The European geopolitical question: Analysis and historical notes


The geopolitical dynamic that has developed in the world since the Russian invasion of Ukraine sees Europe playing an active role alongside and under the auspices of the United States of America, which seems to have imposed its own geopolitical vision on its European ally ( vassal ?). The fact is that the Ukrainian war responds to precise Washington interests but appears at odds with European ones. How is it possible that the old continent has become embroiled in a game in which it has everything to lose and nothing to gain ? Moscow was, before the invasion, the largest supplier of (cheap) raw materials to Brussels and it was in Europe’s economic and geopolitical interest to maintain good relations with the Kremlin. But this did not serve the plans of the U.S., which instead, given European industry’s growing dependence on Russian raw materials, decided to sever economic relations between Moscow and Brussels so as to distance its most important vassal from its greatest geopolitical rival. All this raises serious questions about today’s geopolitical role of the old continent. A role that now appears, in all respects, subordinate to that of the US. But how is it possible that Europe, the “center of the world” and hegemonic continent until the first part of the 20th century, has been reduced to being little more than a “geopolitical branch” of the United States of America and to acting in its favor even against its own vital interests ?The answer is in history. Or,rather, in the geopolitical dynamic that over the past five centuries has characterized (and torn at the same time) the geopolitics of the old continent to the point of reducing the latter to a mere instrument of others’ geopolitical ends. But let us try to understand what we mean by such statements.


Modern Europe, geopolitically understood, was born in the Middle Ages. The creation of the modern European states originates in the formation of the so-called Roman-Barbarian kingdoms resulting from the barbarian invasions that brought about the collapse and end of the Western Roman Empire (the Eastern one will last almost a thousand years longer than the Western one, which will finally collapse in 476 AD). From the formation of such geopolitical entities will take shape the various states, with different birth and modalities from nation to nation, still present today on the European geopolitical scene. Of particular importance was the Frankish kingdom from whose two ribs (the Franks salii e and the Franks ripuari) were born, on the one hand, France and, on the other, after a tormented and troubled historical course, Germany.England, as the name (literally: ” land of the Angles”) well implies, from the kingdom that Angles and Saxons (Germanic peoples who invaded Britain during the fifth century CE) constituted in Great Britain where it was later the Norman element, as a result of the invasion of the island by William I the Conqueror (1066), that brought specific peculiarities to the English nation. In the Iberian Peninsula it was the Visigothic kingdom (not to be confused with the Ostrogothic kingdom that was established in the Italic Peninsula) that laid the foundations for what would later be the Spanish geopolitical reality even though the Visigothic kingdom was overwhelmed, for a period of about four centuries, by the invasion of the Moors. The struggle against whom would then determine, until the Renaissance era, the powerful religious spirit of the Spanish monarchy (Spain was officially born as a nation in 1469 with the union of Aragon and Castile by virtue of the marriage between Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon) that would make Spain a quasi-denominational state.Instead, the Italian peninsula experienced a much more complex geopolitical path that fragmented its geopolitical reality in an irremediable way until contemporary history (the unification of Italy will take place only in 1861) and will determine not only raids of armies on Italic soil (the Byzantine one of Justinian first and those of the Lombards later) but also a centuries-long struggle between the Pope and the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (corresponding, roughly, to today’s Germany) whose struggle will characterize the geopolitical evolution of the Italian peninsula at least until Boniface VIII that is, until the early 1300s.


The formation of the European states, as we know them today, has known a very different path from nation to nation also in relation to their political and social evolution. That is, in relation to the historical role that the bourgeoisie ( and, with it ,economic activity, trade and wealth) played within itself according to the rapidity with which it ascended to political power.This process became apparent after the year 1000 as a consequence of the progressive dismantling of the feudal economy following the birth of cities and municipal realities, the formation of the bourgeois social class and the subsequent recovery of trade and monetary circulation of almost all absent in the early Middle Ages. The “overcoming” of the Middle Ages, economically and politically understood, was a very long and “painful” process everywhere in the sense that it produced more or less profound social lacerations depending on the resistance opposed by the nobility to social evolution late medieval. For this reason, each European national reality presents specific peculiarities based on the methods and times with which political-social evolution characterized them. The geopolitical realities that took shape in Europe during the late medieval period were: The French state, the English state, the Spanish state, the system of states of the Italian peninsula (church state, Republic of Venice, Florentine Republic, the Duchy of Milan the Republic of Genoa and the Kingdom of Naples), the system of states present in the Germanic region (this is how we define the area corresponding to present-day Germany, a system of states formally united in the Holy Roman Empire) and the territories under the control of the Habsburgs ( comprising roughly the territory of Austria and its surroundings) from which the Austrian Empire would then take shape. Two major geopolitical realities are forming in Eastern Europe:That of the kingdom of Poland (which did not have a long life and included, in addition to the territory of today’s Poland, also large areas of today’s Ukraine and Belarus) and the Turkish empire which, after the capture of Constantinople in 1453, expanded in Europe until it completely occupied the Balkan region. Above all, the latter will have a role in the first hegemonic attempt of Charles V on the European continent since he was involved by the King of France Francis I as a counterweight to the preponderance of Spanish power in Europe. We therefore begin, in this particular historical phase, the geopolitical one of the involvement of the external or (lateral) spaces of the European territory in order to reduce the aspirations and faculties of the aspiring hegemonic power (in this historical phase it will be the Spanish power that aspires to hegemony in Europe also as a consequence of the enormous riches in precious metals which it drew from the colonized territories in South America) which would characterize, in different ways, the European geopolitical dynamics until the 20th century.


The European system of states, as it took shape starting from the Renaissance age, therefore saw a profound division and competition between them which tore them into continuous wars and systems of alliances between states which never led to the affirmation of one nation or coalition over another.This dynamic is very reminiscent of that which characterized the system of Greek city-states starting from the 6th century BC. The system of Greek city-states included not only the famous cities of Sparta and Athens (the conflict of which was described by Thucydides in his most famous work “The Peloponnesian War”) but also Corinth, Thebes, Argos and others. All these geopolitical realities never found a lasting modus vivendi that would allow a stable structure of the Greek peninsula and were exhausted in the continuous clash that saw them against each other until, after the Peloponnesian War (which was the bloodiest and most ferocious of all and which led to the destruction of Athenian power) all fell into foreign hands. Specifically, they fell under the rule of Macedonia. A country that is culturally much more backward than them. The European state system experienced a development very similar to that of both the Greek poleis and that of the Italian state system of the late medieval and Renaissance periods (which led to the subjugation of the Italian peninsula to Spain and France). The European states were torn apart in 400 years of internal wars in which six hegemonic attempts took shape (the Spanish ones of Charles V and Philip II, the French ones of Louis XIV and Napoleon and the German ones of William II and Hitler) against the hegemonic power of time, England.Attempts which remained such but which exhausted the economic and military potential of the states involved. Even of the same hegemonic nation that in the last hegemonic attempt, that of Hitler’s Germany, was able to resist the terrible impetus of the enemy only thanks to the powerful war effort of the allies. This contribution, however, was not free and England itself had to cede world power to the two superpowers (USA and USSR) which had allowed it to defeat its terrible rival. In fact, since 1945 Europe has no longer been the center of the world and its geopolitical role has therefore been heavily reduced. After the Second World War it was half a colony of the USSR (until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991) and half a colony of the USA. From 1991 onwards, the United States of America gradually took control of the Eastern European countries that were part of the Warsaw Pact (the satellite countries of the USSR, so to speak) and brought the entire continent under its dominion. The geopolitical destiny of Europe was therefore entirely similar to the system of states of the Greek poleis and to that of the Italian geopolitical context of the late medieval period. After years of internal struggles, the old continent was forced to cede the scepter of power to those “lateral spaces” (specifically the former North American colony and Russia) whose contribution was always fundamental, from the 16th century until the first goal ‘ of the 20th century, to prevent rivals from gaining the upper hand in Europe.

Current global geopolitical developments clearly show us that Europe does not have an active geopolitical role but only a purely passive one. It has become the main prey sought by the great world powers. This is due to its economic importance (it still represents the largest market in the world in terms of consumption) and geostrategic (its geographical nature makes it an appendix of the Asian continent). The point is that the ongoing war, in which it was forced to participate alongside the United States of America, is tearing it apart to the point of making it not only weaker geopolitically but also economically. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe was Moscow’s largest commercial partner and had access to low-cost mineral resources which now, as a consequence of the breakdown in commercial relations between Moscow and Brussels wanted by Washington, are available to its industrial rivals (primarily China). It is obvious that all this will soon have heavy repercussions on the European industrial system and on the social stability of the various countries of the old continent. Europe therefore risks falling into the abyss and losing further importance on the international geopolitical scene. How long will it be before European politicians realize the looming disaster? Nobody can say for sure. The only certain thing is that the old continent today appears “smaller” than ever. Transformed into prey from the predator he once was, in a world that is changing and resetting the balance of power, his role seems to be reduced to that of a mere spectator as well as that of a pure instrument of others’ geopolitical aims.

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