The Eternal Return and Eastern Europe. The Geopolitical Tragedy that Never Ends. Part 4 of 4

The Diagnosis for Eastern Europe: Partitions, Spheres of Influence, Buffer Zones and Division Lines and Cordon Sanitaire

Eastern Europe is a specific region in the European continent because it has been a testing ground of grand geopolitics throughout the last three hundred years. The concepts of partition, spheres of influence, buffer zones, division lines, cordon sanitaire, and limitrophe were not only developed in theory. Still, they were implemented as an actual geopolitical project in the region. All these geopolitical formulas took place in these three hundred years. Strikingly, in the scientific discourse, the scholars use these terms they usually refer to Eastern Europe. For example, the partition of Poland occurred four times.  


The main reason for this is that as soon as the regional balance of power disappeared in the XVIII century and the former balancers like Poland and Crimea fell into European games of the great powers, the region immediately gained the features that became traditional to it, like a buffer zone, cordon sanitaire etc. They could not maintain their independence and pose themselves as independent geopolitical players. From the crucial players, the countries’ territories and people became the victims of the grand designs of the great power. From an active member of international trade, the region became the European periphery. The region, which has been at the continent’s centre since the beginning of the XVIII century, became a deep European economic, technological and cultural periphery. From Oder to Dnieper, the region was split between the empires and was their periphery. Neither Moscow, Berlin, nor Vienna was interested in developing their advanced industries’ production chain in Eastern Europe. The semi-colonial approach dominated the Austro-Hungarian, Russian and German Empires. The colonial approach dominated during the last period of “drawing” the new political map of Europe between 1944 and 1945. The lion’s share of this process is precisely taken in Eastern Europe. 


The return to geopolitics in 2014 for the region meant that all the above concepts would return sooner or later. Europe returns to the Times of the Trouble or, in other words, to the Nietzschean “Eternal Return.” Russia is redrawing the political map of Europe, but Ukraine and the West are resisting this blatant aggression against a peaceful European nation. This military-geopolitical rivalry has global implications; hence, two sides understand the consequences in case of victory of the adversary. Therefore, it is an existential struggle for global dominance. In the Middle Ages, this geopolitical rivalry would be called the war for the crown, or our contemporaries would call it the struggle for global hegemony. Unfortunately for Eastern European peoples, the domination in the region usually has global repercussions. The control over the region that Prussia and Russia established made them European powers. These two powers built a new balance of power in the region on the ruins of Poland and at the expanse of all Eastern European populations.


New Curzon Line: “Belarussian Balcony” and the Western Ukraine

In the XXI century, the geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe was different; now, there is only Russia’s reactionist power and the puppet regime in Belarus. Despite that, it is possible to see the pessimistic scenario for Eastern Europe on the horizon. By taking control over Crimea in 2014 and Belarus in 2020, Russia gradually started revealing its grand design for the region. But only at the end of 2021 did Moscow bring to the negotiation table its vision of the new geopolitical architecture in Eastern Europe known as “Russian draft documents on legal security guarantees from the United States and NATO.” The essential elements of this draft concerned Eastern Europe.[35]  It seems that Russia prepared the framework for future negotiations in case of success in Ukraine, but the course of the war changed this ambitious plan. Moscow proposes to the West a new partition of the region and the establishment of a new cordon sanitaire or new Curzon Line that should start from the Barents Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south of the initial decision to invade Ukraine, possibly to explain from a realistic point of view or from a tactical point of view that Russia invaded Ukraine to settle the Crimean issue.



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Autor Ridvan Bari Urcosta
Senior Analyst at Strategy&Future
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