mauldineconomics.com / BY GEORGE FRIEDMAN AND ALLISON FEDIRKA / FEBRUARY 27, 2017
Geographic features and conditions are part of the building blocks of geopolitical analysis. And yet, the influence that geography has on a country’s imperatives and constraints can be underappreciated. Access to water is an important example. While the media and academics treat water primarily as an issue of climate and human rights, access to and control over water is a strategic imperative that has been the impetus of conflict throughout history.
Something as simple as water access can impact the geopolitical realities a country faces in multiple ways. The first and perhaps the most obvious way is sea access. Access to the world’s oceans enables a country to more easily participate in major maritime shipping routes. It also opens an additional route by which a country could project force by having a navy.
The imperative to attain and maintain ocean access can drive a country to extreme measures, including war. One major component in the War of the Pacific in South America (1879-1883) was control over access to the southern Pacific. Bolivia lost its ocean access as a result of this war and continues to this day to seek ways to recover it. A more current example is Russia’s invasion of Crimea to create a larger buffer around Russian naval facilities in Sevastopol.