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The Round World and the Winning of the Peace

Author(s): Halford J. Mackinder


Source: Foreign Affairs, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Jul., 1943), pp. 595-605
Published by: Council on Foreign Relations
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AFFAIRS

FOREIGN
21

Vol

JULY 1943 No. 4

THE ROUND WORLD AND THE


WINNING OF THE PEACE
By Sir Halford
I

J. Mackinder

HAVE been asked to carry further some of the themes with


in particular to con
which I have dealt inmy past writings,
has
sider whether my strategical concept of a "Heartland"
lost any of its significance under the conditions of modern war
fare. In order to set the concept into its context, I must begin
with a short account of how it originally came to take shape.
My earliest memory of public affairs goes back to the day in
as a small
September 1870 when,
boy who had just begun attend
ance at the local grammar school, I took home the news, which I
had learned from a telegram affixed to the post office door, that
III and his whole army had surrendered to the Prus
Napoleon
at
who still
sians
Sedan. This came as a shock to Englishmen,
in the wake of Trafalgar and the retreat from
moved mentally
but the full effect of it was not realized until some
Moscow,
later.
Britain's supremacy on the ocean had not yet been
years
challenged, and the only danger she saw at that time to her over
seas empire was in the Asiatic position of Russia. During
this
were
to
of
the
London
detect
evidence
newspapers
quick
period
rumor
in
in
and
Russian
from
every
intrigue
Constantinople
every tribal disturbance
along the northwest frontier of India.
British sea power and Russian land power held the center of the
international

stage.

von
Thirty years later, at the turn of the century,
Tirpitz
a
to
seas
was
at
German
time
build
I
fleet.
this
began
busy
high
at
the
of
and
historical
setting up
teaching
geography
political
the universities of Oxford and London, and was noting current
move
events with a teacher's eye for
generalization. The German
ment meant, I saw, that the nation
already possessing the great
est organized land power and
the central strategical
occupying

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.FOREIGN AFFAIRS

596

in Europe was about to add to itself sea power strong


position
to
neutralize British sea power. The United States was
enough
also rising steadily to the rank of a Great Power. As yet, however,
its rise could be measured only in statistical
tables; although in
someone
been
childhood
had
my
already
impressed with Ameri
can

for

resourcefulness,

in our

I remember

schoolroom

picture

of the battle between the Merrimac


and the Monitor^
the first
armored ship and the first turret ship. Thus Germany
and the
United States came up alongside of Britain and Russia.
events out of which sprang the idea of the
The particular
were
Heartland
the British war in South Africa and the Russian
war inManchuria.
The South African war ended in 1902, and in
war was
the spring of 1904 the Russo-Japanese
clearly imminent.
A paper which I read before the Royal
Geographical
Society
Pivot of
early in the latter year, entitled "The Geographical
was therefore
a
of
History,"
background
topical, but it had
and
of
observation
many years
thought.
The contrast presented by the British war against the Boers,
fought 6,000 miles away across the ocean, and the war fought by
Russia at a comparable distance across the land expanse of Asia,
a
naturally suggested
parallel contrast between Vasco da Gama
rounding the Cape of Good Hope on his voyage to the Indies,
near the end of the fifteenth century, and the ride of Yermak,
the
at
over
of
Ural
into
the
head
the
his
Cossack,
horsemen,
range
in turn
Siberia early in the sixteenth century. That comparison
led

to a review

of

the

long

succession

of

raids

made

by

the

no

madic tribes of Central Asia, through classical antiquity and the


Middle Ages, upon the settled populations of the crescent of sub
continents: peninsular Europe, the Middle East, the Indies, and
China

proper.

My

conclusion

was

that,

...
to attempt,
in the present decade we are for the first time in a position
a correlation between the larger
with some degree of completeness,
geographi
cal and the larger historical generalizations.
For the first time we can perceive
of features and events on the stage of the
of the real proportion
something
whole world, and may seek a formula which shall express certain aspects, at
in universal history.
causation
If we are fortunate,
any rate, of geographical
some of
that formula should have a practical value as setting into perspective
the competing
forces in current international
politics.

occurs once in the 1904 paper, but inci


The word Heartland
as a
and
and not a technical term. The ex
dentally
descriptive
were used instead, thus:
area"
and
pressions "pivot
"pivot state"

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THE ROUND WORLD

597

The oversetting
of the balance of power in favor of the pivot state, resulting
in its expansion over the marginal
lands of Euro-Asia, would permit of the use
resources for fleet-building,
and the empire of the world
of vast continental
were to ally herself
if Germany
then be in sight. This might happen
would
with Russia.
In conclusion,
itmay be well expressly to point out that the substitution
of
some new control of the inland area for that of Russia would not tend to reduce
the Chinese,
for in
the geographical
significance of the pivot position. Were
to overthrow
the Russian
and
stance, organized
by the Japanese,
Empire
to
the
constitute
the
free
its
world's
conquer
territory, they might
yellow peril
dom just because they would add an oceanic frontage to the resources of the
great continent.

At the end of the First World War, my book, "Democratic


in London and New York.1
Ideals and Reality," was published
for an
label, which had been appropriate
Clearly the "pivot"
academic thesis at the beginning of the century, was no longer
adequate to the international situation as it emerged from that
first great crisis of our world revolution: hence "Ideals," "Reali
ties" and the "Heartland." But the fact that, even when addi
tional criteria were brought to bear, the thesis of 1904 still sufficed
as the background for an estimate of the
position fifteen years
later, gave confidence that the formula sought had been found.
11
?
now to the main
the
object of the present article
an interim estimate of the value of the Heartland
a survey of the world
to the coming
preliminary
that I am dealing with strat
It must be understood
egy, which, of course, is effective in peacetime no less than in
debates
wartime. I do not presume to join in the wide-sweeping
over
to
in
which
look
forward
come;
progress
generations
already
I center my thoughts on the years during which the enemy is to
be held down while, in the language of Casablanca, his philosophy
of war is being killed.
The Heartland
is the northern part and the interior of Euro
Asia. It extends from the Arctic coast down to the central deserts,
and has as its western limits the broad isthmus between the Baltic
and Black Seas. The concept does not admit of precise definition
on the map for the reason that it is based on three separate as
pects of physical geography which, while reinforcing one another,
turn
drafting of
in
concept
settlement.
We

1A new
New

edition,

with

text

unaltered,

was

published

last year

by Henry

Holt

York.

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and Company,

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

598

are not
we have in this region
exactly coincident. First of all,
by
far the widest lowland plain on the face of the globe. Secondly,
there flow across that plain some great navigable rivers; certain
of them go north to the Arctic Sea and are inaccessible from the
ocean because it is cumbered with ice, while others flow into in
land waters, such as the Caspian, which have no exit to the ocean.
a
zone which, until within the last
Thirdly, there is here grassland
century and a half, presented ideal conditions for the development
of high mobility by camel and horse-riding nomads. Of the three
features

cartographically;
group of Arctic
isolate

the

mentioned,

neatly

river

are

basins

easiest

the

to

present

the whole
the water divide which delimits
rivers into a single unit does
and "continental"

on

a vast

the map

coherent

area which

is the Heart

land according to that particular criterion. The mere exclusion of


sea
and sea power, however,
is a negative
if important
mobility
was
the
offered
and
the
belt
which
it
differential;
grassland
plain
to
the other type of mobility,
the positive conditions conducive
it traverses the
that proper to the prairie. As for the grassland,
whole breadth of the plain but does not cover its entire surface.
the Heartland
these apparent discrepancies,
Notwithstanding
a sufficient
thinking. To
physical basis for strategical
provides
to
would
be mis
and
further
go
simplify geography artificially
leading.
For our present purpose it is sufficiently
is equivalent
the territory of the U.S.S.R.
cept
great

in one
?
one

In order
direction.
let us draw a direct

to demarcate
line,

some

accurate to say that


ex
to the Heartland,
?
exception
west
miles
long,

that
5,500

from Bering Strait to Rumania. Three thousand miles from


Bering Strait that line will cross the Yenisei River, flowing north
to the Arctic Ocean. Eastward
ward from the borders of Mongolia
of that great river lies a generally rugged country of mountains,
covered almost from end to end with
and valleys,
plateaux
from its central
coniferous
forests; this I shall call Lenaland,
not
River
Lena.
is
inHeartland
included
This
the
feature,
great
Russia. Lenaland Russia has an area of three and three-quarter
million square miles, but a population of only some six millions, of
whom almost five millions are settled along the transcontinental
In the remainder of this
railroad from Irkutsk to Vladivostok.
are
on
over
the average
three square miles for
territory there
?
resources
The
rich
natural
inhabitant.
timber, water
every
ward

power

and minerals

are

as

yet

practically

untouched.

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THE ROUNDWORLD

of the Yenisei
lies what I have described as Heartland
a
plain extending 2,500 miles north and south, and 2,500

West
Russia,
miles

599

east

and west.

It contains

four

and

a quarter

million

square

miles and a population of more than 170millions. The


population
is increasing at the rate of three millions a year.
The simplest and probably the most effective way of presenting
the strategical values of the Russian Heartland
is to compare
case
them with those of France. In the
of France, however, the
historical background
is the First World War while in the case
of Russia it is the Second World War.
France, like Russia, is a compact country, as long as it is broad,
as the Heartland
but not quite so well-rounded
and therefore
with a rather smaller area in proportion to the length of
boundary
to be defended. It is
sea
and
mountain,
except
encompassed by
to the northeast. In 1914-18 there were no hostile countries be
hind the Alps and the Pyrenees, and the fleets of France and her
allies dominated the seas. The French and allied armies, deployed
across

the

northeastern

open

frontier,

were

therefore

well

de

fended on either flank and were secure in the rear. The tragic low
in the northeast,
land gateway
through which so many armies
have surged inward and outward, is 300 miles wide between the
Vosges and the North Sea. In 1914, the line of battle, pivoting on
the Vosges, wheeled backward to the Marne; and at the end of
the war, in 1918, it wheeled forward on the same pivot. Through
the four years' interval the elastic front sagged and bent but did
not break even in the face of the great German attack in the
as it
spring of 1918. Thus,
proved, there was space within the
sufficient
both
for
in depth and for strategical
defense
country
retreat.

Unfortunately

trial area was


battle

was

for France,

in that northeastern

however,

her

sector where

principal

indus

the unceasing

waged,

repeats in essentials the pattern of France, but on a


instead
greater scale and with her open frontier turned westward
of northeastward.
In the present war the Russian army is aligned
across that open frontier. In its rear is the vast
plain of the Heart
available
for
in
defense
land,
depth and for strategic retreat.
Away back, this plain recedes eastward into the natural bulwarks
constituted
Arctic coast, the Lenaland
by the "inaccessible"
wilderness behind the Yenisei, and the fringe of mountains
from
the Altai to the Hindu Kush, backed
by the Gobi, Tibetan and
Iranian deserts. These
three barriers have breadth and sub
Russia

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FOREIGNAFFAIRS

6oo

stance, and far excel in defensive value the coasts and mountains
which engird France.
It is true that the Arctic shore is no longer inaccessible in the
absolute sense that held until a few years ago. Convoys of mer
chant ships, assisted by powerful icebreakers and with airplanes
ahead for water lanes through the ice pack, have
reconnoitring
to
traded
the Obi and Yenisei Rivers, and even to the Lena River;
ice and
but a hostile invasion across the vast area of circum-polar
over the Tundra mosses and Targa forests of Northern
Siberia
seems almost
in the face of Soviet
land-based air
impossible
defense.

To complete the comparison between France and Russia,


let
us consider the relative scales of some
Heartland
facts.
parallel
Russia has four times the population,
four times as wide an open
frontier, and twenty times the area of France. That open frontier
to the Russian
is not disproportionate
and to equal
population;
to eke
of
Soviet
the breadth
the
deployment Germany has had
out her more limited manpower
by diluting it with less effective
one
re
drawn
from
her
troops
subject countries. In
important
war
no
her
with
second
in
Russia
spect, however,
began
Germany
better position than France occupied in 1914; as with France, her
most
developed agriculture and industries lay directly in the path
of the invader. The second Five Year Plan would have remedied
that situation had the German aggression been delayed a couple
of years. Perhaps that was one of Hitler's reasons for breaking his
treaty with Stalin in 1941.
to say
of the Heartland,
The vast potentialities
however,
reserves in Lenaland, are
of
the
natural
nothing
strategically well
are growing
as the
rapidly in such localities
placed. Industries
southern Urals, in the very pivot of the pivot area, and in the
rich Kuznetsk
coal basin in the lee of the great natural barriers
east of the upper Yenisei River. In 1938 Russia produced more
of the following foodstuffs than any other country in the world:
wheat,

barley,

oats,

rye

and

sugar

beets.

More

manganese

was

was bracketed
produced in Russia than in any other country. It
as
with the United States in the first place
regards iron, and it
stood second place in production of petroleum. As for coal, Mik
statement that the resources of the Kuznetsk
haylov makes the
coal basins are each estimated to be capable of
and Krasnoyarsk
supplying the requirements of the whole world for 300 years.2 The
2N.
Mikhaylov,

"Soviet

Geography/'

London:

Methuen,

1937.

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THE ROUND WORLD

601

ex
was to balance
imports and
policy of the Soviet Government
a very few com
Plan.
in
Year
first
Five
the
ports during
Except
the country is capable of producing everything which it
modities
requires.

that if the
All things considered, the conclusion is unavoidable
war
as
from
of
Union
Soviet
this
conqueror
emerges
Germany,
she must rank as the greatest land Power on the globe. Moreover,
in the strategically
she will be the Power
strongest defensive
the
natural
Heartland
fortress on earth.
The
is
greatest
position.
a
For the first time in history it ismanned by
garrison sufficient
both in number and quality.
in
the
I cannot pretend to exhaust the subject of the Heartland,
citadel of land power on the great mainland
of the world, in a
short article like this. But a few words should be devoted to an
other concept to balance it.
From Casablanca
there came lately the call to destroy the rul
can be done
German
only by irrigating the
philosophy. That
ing
a
water
I as
German mind with the clean
of
rival philosophy.
sume that for, say, two years from the time the "cease fire" order
is given, the Allies will occupy Berlin,
try the criminals, fix
on

frontiers

the

spot

and

other

complete

surgical

so

treatment

in Germany which will die impenitent


that the older generation
to the younger
and bitter cannot again misrepresent
history
worse than useless to
But
it
would
be
obviously
generation.
set alien teachers to work in Germany
to inculcate the theory of
freedom. Freedom cannot be taught; it can only be given to those
who can use it. However,
the polluted channel might be swept
clear very effectively if it were controlled by strong embankments
?
of power on either hand
land power to the east, in the Heart
basin.
land, and sea power to the west, in the North Atlantic
Face the German mind with an enduring certainty that any war
fought

by Germany

must

be a.war

on

two

unshakable

fronts,

and

the Germans themselves will solve the problem.


For this to happen it will be necessary
in the first place that
there be effective and
between America,
lasting cooperation
Britain and France, the first for
of
defense, the second as
depth
the moated

forward

stronghold

a Malta

on

grander

scale

no less
and the third as the defensible
bridgehead. The last is
essential than the other two, because sea power must in the final

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6o2

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

resort be
In the second
if it is to balance land
amphibious
power.
it is necessary that those three and the fourth conqueror,
to
if any
Lussia, be pledged
?lace,
immediately
together
cooperate
breach of the peace is threatened, so that the devil in Germany
can never
must die by inanition.
again get its head up and
Some persons today seem to dream of a global air power which
will "liquidate"
both fleets and armies. I am impressed, however,
a recent utterance of a
broad
the
by
implications of
practical
airman: "Air power depends absolutely on the efficiency of its
That
is too large a subject to discuss
ground organization."
within the limits of this paper. It can only be said that no ade
quate proof has yet been presented that air fighting will not fol
low the long history of all kinds of warfare by presenting alterna
tions of offensive and defensive
tactical superiority, meanwhile
few
permanent changes in strategical conditions.
effecting
no
to forecasting
I make
the future of humanity.
pretense
What I am concerned with are the conditions under which we set
the peace when victory
in the war has been
about winning
to
the pattern of the postwar world, now be
achieved. In regard
ing studied by many people for the first time, it is important that
a line should be
and
carefully drawn between idealistic blueprints
?
realistic and scholarly maps presenting
concepts
political,
?
based on the recognition of
economic, strategic, and so forth
obstinate facts.
With that inmind, attention might be drawn to a great feature
of global geography: a girdle, as it were, hung around the north
as one
polar regions. It begins as the Sahara desert, is followed
moves
Mon
Tibetan
eastward by the Arabian,
and
Iranian,
of
and
of
the
then
wildernesses
extends, by way
golian deserts,
to
Alaska
the
and
the
of
Laurentian
shield
Lenaland,
Canada,
sub-arid belt of the western United States. That girdle of deserts
in global
and wildernesses
is a feature of the first importance
two
almost
of
Within
it
lie
related
features
equal
geography.
Ocean
of
and
the
basin
the
Midland
the
Heartland,
significance:
Bal
(North Atlantic) with its four subsidiaries (Mediterranean,
Great
the
and
Caribbean
Outside
the
is
Arctic
Seas).
tic,
girdle
and the lands which
Ocean (Pacific, Indian and South Atlantic)
drain to it (Asiatic Monsoon
lands, Australia, South America and
Africa south of the Sahara).
said he could lift the world if he could find a ful
Archimedes
crum on which to rest his lever. All the world cannot be lifted

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THE ROUND WORLD

603

back to prosperity at once. The region between the Missouri and


the Yenisei, with its great trunk routes for merchant aircraft be
tween Chicago-New York and London-Moscow,
and all that the
must
the
first care, for it
will
be
stand
of
them
for,
development
must be the fulcrum. Wisely
the conquering of Japan waits for a
while. In due course China will receive capital on a generous
scale as a debt of honor, to help in her romantic adventure of
a quarter of
a new civilization,
neither
building for
humanity
nor
of
Then
the
the Outer
quite Eastern
quite Western.
ordering
World will be relatively easy, with China, the United States and
the United Kingdom
leading the way, the last? two each followed
a
for though their
of free nations
trail
of
its
commonwealth
by
histories will have been different the result will be similar. But
in economic rebuilding will surely
the first enterprise undertaken
have to be in the area within the desert girdle, lest a whole civili
a
into chaos. What
zation should deliquesce
pity the alliance,
between
the
United
after
States, the United
Versailles,
negotiated
was
not
trouble and
What
and
France
Kingdom
implemented!
sadness that act might have saved!
IV
And now, to complete my picture of the pattern of the round
world, let me add, briefly, three concepts to the two already vis
ualized. For the purposes of what I see described in American
it is necessary to build broad gen
writings as "Grand Strategy,"
no
in geography
eralizations
less than in history and economics.
I have described my concept of the Heartland,
which I have
no hesitation in
was
more
valid
is
and
useful
saying
today than it
either twenty or forty years ago. I have said how it is set in its
?
ice-clad Polar Sea, forested
girdle of broad natural defenses
and Central Asiatic mountain
and rugged Lenaland,
and arid
tableland. The girdle is incomplete, however, because of an open
a thousand miles wide,
from Peninsular
gateway,
admitting
the
into
interior
the
broad isthmus be
Europe
plain through
tween the Baltic and Black Seas. For the first time in all history
there is within this vast natural fortress a garrison adequate to
deny entry to the German invader. Given that fact, and the de
fenses to the flanks and rear which I have described, the sheer
breadth of the open gateway is an advantage, for it provides the
of defeating the enemy by compelling him to make
opportunity
a broad
deployment of his manpower. And upon and beneath the

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

6o4

Heartland
there is a store of rich soil for cultivation and of ores and
? or
?
fuels for extraction, the equal
thereabouts
of all that lies
upon and beneath the United States and the Canadian Dominion.
I have suggested that a current of cleansing counter-philos
of power,
embankments
ophy, canalized between unbreachable
no
mind
clear
of
black
the
German
its
may sweep
magic. Surely
one is
to
to
set
to
be mad enough
exorcize
going
foreign teachers
the evil spirits from the soul of the conquered German nation.
Nor, after the first inevitable punitory years, do I have sufficient
trust that the conquering democracies will maintain garrisons of
the necessary spirit and number stationed in the vanquished lands;
an attitude
to
for there is no use in asking democrats
persist in
to the
very

contrary

spirit

essence

and

ing stream might

better be released

and

German

regenerating

source,

of

democracy.

The

cleans

to flow from some regenerate


the

between

of

embankments

and the other


power I have named, the one within the Heartland
within the territories of the three amphibious powers, American,
British and French. The two friendly forces facing one another
across the flow of the canal would be of equal power and should
always be equally ready for necessary action. Then Germany
under the threat of immediate war on
would live continuously
two fronts should she be guilty of any breach of the treaties which
for war or the misleading
prohibited either physical preparation
of youth which is another way of preparation for war. The demo
cratic garrisons in their home countries would be, by force of
the

example,

teachers.

On this proposal follows my second geographical


concept, that
?
?
of theMidland Ocean
and
North
Atlantic
the
its dependent
seas and river basins. Without
of
the
details
that concept,
laboring
?
a
in
let me picture it again in its three elements
bridgehead
France,

a moated

aerodrome

in Britain,

and

a reserve

of

trained

in the eastern United


and
manpower,
agriculture
States and Canada. So far as war-potential
goes, both the United
States and Canada are Atlantic countries, and since instant land
aero
warfare
is in view, both the bridgehead and the moated
industries

drome

are

essential

to

amphibious

power.

The three remaining concepts I shall do little more than sketch,


and balance.
and only for the sake of globular completeness
and the basin
Girdling the twin unit ?just described ?Heartland
of the Midland Ocean
there appears on the globe the mantle
a
continuous
of vacancies,
constituting
practically
land-space

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THE ROUNDWORLD
some

covering

twelve

million

square

miles

605
that

is,

about

quarter of all the land on the globe. Upon this vast area there
lives today a total population of less than thirty millions, or, say,
of the population of the globe. Airplanes will, of
one-seventieth
and
course, fly along many routes over this girdle of wilderness;
motor
come
it
to
will
be
driven
trunk
roads.
for
But
through
long
it will break social continuity between the major communities of
mankind on the globe.1
The fourth of my concepts embraces on either side of the South
Atlantic
the tropical rain-forests of South America and Africa.
If these were subdued to agriculture and inhabited with the pres
ent
sustain a thousand
density of tropical Java, they might
million people, always provided that medicine had rendered the
tropics

as

productive

of human

energy

as

the

temperate

zones.

and lastly, a thousand million people of ancient ori


Fifthly,
ental civilization
inhabit the Monsoon
lands of India and China.
to
same
must
in
the
grow
years in which Ger
They
prosperity
are
to
and
civilization. They will then
many
being tamed
Japan
balance that other thousand million who live between the Mis
souri and the Yenisei. A balanced globe of human
beings. And
because
thus
balanced
and
free.
happy,
8
Some

day,
incidentally,
for capturing
direct power

coal and oil are exhausted,


when
from the Sun.

the Sahara

may

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become

the

trap