In expansionism, governments and states expand their territory, power, wealth or influence through economic growth, soft power, or the military aggression of empire-building and colonialism.

Anarchy, reunification or pan-nationalism are sometimes used to justify and legitimize expansionism, but only when the explicit goal is to reconquer territories that have been lost, or to take over ancestral lands. In contrast with the ideologies of promised lands like Manifest Destiny, which are used to justify and legitimize expansionism with the perspective that the lands will eventually belong to the invader anyway, unlike claims of prior ownership.[1]

Theories of expansionism

Ibn Khaldun wrote that newly established dynasties, because they have social cohesion or Asabiyyah, are able to seek 'expansion to the limit'.[2]

Soviet economist Nikolai Kondratiev theorized that capitalism advances in 50-year expansion/stagnation cycles, driven by technological innovation. The UK, Germany, the US, Japan and now China have been at the forefront of successive waves.

Crane Brinton in The Anatomy of Revolution saw the revolution as a driver of expansionism in, for example, Stalinist Russia, the US and the Napoleonic Empire.

Christopher Booker believes that Wishful thinking can generate a 'dream phase' of expansionism such as in the European Union, which is short-lived and unstable.

Past examples

The militarist and nationalistic reign of Czar Nicholas I (1825–1855) led to wars of conquest against Persia (1826–1828) and Turkey (1828–1829). Various rebel tribes in the Caucasus region were crushed. A Polish revolt in 1830 was ruthlessly crushed. Russian troops in 1848 crossed into Austria-Hungary to put down the Hungarian revolt. Russification policies were implemented to weaken minority ethnic groups. Nicholas also built the Kremlin Palace and a new cathedral in Saint Petersburg. But Pan-slavism ambition led to further war with Turkey (the Sick man of Europe) in 1853 provoked Britain and France into invading Crimea, and Nicholas died, supposedly of grief at his defeat.[3]

The German Second Reich (1871–1918) underwent an industrial revolution under Bismarck, who also reformed and expanded the army. Poles and Catholics were persecuted. Colonies were acquired in Africa and China. In 1890, Kaiser Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck and resolved to build a world-class Navy, which led to an arms race with Britain and thence to World War One.[4]

From 1933 the Third Reich under Hitler laid claim to the Rhineland, the Sudetenland, unification (Anschluss) with Austria in 1938, and the whole of the Czech lands the following year. After war broke out, Hitler and Stalin divided Poland between Germany and the USSR. In a Drang nach Osten aimed at achieving Lebensraum for the German people, Germany invaded the USSR in 1941.[5]

Colonialism, a form of expansionism is the policy of a nation seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of developing or exploiting them to the benefit of the colonizing country.[6] The European colonial period was the era from the 15th century to the mid-20th century when several European powers had established colonies in the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Expansionist nationalism is an aggressive and radical form of nationalism that incorporates autonomous, patriotic sentiments with a belief in expansionism. The term was coined during the late nineteenth century as European powers indulged in the 'Scramble for Africa' in the name of national glory, but has been most associated with militarist governments during the 20th century including Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the Japanese empire, and the Balkans countries of Albania (Greater Albania), Bulgaria (Greater Bulgaria), Croatia (Greater Croatia), Hungary (Greater Hungary), Romania (Greater Romania) and Serbia (Greater Serbia).

In American politics after the War of 1812; Manifest Destiny was the ideological movement during America's expansion West. The movement incorporated expansionist nationalism with Continentalism, with the Mexican War in 1846-1848 being attributed to it. Despite championing American settlers and traders as the people whom the Government's military would be aiding, the Bent, St. Vrain and Company stated to be the most influential Indian Trading company prior to the Mexican War, underwent a decline due to War and traffic from American settlers by Beyreis. The company also lost Partner Charles Bent on January 19, 1847, to a riot caused by the Mexican War. The tribes: Cheyennes, Comanches, Kiowas, and Pawnees died from Smallpox in 1839-1840, measles and whooping cough in 1845, and cholera in 1849 brought by white settlers. The buffalo herds, sparse grasses, and rare waters were also depleted following the war as increased traffic by settlers moving to California during the Gold Rush.[7]

21st century


The People's Republic of China is expanding its operations and influence in the South China Sea, claiming possession of disputed offshore islands in the search for oil and gas.[8] A major instrument of influence is the Belt and Road Initiative.


Israel was established from the reacquired lands under the manifesto of original ownership in May 14, 1948, following the end of World War II and the Holocaust. Its government has tried to expand its territory and power through the annexation of the Golan Heights in 1981.[9][10]


Iran, the largest Shi'ite state, has extended its influence across the entire middle east, including Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, arming local militias.[11]


Russia's behavior threatens the integrity and existence of NATO member states and Russia's non-NATO neighbors.[12] The events associated with Russia are: the 2008 Russo-Georgian War and Russia's occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia; the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, which began in 2014 with the Annexation of Crimea and the War in Donbass; and the military intervention in Syria.

United States

The United States is seen to be using its power to expand its influence. It began a war in Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks.[13] Despite opposition by traditional allies such as France,[14] a war in Iraq was declared based on the inaccurate information of Iraq hosting weapons of mass destruction.[15]

The United States has embargoed countries such as Cuba;[16] built military bases around the world, especially in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf;[17] and supported opposition groups in Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War.[18][19]

The dominance of the US dollar in worldwide trade amplifies the effect of American trade sanctions.[20] In pursuit of its foreign policy goals, the United States has imposed sanctions on countries such as Turkey,[21] Russia,[22] Venezuela[23] and Iran.[24]


In the nineteenth century, theories of racial unity such as Pan-Germanism, Pan-Slavism, Pan-Turkism and the related Turanism, evolved. In each case, the dominant nation (respectively, Prussia, Russia[25] and the Ottoman Empire, especially under Enver Pasha,) used these theories to legitimise their expansionist policies.

George Orwell's satirical novel Animal Farm is a fictional depiction, based on Stalin's USSR, of a new elite seizing power, establishing new rules and hierarchies, then expanding economically while compromising their ideals; while Robert Erskine Childers in The Riddle of the Sands portrayed the threatening nature of the German Second Reich. Elspeth Huxley's novel Red Strangers shows the effects on local culture of colonial expansion into sub-Saharan Africa.

See also


  1. "Manifest Destiny | History, Examples, & Significance". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  2. The Muqadimmah, 1377, pages 137-256
  3. Orlando Figes, Crimea, Penguin, 2011, chapter one
  4. Allan Mallinson, '1914; Fight the Good Fight', Bantam Press, 2013, chapter two
  5. Sebastian Haffner, The Meaning of Hitler, Phoenix, 2000, chapters 2,3 and 4
  6. Colonialism, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1989 ed.) p. 291.; Colonialisme, Nouveau Petit Robert de la langue française (1993 ed.), p. 456.
  7. Beyreis, David (Summer 2018). "The Chaos of Conquest: The Bents and the Problem of American Expansion". Kansas History. 41 (2): 72–89 via History Reference Center.
  8. Simon Tisdall, 'Vietnam's fury at China's expansionism can be traced to a troubled history', The Guardian, 15/5/2004
  9. Masalha, Nur (2000). Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: politics of expansion. Sterling, VA: Pluto Press.
  10. https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/foreignpolicy/peace/guide/pages/golan%20heights%20law.aspx/
  11. Arango, Tim (15 July 2017). "Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. 'Handed the Country Over'". New York Times. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
  12. Walker, Peter (2015-02-20). "Russian expansionism may pose existential threat, says NATO general". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-04.
  13. Obama, Barack (Dec 1, 2009). "Obama's Address on the War in Afghanistan". New York Times. To address these important issues, it's important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people.
  14. "France and Germany unite against Iraq war". The Guardian. 22 Jan 2003. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  15. Arshad Mohammed; Rick Cowan; Adam Entous; Xavier Briand (March 14, 2008). "FACTBOX: U.S. marched to Iraq with inaccurate intelligence". Reuters. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  16. Nelson Acosta; Sarah Marsh; Cynthia Osterman (May 9, 2018). "U.S. trade embargo has cost Cuba $130 billion, U.N. says". Reuters.
  17. "U.S. Bases in the Middle East". American Security Project.
  18. Hosenball, Mark (March 30, 2011). "Exclusive: Obama authorizes secret help for Libya rebels". Reuters.
  19. Tuvan Gumrukcu; Dahlia Nehme (January 25, 2018). "Turkey to U.S.: End support for Syrian Kurd YPG or risk confrontation". Reuters.
  20. Gilsinan, Kathy (May 3, 2019). "Why the United States Uses Sanctions So Much". The Atlantic. Retrieved 30 July 2019. The strength of American sanctions, after all, comes from the centrality of the United States financial system in the global economy, and the dollar’s status as the world’s dominant reserve currency.
  21. Adam Goldman; Gardiner Harris (Aug 1, 2018). "U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Turkish Officials Over Detained American Pastor". New York Times.
  22. Patricia Zengerle (August 2, 2018). "U.S. senators introduce Russia sanctions 'bill from hell'". Reuters.
  23. Julie Hirschfeld Davis (May 21, 2018). "U.S. Places New Sanctions on Venezuela Day After Election". New York Times.
  24. Gardiner Harris; Jack Ewing (Aug 6, 2018). "U.S. to Restore Sanctions on Iran, Deepening Divide With Europe". New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  25. Orlando Figes, Crimea, Penguin, 2011, p.89
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.