Dominant regional powers

Six years ago I identified Turkey as the country that's the most interesting geostrategically. In the meantime, history kept reinforcing my point (see this and this, too).

The Erdogan government is no doubt a rather activist/reformist government, but it could make much more of Turkey's regional position. It didn't intervene in Syria, for example (just barely). I don't claim that doing so would be a good idea, but their potential for exerting influence is no doubt much greater than their influence.

Other countries have dormant potential as well.

The Western attitude in geostrategic affairs seems to be quite simple:
(1) The USA determines which foreign government it likes and which it doesn't like, and tends to more or less bully those which it doesn't like.
(2) The allies of the USA pretend their interests are roughly aligned, but most of them aren't as enthusiastic about violence.
(3) Russia and China are considered as opposing regional powers which play the great power games under protection of their respective UNSC veto power.

I suppose this perception will or should be modified in the near future
The effectiveness of American and European long-range meddling is rather disappointing and might lead to the insight that regional instead of global dominance is really the way to go. The United States achieved only crap after spending a trillion or two on meddling in the Near/Mid East, for example. The picture in Afghanistan is hardly better The U.S.' influence in the Ukraine is obviously inferior to Russia's. Western effectiveness in the Caucasus region is below ridiculous (short of a war-like mobilization).

Turkey has the geostrategic option of becoming the dominant regional power, contesting against the Wahhabism influence from Saudi-Arabia. The anti-secular ideology of the ruling party doesn't exactly suggest such a move, though.
It's easy to draw (quite complicated) areas of potential dominant Turkish (Georgia, Azerbaidjan)  and dominant Russian (Armenia, Abchasia, South Ossetia) influence in the Caucasus region based on history. Turkey has on the other hand no chance to become an important player to the west or north of Istanbul*.

India has the geostrategic option of losing its fixation on the army with a dysfunctional state known as Pakistan and become the dominant Indian Ocean power. There are strong Indian wholesale trader networks in Africa already, so they could even strongly compete with the Chinese on East African soil for resources.

Brazil has the geostrategic option of becoming the dominant Southeast American and Southwest Atlantic power. It has a mild language barrier with the rest of Latin America and there are some resentments, but it's obviously developing better than for example Argentina and the Western countries have very little bases and no strong allies in the region. Argentina cannot maintain its historical counterweight role due to economic malaise and the inability to acquire Western allies as long as the Falklands/Malvinas dispute lingers on.

South Africa has the option of calling the shots in all of Southern Africa, but its government is not exercising this option. They didn't annex the (unrecognized) enclaves of Lesotho and Swaziland because the domestic problems are already overwhelming without such a move and they don't overthrow Mugabe's regime (though this would be forgiven by the rest of the world almost certainly).

Kenya has the option of dominating East Africa save for intercontinental business influences, and may have made its first steps with its participation in AMISOM (Uganda dominates AMISOM, but the resources of land-locked Uganda are already overstretched). It would need to grow its economy much more and overcome both Chinese and Indian influences, maybe aligning with one of both.

Indonesia has the option of leading (not dominating) Southeast Asia, but it would probably need to solve the Chinese territorial claims to achieve such a position. Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, India and Vietnam are all very confident (and relevant) powers without interest in an Indonesian SE Asian position of leadership. Australia is gutting itself by playing the pet dog of  auxiliary forces provider for the White House, though.

So far it hasn't been proved beyond doubt that regional domination aspirations are much better than global ones:

Russia attempted to keep its economic chains of value added together by keeping much of the former Soviet Union territory in a Russia-dominated bloc. This was a substantial economic interest to back up and possibly justify great power games.

The USA dominated the Caribbean mostly for generations, but the economic relevance of this domination to the average American was modest at most. This may change in the future, as Venezuela with its disproportionally large oil reserves could enter a hugely important economic symbiosis with the United States ... if only the country and specifically its government hadn't been alienated by American dominance already. Future Venezuelan governments will likely seek to protect themselves against attack and to have a diversified customer list for oil (products) exports.

China's primary regional clients (PR Vietnam and PR Korea) both turned their back on China and have become annoyances to the regime in Beijing since.


P.S.: I proposed no dominant regional power for the EU because European politics are about cooperation and bartering rather than domination. Southern Europeans might think an element of extortion was added, but this perception goes both ways; in the end, the ones who 'pay' when support packages are formed aren't the Southern countries.

*: Even the Muslim Bosnians and Albanians are looking in the EU's direction.


  1. Germany is perceived as exercising the strongest influence in Europe, although from a German point of view this seems less true.

    1. On the one hand, the Franco-German pre-selection of EC/EU policies has ended because both found each other in very different positions in the Euro currency crisis.

      On the other hand, we're kind of back to a disguised version of Kohl's 'chequebook diplomacy'.