james181_Mikhail MetzelTASS via Getty Images_bidenputin Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

A Little Geopolitics Is a Dangerous Thing

The term geopolitics first came into vogue after Germany's defeat in World War I and has since come to be used as a rationalization for zero-sum conflicts. But insofar as it represents a false notion of geographical determinism, it is utterly inappropriate for a globalized world.

PRINCETON – Any hope that Donald Trump’s messy departure from the White House would at least restore a modicum of calm to the world must now be discounted. Already, there is a dangerous new international threat: the return of “geopolitics” in shaping international security.

Consider the events of the past six months. Within weeks of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, got into an extraordinary spat with his Chinese counterpart at a bilateral meeting in Alaska. The United States has also tussled with the European Union over Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany, bypassing (and thus weakening) Ukraine. And, for its part, the EU imposed tougher sanctions on China, citing its policies in Xinjiang, to which China responded with sanctions of its own.

Then, in June, a naval contretemps between Russia and Britain in the Black Sea evoked parallels to the 1850s Crimean War. And a meeting between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin did little to reduce US-Russian tensions. When it comes, Biden’s first meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping is unlikely to be any warmer. The G7 is rebranding itself as a club of rich democracies that will set “basic rules of the road” for the rest of the world. Never mind that other powerful countries have no interest in rules set by someone else.