Home / Archive / Submissions - February 2008
The Eurasian Plateau:
Gateway to World Dominance
By Kyla Thomas
Today’s world has three major players for world power. At no time in history have two or more powers ruled simultaneously in the same region, and with the increase of technology and the spread of globalism, the entire earth has, in a sense, become one region. No longer can there be an Eastern and a Western power, each leading its own hemisphere while remaining benign to the other. Conflicts are inevitable. The contending countries are not unaware of the impending conflict either. Tensions between the United States and China and Russia are continually growing, and it is only a matter of time before escalation occurs.
Americans have recognized this potential threat for some time now. There is a sense of political unrest among us and many US citizens call more and more urgently for some change in the national government to salvage our crumbling international clout. Neighbors often grumble to each other about the increasing economic competence of China, which doubles with its staggeringly high population to make our knees knock together. As the dollar shakingly clings to its value against the Yuan, the internal nagging that we must do something grows into a desperate cry.
The Cold War presented a situation similar to today. There was a conflict of powers to decide which was the greatest, which would rule. Soon the space race began. The winner was not guaranteed political prowess back on earth, but the race was an indicator of the most powerful nation. It was a power trophy, and both the USSR and the USA knew they could not be without it.
Many other conflicts in history follow this same pattern. Example after example shows that the greatest power is the one that can conquer the frontier. Not because the attempt will grant power, but because success is a key indicator of where the power really lies. Alexander the Great was the undisputed emperor of the civilized world because he conquered and assimilated any nation he encountered. England was a long-standing world power, evidenced by her extensive colonizing in hotly contested regions. Additionally, the westward expansion of the United States proved its superiority to any other nation on the North American continent.
As the new geopolitical frontier, the Eurasian Plateau (EAP) has already become a center of the race for world dominance. Both Russia and China know it. Russia realized how crucial this region was immediately after the dissolution of the USSR. She quickly formed the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), an alliance allowing Russia to continue semi-governance of the newly independent nations.
China also has been extending its fingers into the region, beginning with the three provinces within its own borders. Although most of western China has very little interaction with the central government, Tibet, Xijiang and Qinghai all have direct military presences in their largest cities and tourist sites. China has also been concentrating on efforts to connect this region to Beijing, including the Qinghai-Tibet Railway and other projects.
China is quietly extending beyond its borders as well. China is one of the top three investors in Novosibirsk, the Siberian capital. Additionally, the ILO reports that in the Siberian city of Omsk, (where 80 to 90 percent of the labor force is composed of foreign migrants), nearly 50 percent of the foreign working populace is Chinese. With China’s extensive and strictly enforced migration controls, this is surely no accident.
The region that serves as a buffer between world powers has become ever more enticing to them. As the former USSR's new nations continue to wobble on shaky legs, the wilderness regions of both China and Russia bleed endlessly from range wars and factional conflict. Over the past few decades, the EAP has become increasingly volatile, making itself a likely candidate for sudden servitude. The EAP’s young nations are handing themselves over to US opponents by continuously seeking international aid for security and continuity of order. This is not due merely to economic or political challenges, but is augmented by the cultural disorientation of so many ethnic Russians who now are finding that they are "not in Kansas anymore."
The EAP is not a frontier only because it is unsettled; it is also prime real estate, speaking in global terms. This gateway to the world opens to China, Russia, Turkey and other Eastern European countries, as well as India, Iran, and Afghanistan. In fact, Nicholas Spykman, a noted geopolitical strategist, wrote in 1944 that he “who rules Eurasia rules the world.”1 Sir Halford Mackinder, another writer of geopolitics concurs, calling the EAP region the “heartland” of the world.
"Whoever controls the heartland," wrote Mackinder, "will forever seek to dominate the Eurasian landmass and ultimately the world."2
The US need not think that it can blissfully continue as the world superpower without defending its position. That is precisely what opportunity the EAP presents. We must engage in the fight, but not with swords; with strategy. In this case, a package of tax breaks and incentives for investment in this region would start the ball rolling.
The Eurasian Plateau itself provides the best solution for US strategic involvement. Since the EAP is in dire need of humanitarian aid and investment, citizens from the US can provide this help and simultaneously win allies for their nation. As individual Americans meet and help individual Eurasians, they build feelings of trust and confidence in Americans in general, and even the nation they represent. The EAP has a wide variety of pains, which the US and Asian businesses could help assuage.
All efforts on behalf of the EAP peoples should focus on encouraging them to work together and fortify themselves for the long term. Efforts to increase peaceful cooperation and stability in the region can gain allies for the US. This will help reduce the risk to the US of another nation’s dominance in the region, and will create a more stable environment long term, giving the EAP nations a chance to maintain their sovereignty.
The US would be foolish to pass up the opportunity currently presented by the Eurasian Plateau. With its current position as world leader becoming more and more volatile, the US must make a move to preserve its place and reputation, or it stands to lose everything it once had. Russia and China are both moving to gain power for themselves by increasing investment and labor throughout the region. They have set the terms for this conflict, which may not definitely decide the next world leader, but will be a clear indicator of where power truly lies. Throughout history, such power trophies have always gone to the conqueror and this will be no exception. The EAP is playing gateway to the world, and it is time for the US to grasp the key.
Kyla Thomas is a junior studying Statesmanship at George Wythe College.
1. Spykman, Nicholas J. The Geography of the Peace (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1944), p43
2. Clover, Charles. Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland: The Reemergence of Geopolitics. Foreign Affairs, March/April 1999, p1