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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:30 GMT
United States
United States
The United States encompasses territory spanning from the Arctic Circle and Central Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico and the North Atlantic. The Greater Mississippi Basin is the United States' core and serves as the underpinning of its role as a global superpower. The basin hosts an extensive network of navigable rivers that overlay the world's largest contiguous piece of arable land. This naturally interconnected river system facilitated integration among settlers and allowed for cheap transport of goods, providing the United States with the ability to feed itself efficiently and rapidly build up industry and capital to expand west. The Midwestern core gave early America strategic depth, while an expanding U.S. coastline, naturally indented with deep harbors, provided its opening to the world. After reaching the Pacific coast in the mid-19th century, the United States found itself insulated by two oceans. On the continent itself, geography again has worked in the country's favor: lakes to the north and deserts to the south insulate the United States' population centers, with both Canada and Mexico facing too many natural constraints of their own to seriously rival it. This unparalleled level of wealth and protection gives the United States options that few to no countries can claim. For one, the United States has used its wealth and security to build up the world's largest navy. Control of the world's major sea-lanes gives the United States the power to facilitate or deny trade to allies or rivals of the day. The onus therefore is on the United States to carefully manage its engagements abroad and build up strategic allies to protect its overseas interests and preserve its strength at home.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 16:41 GMT
Iceland
Iceland
Iceland is an island country situated at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Most of Iceland’s terrain is uninhabitable. The island's interior, known as the Icelandic Highlands, is a combination of glaciers, volcanoes and lava fields. Two thirds of Iceland’s 320,000 inhabitants live in the lowlands surrounding Reykjavik, the country’s capital and largest city. Protecting Reykjavik (Iceland’s core) is the country’s main strategic imperative. The Icelandic economy historically depended heavily on fishing, which still provides 40% of export earnings. In recent decades, Iceland's economy has diversified into manufacturing, service industries and finance. Balancing its isolation with external economic integration is Iceland’s primary geographic challenge. Iceland has especially strong cultural and political ties with the other Nordic countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, because the island was under the rule of the Norwegian and Danish monarchies between the 13th and 20th centuries. Iceland became independent in 1918, and a republic was declared in 1944. Iceland's location also makes it geopolitically significant for Europe, particularly in light of the growing relevance of energy resources in the Arctic area. Moreover, Iceland’s location in the so-called GIUK (Greenland, Iceland and the United Kingdom) gap is strategic for naval military operations in the North Atlantic. Because of its geographic isolation, Iceland has to make a constant effort to keep strong economic ties with the rest of the world. The country therefore has to continuously reach a balance between maintaining independence and fostering deep ties with its eastern or western neighbors. The population's indecisiveness concerning Iceland's EU membership reflects that struggle.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 14:35 GMT
Bolivia
Bolivia
Bolivia is a landlocked country that borders five South American countries: Chile to the west, Brazil to the east, Peru to the north and Argentina and Paraguay to the south. Bolivia's lack of sea access poses a major geographical challenge, as the country struggles to integrate itself into the global economy. As a result, Bolivia's major trade partners are its neighbors, Brazil and Argentina. Bolivia's history is full of major territorial defeats. The country lost its sea access to Chile after the War of the Pacific, which was fought from 1879 to 1884. Bolivia has also suffered territorial losses to Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru. While the country has settled its border disputes with most of these countries, it still claims the territory it lost to Chile. Every Bolivian administration has prioritized attempts to gain access to the Pacific Ocean. Bolivia is extremely divided geographically and ethnically; the Andes mountains divide the country's lowlands and highlands, making it one of the most politically unstable countries in South America. The highlands are predominantly made up of indigenous groups, mostly the Aymara and Quechua peoples, while lowlands residents are mostly Mestizo. The core of Bolivia's highlands is the La Paz metropolitan area, where the city of El Alto is also located. The core of Bolivia's lowlands is Santa Cruz, which is the country's richest department. The disconnect between the highlands and lowlands has resulted in strong regionalism in the country. Political groups from the more developed departments located in the lowlands, where most of Bolivia's agricultural and natural gas production take place, have historically demanded more autonomy from the central political authority located in La Paz.
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