One if by Land, Two if by Sea

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While American geopolitical thought tends to divide the world up morally into the Democratic (whoever is on our side) and the Evil (vice-versa), Russians tend to strategize geographically in terms of Land (Mother Russia) v. Sea (those deplorable Atlanticists).

This dichotomy leads to endless paradoxes. For example, Russian grand strategy has traditionally been obsessed with making the country less of a land power by obtaining non-Arctic ports such as St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Port Arthur, and Sochi, which is why Sevastopol in Crimea is such an emotional subject for them.

And yet the land-bound Russians never achieved their ultimate goal of taking Constantinople and thus securing a sea route to the Mediterranean. In contrast, the nautical British have held the strategically comparable Rock of Gibraltar at the opposite entrance to the Mediterranean for 310 years, and they appear to be in no hurry to give it back to Spain.

In the American mind, land powers are seen as militarist, brooding, and no fun: Sparta, Prussia, the Soviet Union, and now Putin’s Russia. In contrast, sea powers are the good guys, the cool kids: Athens, Holland, England, and America.

With natural defenses and a high-tech military, sea powers generally didn’t need enormous conscript armies, martial discipline, and centralized economic control. Instead, sea power was conducive to liberty at home and adventure capitalism abroad.

So what’s not to like? Why doesn’t everybody love us?

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