Geopolitics and Strategy for the Other Half of the Atlantic Rim

Southern Atlanticism

March 22, 2010
2 min read
Photo credit: Anton Balazh /
For the last 50 years, at least, the center of gravity in transatlantic relations has been firmly rooted in the Northern Hemisphere.

This reality is unlikely to be overturned anytime soon. But the next decade is likely to bring a significant rebalancing of relations around and within the Atlantic space, with the South Atlantic playing a larger role in political, economic, and security terms. This shift will be driven by the rise of Brazil and South Africa as global actors, as well as the growing role of West Africa as an energy provider. Environmental challenges emanating from the South Atlantic will also play a role. Countries on both sides of the Atlantic, and in both hemispheres, are likely to seek new geometries in their external relations, to enhance their geopolitical weight, and to diversify their commercial and strategic ties. In the process, Atlantic orientations will be rediscovered, reasserted, and reshaped. The result may be the rise of multiple Atlantic identities, some compatible and mutually reinforcing, some operating in isolation or in competition.

This paper explores transatlantic relations in a wider frame, and anticipates the rise of a more balanced and diverse set of partnerships around the Atlantic basin. What could be the drivers of a new and wider Atlanticism? Trends in the Global South as a whole are part of the equation, alongside changing measures of national power and potential. New and powerful actors are emerging, and several of these will be found in the South Atlantic. At the same time, the foreign and security policy agenda is changing in functional terms. Some of the most prominent concerns, from energy security to the environment, from international crime to migration, will emanate from the south or be shaped by developments outside the North Atlantic. A wider, unified Atlantic system is one scenario for the future, but hardly the most likely one. This analysis surveys the evolving scene, explores alternative scenarios, and offers some implications for transatlantic strategy.