The Role of Geography

  • Michael S. Lindberg


The German navalist Wolfgang Wegener (1929) observed that ‘sea power was a function of strategic geography as well as the possession of a fleet’. Alfred T. Mahan also believed that geographical factors were preeminent in determining the sea power of nations. In fact, four of his six famous ‘principal conditions affecting the sea power of nations’ were geographical. Geography influences naval power at the national level and at the level of individual navies. In the case of the former, geography will help to determine a state’s relationship with the sea, its maritime importance, its vulnerability to threats emanating from seaward and its need for naval power. At the naval level, geography will influence the strategy and tactics adopted by a navy as well as the development of its force structure. The principal aspects of geography which influence naval power are those advanced by Mahan: geographical position, physical conformation and extent of territory. To this list can be added, at least with respect to geography’s influence upon navies, the climatic conditions governing the maritime environment in which they must operate.


Operational Environment Force Structure Territorial Water Tactical Level Merchant Marine 
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Copyright information

© Michael S. Lindberg 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael S. Lindberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental PlanningElmhurst CollegeUSA

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