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Regions & CountriesMay 22, 2019 | 21:47 GMT
Brazil
Brazil

Larger in land mass than the contiguous United States, Brazil borders every country on the South American continent except Ecuador and Chile. Three features define Brazil's geography: the Amazon Basin, tropical savanna and the Brazilian Highlands. The Amazon River and rain forest, the world's largest, encompass most of northern Brazil and make this region inhospitable to agriculture and large populations. To its south lies the Cerrado, a vast tropical savanna. Advances in agricultural practices have allowed large-scale farming to thrive in this region. However, due to distance and geography, Brazil faces daunting challenges in getting agricultural commodities to international markets. The Brazilian Highlands and the narrow strip of land between the mountains and the coast are home to the majority of the country's 197 million people. Most of the country's economic activity occurs in this region. Brazil's geography largely shields it from external military threats. The Atlantic Ocean, the Amazon Basin and the buffer states of Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay insulate the country. Brazil's varied regions have made centralized control and integration difficult for the core states of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. Infrastructure linking the coast and the interior, as well as connecting the various coastal cities is technically difficult and requires high levels of investment. Isolated from the rest of the continent both geographically and linguistically and lacking internal cohesion, Brazil has traditionally been inward looking. Brazil's primary geographic challenging is consolidating control over its vast peripheral territory and connecting these regions more efficiently with its population centers and ports.

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Regions & CountriesMay 22, 2019 | 21:34 GMT
Mexico
Mexico
Mexico is defined by dramatic geographic features that have shaped the country's politics. Forming the southern portion of North America, Mexico borders the tropical Central American isthmus, a broad band that defines Mexico's northern border with the United States. To the east and west, the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre Oriental dominate the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts, forming highlands that cradle of the modern heart of Mexico. The desolate Baja California peninsula shields approaches from the western sea. To the east, the tropical limestone outcropping named the Yucatán peninsula dominates entry from the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico's central valley, which includes Mexico City and the adjacent Veracruz region, form Mexico's core. To control Mexico City is to control Mexico, and the greatest conventional threats to Mexico City have traditionally come from the deepwater Port city of Veracruz. Since the 16th century, Spain, France and the United States -- not to mention numerous mutinous factions of the Mexican military -- have used Veracruz to threaten and even conquer what is now Mexico City. Mexico's mountains and frontier territories are traditional hotbeds of unrest. From the rebels of Chihuahua to the drug kingpins of Tierra Caliente and Sinaloa, the historical and ongoing challenge for Mexico is to subdue and incorporate far-flung, geographically-isolated communities. The modern expression of this struggle can be seen in today's war with drug trafficking organizations, but it is a pattern that has been repeated throughout history and has been shaped by Mexico's physical geography.
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Regions & CountriesMay 22, 2019 | 21:45 GMT
Canada
Canada
Located on the North American continent, Canada is the world’s second-largest country. Most of Canada is uninhabited wilderness, and Arctic temperatures make the northern territories inhospitable to large population centers. Canada became independent from the United Kingdom in 1867. The country is made up of 10 provinces and three territories. A majority of Canada’s 35 million people reside within 100 kilometers of the U.S. border, where the climate and topography support meaningful populations. However this population is spread across a distance of roughly 7,000 kilometers, from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Canada's primary geographic challenge is maintaining unity across its diverse population cores, which include Toronto and Montreal in the Great Lakes watershed; the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta; and Vancouver on the Pacific coast. The economies of these population cores are geared toward external trade as they try to meet demand for their services, manufactured goods and natural resources like oil. Heavy crude oil found largely in the province of Alberta is exported to U.S. and international markets, making Canada the world’s sixth-largest oil producer. Distance and climate are perennial challenges for Canada. The Trans-Canada Railway was Ottawa’s first effort, completed in 1886, to link Montreal, Toronto, the prairies and Vancouver. Redistribution payments, collected from resource-rich provinces and disbursed to resource-poor provinces and territories, is a contemporary policy aimed to unify and equalize provincial and territorial finances. Because of its location, Canada is well within the U.S. sphere of influence and the country's freedom to act is constrained by U.S. interests.
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Regions & CountriesMay 22, 2019 | 14:38 GMT
The Middle East and North Africa encompasses the Arabian Peninsula, the mountains of Iran, the plains of Turkey, the deserts of the Levant, the lands north of the Sahara and all coasts in between.
Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa is the world's crossroads. It encompasses the Arabian Peninsula, the mountains of Iran, the plains of Turkey, the deserts of the Levant, the lands north of the Sahara and all coasts in between. The story of the region, as is so often the case of places stuck between foreign players, is the story of trade, exchange and conflict. The traditional powers of the region are Turkey and Iran — Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the current Arab powers — and their competition for influence over the region's weaker states makes the Middle East and North Africa an arena of violence and instability.

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