“Le Pivot” commenté par Dimitri Kitsikis

Posted by Florian Pantazi on 28/01/15
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Suite à la publication, l’automne dernier, de la version numérique de mon livre « Le nouveau pivot géographique de l’histoire », je m’attendais de vendre en France et dans les pays francophones quelques dizaines d’exemplaires, voire plus. La géopolitique, après tout, est devenue récemment un sujet «à la mode » parmi les intellectuels, comme le souligne l’académicien Dimitri Kitsikis dans le commentaire suivant. Il existe aussi une version en anglais de mon livre, mais puisque les lecteurs de langue anglaise sont conditionnés comme fut le chien de Pavlov par une machine marketing qui ne peut guère donner le feu vert à un pareil bouquin, je l’ai fait paraître sur Amazon, mené plutôt par courtoisie envers la super-puissance en titre.


J’ai également compris que le lecteur potentiel aurait peur d’acheter un livre sur la géopolitique écrite par quelqu’un comme moi, qui n’est pas au service du pouvoir militaire de l’Occident, ni de n’importe quel autre pays du monde. En effet, j’ai essayé toujours dans mes démarches intellectuelles de servir l’intérêt de l’humanité tout entière et pas celui d’un pays ou d’un autre.


C’est pour cette raison que j’ai demandé le Professeur Dimitri Kitsikis de l’Université d’Ottawa de lire mon livre et de me donner son opinion professionnelle sur sa valeur. Pour ceux qui ne le savent pas déjà, Professeur Kitsikis est considéré comme l’un des trois plus grands géopoliticiens du monde, à côté de feu Halford Mackinder et Karl Haushofer. Je rends ci-dessous son commentaire :

« Une mise au point utile sur la géopolitique


La géopolitique, durant la guerre froide, était passée à l’arrière-plan, à cause de la mauvaise réputation que cette science s’était acquise après 1945, du fait que l’un des éminents spécialistes de géopolitique, dans l’entre-deux-guerres, l’Allemand Karl Haushofer, s’était mis au service de la politique du Lebensraum de Hitler. Néanmoins, dès la chute du camp socialiste, après 1989, la géopolitique est redevenue à la mode, à tel point que dans les médias et le grand public, bien des gens se prétendirent spécialistes de géopolitique et que le mot circula, sans connaissance de son sens véritable.

Cet essai de Florian Pantazi arrive donc  au bon moment, pour donner au grand public une image claire de la théorie de Halford Mackinder, appliquée à la dynamique internationale d’aujourd’hui, de l’affrontement entre puissances maritimes et puissances continentales. Un petit livre indispensable et que je recommande vivement

Prof.Dr. Dimitri Kitsikis,

Université d’Ottawa,

Membre régulier de l’Académie royale du Canada,

Président honoraire de la Fondation publique Dimitri Kitsikis






France’s excessive laïcité

Posted by Florian Pantazi on 16/01/15
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In the wake of the tragic massacre of cartoonists from Paris on the 7th of January, most major news services around the Western world, from The New York Times to The Guardian and Deutsche Welle, have highlighted in editorials the dire living conditions in which many French Muslims are forced to live.


To be sure, poverty, exclusion, lack of employment prospects or the harshness of ghetto life in the suburbs surrounding major French cities cannot excuse the killings that have taken place, nor any other terrorist action for that matter. They do, however, help explain them and at the same time they highlight the decades-old neglect displayed by French officials when dealing with the plight of citizens of Arab origin.


A closely related issue is that of intolerant secularism, which over the last few years has prompted actions such as legislative measures directed against the Islamic dress code and has condoned – through the Charlie Hebdo cartoons –  repeated attacks against core Islamic religious values or symbols. Alas, the Catholic foe had been vanquished at horrendous human cost during the French Revolution: the republicans’ search for new religious scapegoats should relent before it is going to be too late.


Turkey: time to mend diplomatic fences with Egypt

Turkey has today announced its budget for 2015. Total spending is estimated at 225 billion dollars, whereas revenue is expected to be around 216 billion USD, leaving a deficit of only 9 billion USD. The biggest items on its expenditure list are health and education, with 38 billion dollars earmarked for each, which is a significant amount by any standards. Moreover, despite the turmoil in the Middle East and stagnation in Europe, Turkey’s economy is expected to grow by 3.5 percent next year. (source: Hurriyet)


The good news about Turkey’s good economic performance is overshadowed by a war of words between the Turkish government and some EU officials about what is essentially an internal political affair involving journalists from Zaman. Unfortunately, every now and again EU officials feel compelled to lecture condescendingly to their Turkish counterparts on various issues, forgetting the fact that the Ottoman Empire had successfully ruled a large territory that is today part of the Union (as well as the Maghreb and the Middle East) for a few hundred years and that its army could only be stopped in its tracks in 1683, while halfway to Dover.


On the diplomatic front, however, President Erdogan and his government have to finally come to terms with the brutal demise from power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Truth be told, the Islamic brand of democracy promoted after the 2011 Arab revolutions by Turkey has not really caught on in North Africa or the Middle East. This is not to say that such a development will never happen in the future, but so far Arabs have shown they are less pragmatic and more radical in their approach to political Islam than the Turks, hence the fiasco.


Still, Egypt remains the largest Arab country and therefore Turkish authorities cannot continue to reject the normalization of diplomatic relations with Al-Sissi, distasteful as this might be in practice. The current state of diplomatic relations with Egypt could only insulate Turkey within the Arab world, an outcome that neither Mr Davutoglu, the prime minister, nor President Erdogan would benefit from.


Over the past few years, the promotion of Islamic values within Turkey has intensified to levels that remind us of the aggressive promotion of secularism by Kemalist authorities last century. Most politicians in Europe reject the Islamization of their own continent and do by now understand that Turks – likewise – are entitled to refuse European values and to affirm their own instead. Still, the forced Islamization of Turkish society could defeat the purpose, if the policies and the methods used to implement them prove too hasty or too harsh. In such an event, all the solid achievements of the AK Party over the past 12 years are at risk of being overshadowed by social, religious or ethnic tensions which have the potential to tear the Turkish social fabric apart.


Austerity and inequality undermine EU

Posted by Florian Pantazi on 17/12/14
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The numerous geopolitical tensions in 2014 in Ukraine, Syria or Iraq could not obscure the fact that the most worrying problems in the world today are economic, and not geopolitical, in nature.

The total failure of austerity policies within the EU is by now the most pressing concern of governments from the North to the South of the continent. Hailed a few years back by European conservatives as a miracle cure to the sovereign debt crisis, austerity policies have not succeeded in reducing the public debt of Spain and Greece or their 25+ percent unemployment rates. Moreover, the much-touted “golden rule” enforced by Germany via Brussels has only made matters worse, bringing the EU-wide economy to a standstill. The spectres of stagnation and deflation are haunting the chancelleries of most EU countries, as is a Japanese-style extended period of economic malaise.

Another major concern for EU policymakers is the widening inequality in incomes, favouring the rich and severely punishing the European middle classes and the poor. According to the German Office of Statistics, even a seemingly successful country like Germany has 20.5 percent of its population in danger of falling into poverty, whilst the EU-wide average figure stands even higher at 24.5 percent.  The bleak economic situation experienced by nearly all EU members has recently generated huge street protests and general strikes, from Belgium to Italy and from Greece to Spain. The reduction in the standards of living of the middle classes – whose existence is endangered by  the past few years’ myopic austerity policies – combined with the spectre of rising poverty, have motivated students, union members and pensioners to come together in record numbers in an effort to block or even reverse such misguided policies.

In countries like Greece and Spain, radical political parties of the left such as Syriza and Podemos are in the process of undermining political support for traditional parties of the right or of the left, which stand discredited by years of enforcing economic policies that had not produced the expected results. In countries like France, the UK or Hungary, voters’ preferences are also deserting traditional parties in favour of nationalist political parties such as the Front National, UKIP or Fidesz. To add insult to injury, a deal between the EU’s social democrats and conservatives has resulted in the appointment as Commission President of Jean-Claude Juncker , ex-prime  minister of Luxemburg, which is the EU’s capital of the tax-avoidance industry.

The failure of austerity policies and the growth of inequalities have not, however, made a lasting  impression on German politicians or determined them to rethink their approach to solving economic stagnation and high unemployment in the EU. Quite on the contrary, the conservative leadership of Germany keeps insisting that the bitter medicine that failed to revive the EU’s economy has to be swallowed even more rigorously in the future. This is an approach that can only lead to more economic stagnation, more poverty and more social upheavals on the continent.

Where both the US and the Hungarian governments are wrong

Posted by Florian Pantazi on 29/10/14
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In the wake of  Maidan, a new diplomatic scandal has erupted, this time in the heart of Europe, in Hungary. Like in Kiev, it again involves an old acquaintance of ours: Victoria Nuland, the diplomat responsible for European Affairs within the US State Department.

Hungary is currently in the process of converting Swiss franc- and euro-denominated home loans into forints in order to prevent a massive number of defaults on mortgages contracted by Hungarian citizens during the nineties. Unpleasant as that might be for foreign banks operating in Hungary, Fidesz cannot be faulted for taking the side of its citizens.

As the Orban government had proved less willing to endorse the Nuland-inspired hate campaign against Russia, six of its officials were recently put on an American visa blacklist.

Last Sunday, a probably ill-conceived tax on Internet usage contemplated by the Orban government has ignited a 100,000-strong street protest in Budapest and a few other Hungarian cities. The demonstration has provided yet another opportunity for a major US diplomatic gaffe, one that a seasoned professional would have easily avoided. The US chargé d’affaires in Budapest, Mr. A. Goodfriend, actively took part in the protest, thus endorsing an offensive action against the government of his host country, which is rather unprecedented in the history of diplomacy.

Whilst it is true that most neoconservatives and Victoria Nuland herself are of Jewish origin, it is wrong for the Orban government to even tacitly accept anti-Semitic parties like Jobbik’s racist hate speeches in the political arena or the Hungarian media. The race of the persons involved in anti-Hungarian attacks is irrelevant. The actions themselves is what matters.

Granted, some officials of Jewish origin are the children of World War II victims and as such are themselves personally affected by an irrational hate of Europe and especially of Russia. The fault of being put in charge of the affairs of the same continent where their ancestors have suffered continuous discrimination and unspeakable victimization, however, is not theirs but that of US Presidents and Secretaries of State who appointed them in the first place.

As a specialist in international relations myself, and as an European historian I would like to strongly condemn the policy of appointing diplomatic personnel and key decision makers who actively do more harm than good to the normal US-EU trans-Atlantic relationship.


Les grands enjeux géopolitiques d’aujourd’hui

Posted by Florian Pantazi on 12/10/14
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Pour ceux qui s’intéressent à la géopolitique globale, la version française de mon livre sur la théorie du pivot est maintenant disponible sur la plate-forme Kobo (Fnac) à l’adresse suivante :

Le nouveau pivot géographique de l'histoireLe nouveau pivot géographique de l’histoire

La fin de la thalassocratie anglo-saxonne

Depuis la défaite de Napoléon, deux pays maritimes – l’Angleterre et les Etats-Unis – se sont succédé en tant que puissances hégémoniques mondiales. Aujourd’hui la primauté des Etats-Unis est en train d’être remplacée par le pouvoir combiné de deux Etats terriens alliés, la Chine et la Russie, ce qui constitue un véritable « cauchemar géopolitique » pour les Anglo-saxons. « Le nouveau pivot géographique de l’histoire »fait le point sur l’ancienne théorie du pivot d’Halford Mackinder, géographe britannique qui fut le premier à saisir le futur changement de l’ordre international en faveur des puissances militaires terriennes de l’Euro-Asie.

What do Iraq and Ukraine have in common ?

Two states from two very different regions of the world, steeped in different cultures and religions, are these days in the throes of civil war and face disintegration.

I am referring, of course,  to Iraq in the Middle East and Ukraine in Eastern Europe.

If anyone had the curiosity to ask why two such different states find themselves in a similar predicament, the answer would not be difficult to find: because of the unwise promotion of democracy by American neoconservatives in these countries. The process is usually accompanied by a hidden geopolitical or geoeconomic agenda. One of the problems is that neocons like Paul Wolfowitz and Victoria Nuland are not political scientists. Had that been the case, they would have known from the outset that, as Francis Fukuyama explains,

“Long before you have a liberal democracy, you have to have a functioning state (something that never disappeared in Germany or Japan after they were defeated in World War II). This is something that cannot be taken for granted in countries like Iraq.” Or Ukraine

Neoconservatives were oblivious to the fact that this essential prerequisite was not in place when they started their ill-advised drive to promote democracy in Iraq in 2003 and in Ukraine in 2013. After all, getting to the Iraqi oil or tweaking the Russians’ nose in Ukraine were very important goals of the US’s involvement in the two countries.

Victoria Nuland, wife of The New American Century Project co-founder Robert Kagan (pictured), takes a dim view not only of Ukrainians, but of the whole EU, as we all know by now. In actual fact, she helped duplicate on our continent the same  mega-error committed by neocons in Iraq, and the results now speak for themselves. This calls into question the latter’s ability to learn from past experiences and “experiments” (a basic quality of truly intelligent people).

Although thoroughly discredited following the disaster in Iraq, leading neoconservatives are curiously still able to steer American foreign policy in order to advance their group’s  aims, plunging entire regions of the world into war as they go along.

Their political partners in Kiev have just inaugurated the construction of “the Great Wall of Ukraine on the Russian border, which is intended to break the unity of the Eurasian continent at a reported cost of some 3 billion dollars. This mad project, unheard of in Europe since the times of the Roman Empire, makes a mockery of neoconservatives’ emphatic claims that the United States are not about imperialism and that NATO is a purely defensive military organization.

The fact remains that as long as the Obama or any other subsequent US administration gives members of this group access to key posts in government, the peace and security of  whole geographical regions will again be put at serious risk.


Florian Pantazi's photo.

Florian Pantazi's photo.

Who’s to Blame for the Crisis in Ukraine ?

Posted by Florian Pantazi on 14/09/14
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After almost a year of sustained anti-Russian propaganda in the Western press, Foreign Policy – published by  the American Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) – has decided to print an article by John J. Mearsheimer which reads like a veritable Western  mea culpa for the crisis in Ukraine.

From the very start, the article denounces the anti-Russian narrative as flawed and makes it clear that the West has knowingly crossed a Russian “red line” in Ukraine. As the author puts it, the main culprit in the events that started to unfold in Ukraine in December 2013 is the West’s triple package of policies consisting of NATO enlargement, EU expansion and the promotion of democracy in Ukraine to the tune of some 5 billion dollars.

Anyone reading the article will agree that the current Ukrainian premier, Arseny Yahtsenyuk, behaves like nothing more than Victoria Nuland’s poodle in Kiev and that his anti-Russian jibes should therefore be discarded accordingly.

Blaming the Russians for the West’s wrongdoings is a time-honored tradition in Washington. Unfortunately, American decision-makers are not known for recognizing the error of their ways or for making amends. What boggles the mind in the Ukrainian crisis is the fact that the problems and the legitimate security interests of a huge country like Russia are being “handled” within the State Department by a low-ranking official like Nuland.

It remains to be seen whether Western officialdom is still capable of taking into account the assessments of its own specialized think tanks, such as the American CFR or the European Council on Foreign Relations, and of getting Europe out of the geostrategic mess it is currently in.


The SCO expands

The EU’s expansion into Ukraine obeys the law of unintended consequences. Alliances that were probably decades into the making are starting to take shape in months, if not weeks.

Thus, after ten years of protracted negotiation, Russia agreed to sign the huge gas-supply contract with China last June. The two countries have reinforced their diplomatic and military cooperation within the SCO and are now poised to enlarge this organization to ten members.

Russia and China have recently announced that India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia will be accepted as new members at the forthcoming SCO summit in Dushanbe to be held on the 11th-12th September 2014. This is how the enlargement process is perceived in New Delhi:

With Beijing having had a profound rethink on India’s admission as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the tectonic plates of the geopolitics of a massive swathe of the planet stretching from the Asia-Pacific to West Asia are dramatically shifting. That grating noise in the Central Asian steppes will be heard far and wide — as far as North America, says Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar.

In a not-too-distant future we could expect Turkey to respond positively to President Nazarbayev’s invitation to join the Eurasian Union. There is also a very strong possibility that Turkey’s observer status within the SCO will morph into full membership of the organization.

In hindsight, the EU’s and NATO’s ill-inspired eastward drive and subsequent sanctions against Russia have greatly accelerated the latent integration plans in Asia and have increased the bonds of solidarity and economic cooperation within the BRICS group of countries. 


Ukraine: it’s High Time for Plan B

Posted by Florian Pantazi on 29/07/14
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One hundred years to the day, the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural state model received its first major blow. A few years later in the wake the first world war, the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian monarchy collapsed and was replaced by a plethora of new national states.

Not all of these states, however, were built as purely ethnic entities. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, for example, tried to uphold the model for another 70 years, with the help of the Soviet Union.

We all know the ending by now. Both countries, including the Soviet Union, imploded and new national states emerged from their ashes: Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Kosovo, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Belarus and, last but not least, Ukraine.

Alas, from its inception, the brand new Ukrainian state contained the seeds of its own destruction. As Samuel Huntington rightly predicted in “The Clash”, the faultline which separates western Ukraine from eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainians proper from the Russophones, has become the theatre of a bloody civil war.

For reasons unknown to international relations and diplomacy, current western leaders prefer to ignore the fact that Ukraine is about to disintegrate along ethnic lines and that keping it within its current borders is not only unfeasible but downright dangerous for the peace of Europe. The stupidity of singling out Vladimir Putin’s administration for the situation there and of slapping sanctions after sanctions on Russia could only make matters worse.

It is high time therefore to search for a diplomatic way out of the Ukrainian quagmire. One such solution has been offered by two American historians and geopoliticians, James D. Hardy and Leonard J. Hochberg. In a series of articles from the 6th of May, 2014 (“The Ukrainian Crisis, Part III – the Deal”), the two American specialists outlined the so-called Plan B to the current sanctions campaign against Russia:


It is ‘Plan B’.  But a least worst position is not by definition either unreasonable nor undesirable.  In this case, a divided Ukraine – provided the border is along the civilizational fault line – between Russia and the west makes sense on every level.  It reduces tensions, encourages economic growth, takes account of real, not artificial, cultural and ethnic borders, increases the chances for Russian-European cooperation, prevents Ukrainian disintegration, and rescues America from another foreign policy blunder.  A partial win, all around.”

In truth, western and Russian politicians are well-advised to arrive at a diplomatic solution for Ukraine sooner rather than later, as the performance of the global economy has started to be seriously affected by this geopolitical tug-of-war between the US and Russia. Furthermore, no politician worth his name could these days advocate the pumping of money and military assistance into a multi-ethnic state in turmoil that has no real chance of surviving as such within its current borders.

As a Romanian historian and geopolitician, I endorse such a diplomatic solution, with the amendment that the territories of south-western Ukraine inhabited by a Romanian-speaking majority, which had been taken away as a result of Stalin’s Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, are allowed to reunite with Romania.


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