Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
THERE is considerable confusion in the minds of the American people as to just what area of land and water they may be called upon to defend. This confusion is due in no small part to the lack of uniformity and definiteness which has characterized official statements of policy made on behalf of the United States Government.
Thus in his historic address to Congress on December 2, 1823, President Monroe warned the European Powers against trying "to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere." The terms of the Convention for the Maintenance, Preservation and Rehabilitation, and Reëstablishment of Peace, adopted at the Inter-American Conference of Buenos Aires in 1936, were to apply to the "American Continent." Secretary Hull, in a letter of June 4, 1940, to Representative Bloom discussing a joint resolution then before Congress, used the expressions "Western Hemisphere" and "the Americas" interchangeably.
Numerous other examples could be cited. Many of them were recalled in the House and Senate during the debates last June on the joint resolution, mentioned above, in which Congress affirmed the principle that this country would not recognize the transfer of territories in the "Western Hemisphere" from one non-American Power to another -- a principle implemented in the Act and Convention of Havana, adopted by the American Republics on July 29, 1940. Perhaps it was this extended discussion in Congress that has caused American official usage to crystallize on the term "Western Hemisphere." For example, the National Guard and Reserve Officers Mobilization Act of August 27, 1940, provides that those men and units "ordered into active Federal service . . . shall not be employed beyond the limits of the Western Hemisphere except in the territories and possessions of the United States, including the Philippines."
But just what is the Western Hemisphere and just where is the line that divides Europe from the Americas? The people of the United States are energetically building a system of "hemisphere defense." But until they know precisely where their hemisphere begins and ends they cannot give full effect to their determination to defend it. My object in these few paragraphs will be to suggest a practical line drawn through the Atlantic Ocean to separate the two hemispheres, a line that will be rational from a geographical point of view and at the same time strategically defensible.
First of all, we may eliminate the idea that a meridian of longitude can serve as such a line, for no meridian makes a logical division between the two hemispheres. Let me cite a couple of examples to show what I mean. All geographers concede that Greenland is in the Western Hemisphere. Therefore, in order not to exclude any part of Greenland from this hemisphere, the dividing line would have to be pushed eastward to the eleventh meridian. But that meridian, we find, cuts across West Africa and would thus include in the Western Hemisphere a thousand miles of African shoreline. Obviously, it would be impossible to uphold any such division on grounds of geography; nor would such a frontier be readily defensible. However, the use of any more westerly meridian as a demarcation line would put parts of Greenland and Iceland into the Eastern Hemisphere, to which the strategists would naturally raise strong objections. Take for instance the thirtieth meridian which has long served as a ruleof-thumb line to separate the hemispheres. This meridian misses Africa, but it cuts Greenland in such a way as to leave its best aviation territory to Europe. Some have contended that this is a matter of no great importance "because the Greenland east coast is inaccessible to ships except during mid-summer." But that was not the view of Jean Charcot after his numerous explorations of the East Greenland Sea; nor is it the common view among Norwegian explorers who have done good work on the northern east coast in the last few years. Nor does it seem to be true, as recent press dispatches have reported, that the part of Greenland east of the thirtieth meridian is topographically and climatically bad for flying. The topography, in fact, is no worse than on the southwest coast of Greenland, which the dispatches have described as good for aviation and therefore a desirable base for Western Hemisphere defense. As for the atmospheric conditions, so far as we know, the average flying weather is a good deal better in East Greenland around Scoresby Sound, and north thereof, than it is on the southwestern coast. Furthermore, air bases on one side of Greenland could easily be attacked by planes operating from bases on the other side, since the Greenland Ice Cap offers no obstacle to passage by air.
Clearly then, we must apply some principle other than that of the straight line -- one which, without being arbitrary, answers the demands of both common sense and high strategy. This brings us to my suggestion, which briefly is that the de facto boundary between the two hemispheres should be the middle of the "widest channel." In other words, a line should be drawn through the Atlantic Ocean in such a way that it would be equidistant from the European and African continents on one hand and from the American continents on the other. As part of
the continents I include the large islands adjacent to them, such as Svalbard, Greenland, Iceland, the British Isles, Newfoundland and the Greater Antilles, but not minor groups like the Faroes, Azores, Bermudas, Cape Verdes, etc.
As I have already indicated, objections against such a division might come from those who doubt that Greenland and Iceland may rightly be regarded as appendages of the American land mass and therefore, like Newfoundland, as parts of the Western Hemisphere. Nevertheless, the United States Government has upon several occasions acted on the assumption that Greenland is in the Western Hemisphere, and recently President Roosevelt has given his express support to this view. In regard to Iceland the official American stand has not been so explicit. However, as long ago as 1868, the State Department published a study entitled "A Report on the Resources of Iceland and Greenland" in which the author, Benjamin Mills Peirce, declares, in reference to Iceland, that "it belongs to the western hemisphere and is an insular dependency of the North American continent." There are several good reasons for taking this position. For instance, Iceland does not extend so far east as Greenland. Thus to put it in the Eastern Hemisphere would be, from a purely geographical point of view, quite illogical. Furthermore, Greenland is visible from the mountains of northwestern Iceland, whereas no land to the east, southeast or south is visible from any part of Iceland. Iceland is only about 180 miles away from Greenland, but is 300 miles distant from the Faroes, over 500 miles from Scotland, and more than 600 miles from Norway.
We therefore, in my opinion, are thoroughly justified in holding that Greenland and Iceland belong to the North American continent rather than to the European, and hence that they form part of the Western Hemisphere. It is upon this assumption that I am suggesting that the line between the two hemispheres should be as indicated on the accompanying map. This line is drawn midway between such points as the northeast corner of Greenland, and the westernmost cape of Svalbard; easternmost Iceland and northwest Scotland; Cape Race (Newfoundland) and Cape Finisterre (Spain); the "bulge" of Brazil and the nearest point to it in Africa; and Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope.
This "middle-of-the-channel" line is not only rational from the standpoint of geography, but offers the United States the best "rampart" behind which to defend this hemisphere, for it puts the maximum possible distance between us and any potential aggressors in Europe.