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The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West (Praeger Security International) [Hardcover]

Alexandros Petersen
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 18, 2011 0313391378 978-0313391378 1
The 20th century was dominated by three visions of Eurasian geopolitics: "The World Island," "Containment," and "Prometheism." The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West posits a fourth vision of Eurasian geopolitics: the 21st-century Geopolitical Strategy for Eurasia.

Through an original and comprehensive analysis and synthesis of the ideas of Sir Halford Mackinder, George Kennan, and Jozef Pilsudski, this title reestablishes fundamental Western strategic objectives. It analyzes the state of and potential for Western engagement with China, Afghanistan, Turkey, Russia, and other Eurasian states and sets out what is at stake for the West in the Eurasian theater. Promoting a robust strategy to further and protect essential Western values, the author argues for the development of trade and energy links, coupled with the promotion of good governance and the facilitation of policy independence, integration, and Western-orientation among the Eurasian nations.

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Editorial Reviews


Petersen has vast knowledge of Eurasia and displays his almost encyclopedic knowledge effectively to advance his case... A lively, diverse book about a lesser-known area of the world, it offers a challenging set of policy recommendations with the backup of the work of earlier realist thinkers. – Choice

A sweeping, succinct and convincing argument for Transatlantic unity. With Europe's energy needs increasing, the emergence of China, the uncertainty of Russia's future, and NATO's involvement in Afghanistan Petersen makes clear that we ignore Eurasia at our peril. For those who want to understand the vital importance of Eurasia Petersen's strategy could not have come at a better time. - Dr. Liam Fox, British Secretary of State for Defence (2010- )

The control of the Eurasian landmass and especially America's role in that formula will determine much of the shape of geopolitics for the next century. This book enlightens us to the nature of that challenge. - Dr. John Hillen, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs

Insightful and disconcerting analysis: essential reading for anyone concerned with Western security. - Edward Lucas, International Editor, The Economist; bestselling author of The New Cold War

Alexandros Petersen has clearly captured the 'new world order' that is evolving in the early years of the 21st Century.  Alexandros' vivid description of the rise of the East in the global geo-strategic landscape offers Western policy makers a prescriptive for what must be addressed if Western powers intend to remain influential in a multi-polar world. - General Charles "Chuck" F. Wald, former Deputy Commander, United States European Command

With scholarly verve and a clear analytical eye, Alexandros Petersen revisits some of the great geopolitical theorists of the past two centuries. He shows why grand strategy and geography still matter in Europe and Eurasia and argues convincingly that the political tectonics of this part of the world continue to shape foreign policymaking. The World Island will be of interest to anyone who cares about the peoples and fractured polities of the former Soviet space. - Charles King, Professor and Chairman of the Faculty, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University and author of The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus

Recalling--and analyzing--the ideas of such great geopolitical thinkers as Mackinder, Mahan and Kennan, Alexandros Petersen demonstrates that current developments in Central Asia will have strategic consequences for global order. It is a controversial, but extremely well-argued, conclusion. -  Ambassador Richard Burt - Chairman, Global Zero, USA

In his riveting review of grandmasters from Mackinder and Mahan to Kennan, and by analyzing the Eurasian chessboard from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific, Alexandros Petersen has crafted a formidable case for why the United States and its allies must study and practice the fine art of Eurasian geopolitics. - Dr. Ariel Cohen - Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy, The Heritage Foundation

With this book, Alexandros Petersen firmly establishes himself as a leading scholar of Eurasia.  While one can disagree with his conclusions, one cannot but agree that the rare combination of deep historical understanding, fluency in contemporary regional dynamics, and sharp policy analysis on display in The World Island make it a must read. - Dr. Samuel Charap - Fellow, Center for American Progress

Book Description

Sir Halford Mackinder, the father of geopolitics, argued that the power that controls Eurasia controls the world. How can the West ensure that the struggle for this fundamental theater in world politics is resolved in favor of Western democratic governance—without the autocratic domination of Eurasia?

Product Details

  • Series: Praeger Security International
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Praeger; 1 edition (February 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0313391378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0313391378
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,322,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a normative policy prescription December 24, 2013
By Khusro
1. The editorial reviews and the preceding readers' reviews give a good flavour of this book's scope, and I shll try and not repeat that discussion. The book essentially develops an argument about the importance of inclusion of Central Asia in the "West", and the importance of the land between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea in any effort to achieve this goal. In support of the importance of Central Asia, the author also refers to natural resources as well as the advantage of land trade routes over sea borne trade.

2. As examples of previous successful efforts to incorporate "non-western" spaces into the "west", the author refers to postwar Germany and Japan. I would call into question the concept of the "West" at this point. To me it seems that Germany was notonly always a part of the "Christendom" but Mitteleuropa itself, the precursors of the "west". And as for Japan, it made a conscious decision at the time of the Meiji Restoration, followed by a sustained effort to emulate the European institutions and also some specific cultural practices (the dress, in particular), and went about building its own empire in the "best" European imperial manner to "civilize the natives".

3. It is the author's policy prescriptions, where I have particular difficulty. For example, that country A, B or C be incorporated in EU, to fend off what the author sees as the incorporation of Central Asia in the Chinese/Russian economic/political space. Perhaps such advice made some sense in the pre-2008 financial crisis era and EU seemed a very attractive proposition. Right now, even the balance of public opinion is Turkey does not seem to favour joining the EU!
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"The World Island", published in 2011, is a book by Alexandros Petersen, a member of the British-based Henry Jackson Society and the American-based Atlantic Council. I'm not familiar with the latter group, but the British society is often accused of being "Neo-Con", although "liberal interventionist" is perhaps a better designation. Petersen sees Russia and China as the biggest threats to the West. His book is based on the traditional geopolitics of Halford Mackinder, with further insights from George Kennan (often seen as the architect of Cold War "containment" of the Communist bloc) and Josef Pilsudski, the Polish interwar leader who had a more "activist" approach to Russia and the Soviet Union. Petersen wants to create a synthesis of all three, a synthesis he dubs 21CGSE (A Twenty-First Century Geopolitical Strategy for Eurasia). Ironically, "The World Island" could also be read with some profit by anti-Western Russians, who indeed want to (re-)create a Eurasian empire or bloc centered on Moscow.

Mackinder formulated his geopolitical ideas shortly before and after World War I in opposition to those of A T Mahan, who argued that sea-power is the key to world domination. To Mahan, land-powers such as Russia or Germany were therefore permanently at a disadvantage against the British Empire. Mackinder (at least according to Petersen) didn't deny that sea-power was crucial. However, he believed that a strong land-power could harness the necessary resources to successfully challenge British domination on the seas. The most important part of the world, geopolitically speaking, is the Pivot Area or Heartland of Eurasia, roughly coterminous with the vast territory already controlled by Russia. Second in importance is the Marginal or Inner Crescent, where Germany is situated.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An overlooked gem April 8, 2012
By Rolf
Petersen's book is an underrated gem of foreign policy thinking. It is particularly notable in that it doesn't follow today's public intellectual trends that are focused on the effects of the financial crisis or the rise of the BRICS. It cuts through the issues of the moment and analyzes the enduring qualities of the global geopolitical landscape through the lens of Eurasia - Mackinder's classic 'pivot' zone. What also distinguishes The World Island from most similar oeuvres is that it is solidly based on historiographical understanding of the region and its geopolitical dynamics.

It is a brisk and engagingly written book, in a sort of old fashioned unapologetically up-front, yet genuinely intellectual style. It's a short book and the style of writing makes for a quick and exciting read.

What compelled me to write this review, though, is that Petersen is fundamentally right in his strategic focus. The World Island, i.e. Eurasia, is the center of global geopolitics. If the West and its institutions don't treat it as such, we risk accelerating our decline and allowing for a the development of a geopolitical springboard for our great power competitors. My sense is that Petersen is sort of outside of Washington policymaking circles (he's pretty iconoclastic at times), but that is all the more reason why Washington wonks should read this great little book. The last chapter, especially, is a useful blueprint for Western action.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The World Island January 9, 2012
Petersen's knowledge of Eurasian geopolitical theory is vast and impressive. More impressive, is Petersen's ability to move beyond providing a synthesis and analysis of great geopolitical theorists, no small accomplishment, to provide an integrated and original analysis of current Eurasian realities and their implications. Furthermore, Petersen's analysis and the opportunities he highlights for US and Western policymakers refreshingly treats Eurasia and the West's would-be stepped up engagement with the region in an holistic manner, not only focusing on energy security, but also touching on governance and social issues. A vast yet succinct treatment, one is left wanting more, hoping Petersen's next work might provide greater detail and analysis on each of the individual countries treated briefly in this title. One is left with no doubt that Petersen has the ability and wealth of knowledge necessary to provide such needed work to the field of Eurasian geopolitics.
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More About the Author

Dr. Alexandros Petersen is the author of The World Island: Eurasian Geopolitics and the Fate of the West (Praeger: 2011). A scholar of grand strategy and energy geopolitics, he frequently contributes to outlets such as the Economist, Foreign Affairs and the International Herald Tribune. You can follow his ongoing research on China in Central Asia at

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