical, subtropical, and moderate zones. In the German geographer’s considerations this division would be permanent.

As with the latter German intellectual, the gradual division of the world into great spaces was predicted by Höhn. The quantity was not important, though, rather the fact that each of the great spaces would have been commanded by one great power in community with other peoples. The great spaces would have been created rather on social than on geographical grounds.

Mackinder’s was cautious in terms of predictions, therefore it is difficult to explore his sketchy world division. He distinguished global geographical units while the clear political division was not mentioned in his last publication. The world was divided, as Mackinder recognized, into: Heartland, the girdle of deserts and wildernesses (which included: Arabia, Iran, Tibet, Mongolia, Lenaland, and eastern part of North America), the basin of Midland Ocean, as well as the other lands: Asiatic Monsoon lands, Australia, South America, and Sub-Saharan Africa[66]. Such a Northern-centric view was presented in order in aid in the understanding of political problems by the readers. Taking both his book and article into account, it may be acknowledged that for Mackinder geopolitical regions constituted the basic world’s division.

Likewise, the transforming world was divided by Spykman into geopolitical regions. Some of them might be relevant in the international system (North America, Rimland, and Heartland), the potential of the others was too small to influence these three above-mentioned, whereas especially Latin America and Africa might be prey to external great powers[67]. Some of the geopolitical regions (America in detail, Rimland only briefly) were divided into smaller parts and analysed by Spykman separately[68].

Strausz-Hupé recognized the post-war world divided according to military conquests. Large spheres of interests/influences were controlled by the great powers (especially by the USA and the USSR). The possibility of some neutral areas existed, however, the underlying reason would have been rather the lack of superpowers’ will than the limits in their supremacy[69]. The location of armed forces in Europe and Asia resulted in a high degree in the spatial shape of those spheres.

The enemies of the new world order

Haushofer perceived the political and economic elites (plutocracies) of Western countries as the main enemy of the new order. Although the war was conducted among states, he acknowledged the elites instead of nations as responsible for the possible failure of the transformation of the world order. Haushofer treated Western politicians and businessmen as followers of the “unjust” colonial-Versailles rules. Interestingly, there was not any word devoted to domestic opponents or enemies including Hitler, for whom the struggle against Bolshevism and “inferior races” were more important than classical geopolitical thought.

According to Obst, colonial imperialism might have been replaced with new greatspatial thought, therefore the beneficiaries of the previous order were acknowledged by him as the enemies. This applied particularly to Great Britain and France for whom in Obst’s vision there was not any place as great powers in the new system. Besides, some part of American elite, connected with an idea of “dollar imperialism”, would be also opposed to the transformation of the international order[70]. Whereas the Soviet rulers, responsible for the possible change of the relationship in its greatspatial bloc, were not treated as an enemy by Obst.

Statements about the enemies of the new international order: liberalism and Bolshevism, were emphatically made by Höhn. Both ideologies were supported by Great Britain and the USSR, respectively. France was already defeated, which filled Höhn with optimism[71]. He ignored the USA in his considerations, perhaps because he counted on a discontinuing policy of interference in Europe.

At that time, Mackinder considered only Germany as a dangerous enemy, mainly because of German militaristic national philosophy. Therefore the post-war order would be maintained through the devastating supremacy on the Western powers and the USSR[72].

The vision of the international order was presented by Spykman on the basis of geopolitical conception of Rimland. The danger of another hegemonic war might arise in this region. Therefore the main powers of Rimland: Germany or united Europe, and China were recognized by Spykman as the main enemies of the new order[73].

The development and degradation of states were analysed by Strausz-Hupé, considering first of all changes in their position towards the United States. Actually the new world order might assume the shape of Pax Americana. Its end would have been a new hegemonic war, and only the USSR would be capable to compete with the USA and wage such a conflict[74]. Although a united Western Europe might emerge as the greatest industrial power, its potential was not a threat for the USA because of the similarity of culture and interests[75]. Strausz-Hupé incorrectly predicted “the technological disarmament” of Germany and Japan, while different method of transforming the relationship with these states was applied by the USA: creating a deep economic and institutional interdependence.

Table 2. A comparative analysis of the post-war international order variants


The main international actors

The scheme of the world’s division

The enemies of the new order


Germany, the USSR, Japan, the USA, Great Britain; the second rank power: Italy

two great alliances

the British Empire; capitalistic and imperialistic liberalism


Germany, Japan, the USSR, the USA; the second rank powers: Italy; possibly: Great Britain, Argentina, Brazil, Chile

self-dependent greatspatial units (blocs)

the British Empire,
at lower level the USA; colonial imperialism and capitalism


Germany; presumably: the USA, Great Britain, the USSR, Japan; the second rank power: Italy

great spaces dominated by great powers

Great Britain, the USSR; liberalism and bolshevism


the USSR, the USA, the British Empire; the second rank powers: China, France

geopolitical regions

Germany; expansive mentality


superpowers: the USA, the USSR, the British Empire; other great powers: Germany, China; possibly: Japan

geopolitical regions

united Europe or Germany, China; hegemonic tendencies


superpowers: the USA, the USSR; other world power: the British Empire; possibly: united Europe; the second rank powers: China, India; possibly: France

great powers and their spheres of influences

the USSR; hegemonic tendencies


superpowers: the USA (the global hegemon), the USSR (the pretender to global hegemony); the second rank powers: Great Britain, France, China; the economical powers: Japan, West Germany

three “worlds”: capitalistic (the United States, their allied powers, and spheres of influences), communist (the USSR and its sphere of influences), partly neutral Third World

the USSR, and certain powers of the Third World; hegemonic or counterhegemonic tendencies, aggressive communism

None of the authors predicted completely which states would be the main actors in the new international system. The German geopoliticians assumed that their motherland (and Japan as well) would be one of the most important powers in the world, which was obviously a mistake. Otherwise, in these special circumstances the status of great power was achieved by France, what was not predicted by anyone, except for Mackinder, partially. Each of the Anglo-American geopoliticians made mistakes in different subjects. The five main powers were correctly evaluated by Mackinder, however, the position of Great Britain after the war in reality was much weaker than that of the USA, and the Empire was dissolved. Spykman made the same mistake, also assuming inconsistently the maintenance of German power and probable lasting reduction of Japanese potential. Strausz-Hupé’s analysis of the states’ potentials caused certain inaccuracies: the real effective industrialization of India and China was executed only at the end of the twentieth century. Despite this, the status of world power was achieved by China thanks to decisions of American politicians, and after the civil war thanks to the communist expansionism, regardless of contemporary industrial potential.

Considering the scheme of the world’s division it is reasonable to acknowledge that the German geopoliticians made mistakes rather in naming than in the substance. After the war, the notions of spheres/zones of interests/influences were widely used. However, the essence of the categories of great spaces or greatspatial blocs/units is similar. The main difference (in Haushofer’s and Obst’s visions) was the tropics as relevant areas for the great powers situated in moderate zones in the northern hemisphere. Economic autarchy constituted a significant feature of the post-war spheres until the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. The schemes of the world’s division by the Anglo-American authors are seemingly contradictory. In reality, geopolitical regions and spheres of influences were categories that complemented one another, but the latter was more important and more general. Within the framework of the spheres of influences the geopolitical regions may be distinguished, or individual regions might be divided into two spheres by both superpowers to secure the balance of power. The general trend of the world’s division was correctly predicted by all authors because of the importance of relatively large units, even though there were also some less significant political shatterbelts after World War II.

The enemies of the visions of the international order were quite correctly evaluated by most of the geopoliticians analysed. The hostile character of the Western powers and their liberal ideology were accentuated by the German authors. However, censorship in Nazi Germany was certainly the main reason for recognizing the Western states as the enemies of the vision (by Haushofer and Obst), without any negative references to the USSR after the German-Soviet pacts in 1939, and before the Third Reich’s assault in 1941. In both the above-mentioned cases another opposition became the Nazi government as well. Africa was not the priority for Hitler on the contrary to Lebensraum in Eastern Europe, and anti-Bolshevism was more important than the provisional alliance with the USSR[76]. However, it was impossible to criticize the Führer given the totalitarian state, despite his responsibility for the real fiasco of the concept of “Eurafrica”.

For Mackinder the main enemy was Germany, although from the geopolitical point of view the USSR was recognized by him as potentially the strongest power in the world but not especially aggressive. On this he agreed with Spykman. The most glaring mistake of this American intellectual was recognizing a voluntarily united Europe as constituting the same danger for the USA’s security as aggressive German hegemony. The role of China as a state, which would be capable to disturb the post-war order, was correctly evaluated by Spykman, but the USSR’s hegemonic activity should have been mentioned as decisive. This was exactly what Strausz-Hupé acknowledged. Moreover, the ideological side of the Soviet Union was also briefly presented by him, even though geopoliticians usually were not interested in this subject.

There are some noticeable correlations between the political and military situation and geopolitical statements of the six authors analysed. Basically, the later edition of a book or an article, the more knowledgeable and more accurate the predictions about the post-war international order. Haushofer’s and Obst’s considerations matured during the period of German-Soviet co-operation, and Germany’s military successes in Europe. Höhn’s main works were edited after the German assault on the USSR, when the bulk of Soviet territories in Eastern Europe were occupied. Mackinder published his article when the victory of the Great Coalition was predictable but the situation at many fronts seemed still unclear, including the German-Soviet struggle during the battle of Kursk. It should be remembered in Spykman’s case that he died in 1943, therefore his statements were conceived long time before the publication of his most important geopolitical book. American soldiers had yet not occupied strategic locations in Europe and East Asia. Strausz-Hupé was in the most comfortable situation because many war settlements were already known.

Nevertheless, considering only the moments of formulating the visions remains an insufficient explanation of the problem of the difference between them and the post-war realm. It is necessary to go back to the second group of the analysed aspects. Considering the visions structurally three issues have been applied: the main actors, the scheme of the world’s division, and the main enemies. Evaluating the degree of similarity of the configuration of forces between the post-war reality and each of the vision, one might qualify them as: moderately similar, intermediate (partially similar/different), or moderately different. The recognition is as follows:

Table 3. Qualification of the main aspects of the visions in comparison to the post-war realm








The actors







The division





The enemies







As noted, Mackinder and Spykman referred to geopolitical regions instead of the typical political world’s division, therefore both have been excluded from this category. The only clear time-trend is observable regarding the main actors. This is the essential aspect of the international order because great powers are usually creators of it. The German geopoliticians did not predict the main great powers after the war, the Mackinder’s and Spykman’s visions were partially correct, whereas the Strausz-Hupé’s rather similar to the post-war realm. However, the second and the third aspect seem not to imply such a tendency. Haushofer predicted the two bloc world’s division. Although the German intellectual recognized the main international actors incorrectly, the scheme of division was rather similar: the first alliance would contain two maritime powers, i.e. the USA and the British Empire, whereas the second would be formed by continental Eurasiatic powers. In comparison to the bipolar post-war realm certain differences are noticeable – some maritime powers such as Japan and the western part of Europe were not located in the eastern alliance. Also post-war foreign influences in Africa were less subordinated to the Eurasian powers than Haushofer had wanted. These contrasts do not deny, however, the notable similarities: two alliances – the one established in the Eurasian continental domain, the other around the North Atlantic Basin. These dimension of Haushofer’s vision were also similar to Strausz-Hupé’s predictions. Imagine how little would be the differences if we draw this division on a world map. This means that different factors led to the similar concept. Both Haushofer and Strausz-Hupé discovered the strong tendency of world’s bipolarity, even though the former focused on the geopolitical ocean–continent scheme, whereas the latter on the democracy–communism opposition.

Obst’s and Höhn’s concepts of the world’s division have been classified as intermediate because of the size of their greatspatial blocs/units, and other similarities between them and the post-war realm. One may consider formal structures such the Organisation of American States, and real economic interactions among the Western powers and their colonial and postcolonial dependencies in Africa, as well as gradually shaped connections between Japan and non-communist East Asia. We can realize analogies while spatial analysis.

It is a bit too soon to analyse the third aspect according to a time-trend. Although Höhn acknowledged the USSR and Bolshevism as the main enemies of the future international order, his vision characterized also Great Britain and its liberalism as hostile, therefore we might cautiously classify this aspect of his vision as intermediate. The other authors made serious mistakes in this domain. Ultimately, only Strausz-Hupé predicted Germany’s disarmament, the weakening of the British Empire, and the significance of Soviet communism. His relative accuracy of prediction must have been dependent on the moment when his vision was formulated.

It is justified to add that nobody from among the authors knew about the nuclear weapons that were to change fundamentally the character of competition in global hegemony. Perhaps the post-war balance of power was mainly caused by the fear of mutual destruction instead of the geographical basis of the global configuration. Another important issue which has actually not been presented in all six visions, is religion and morality. The decades of secularization were certainly one of the reasons, whereas two deadly armed conflicts caused a lasting moral crisis.

At this moment there are sufficient data to apply a theoretical model of international order to each vision, considering types of hierarchical structure, and legitimacy of systems[77]. Basically, four geopoliticians presented the system as a whole: Haushofer and three Anglo-American authors. The former outlined the vision close to the model of a hegemonic system, where lesser powers would be subordinated to protectors within one of two great alliances which would interact each other by wars or various forms of rivalry. The legitimacy of the system would be based on ethnic and racial categories, and the “continental” ideological community. Thus would constitute a complicated heterarchy, where some major powers (Germany, Japan) would dominate within their Reiche including colonial possessions. “The Continental Bloc” would contain also another type of ordering principle, referred to weaker subordinated countries (as the relationships between three major powers and India might be interpreted). The whole would interact with the Anglo-American alliance, constituting the global system.

Relations as outlined by Mackinder seem less precise. Considering his article and book, we might plausibly define his scheme as a hegemonic system. Three great powers would control some parts of the world including Europe. The legitimization would result from the balance of power and abstractive categories like “freedom of men” and “freedom of nations”, revealed in such recipes as federalism. Similarly to Haushofer, Mackinder presented a heterarchy which would consist in so-called vertical differentiation: hegemony over certain states such as Germany, various forms of governance within the British Empire, etc.

The evaluation of Spykman’s vision also meets with difficulties. The vast space of the globe would constitute a great power system: three superpowers jointly interfering in Rimland. Despite focusing on power politics, Spykman paid some attention to the issues of international organisations, both global and regional. Whereas his postulates toward US policy in Latin America fit rather to a highly legitimated hegemony because of strategic subordination, basic sovereignty of those states, and the lack of permission of other powers’ influences.

Strausz-Hupé’s vision seems least tricky: a typical hegemonic system with two superpowers interacting one another by way of propaganda, arms race, some risk of war etc. Legitimacy is a secondary issue. The USA would hegemonized culturally and politically similar states, but strategic purposes and capabilities could shape wider range of their influences. Friendly economic policy for superpowers’ allies would improve legitimacy.

It is necessary to rethink what Obst and Höhn meant by non-interventionism. The former emphasized mainly economic autarchy within each greatspatial bloc, and therefore little likelihood of conflicts between great powers. The latter recognized this rule as especially important during shaping of great spaces and extended it also on political and social aspects. According to the above assumptions, every great space would constitute a separate international system. Relations between units within a bloc would be a mix of an imperial states system and an empire. Germany would allow in a formal sense, separate states to exist with relatively strong control over their domestic and complete control over their foreign affairs, and would occupy colonial areas. Both geopoliticians paid much attention, however, to high legitimacy of Germany’s power, manifested by the notion “leadership”, and relative voluntarism of lesser nations’ position. Such a construction of the international system seems idealistical, especially in comparison to historical experiences with contemporary German power, full of coercion and violence.

Now we can be brought to another part of analysis. Perhaps the non-interference principle was false as such? In the two decades before World War II were considered – not only in the USA – various degrees of both interventionism and non-interventionism (e.g. in the form of national autarchy) Another great war caused the necessity of searching some more defined rules. As a result polarization occurred: some intellectuals defined themselves as interventionists, some others as their opponents. Apparently, the real world order during the cold war might be considered according to the scheme of interference/non-interference. There is evidence that both rules alternated: Soviet aid for communists in the civil wars in Greece and China and the withdrawal of it; the course of the Cuban Crisis and its corollaries; the reaction of the West toward the invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and on the other hand, Western impact upon the East by human rights due to the Helsinki Final Act – there are many examples of both principles. Ultimately, non-interference as such was not a mistaken concept.

This leads to the further analysis: the quantity of great powers should be taken into account. Because of the conviction that the Axis jeopardized the whole world, interventionist thought became popular among the elites of the Great Coalition. Opinions about the world government appeared, and even more commonalities about a strengthened world organisation occurred. Simultaneously, technologies of weapons and transport were developing rapidly which led to the enlargement of power capabilities and trade expansion. Contemporary industrial superiority of the superpowers (without interdependence which became an essential feature of international relations one generation later) encouraged them to interfere into very distant areas. Therefore both ideational and material factors tend to create a category of superpowers which wanted and managed to actively overwhelm other powers. On the other hand, their military capabilities (including nuclear weapons) forced them to avoid direct wars, hence such mix of interference and non-interference principles. Obst, Höhn, and many other German geopoliticians could not have contemplated those processes.

Controversies over the Haushofer’s, Mackinder’s and Spykman’s visions

The three most famous geopoliticians’ visions conceived during World War II have reached statuses of the most controversial as well. To the Haushofer’s intellectual contribution to the Nazi era discrepant interpretations have been applied. On the one side, as Bruno Hipler stresses, the whole ideological basis of Nazism, including the myth of the Führer, biological nationalism, willingness to war, and even anti-Semitism, were directly or indirectly acquired by Hitler from Haushofer[78]. On the other side, there are numerous scholars who noted essential differences between the main German geopolitician’s postulates and the Third Reich’s policy[79]. Such deeply discrepant opinions result from following conditions: First, Haushofer’s published much more than any other famous geopolitician (approximately 40 books and 400 articles[80]; additionally, he often referred to intellectual considerations in his private correspondence). It is sometimes uneasy to decipher which of his earlier theses he still supported. Second, Haushofer used difficult language, full of metaphors, therefore his intentions might have been perceived differently. Third, since 1933 his works were subordinated to the censorship of the totalitarian regime, whilst political priorities changed several times (Germany toward the USSR), and sometimes it might have been supposed so (Germany toward Great Britain). Nevertheless, Hitler’s hostility toward communism contrasted with consequent avoidance such ideological aspects by Haushofer. Likewise, the German stress on expansion into Eastern Europe contrasted with the Haushofer’s conceptions of “the Continental Bloc” and “Eurafrica”. Aside from initial aggressions against German neighbours and the firm alliance with Japan, his geopolitical considerations were taken into account by the German rulers only in a small degree[81].

Mackinder’s vision has been another controversial case, mainly because of the noticeable incongruence between his previous concepts and those presented in 1943. The boundaries of Heartland seem to be proper as a starting point. According to my knowledge, the first attempt of Heartland’s illustration on a map was made just during the war[82], but the authors eschewed showing Heartland’s precise shape. This was applied by Saul Cohen to his famous, repeatedly published chart[83] where the western boundary of Heartland extends from the Swedish part of Scandinavia through Denmark, central Germany, the Dinarides to northern Greece. Cohen justifies it referring to Mackinder’s words about ‘the broad isthmus between the Baltic and Black Seas’[84]. The question then arises of: How broad? Mackinder pointed out three geographical foundations of Heartland: lowland plains, areas inaccessible from oceans, and a grassland zone. The latter had become unimportant because the era of nomadic warriors had ended. The former two were still valid. Nonetheless, Mackinder directly stated: ‘it is sufficiently accurate to say that the territory of the U.S.S.R. is equivalent to the Heartland’[85]. Although Cohen justified his choice[86], the above quotations imply incorrectness of the Heartland boundaries illustrated by him. He took into account Mackinder’s earlier considerations and his significant map: “The Heartland, with the addition of the basins of the Black and Baltic Seas”[87]. However, in this case “the addition” does not mean that those basins are included. Two other Mackinder’s charts confirm it[88]. Apparently, estimating the Heartland’s borders Cohen underwent the contemporary geostrategic situation.

There are interpretations which make Mackinder ‘the “Grandfather” of the policy of containment’[89]. The problem is that evidence of Mackinder’s direct influence on the doctrine of containment does not exist[90]. Mackinder’s last article confirmed the very importance of Heartland, however, not in the context of the American-Soviet conflict. He stressed precisely the future co-operation of the USSR and the Western powers against Germany. Scholars who have studied the Mackinder’s article in depth confirm it[91]. Paradoxically, we may find more similarities between earlier Mackinder’s works and the policy of containment[92]. Colin Gray’s statement that: ‘containment has been the post-1945 policy expression of the key geopolitical concept of strategic opposition between Heartland and Inner Crescent/Rimland’[93] – seems properly, but its further transformation into thesis on Mackinder’s inspiration of the doctrine of containment would be a misinterpretation.

Hans Weigert, who critically analysed Mackinder’s work, presented another interpretation. He recognized the space included Heartland, Europe and North America, separated from the rest of the globe by “the girdle of deserts and wildernesses”, as a new “pivot of history”. According to Weigert, Mackinder probably realized the relative increase of American power[94], and thus appears convincing. Nonetheless, he called the Mackinder’s fusion of Heartland and the West ‘a structure built upon shifting sand’, mainly because of application of ‘a balance of power formula which can be applied permanently to the relationship of the Heartland and the rest of the world’[95]. Despite such criticism it is reasonable to consider the degree of accuracy of this (noted by Weigert) world’s division in comparison to the North-South divide. Perhaps Mackinder’s structure contributes geographical factors to the explanation of this lasting phenomenon.

Indeed, in 1943 Mackinder transformed his earlier patterns of consideration. Henceforth he treated both geographical and political factors more instrumentally. The main scheme of the world’s division combined states’ territories and topographic units. Mackinder’s determinism became more moderate (relative), and he applied in the high degree the states’ pattern to his conclusions. The following facts in his article prove it: First, the main subject of the West were states: the USA, Great Britain and France. Second, Heartland was virtually equivalent to the (Soviet) state territory, except for Lenaland. Third, he recognized the state (Germany) as the main enemy of the future order. Furthermore, he resigned from the notion “the Southern Heartland”. A lack of stress on the relevance of the both Heartlands’ inaccessibility from oceans should support the above diagnosis. And here is place for the following hypothesis: Perhaps Mackinder realized easiness of contemporary foreign penetration into the African interior, therefore he withdrew from the argument on the significance of inaccessibility from oceans, and consequently from the category of “Southern Heartland”.

There exist misinterpretations of Spykman’s postulates on the post-war international order. The most widely accepted from them argues that his intention was to establish a powerful Rimland in opposite to Heartland. Moreover, some authors allege that Kennan’s and Truman’s doctrines were prepared on the basis of Spykman’s postulates[96]. Interestingly, those authors did not indicate precisely which parts of Spykman’s works reflect such interpretation. Meanwhile, The Geography of the Peace contains numerous suggestions toward American foreign policy about the maintenance of the balance of power within Rimland, and co-operation with the Soviet Union. There is only one sentence (!), where Spykman clearly pointed out the possibility of struggle between the USA and the USSR because of Soviet geopolitical pressure on Rimland[97]. Besides, he considered that conflicts might arise between Heartland and some Rimland states (China, Turkey and some European lesser powers), but thus was not constructed within frames of American-Soviet confrontation[98].

George Kennan certainly took Spykman’s work into account but his doctrine of containment was based on other foundations. According to Spykman’s analysis, China was potentially the most important power in the Far East, and the USA should have kept it balanced[99]. The USSR would be in conflict with China, but Spykman did not treat it as danger to the USA[100]. Furthermore, he was not deeply concerned with ideologies and political systems. Otherwise, George Kennan postulated containment of the USSR, and he showed a noticeable interest in ideological and psychological aspects of Soviet policy[101]. Post-war American foreign policy contained a variety of issues (alliances, military bases, foreign aid, the development of international organizations etc.) that were only partially similar to Spykman’s postulates. The same refers to geopolitical regions in which the USA engaged after the war, namely: Central and South America, Western Europe, Middle and Far East, as well as Western Pacific including Australia. It is not difficult to claim that this was a logical result of American global hegemony – Africa remained under European powers’ control, and there was neither need nor necessity to involve in this continent’s affairs. Spykman’s objection to united Europe is also different than U.S. policy that assumed support for strengthening of strategic allies through regional integration[102]. Comparing the location of post-war American military bases with Spykman’s considerations we can notice more differences than similarities. For instance, there was not any suggestion about bases in Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Japan, and South Korea. Whereas Spykman’s works contain postulates of the establishment such bases in Greenland, Iceland, Dakar, and the Philippines[103]. That shows how constrained contemporary Spykman’s interventionism was, and on the other hand, how deeply the USA penetrated into Eurasia.

Nobody has presented evidence of direct Spykman’s inspiration of Kennan’s postulates and Truman’s policy, except for general principles such as the balance of power or interventionism. Undoubtedly both famous doctrines would not be differently formulated without Spykman’s works because after 1945 American renewed isolationism[104] was not taken seriously. Generally, Spykman was one of the few supporters of American interventionism during the war, and some scholars recognized his work as probably the most influential at that time[105] – but he was not the only one[106]. Spykman’s death in 1943 obviously excluded him from further intellectual contribution to American policy. As David Wilkinson stated, there was difficult to predict the bipolar world order at that time[107]. Certainly, Spykman’s further considerations would have led him to more accurate predictions. Nevertheless, it does not seem honest to add Spykman extra perspicacity without direct references to his own works.

Finally, there should be some words given toward Mackinder’s and Spykman’s famous slogans which both end with theses about the possible world conquest. Their substance is completely irresponsible[108] because no serious scholar who knows history would allege that conquest of one geopolitical region will lead in result in the creation of a world empire. However, paying attention to the context we can perceive them only as metaphoric statements that lay stress to geopolitical significance of those regions. In Mackinder words: ‘some airy cherub should whisper … from time to time’[109] and there is also Spykman’s reservation: ‘If there is to be a slogan for the power politics’[110] – both indicate that literal perception of such controversial pieces does not provide better understanding of their works.

Both Mackinder and Spykman were intellectually influential, but statements on their foundations of the policy of containment seem to be nothing more than misinterpretations or even conscious attempts to increase the significance of classical geopolitics. Surprisingly, such misinterpretations are still reproduced even after such detailed and devastating criticism as Michael Gerace’s[111]. Thus the argument that comparative studies on geopolitical earlier works are still needed is made stronger.


Source: T.Klin, The Visions of the International Order in German and Anglo-American Geopolitical Thought During the Second World War, in: L.Sykulski (ed.), Geopolitics: Grounded in the Past, geared toward the future, Polish Geopolitical Society, Częstochowa 2013, s. 9-18.


[1] Gearóid Ó Tuathail, John Agnew, ‘Geopolitics and Discourse: Practical Geopolitical Reasoning in American Foreign Policy’, in Gearóid Ó Tuathail, Simon Dalby, Paul Routledge (eds), The Geopolitics Reader (Abingdon: Routledge 2006) p. 95. See also Geoffrey Parker, Western Geopolitical Thought in the Twentieth Century (Croom Helm Ltd: Beckenham 1985).

[2] This article is based on the book: Tomasz Klin, Wizje ładu międzynarodowego w niemieckiej i anglosaskiej myśli geopolitycznej w okresie II wojny światowej (Toruń: Wydawnictwo Adam Marszałek 2008).

[3] David T. Murphy, The Heroic Earth: Geopolitical Thought in Weimar Germany, 1918-1933 (Kent: The Kent State University Press 1997) p. 46; Mark Bassin, ‘Race contra space: the conflict between German Geopolitik and National Socialism’, Political Geography Quarterly 6/2 (1987) p. 119. Exemplified by Ernst Tiessen, ‘Der Friedensvertrag von Versailles und die politische Geographie’, Zeitschrift für Geopolitik 4 (1924) pp. 203-220.

[4] Karl Haushofer, ’Grundlagen, Wesen und Ziele der Geopolitik’, in Karl Haushofer et al. (eds), Bausteine zur Geopolitik (Berlin–Grunewald: Kurt Vowinckel Verlag 1928) pp. 30-31.

[5] Karl Haushofer, Der Kontinentalblock. Mitteleuropa – Eurasien – Japan (München: Zentralverlag der NSDAP 1941). First edition (1940) was printed out but not allowed to publish by censorship.

[6] Karl Haushofer, Dai Nihon. Betrachtungen über Groβ-Japans Wehrkraft, Weltstellung und Zukunft (Berlin: Ernst Siegfried Mittler und Sohn 1913) pp. 262.

[7] Haushofer knew the Anglo-American powers as ”the great demoplutocracies”. Idem, Der Kontinentalblock…, op. cit., p. 50. In this book he did not bring up the problem of communism in the Soviet Union.

[8] See Karl Haushofer, Wehr-Geopolitik. Geographische Grundlagen einer Wehrkunde (Berlin: Junker und Dünnhaupt Verlag 1941); idem, Japan baut sein Reich (Berlin: Zeitgeschichte Verlag 1941).

[9] Ibid., pp. 19-29.

[10] Erich Obst, Die Groβraum-Idee in der Vergangenheit und als tragender politischer Gedanke unserer Zeit (Breslau: W.G. Korn 1941).

[11] Ibid., pp. 17-18, 25.

[12] Ibid., pp. 23-24.

[13] Erich Obst, ‘Koloniale Ausbreitung und Selbstbestimmungsrecht’, in Karl Haushofer (ed.), Raumüberwindende Mächte (Leipzig–Berlin: B.G. Teubner 1934) pp. 318-346.

[14] Reinhard Höhn, ‘Groβraumordnung und völkisches Rechtsdenken’, Reich, Volksordnung, Lebensraum 1 (1941) p. 256.

[15] Reinhard Höhn, Reich, Groβraum, Groβmacht (Darmstadt: L.C. Wittich Verlag 1942) pp. 92-126.

[16] Ibid., p. 141.

[17] Ibid., p. 102, n. 1.

[18] Ibid., pp. 138-139.

[19] Halford J. Mackinder, ‘The Round World and the Winning of the Peace’, Foreign Affairs 21/4 (1943) p. 595-605.

[20] Idem, Democratic Ideals and Reality. A Study in the Politics of Reconstruction, (New York: Henry Holt and Company 1942) pp. 140-147, 176-199.

[21] Ibid., pp. 173-174.

[22] Ibid., p. 173.

[23] Nicholas J. Spykman, The Geography of the Peace (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company 1944) pp. 40-41, 43-44.

[24] Idem, America’s Strategy in World Politics. The United States and the Balance of Power (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company 1942) pp. 464-465.

[25] Ibid., p. 468. Nicholas J. Spykman, ‘Geopolitics (a letter to the editors)’, Life (11 Jan. 1943), p. 2.

[26] Idem, ‘Frontiers, Security, and International Organization’, Geographical Review 3 (1942) pp. 440-442.

[27] Robert Strausz-Hupé, The Balance of Tomorrow. A Reappraisal of Basic Trends in World Politics, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1945) p. 38.

[28] Ibid., p. 272.

[29] Ibid., pp. 36, 203-206, 260-261.

[30] Ibid., pp. 263-265.

[31] Ibid., pp. 162-166, 224-227, 233-234.

[32] See e.g. Karl Haushofer, ‘Der Kriegsausbruch im Pazifik’, Zeitschrift für Geopolitik 1 (1942) p. 24.

[33] Idem, Wehr-Geopolitik…, op. cit., p. 170.

[34] Ibid., p. 174.

[35] Erich Obst, Die Groβraum-Idee…, op. cit., pp. 20-22.

[36] Ibid., p. 24.

[37] Reinhard Höhn, Reich, Groβraum…, op. cit., p. 105.

[38] Ibid., pp. 113-118.

[39] Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals…, op. cit., p. 1.

[40] Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy…, op. cit., p. 26.

[41] Idem, The Geography…, op. cit., p. 45.

[42] Robert Strausz-Hupé, The Balance of Tomorrow…, op. cit., p. 196.

[43] Idem, Geopolitics: The Struggle for Space and Power (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons 1942) p. 167.

[44] Idem, The Balance of Tomorrow…, op. cit., p. 10.

[45] Ibid., p. 276.

[46] Karl Hasuhofer, ‘Zur Geopolitik’ in Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, Karl Haushofer: Leben und Werk (Boppard am Rhein: Harald Boldt 1979) Vol. 1, p. 546.

[47] Erich Obst, Die Groβraum-Idee…, op. cit., p. 18.

[48] Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals…, op. cit., p. 1-2, 28.

[49] Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy…, op. cit., p. 41. See also idem, ‘Geography and Foreign Policy’, The American Political Science Review 1 (1938) pp. 28-50; 2 (1938) pp. 213-236.

[50] Idem, America’s Strategy…, op. cit., p. 19.

[51] Idem, Abbie A. Rollins, ‘Geographic Objectives in Foreign Policy, I’, The American Political Science Review 3 (1939) pp. 396-398.

[52] Robert Strausz-Hupé, Geopolitics…, op. cit., pp. 181, 190.

[53] Idem, Axis America. Hitler Plans Our Future (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons 1941) p. xii.

[54] Karl Haushofer, Geopolitik der Pan-Ideen (Berlin: Zentral-Verlag 1931) p. 84.

[55] Erich Obst, Die Groβraum-Idee…, op. cit., pp. 6-17.

[56] Reinhard Höhn, Reich, Groβraum…, op. cit., pp. 14-21, 31-34, 38-40; idem, Groβraumordnung…, op. cit., p. 286.

[57] Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals…, op. cit., pp. ii, 1-4.

[58] Robert Strausz-Hupé, The Balance of Tomorrow…, op. cit., p. 276.

[59] Both Haushofer and Obst preferred the notion “Russia”, certainly because of two reasons. First, the Soviet Union was relatively young. Second, they both attempted to ignore ideological contradictions between Germany and the USSR at that time.

[60] Erich Obst, Die Groβraum-Idee…, op. cit., p. 19.

[61] Reinhard Höhn, Groβraumordnung…, op. cit., pp. 260-262.

[62] Reinhard Höhn, Reich, Groβraum…, op. cit., pp. 138-139; idem, Groβraumordnung…, op. cit., pp. 262-265.

[63] Robert Strausz-Hupé, The Balance of Tomorrow…, op. cit., pp. 158-163, 168-169.

[64] Ibid., pp. 210-217, 231.

[65] See Karl Haushofer, Geopolitik der Pan-Ideen, op. cit.

[66] Halford J. Mackinder, The Round World…, op. cit., p. 602.

[67] Nicholas J. Spykman, The Geography…, op. cit., pp. 37-41.

[68] Ibid., p. 40. Idem, America’s Strategy…, op. cit., pp. 399-408.

[69] Robert Strausz-Hupé, The Balance of Tomorrow…, op. cit., pp. 33-35, 37.

[70] Erich Obst, Die Groβraum-Idee…, op. cit., pp. 19, 22.

[71] Reinhard Höhn, Reich, Groβraum…, op. cit., especially pp. 46-60, 85.

[72] Halford J. Mackinder, The Round World…, op. cit., pp. 601-602, 604.

[73] Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy…, op. cit., pp. 460-461, 465-468; idem, The Geography…, op. cit., pp. 53, 57.

[74] Robert Strausz-Hupé, The Balance of Tomorrow…, op. cit., pp. 169, 263-270.

[75] Ibid., p. 234.

[76] Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock 1939) especially pp. 179-181, 960-962.

[77] Jack Donnelly, ‘Rethinking political structures: from ‘ordering principles’ to ‘vertical differentiation’ – and beyond’, International Theory 1/1 (2009) pp. 49-86.

[78] Bruno Hipler, Hitler Lehrmeister: Karl Haushofer als Vater der NS-Ideologie (St. Ottilien: EOS-Verlag 1996). The thesis of the Haushofer’s influence on German expansion during World War II was especially popular in 1940s. See among others Isaiah Bowman, ‘Geography vs. Geopolitics’, Geographical Review 4 (1942); Derwent Whittlesey, Charles C. Colby, Richard Hartshorne, German Strategy of World Conquest (New York–Toronto: Farrar & Rinehart 1942); R. Strausz-Hupé, Geopolitics…, op. cit.; Hans W. Weigert, Generals and Geographers: The Twilight of Geopolitics (New York: Oxford University Press 1942).

[79] Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, op. cit., pp. 332-390; Frank Ebeling, Geopolitik: Karl Haushofer und seine Raumwissenschaft 1919-1945 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1994) especially pp. 144-148; Mark Bassin, op. cit., pp. 115-134. An interesting description of the debate contained Rainer Sprengel, Kritik der Geopolitik: Ein deutscher Diskurs 1914-1944 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag 1996) pp. 16-26.

[80] Holger H. Herwig, ‘Geopolitik: Haushofer, Hitler and Lebensraum’, in Colin S. Gray, Geoffrey Sloan (eds), Geopolitics, Geography and Strategy (Abingdon: Frank Cass Publishers 2004) p. 221.

[81] Obviously Haushofer supported Hitler’s aggression toward the USSR: Karl Haushofer, ‘Die gröβte Aufgabe’, Zeitschrift für Geopolitik 7 (1941) pp 369-370. Nonetheless, the clear coincidence indicates the conformist character of Haushofer’s reaction.

[82] See Russell H. Fifield, G. Etzel Pearcy, Geopolitics in Principle and Practice (New York: Ginn and Company 1944) p. 14.

[83] Saul B. Cohen, Geography and Politics in a World Divided (New York: Oxford University Press 1973) p. 56.

[84] Halford J. Mackinder, The Round World…, op. cit., p. 597.

[85] Ibid. Even that statement is not precise because the Soviet boundaries were shifted in 1940.

[86] Saul B. Cohen, Geography and Politics…, op. cit. pp. 42-44, 77-78.

[87] Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals…, op. cit., p. 105.

[88] Ibid. pp. 75, 78-79.

[89] Francis P. Sempa, Geopolitics: From the Cold War to the 21st Century (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers 2009) p. 68.

[90] John Agnew, Geopolitics: Re-Visionig World Politics (New York: Routledge 2003) p. 110; John Agnew, Stuart Corbridge, Mastering Space: Hegemony, Territory and International Political Economy (London: Routledge 1995) p. 74.

[91] Among others: Saul B. Cohen, Geopolitics of the World System (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2003) p. 16; Colin S. Gray, The Geopolitics of Super Power (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky 1988) p. 11; Geoffrey Sloan, ‘Sir Halford J. Mackinder: The Heartland Theory Then and Now’, in Colin S. Gray, Geoffrey Sloan (eds), op. cit., p. 34.

[92] Gearóid Ó Tuathail, ‘Putting Mackinder in his place’, Political Geography 11/1 (1992) p. 101.

[93] Colin S. Gray, The Geopolitics of Super Power, op. cit., p. 117.

[94] Hans W. Weigert, ‘Heartland Revisited’, in Hans W. Weigert, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, Richard E. Harrison (eds), New Compass of the World. A Symposium on Political Geography (London: George G. Harrap & Co. 1949) pp. 86-90.

[95] Ibid., p. 90.

[96] Jan Nijman, articles: ‘Brzeziński, Zbigniew (1928-)’, ‘Rimland’, ‘Spykman, Nicholas (1843-1943)’, in John O’Loughlin (ed.), Dictionary of Geopolitics (Westport: Greenwood Press 1994) pp. 32, 209, 223; Michael Lindberg, Daniel Todd, Brown- Green- and Blue- Water Fleets. The Influence of Geography on Naval Warfare, 1861 to the Present (Westport: Praeger 2002) p. 43; Lawrence Ziring, The New Europe and the World (Kalamazoo: New Issues Press 1993) p. 7. Even Jawaharlal Nehru appealed to such interpretation, as quoted by Sanjay Chaturvedi, ‘Representing post-colonial India: inclusive/exclusive geopolitical imaginations’, in Klaus Dodds, David Atkinson (eds), Geopolitical Traditions: A Century of Geopolitical Thought (London: Routledge 2000) pp. 215-216.

[97] N. J. Spykman, The Geography…, op. cit., p. 57.

[98] Ibid., pp. 51-55.

[99] Idem, Nicholas J. Spykman, America’s Strategy…, op. cit., pp. 460-461, 469; idem, The Geography…, op. cit., p. 53.

[100] Ibid., pp. 51-55.

[101] X (George F. Kennan), ‘The Sources of Soviet Conduct’, Foreign Affairs 25/4 (1947). There are, however, some similarities to the following geopolitical work: Andre Visson, The Coming Struggle for Peace (New York: The Viking Press 1944) pp. 29-44.

[102] Geir Lundestad, ”Empire” by Integration. The United States and European Integration, 1945-1997, Oxford 1998.

[103] Nicholas J. Spykman, The Geography…, op. cit., p. 58. However, referring to the last case he used the term “a minimum arrangement” that allowed further expansion.

[104] Aside from the real meaning of the term “isolationism” in American policy, which, ignoring a variety of forms of U.S. intervention in Eurasia for several decades before World War II, should be actually considered in the frames of mythology or propaganda.

[105] Harold Sprout, Margaret Sprout, Foundations of International Politics (Princeton: D. van Nostrand Company 1962) p. 111.

[106] See Julia E. Johnsen (ed.), Reconstituting the League of Nations (New York: The H. W. Wilson Company 1943); Harold Sprout, Margaret Sprout (eds), Foundations of National Power (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1945).

[107] David Wilkinson, ‘Spykman and Geopolitics’, in Ciro E. Zoppo, Charles Zorgbibe (eds), On Geopolitics: Classical and Nuclear (Dordrecht: Maartinus Nijhoff Publishers 1985) p. 97.

[108] Both might be interpreted in the frame of the “domino theory”. Saul B. Cohen, Geography and Politics, op. cit. pp. 60-63.

[109] Halford J. Mackinder, Democratic Ideals…, op. cit., p. 150.

[110] Nicholas J. Spykman, The Geography…, op. cit. p. 43.

[111] Michael P. Gerace, ‘Between Mackinder and Spykman: Geopolitics, containment, and after’, Comparative Strategy 10/4 (1991) pp. 347-364.

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