, Volume 92, Number 3

Mikael Wigell and Antto Vihma
Geopolitics and geoeconomics are often addressed together, with the latter seen as a sub-variant of the former. This article shows the usefulness of differentiating them at a conceptual level. By juxtaposing traditional geopolitics and geoeconomics, we suggest that they have remarkably different qualities and implications for their targets, on both national and international levels. Importantly, these include the formation of alliances, and whether they are driven by balancing, bandwagoning or underbalancing dynamics. An analysis of Russia’s shifting geostrategy towards Europe shows these differences in practice. Russian geoeconomics has long been successful as a ‘wedge strategy’, dividing the EU. As a result, the EU has underbalanced and its Russia policies have been incoherent. The observable tendencies in 2014–15 towards a more coherent European approach can be explained by the changing emphasis in Russia’s geostrategy. Russia’s turn to geopolitics works as a centripetal force, causing a relative increase in EU unity. Centripetal tendencies due to heightened threat perception can be observed in the economic sanctions, emerging German leadership in EU foreign policy, and discussion on energy union. The analysis calls for more attention to the way strategic choices—geopolitics versus geoeconomics—affect the coherence of threatened states and alliance patterns.

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