Mackinder Forum Virtual Seminar #62: Rodger Baker, “Revisiting Arctic Geopolitics.”

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On Sunday, July 24, 2022, Mr. Rodger Baker presented a talk to the Mackinder Forum Seminar on “Revisiting Arctic Geopolitics.” 

Abstract: From a classical geopolitical perspective, the Arctic has often been a peripheral area. Mackinder’s heartland theory, for example, rested on the idea that the Arctic was a barrier, sealing in the vast northern frontier of Eurasia. Formidable climactic conditions showed little value of the Arctic for maritime theories of geopolitics, after numerous failed attempts to find viable northern sea routes. The advent of air power theory and the Cold War briefly revived focus on the Arctic as a geopolitically significant space, whether for subsea operations under the ice, the projection of air power over the pole (e.g. Mitchell and Seversky), or the route of ballistic missiles and placement of anti-ballistic missile systems.

Shifting climate conditions force us to reassess once again our understanding of Arctic geopolitics. Russia is already adapting to an open maritime frontier along its northern border, has eyes on utilizing its long-constrained river network to bring agricultural products to newly reliable Arctic ports from as far afield as Central Asia, and has begun tests of north-south transit corridors reaching from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean. In Europe, the expansion of NATO and the reawakening of Western Europeans to the Russian threat has accelerated strategic cooperation in Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea. And in North America, the United States and Canada, late to the game, are stepping up attention not only to air power in the far north, but maritime and land power as well. Greenland is increasingly a focal point of competition and cooperation between North American and European Arctic powers, and Asian powers with growing Arctic interests.

In “Revisiting Arctic Geopolitics,” we will focus on the significant changes to Russia’s geopolitical framework due to shifting Arctic conditions, and touch on the European and North American Arctic as well. We will also briefly consider alternative frameworks for the Arctic that pre-date great power competition – the climactic zones and indigenous populations have their own geography of the Arctic, still visible in population patterns, linguistic groupings, and traditional economic modes. These cross regional polities are playing a growing role in national and trans-national political, economic, and security realms, and are thus a key component of any modern geopolitical assessment of the Arctic. 

Biography: Mr. Rodger Baker, formerly the long-time Senior VP of Strategic Analysis at STRATFOR, is now Director of the new Stratfor Center for Applied Geopolitics, RANE.

The purpose of the Center: Building on over a quarter century of Stratfor’s application of geopolitical intelligence to the corporate, national security, and educational sectors, the Center seeks to identify, develop, and strengthen best practices in geopolitical analysis and provide tools, methods, and training to organizations and individuals as they integrate geopolitical risk and opportunity into their business practices

The Center focuses on three major initiatives:

1. Training, Education, and Certification

2. Knowledge-Sharing Events

3. Geopolitical Thought Leadership

Readings (selected from postings to the STRATFOR (RANE) website:

Rodger Baker, “Alaska’s Geopolitical Significance for the United States,” Stratfor, June 24, 2019.

Rodger Baker, “A Warmer Arctic Makes for a Hotter Geopolitics,” Stratfor, September 5, 2019.

Rodger Baker, “Russia’s Emerging Arctic Maritime Frontier,” Stratfor, September 15, 2020.

Rodger Baker, “The Geopolitics of Climate Change: Russia’s Paradigm Shift,” Stratfor, June 30, 2021.

Rodger Baker, “NATO Tensions Reinforce and Complicate Russia’s Arctic Ambitions,” Stratfor, March 17, 2022.

Rodger Baker, “China’s Opportunity to Break Into Arctic Governance,” Stratfor, May 13, 2022.