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Regions & CountriesJanuary 28, 2020 | 19:29 GMT
Georgia
Georgia
Georgia is located in the Caucasus region, a transcontinental zone between Europe and Asia, and is surrounded by powerful neighbors that have controlled part or all of the country throughout much of its history. These include Russia to the north, Turkey to the southwest and Iran to the southeast. Georgia's core is found in the capital city of Tbilisi, where the country's economic, political and demographic resources are concentrated. But because of Georgia's largely mountainous terrain, the country has distinct regional differences and contains various non-Georgian ethnic groups that have traditionally maintained autonomy from Tbilisi. These groups, most notably the Abkhazians and Ossetians to the northwest and north, have posed a separatist problem for the Georgian state. The territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia established de facto independence from Georgia with the help of Russia in a 2008 war. Because of Georgia's disputes with Russia and its military vulnerability, Tbilisi has sought to integrate with Western blocs like NATO and the European Union. However, Georgia's geographic distance from Europe and its exposure to Russia has made that a difficult prospect. Thus, Tbilisi also seeks supplementary partnerships with countries like Azerbaijan and Turkey.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 28, 2020 | 19:28 GMT
Central African Republic
Central African Republic
The Central African Republic is a landlocked country in the heart of Central Africa. The country shares borders with Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the east, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo to the south and Cameroon to the west. The Central African Republic's prospects for economic growth are severely limited by its geographical location, which has increased the costs of imports and exports while hampering connectivity. Unsurprisingly, the country is one of the world's least stable nations. Moreover, the government in Bangui, the country’s capital, remains woefully unable to assert its power beyond its immediate environs. In fact, large swaths of the country remain effectively outside the government’s control, as militant groups and gangs have proliferated in many areas. The assistance of outside powers and international organizations have done little to enhance Bangui’s authority in recent years. A former French colony, the Central African Republic has struggled to achieve stability since independence. Instead, periodic conflagrations have rocked the country, occasionally precipitating French military intervention, such as in 2013. An additional challenge for leaders in Bangui is the near continuous meddling of their regional neighbors, which have sought to exploit the Central African Republic's security vacuum to grab some of the country's vast mineral resources. At present, the country’s long-term prospects appear bleak due to its deep structural deficiencies.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 19:10 GMT
A horse grazes in front of Kara-Kul lake in the Chon-Ak-Suu valley, 300 kilometers southeast of Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan
Located in the southeast corner of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan borders China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Kyrgyzstan is land-locked and almost entirely mountainous, making economic development difficult. The country has some mineral resources such as gold, but it does not have significant deposits of oil or natural gas. Consequently, Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest states of the former Soviet Union. Its mountainous terrain fosters significant internal political and social divisions, particularly between its northern and southern regions. Kyrgyzstan has two population and political cores distinct from each other — one in the capital of Bishkek and the other in the corridor between Osh and Jalal-Abad. This has created an unstable post-independence political environment in the country, with Kyrgyzstan experiencing two revolutions in the past seven years alone. In 1924, Josef Stalin shaped borders in Central Asia to deliberately divide the Fergana Valley region and its people into three political entities. Kyrgyzstan's large Uzbek and Tajik minority populations in the south, as well as disputes over its limited water resources, have led to tensions and frequent border disputes with its neighbors. Despite the economic, security and political difficulties created by its geography, Kyrgyzstan's strategic location makes it an area of competition between larger powers. Russia is Kyrgyzstan's largest trading partner, and the country hosts a Russian military base in Kant. The United States also has an air base in Manas, a key transit point for NATO military operations in nearby Afghanistan. Taking advantage of this external competition while trying to overcome internal weaknesses shapes Kyrgyzstan's strategy.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:40 GMT
Sudan
Sudan
Sudan is a huge country between Northern and Central Africa which, prior to the independence of South Sudan, was the continent's largest country. Its position has long drawn the attention of outsiders, and once facilitated the birth of powerful empires and city-states. Since declaring independence from the United Kingdom in 1955, Sudan has struggled to manage its expansive territories and ethno-regional divisions. Khartoum, the country's capital, can be viewed as a relatively isolated city-state that must command the vast spaces and people that surround it. Such a mentality helps explain Khartoum's disastrous management of the country's various rebellions and insurrections. Until recently, the country's leadership has preferred to adopt a belligerent approach to dealing with the country's many outstanding conflicts. Because Sudan's borders do not fully align with its various ethnic groups, its internal ethnic conflicts have fueled regional conflict as well. Ethnic groups in the Darfur region of eastern Sudan spill over into neighboring Chad, driving the two countries to wage proxy warfare against each other for years by arming and financing rebels intent on revolution. Sudan's proximity to the Middle East — as well as its cultural and religious makeup — has allowed it to build ties with powers there. Though this has benefitted Sudan by allowing it to attract investment from companies such as Saudi Arabia, it has also engendered greater scrutiny.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:59 GMT
Myanmar
Myanmar
The core of Myanmar is the fertile Irrawaddy River valley. The region, a long, flat area that is relatively easy to consolidate, is vulnerable to invasion from the surrounding mountains, particularly the Hengduan Mountains along the northern border with China. Invading Mongols and the now-dominant ethnic Burman, for example, twice overthrew governments in the Irrawaddy valley. Though control of Myanmar's surrounding mountains provides security for the valley's core, it can also stir conflict with the various ethnic groups that inhabit the border regions. As a result, Myanmar has never completely solidified its own territory. The country borders Bangladesh and India to the west, but a mountain chain separates and protects it from those neighbors. To the northeast, likewise, high mountains and rugged jungle provide a formidable barrier against China. The Shan Plateau to the east poses less of a physical challenge, allowing various ethnic groups to move easily across political boundaries. Historically, the absence of a barrier has facilitated Myanmar's communication with Thailand and Laos, while also making for more frequent conflict with them. Myanmar's location makes it a natural bridge between the Indian Ocean basin, Southeast Asia and southern China. Coupled with the country's energy resources — including oil and natural gas — its position has made it a target for foreign intervention, whether overt, as with the United Kingdom or Japan, or less direct, as with China's recent ports, pipeline and transport infrastructure projects. Foreign interference, like internal ethnic conflict, is a perennial concern for Myanmar because of its physical geography.
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