Will Russia invade Ukraine?
What will it do in Kazakhstan?
The answer also explains why Putin is the leader Russia thinks it needs, why the USSR collapsed, why it couldn't compete with the US, why it’s the biggest country in the world, & more.
It's due to Russia's dilemma:
Moscow is in the middle of the biggest plain in the world, the Eurasian Plain, that goes all the way to the Atlantic via France. It's been a highway for conquests since forever.
Very famously, from the east, for horse-mounted people like the Mongols
But the threat hasn't just come from the east. Also from the west. Most recently, Napoleon (who conquered Moscow all the way from France), and Hitler (who made it to 30km from Moscow).
There are no mountains to use as a defense in millions of km2.
So after Muscovy became a *vassal state of the Mongols*, it started doing the only thing it could do: grab as much land as it could around Moscow. The only land that was easy to grab was in the north & east, so that's where Muscovy went
It expanded 1st north and then east, all the way to the Pacific, way before it focused on Central Asia or Europe.
They did that because Siberia is basically empty.
And it is empty, you guessed it, because of climate.
Owning Siberia created a massive buffer that anybody would need to cross to attack, stretching supply lines and exposing them to insurrection and counter-offenses.
Muscovy was safe in the east.
But not the west or the south.
Problem: that's where powerful neighbors were
From the northwest, counter-clockwise:
Kingdom of Sweden
The Khanates (remnants of the Mongols)
Over 2 centuries, they conquered from them a massive buffer for Moscow
As Hitler showed, that was still not enough. The North European Plain is still a highway.
WW2 gave Russia (USSR) to go as far as it would ever go.
Moscow was finally safe.
This expansion comes at a cost: how do you control millions of km2 with so many ethnicities?
Siberia is easy.
Central Asia is harder.
Easter Europe is much harder.
So the more Russia expands, the more it needs to spend on controlling conquered peoples. On an authoritarian state
Here's the kicker: Russian land might promote expansion, but it's not rich.
The south & southwest are fertile (hence the population), but the north & east are too cold.
Not only that, but all the main rivers are south-north, which make it impossible to trade anything perishable w/ the west. No trade, no wealth.
• Moscow is in the middle of a massive plain with no defense. It needs to expand: buffer space is the only defense
• The + it expands, the + Russians conquer other ppl, the more they need $ for police & military control
• That's expensive & Russian land is poor
So here's Russia's Dilemma:
The tension between expansion for buffer land and contraction from a poor core that can’t finance an authoritarian state to control different ethnicities that don’t tolerate the expansion.
That's why Russia invaded Georgia when it talked about joining NATO: enemy at the southern border? No thx.
That's why Russia invaded Afghanistan 40y ago: it's at the border of the Eurasian plain, and was at risk of flipping to an enemy (Muslims or NATO)
That's why Ukraine, with 8 million ethnic Russians and in the middle of the Eurasian plain, is a core target for Russia, and why it freaks out when it talks about joining the EU or NATO.
That's why Russia can't tolerate an enemy in the south w/ Kazakhstan, home of 3m ethnic Russians, so it sends the military when there's trouble there.
Much more about all of this in this week's article:
Follow me here os subscribe to my newsletter to receive more. Follow-up on Russia coming next week.
I write 1 thread like this every week. Many on the link btw Geography and History:
European Invasion of Africa
Northern vs. Southern Europe