Prisoners of Geography


prisoners-of-geography-9781501121463_hrIn “Prisoners of Geography,” Tim Marshall explores ten different regions around the globe to reveal how geography explains global politics. Political realities are shaped by physical strengths and vulnerabilities and Marshall provides numerous examples of how geography dictates needs. The Northern European plain is flat and easy for armies to traverse, as Hitler and Napoleon have shown. Consequently, Russia wants the Ukraine as a buffer from attack from the west. Russia also requires the Crimea for access to the Black Sea and a warm water port for its navy. The Himalayas provide an excellent barrier between China and India and help explain why they have had no major military conflicts. Iran has terrain that makes an integrated economy difficult. China needs Tibet for water and natural resources and also to control the high ground up to the Himalayas. While Europe’s rivers are navigable and unify the region, the rivers in Africa do not connect and have numerous waterfalls making transportation impossible. Marshall reviews the destructive nature of a European colonialism which drew random lines across territories, inventing colonies and nations while tragically ignoring geography, ethnic groups, languages and culture. In the chapter on the Arctic, Marshall critiques the lack of a coherent US strategy to deal with a rapidly changing and more accessible region. Rich in gas, oil and metals, the Arctic has valuable resources and Russia has already planted a flag. This book provides an insightful overview of realpolitik.

Nicole Charbonnet


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