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Regions & CountriesJanuary 28, 2020 | 19:27 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 & CountriesJanuary 28, 2020 | 19:30 GMT
Hong Kong SAR, China

Located at China's doorstep along the Pearl River Delta, Hong Kong has long served as a bridge between mainland China and the West. More than 150 years of British colonial rule (beginning in the 1840s) endowed the city with a uniquely liberal economy, a Western regulatory system, and strong rule of law that differentiate it from many other parts of the Asia-Pacific region. These characteristics helped to transform the city into a leading reexport and financial center in the past five decades, building on connections into the mainland's lucrative market and industry. Nearly 8 million people reside in the special region's 687 square kilometer (427 square mile) territory, making it the world's most densely populated city with a high level of ethnic diversity.

Under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, Hong Kong was guaranteed economic and political autonomy under the "One Country, Two Systems" principle for 50 years after the handover to China in 1997. But years of attempts by Beijing to increase its political control over the city and the consequences of deeper economic integration have eroded that status. This, coupled with the city's deep-rooted socio-economic issues, contribute to a rising tide of Hong Kong nativism manifesting as pro-independence advocacy, particularly among the younger generation. As the city struggles to diversify its economy beyond the financial and retail industry, its growing political polarization and radicalization combined with concerns about Beijing's encroachment could threaten Hong Kong's economic prospects at a time when mainland cities and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region are preparing to seize new opportunities.

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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 19:02 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 & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 19:01 GMT
Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked nation, currently squeezed between two neighbors, Russia and China. Much of it lies on a plateau, but in the west the Altai Mountains rise to Mongolia’s highest point — more than 14,000 feet — while the Gobi Desert stretches across the country’s southern border. Mongolia’s most prominent geographic feature is the vast steppes that create both opportunity and vulnerability. From these steppes, Mongol horse-archers in the 13th century led by Genghis Khan extended control over the agricultural civilizations of Eurasia. But as their technological advantage eroded, these flatlands left Mongolia with few geographic barriers and the empire began crumbling within 60 years. Today, part of the majority Halh Mongol population and traditional Mongolian lands lie within the borders of China, undermining security of Mongolia’s southern border. Because of its climate and geography, Mongolia has the world’s lowest population density. There are fewer than three million people, with a third living in the capital. Traditionally a herding society, agriculture is now less than 15 percent of the economy. Instead, vast deposits of coal, copper, gold and uranium, as well as rare earth elements, have drawn significant international investments but have left Mongolia dependent upon foreign capital and expertise. And without ports, it must rely on China and Russia to export its resources. This leaves modern Mongolia seeking a third neighbor to balance their influence, but isolation limits the ability of an outside power to offset these geographic constraints. As a result, Mongolia remains trapped between its much stronger neighbors.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:31 GMT
Ukraine
Ukraine

Ukraine is the quintessential borderland state. The country borders three former Soviet states (Russia, Belarus and Moldova) and four countries in the European Union (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania). Ukraine also has a coastline along the Black Sea to the south. Ukraine sits on the Northern European Plain, the area that has historically served as an invasion superhighway going east and west. Beyond its strategic location, Ukraine's geography has only facilitated such invasions. The country consists of flat and fertile plains, with the exception of the Carpathian Mountain range that arches into the far west of the country. But even these mountains can be penetrated and have not posed a significant barrier to invasion. Given such lack of barriers, Ukraine's wide-open geography is inextricably linked to that of Russia. Ukraine's agricultural and industrial belts have traditionally been integrated with Russia's, and Ukraine serves as the primary transit state for Russian energy exports to Europe. Due to its location and abundance of agricultural and mineral resources, Ukraine has been contested between regional powers for centuries. This competition is currently playing out in an extreme form today, with a Western-backed government confronting a Russian-backed uprising in eastern Ukraine. Further complicating the situation is the fact that Ukraine has several population and political cores, including Lviv in the west, Kiev in the center and the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk. These different cores make administering Ukraine difficult. The current crisis in Ukraine is therefore merely the latest iteration of the country's internal divisions and the long-standing East-West conflict over the country. Maintaining sovereignty and unity in the face of this competition is Ukraine's primary geographic challenge.

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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:29 GMT
Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay is a South American country on the Atlantic Ocean squeezed between Argentina to its west and Brazil to its north. It is the second smallest country in South America, after Suriname. More than 80 percent of Uruguay's population is of Spanish and Italian descent, making it one of the most homogenous countries in South America. It is also one of the region's most politically stable countries. For a brief period in the 19th century, Uruguay was part of Brazil, and it claims about 140 square miles of Brazil's southern border city of Santana do Livramento. Though Brazil does not recognize the claim, Uruguay has avoided taking the dispute to the International Court of Justice, and relations between the two countries have remained peaceful. Meanwhile, disputes with Argentina over the environmental effects of Uruguay's economic activities on the Uruguay River, which separates the two countries, have strained relations. Uruguay is a full member of the Common Market of the South and has veto power in trade negotiations involving the bloc. The country is a major exporter of soybeans and wheat as well as meat and dairy products. Additionally, Uruguay's river system is navigable; the Uruguay River and Rio de la Plata flow to the Atlantic Ocean, giving the country's products cheap transportation access to international markets.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:58 GMT
Nepal
Nepal
Nestled against the Himalayas, landlocked Nepal lies between India and China, south of Tibet. Nepal is divided into three geographic subregions: a mountainous northern border region, a central hilly area and the Terai, a fertile, low-lying marshy plain. The Terai is irrigated by tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers and supports over 90 percent of Nepal's 27 million people. Only 17 percent of the population lives in urban areas, the largest being the capital in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal's core. Following decades of civil strife, Nepal transformed from a monarchy into a modern republic in 2006. The territory of modern Nepal was unified under ethnic Gurkha rule in the mid-18th century. Colonial Britain relied on the military support of elite Gurkha mercenaries to maintain influence on the subcontinent. After centuries of isolation, Nepal's geographic challenge is its struggle to remain independent and maintain a distinct identity from surrounding global powers. This is complicated by Nepal's dependence on Indian ports and constant Chinese attention on its northern border with Tibet. Nepal has transitioned from an isolated agrarian society toward greater economic integration with its neighbors, especially India. While agriculture still plays a large role, it is matched by the services sector fueled by foreign tourism to religious sites and Mt. Everest. Although the geography and inhospitable climate of the northern border prevent any large-scale military posturing by outside powers, Nepal's location along the Tibetan plateau can serve as a launch pad for greater Indian influence northward or an expansion of Chinese influence, denying New Delhi inroads into Tibet. Following decades of civil strife, Nepal transformed from a monarchy into a modern republic in 2006. The territory of modern Nepal was unified under ethnic Gurkha rule in the mid-18th century. Colonial Britain relied on the military support of elite Gurkha mercenaries to maintain influence on the subcontinent. After centuries of isolation, Nepal's geographic challenge is its struggle to remain independent and maintain a distinct identity from surrounding global powers. This is complicated by Nepal's dependence on Indian ports and constant Chinese attention on its northern border with Tibet. Nepal has transitioned from an isolated agrarian society toward greater economic integration with its neighbors, especially India. While agriculture still plays a large role, it is matched by the services sector fueled by foreign tourism to religious sites and Mt. Everest. Although the geography and inhospitable climate of the northern border prevent any large-scale military posturing by outside powers, Nepal's location along the Tibetan plateau can serve as a launch pad for greater Indian influence northward or an expansion of Chinese influence, denying New Delhi inroads into Tibet.
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Regions & CountriesJanuary 23, 2020 | 18:47 GMT
Senegal
Senegal
Located on West Africa's Atlantic coast, Senegal is surrounded by Mauritania to the north, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea Bissau to the south. Perhaps more interesting, it almost completely swallows Gambia, with the tiny country carved into its larger neighbor. Senegal has been an entry point for Africa for many centuries. Its navigable river, of which the country's name is derived, has provided a transportation artery for locals and foreign powers alike. Indeed, the arrival of French imperialists in the mid-17th century changed the region's political trajectory dramatically. French influence was strong in Senegal, given its use as a base for French power projection into the rest of what would become the West African element of France's global empire. Senegal's development since independence from France in 1960 as one of Africa's, and especially West Africa's, most stable democracies has allowed it to cultivate a relative influence in the region and in the Francophone world more generally, despite a relative lack of natural resources, widespread poverty and ethnocultural cleavages. Nevertheless, the country has had to manage a sometimes-troublesome relationship with its neighbor, Gambia, which provided safe haven and alleged funding to a long-running secessionist movement in Senegal's southernmost Casamance region during the reign of Yahya Jammeh, Gambia's dictatorial leader. Jammeh's downfall in 2016 created a shift in relations between the two countries, leading to more cooperation across multiple fronts. Moreover, Senegal has emerged in recent years as one of West Africa's most promising countries for energy exploration and exploitation. The potential future financial windfall from energy production could help the impoverished country continue robust growth in the years ahead.
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