Geoffroy d'AspremontForeign Policy II - Dr Ann Hughes "Discuss the importance of location in states' foreign policy behaviour and assess how technological change has affected the significance of location."

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Geoffroy d’Aspremont

Foreign Policy II – Dr Ann Hughes


“Discuss the importance of location in states’ foreign policy behaviour and assess how technological change has affected the significance of location.”  

At the beginning of the Twentieth century, some geographers, such as E. C. Semple, considered that geographical factors influenced all human activities and therefore the policy-makers. On the other hand, modern geographers and political scientists believe that human behaviour is not influenced by geography and that the former depends only on human decisions to exploit the geographical possibilities (Reynolds, 1994). The geographers ‘opinion has thus changed after fifty years and after two world wars. Scientific advances and especially military improvement have contributed to this evolution of minds (Reynolds, 1994). In spite of this technological improvement, the geographical location remains one of the most fundamental factors that influence state’s foreign policy behaviour. In its first part, this essay will demonstrate how the different elements, such as the terrain, the sea proximity, the borders and the neighbours, of states’ geographical location influences its foreign policy by some characteristics like having access or not to the sea, the strategic military situation and the distances. In its second part, it will consider how much the technological improvements have affected the importance of the locations of states.

First, having access to the sea is a major factor that influences state’s foreign policy. This idea was particularly dominating in the nineteenth century, such as explained by Mahan an English geographer. Indeed, movement by sea was easier and all land masses are surrounded by oceans so that a country with good access to  the sea had more chance to become an influential power than a landlocked state (Dougherty, Pfaltzgraff, 1971). The United Kingdom in the nineteenth century is a good example of this statement because of excellent navy. Moreover, coastline is an excellent defensive border. For instance, Britain is could defend itself against invasions by sea but was also sufficiently close to the continent to strike at a potential threat. That implies of course a strong military navy to defend the metropolitan coasts as well as the national interest around the world. The importance of access to the sea is undeniable but a country also needs such elements such good harbour installations as well as merchant and military navy to ensure independence.

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However, landlocked situation influences foreign policy in a negative way. The fact of being landlocked causes a loss of independence and a weakness towards neighbours. Indeed, the external trade depends either on the friendly attitudes of the neighbours but also on its communication’s infrastructures (Hodder, 1997). Former Soviet Caspian republics can not export oil or natural gas without a specific Russian approval. Moreover the need of a corridor to attain the sea is sometimes a casus belli. One of the reasons why Iraq stormed Iran in 1980 is Saddam wanted to enlarge the Iraqi’s coastline, the famous Shatt-al-Arab. At ...

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