Prisoners of Geography
Prisoners of Geography

Prisoners of Geography

The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars, the power, politics and social development of the peoples that now inhabit nearly every part of the earth. Technology may seem to overcome the distances between us in both mental and physical space, but it is easy to forget that the land where we live, work and raise our children is hugely important, and that the choices of those who lead the seven billion inhabitants of this planet will to some degree always be shaped by the rivers, mountains, deserts, lakes and seas that constrain us all – as they always have. (Location 69)

Tags: geography

Note: .geography the land influences our lives

China and India: two massive countries with huge populations that share a very long border but are not politically or culturally aligned. It wouldn’t be surprising if these two giants had fought each other in several wars, but in fact, apart from one month-long battle in 1962, they never have. Why? Because between them is the highest mountain range in the world, and it is practically impossible to advance large military columns through or over the Himalayas. As technology becomes more sophisticated, of course, ways are emerging of overcoming this obstacle, but the physical barrier remains a deterrent, and so both countries focus their foreign policy on other regions while keeping a wary eye on each other. (Location 82)

Tags: geography, india, china

Note: .china .india .geography china an india have rarely fought because of the huge mountain range which runs along their border

RUSSIA IS VAST. IT IS VASTEST. IMMENSE. IT IS SIX MILLION square miles vast, eleven time zones vast; it is the largest country in the world. (Location 165)

Tags: russia

Note: .russia russia has 11 time zones

Winston Churchill’s famous observation of Russia, made in 1939: ‘It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, (Location 175)

Tags: russia

Note: .russia

Russia has never been conquered from this direction, partially due to its strategic depth. By the time an army approaches Moscow it already has unsustainably long supply lines, a mistake that Napoleon made in 1812, and that Hitler repeated in 1941. (Location 189)

Tags: russia

Note: .russia moscow is strategically deep into russia

This lack of a warm-water port with direct access to the oceans has always been Russia’s Achilles heel, as strategically important to it as the North European Plain. Russia is at a geographical disadvantage, saved from being a much weaker power only because of its oil and gas. (Location 283)

Tags: gas, oil, russia

Note: .russia russia doesnt have a warm water port

As long as a pro-Russian government held sway in Kiev, the Russians could be confident that its buffer zone would remain intact and guard the North European Plain. Even a studiedly neutral Ukraine, which would promise not to join the EU or NATO and to uphold the lease Russia had on the warm-water port at Sevastopol in Crimea, would be acceptable. That Ukraine was reliant on Russia for energy also made its increasingly neutral stance acceptable, albeit irritating. But a pro-Western Ukraine with ambitions to join the two great Western alliances, and which threw into doubt Russia’s access to its Black Sea port? A Ukraine that one day might even host a NATO naval base? That could not stand. (Location 307)

Tags: russia

Note: .russia russia has use of a warm water port in ukraine. It is important that ukraine doesnt join the eu

Russia does not have to send an armoured division into Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia to influence events there, but if it ever does it would justify the action by claiming that the large Russian communities there are being discriminated against. In both Estonia and Latvia approximately one in four people are ethnically Russian and in Lithuania it is 5.8 per cent. In Estonia the Russian speakers say they are under-represented in government and thousands do not have any form of citizenship. This does not mean they want to be part of Russia, but they are one of the levers Russia can pull to influence events. (Location 411)

Tags: russia

Note: .russia russia may move troops into countries under pretence of protecting russians living there

The Russian-speaking populations in the Baltics can be stirred up to making life difficult. There are existing, fully formed political parties already representing many of them. Russia also controls the central heating in the homes of the Baltic people. It can set the price people pay for their heating bills each month, and, if it chooses, simply turn the heating off. (Location 415)

Tags: russia

Note: .russia russia controls energy supply to many countries

On average, more than 25 per cent of Europe’s gas and oil comes from Russia; but often the closer a country is to Moscow, the greater its dependency. This in turn reduces that country’s foreign policy options. Latvia, Slovakia, Finland and Estonia are 100 per cent reliant on Russian gas, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Lithuania are 80 per cent dependent, and Greece, Austria and Hungary 60 per cent. About half of Germany’s gas consumption comes from Russia, which, along with extensive trade deals, is partly why German politicians tend to be slower to criticise the Kremlin for aggressive behaviour than a country such as Britain, which not only has 13 per cent dependency, but also has its own gas-producing industry, including reserves of up to nine months’ supply. (Location 458)

Tags: gas, russia

Note: .russia .gas

Enter the Americans, with a win-win strategy for the USA and Europe. Noting that Europe wants gas, and not wanting to be seen to be weak in the face of Russian foreign policy, the Americans believe they have the answer. The massive boom in shale gas production in the USA is not only enabling it to be self-sufficient in energy, but also to sell its surplus to one of the great energy consumers – Europe. To do this, the gas needs to be liquefied and shipped across the Atlantic. This in turn requires liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and ports to be built along the European coastlines to receive the cargo and turn it back into gas. Washington is already approving licences for export facilities, and Europe is beginning a long-term project to build more LNG terminals. Poland and Lithuania are constructing LNG terminals; other countries such as the Czech Republic want to build pipelines connecting to those terminals, knowing they could then benefit not just from American liquefied gas, but also supplies from North Africa and the Middle East. The Kremlin would no longer be able to turn the taps off. (Location 474)

Tags: gas

Note: .gas america is looking to ship lng to europe and reduce theiir dependency on russia

The sharp decline in population growth may have been arrested, but it remains a problem. The average lifespan for a Russian man is below sixty-five, ranking Russia in the bottom half of the world’s 193 UN member states, and there are now only 144 million Russians (excluding Crimea). (Location 509)

Tags: russia

Note: .russia the average life span of a russian man is 65

This is the geopolitics of fear. If China did not control Tibet, it would always be possible that India might attempt to do so. This would give India the commanding heights of the Tibetan Plateau and a base from which to push into the Chinese heartland, as well as control of the Tibetan sources of three of China’s great rivers, the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong, which is why Tibet is known as ‘China’s Water Tower’. China, a country with approximately the same volume of water usage as the USA, but with a population five times as large, will clearly not allow that. (Location 641)

Tags: china, tibet

Note: .tibet it is important for china to control tibet so that india does not. It is the source of three chinese rivers and an ideal place to launch an attack in to china

China will not cede this territory and, as in Tibet, the window for independence is closing. Both are buffer zones, one is a major land trade route, and – crucially – both offer markets (albeit with a limited income) for an economy which must keep producing and selling goods if it is to continue to grow and to prevent mass unemployment. Failure to so do would likely lead to widespread civil disorder, threatening the control of the Communist Party and the unity of China. (Location 706)

Tags: tibet

Note: China must continue to grow in order to prevent mass unemployment.

There are similar reasons for the Party’s resistance to democracy and individual rights. If the population were to be given a free vote, the unity of the Han might begin to crack or, more likely, the countryside and urban areas would come into conflict. That in turn would embolden the people of the buffer zones, further weakening China. It is only a century since the most recent humiliation of the rape of China by foreign powers; for Beijing, unity and economic progress are priorities well ahead of democratic principles. (Location 709)

Tags: communism, china

Note: .china .communism communism helps unify china and prevent conflict between rural and urban peoples

The Chinese look at society very differently from the West. Western thought is infused with the rights of the individual; Chinese thought prizes the collective above the individual. What the West thinks of as the rights of man, the Chinese leadership thinks of as dangerous theories endangering the majority, and much of the population accepts that, at the least, the extended family comes before the individual. (Location 713)

Tags: china

Note: .china extended Family comes before the individual

growing problem for the Party is its ability to feed the population. More than 40 per cent of arable land is now either polluted or has thinning topsoil, according to their Ministry of Agriculture. China is caught in a catch-22. It needs to keep industrialising as it modernises and raises standards of living, but that very process threatens food production. If it cannot solve this problem there will be unrest. (Location 724)

Tags: china

Note: .china chinese indutrialisation is polluting the land

The Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal ports are part of an even bigger plan to secure China’s future. Its lease on the new deep-water port at Gwadar, Pakistan, will be key (if the Pakistan region of Baluchistan is stable enough) to creating an alternative land route up to China. From Burma’s west coastline China has built natural gas and oil pipelines linking the Bay of Bengal up into south-west China – China’s way of reducing its nervous reliance on the Strait of Malacca, through which almost 80 per cent of its energy supplies pass. (Location 826)

Tags: china

anyone stupid enough to contemplate invading America would soon be forced to reflect on the fact that it contains hundreds of millions of guns, readily available to a population that takes its life, liberty and pursuit of happiness very seriously. In addition to the formidable US Armed Forces, there is the National Guard, state police and, as we saw on various occasions in 2015, an urban police force that can quickly resemble a military unit. In the event of an invasion, every US Folsum, Fairfax, and Farmerville would quickly resemble an Iraqi Fallujah. (Location 876)

Tags: america, guns

Note: .guns .america

For thirty years it has been fashionable to predict the imminent or ongoing decline of the USA. This is as wrong now as it was in the past. The planet’s most successful country is about to become self-sufficient in energy, it remains the pre-eminent economic power and it spends more on research and development for its military than the overall military budget of all the other NATO countries combined. Its population is not ageing as in Europe and Japan, and a 2013 Gallup study showed that 25 per cent of all people hoping to emigrate put the USA as their first choice of destination. In the same year Shanghai University listed what its experts judged the top twenty universities of the world: seventeen were in the USA. (Location 1138)

Tags: usa

Note: .usa

The climate, fed by the Gulf Stream, blessed the region with the right amount of rainfall to cultivate crops on a large scale, and the right type of soil for them to flourish in. This allowed for population growth in an area in which, for most, work was possible all year round, even in the heights of summer. Winter actually adds a bonus, with temperatures warm enough to work in but cold enough to kill off many of the germs which to this day plague huge parts of the rest of the world. Good harvests mean surplus food that can be traded; this in turn builds up trading centres which become towns. It also allows people to think of more than just growing food and turn their attention to ideas and technology. (Location 1153)

Tags: europe

Note: .europe europe has a great climate for growing crops. The winter is also cold enough to kill many germs

Germany is determined to remain a good European. Germans know instinctively that if the Union fragments the old fears of Germany will reappear, especially as it is now by far the most populous and wealthy European nation, with 82 million inhabitants and the world’s fourth-biggest economy. A failed Union would also harm Germany economically: the world’s third-largest exporter of goods does not want to see its closest market fragment into protectionism. (Location 1326)

Tags: germany

Note: .germany

Through the EU and NATO Germany is anchored in Western Europe, but in stormy weather anchors can slip, and Berlin is geographically situated to shift the focus of its attention east if required and forge much closer ties with Moscow. (Location 1338)

Tags: metaphor

Note: .metaphor anchored, but in stormy weather anchors can slip

This strategic advantage has diminished in tandem with the reduced role and power of the Royal Navy, but in time of war it would again benefit the UK. The GIUK is one of many reasons why London flew into a panic in 2014 when, briefly, the vote on Scottish independence looked as if might result in a Yes. The loss of power in the North Sea and North Atlantic would have been a strategic blow and a massive dent to the prestige of whatever was left of the UK. (Location 1361)

Tags: scotland

Note: .scotland if scotland voted for independence the uk would have lost ownership of much sea

Prejudice against immigrants always rises during times of economic recession, such as recently suffered in Europe, and the effects have been seen right across the continent and resulted in the rise of right-wing political parties, all of which militate against pan-nationalism and thus weaken the fabric of the EU. (Location 1373)

Tags: recession, immigration

AFRICA’S COASTLINE? GREAT BEACHES, REALLY, REALLY lovely beaches, but terrible natural harbours. Rivers? Amazing rivers, but most of them are rubbish for actually transporting anything, given that every few miles you go over a waterfall. These are just two in a long list of problems which help explain why Africa isn’t technologically or politically as successful as Western Europe or North America. (Location 1430)

Tags: africa

Note: .africa many waterfalls on the rivers and poor coost line for natural harbours hinder africas progress

If you look at a world map and mentally glue Alaska onto California, then turn the USA on its head, it appears as if it would roughly fit into Africa with a few gaps here and there. In fact Africa is three times bigger than the USA. Look again at the standard Mercator map and you see that Greenland appears to be the same size as Africa, and yet Africa is actually fourteen times the size of Greenland! You could fit the USA, Greenland, India, China, Spain, France, Germany and the UK into Africa and still have room for most of Eastern Europe. We know Africa is a massive land mass, but the maps rarely tell us how massive. (Location 1444)

Tags: africa

Note: .africa africa is far larger than appears on the map

Unlike in Europe, which has the Danube and the Rhine, this drawback has hindered contact and trade between regions – which in turn affected economic development, and hindered the formation of large trading regions. The continent’s great rivers, the Niger, the Congo, the Zambezi, the Nile and others, don’t connect and this disconnection has a human factor. Whereas huge areas of Russia, China and the USA speak a unifying language which helps trade, in Africa thousands of languages exist and no one culture emerged to dominate areas of similar size. Europe, on the other hand, was small enough to have a ‘lingua franca’ through which to communicate, and a landscape that encouraged interaction. (Location 1475)

Tags: rivers, africa, language

Note: .language .africa there are thousands of langauges spoken in africa, which hinders trade

There are now fifty-six countries in Africa. Since the ‘winds of change’ of the independence movement blew through the mid twentieth century, some of the words between the lines have been altered – for example, Rhodesia is now Zimbabwe – but the borders are, surprisingly, mostly intact. However, many encompass the same divisions they did when first drawn, and those formal divisions are some of the many legacies colonialism bequeathed the continent. (Location 1508)

Tags: africa

Note: .africa 56 countries in africa

The DRC is neither democratic, nor a republic. It is the second-largest country in Africa with a population of about 75 million, although due to the situation there it is difficult to find accurate figures. It is bigger than Germany, France and Spain combined and contains the Congo Rainforest, second only to the Amazon as the largest in the world. (Location 1533)

Tags: quiz, congo

Note: Congo is bigger than Germany, Spain & France combined. It only has the 2nd largest rainforest in the world

Egypt was, arguably, a nation state when most Europeans were living in mud huts, but it was only ever a regional power. It is protected by deserts on three sides and might have become a great power in the Mediterranean region but for one problem. There are hardly any trees in Egypt, and for most of history, if you didn’t have trees you couldn’t build a great navy with which to project your power. There has always been an Egyptian navy – it used to import cedar from Lebanon to build ships at huge expense – but it has never been a Blue Water navy. Modern Egypt now has the most powerful armed forces of all the Arab states, thanks to American military aid; but it remains contained by deserts, the sea and its peace treaty with Israel. It will remain in the news as it struggles to cope with feeding 84 million people a day while battling an Islamist insurgency, especially in the Sinai, and guarding the Suez Canal, through which passes 8 per cent of the world’s entire trade every day. (Location 1587)

Tags: egypt

Note: .egypt lack of trees hindered growth of their navy

By size, population and natural resources, Nigeria is West Africa’s most powerful country. It is the continent’s most populous nation, with 177 million people, which with its size and natural resources makes it the leading regional power. It is formed from the territories of several ancient kingdoms which the British brought together as an administrative area. In 1898 they drew up a ‘British Protectorate on the River Niger’ which in turn became Nigeria. (Location 1612)

Tags: nigeria

Note: .nigeria nigeria is africas most populated country with 120 million. It has the most oil in africa

The Islamist group Boko Haram, which wants to establish a caliphate in the Muslim areas, has used the sense of injustice engendered by underdevelopment to gain ground in the north. Boko Haram fighters are usually ethnic Kanuris from the north-east. They rarely operate outside of their home territory, not even venturing west to the Hausa region, and certainly not way down south to the coastal areas. This means that when the Nigerian military come looking for them Boko Haram are operating on home ground. Much of the local population will not co-operate with the military, either for fear of reprisal or due to a shared resentment of the south. (Location 1622)

Tags: nigeria

Note: .nigeria

sorry history of domestic and foreign exploitation continues in the twenty-first century. As we’ve seen, the Chinese are everywhere, they mean business and they are now every bit as involved across the continent as the Europeans and Americans. About a third of China’s oil imports come from Africa, which – along with the precious metals to be found in many African countries – means they have arrived, and will stay. (Location 1654)

All the Chinese want is the oil, the minerals, the precious metals and the markets. This is an equitable government-to-government relationship, but we will see increasing tension between local populations and the Chinese workforces often brought in to assist the big projects. This in turn may draw Beijing more into the local politics, and require it to have some sort of minor military presence in various countries. (Location 1691)

Tags: africa, china

Note: .china .africa china uses africa for its oil and minerals

Because it is located so far south, and the coastal plain quickly rises into high land, South Africa is one of the very few African countries that do not suffer from the curse of malaria, as mosquitoes find it difficult to breed there. This allowed the European colonialists to push into its interior much further and faster than in the malaria-riddled tropics, settle, and begin small-scale industrial activity which grew into what is now southern Africa’s biggest economy. (Location 1700)

Tags: southafrica

Note: .southafrica hard for mosquitos to breed there

The Africa of the past was given no choice – its geography shaped it – and then the Europeans engineered most of today’s borders. Now, with its booming populations and developing mega-cities, it has no choice but to embrace the modern globalised world to which it is so connected. In this, despite all the problems we have seen, it is making huge strides. (Location 1725)

Tags: africa

Note: .africa

as we saw in Africa, arbitrarily creating ‘nation states’ out of people unused to living together in one region is not a recipe for justice, equality and stability. (Location 1778)

The legacy of European colonialism left the Arabs grouped into nation states and ruled by leaders who tended to favour whichever branch of Islam (and tribe) they themselves came from. These dictators then used the machinery of state to ensure their writ ruled over the entire area within the artificial lines drawn by the Europeans, regardless of whether this was historically appropriate and fair to the different tribes and religions that had been thrown together. (Location 1799)

Tags: arab

Note: .arab

The majority of the population is now Palestinian: when the Israelis occupied the West Bank in 1967 many Palestinians fled to Jordan, which was the only Arab state to grant them citizenship. We now have a situation where the majority of Jordan’s 6.7 million citizens are Palestinian, many of whom do not regard themselves as loyal subjects of the current Hashemite ruler, King Abdullah. Added to this problem are the one million Iraqi and Syrian refugees the country has also taken in who are putting a huge strain on its extremely limited resources. (Location 1849)

Tags: palestine, jordan

Note: .jordan jordan is mostly populated by palestinians

Iran is a non-Arabic, majority Farsi-speaking giant. It is bigger than France, Germany and the UK combined, but while the populations of those countries amount to 200 million people, Iran has only 78 million. With limited habitable space, most live in the mountains; the great deserts and salt plains of the interior of Iran are no place for human habitation. (Location 2055)

Tags: iran

Note: .iran

Iranian oilfields are, the others being in the north and centre. Together they are thought to comprise the world’s third-largest reserves. Despite this Iran remains relatively poor due to mismanagement, corruption, mountainous topography that hinders transport connections and economic sanctions which have, in part, prevented certain sections of industry from modernising. (Location 2060)

Tags: oil, iran

Note: .iran .oil iran has the 3rd largest oil reserves but remains a poor country

Iran holds what might be a trump card – the ability to close the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf through which passes each day, depending on sales, about 20 per cent of the world’s oil needs. At its narrowest point the Strait, which is regarded as the most strategic in the world, is only 21 miles across. The industrialised world fears the effect of Hormuz being closed possibly for months on end, with ensuing spiralling prices. This is one reason why so many countries pressure Israel not to act. (Location 2089)

Tags: oil, iran

Note: iran could block the stait of hurmuz and prevent the transport of oil

Modern-day Iran has no such imperial designs, but it does seek to expand its influence, and the obvious direction is across the flatlands to its west – the Arab world and its Shia minorities. It has made ground in Iraq since the US invasion delivered a Shia-majority government. This has alarmed Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and helped fuel the Middle East’s version of the Cold War with the Saudi–Iranian relationship at its core.

Saudi Arabia may be bigger than Iran, it may be many times richer than Iran due to its well-developed oil and gas industries, but its population is much smaller (28 million Saudis as opposed to 78 million Iranians) and militarily it is not confident about its ability to take on its Persian neighbour if this cold war ever turns hot and their forces confront each other directly.

Each side has ambitions to be the dominant power in the region, and each regards itself as the champion of its respective version of Islam. (Location 2097)

Tags: saudi, iran

Note: .iran .saudi

Bangladesh’s problem is not that it lacks access to the sea, but that the sea has too much access to Bangladesh: flooding from the waters of the Bay of Bengal constantly afflicts the low-lying territory. Its other geographical problem is that it is almost entirely surrounded by India, because the 2,545-mile long frontier, agreed in 1974, wrapped India around Bangladesh, leaving it only a short border with Burma as an alternative land route to the outside world. (Location 2240)

Tags: bangladesh

Note: .bangladesh india wraps around bangladesh an it experiences frequent flooding

Nor would Pakistan be considered a threat to India had it not mastered the technology of developing nuclear weapons in the decades following the partition of the region in 1947. (Location 2245)

Tags: india, pakistan

Note: .pakistan .india

The area within our frame, despite being relatively flat, has always been too large and diverse to have strong central rule. Even the British colonial overlords, with their famed bureaucracy and connecting rail system, allowed regional autonomy and indeed used it to play local leaders off against each other. The linguistic and cultural diversity is partially due to the differences in climate – for example, the freezing north of the Himalayas in contrast to the jungles of the south – but it is also because of the subcontinent’s rivers and religions. (Location 2247)

Tags: india

Note: .india

On 3 June 1947 the announcement was made in the House of Commons: the British would withdraw – India was to be partitioned into the two independent dominions of India and Pakistan. Seventy-three days later, on 15 August, they were all but gone. (Location 2264)

Tags: pakistan, india

Note: .india .pakistan india was divided when the english left

An extraordinary movement of people followed as millions of Muslims fled the new borders of India, heading west to Pakistan, with millions of Hindus and Sikhs coming the other way. Columns of people 30,000-strong were on the roads as whole communities moved. Trains packed full of refugees criss-crossed the subcontinent disgorging people into cities and making the return journey filled with those heading in the other direction. It was carnage. Riots broke out across both countries as Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and others turned on each other in panic and fear. The British government washed its hands and refused pleas from the new Indian and Pakistani leaders for the few troops still in the country to help maintain order. Estimates of the death toll vary, but at least a million people died and 15 million were displaced. (Location 2266)

The name Pakistan gives us clues about these divisions; pak means ‘pure’ and stan means ‘land’ in Urdu, so it is the land of the pure, but it is also an acronym. The P is for Punjab, A is for Afghania (the Pashtun area by the Afghan border), K for Kashmir, S for Sindh and T stands for ‘tan’, as in Baluchistan. From these five distinct regions, each with their own language, one state was formed, but not a nation. Pakistan tries hard to create a sense of unity, but it remains rare for a Punjabi to marry a Baluchi, or a Sindh to marry a Pashtun. The Punjabis comprise 60 per cent of the population, the Sindhs 14 per cent, Pashtuns 13.5 per cent and Baluchis 4.5 per cent. Religious tensions are ever present – not only in the antagonism sometimes shown to the country’s Christian and Hindu minorities, but also between the majority Sunni and the minority Shia Muslims. In Pakistan there are several nations within one state. (Location 2289)

Tags: pakistan

Note: .pakistan pakistan is several nations in one state

Another source of income beckons with the proposed overland routes to bring Iranian and Caspian Sea oil up through Pakistan to China. The jewel in this particular crown is the coastal city of Gwadar. Many analysts believe this strategic asset was the Soviet Union’s long-term target when it invaded Afghanistan in 1979: Gwadar would have fulfilled Moscow’s long-held dream of a warm-water port. The Chinese have also been attracted by this jewel and invested billions of dollars in the region. A deep-water port was inaugurated in 2007 and the two countries are now working to link it to China. In the long run, China would like to use Pakistan as a land route for its energy needs. This would allow it to bypass the Strait of Malacca, which as we saw in the chapter on China is a choke point that could strangle Chinese economic growth. (Location 2306)

As for India, it can multi-task – indeed it has to, given that it has more to think about than only Pakistan, even if it is the number one foreign policy priority for New Delhi. Having a hostile nuclear-armed state next door is bound to focus the mind, but India also has to concentrate on managing 1.3 billion people whilst simultaneously emerging as a potential world power. (Location 2465)

Tags: india

Note: .india

There are issues which cause friction, chief among them Tibet, the highest region on earth. As previously discussed, China wanted Tibet, both to prevent India from having it, and – almost as bad in Beijing’s view – to prevent an independent Tibet allowing India to base military forces there, thus giving them the commanding heights. (Location 2471)

Tags: china, india, tibet

Note: .tibet .india .china

North Korea continues to play the crazed, powerful weakling to good effect. Its foreign policy consists, essentially, of being suspicious of everyone except the Chinese, and even Beijing is not to be fully trusted despite supplying 84.12 per cent of North Korea’s imports and buying 84.48 per cent of its exports, according to 2014 figures by the Observatory of Economic Complexity. North Korea puts a lot of effort into playing all outsiders off against each other, including the Chinese, in order to block a united front against it. (Location 2547)

Tags: china, northkorea

Note: .northkorea .china 85% of imports and exports are with china

In the hills above the 148-mile-long DMZ the North Korean military has an estimated 10,000 artillery pieces. They are well dug in, some in fortified bunkers and caves. Not all of them could reach the centre of Seoul, but some could, and all are able to reach the greater Seoul region. There’s little doubt that within two or three days the combined might of the South Korean and US air forces would have destroyed many of them, but by that time Seoul would be in flames. (Location 2628)

Tags: korea

Note: .korea north korea has many missiles which can reach seoul

Tokyo, and its 39 million people. (Location 2684)

The territory of the Japanese islands makes up a country which is bigger than the two Koreas combined, or in European terms bigger than Germany. However, three-quarters of the land is not conducive to human habitation, especially in the mountainous regions, and only 13 per cent is suitable for intensive cultivation. This leaves the Japanese living in close proximity to each other along the coastal plains and in restricted inland areas, where some stepped rice fields can exist in the hills. Its mountains mean that Japan has plenty of water, but the lack of flatland also means that its rivers are unsuited to navigation and therefore trade, a problem exacerbated by the fact that few of the rivers join each other. (Location 2698)

Tags: japan

Note: .japan 75% of the land is not conducive foor living

Japan had few of the natural resources required to become an industrialised nation. It had limited and poor-quality supplies of coal, very little oil, scant quantities of natural gas, limited supplies of rubber and a shortage of many metals. This is as true now as it was 100 years ago, although offshore gas fields are being explored along with undersea deposits of precious metals. Nevertheless it remains the world’s largest importer of natural gas, and third-largest importer of oil. (Location 2711)

Tags: natural resources, gas, japan

Note: Japan has few natural resources and is world largest importer of gas

Just as the geography of the USA helped it become a great power, so that of the twenty countries to the south ensures that none will rise to seriously challenge the North American giant this century nor come together to do so collectively. (Location 2784)

Tags: latinamerica

Note: .latinamerica

European settlers introduced another geographical problem that to this day holds many countries back from developing their full potential: they stayed near the coasts, especially (as we saw in Africa) in regions where the interior was infested by mosquitos and disease. Most of the countries’ biggest cities, often the capitals, were therefore near the coasts, and all roads from the interior (Location 2788)

Tags: latinamerica

Note: .latinamerica capitalcities on the coast and other cities not well connected

in Peru and Argentina, the metropolitan area of the capital city contains more than 30 per cent of the country’s population. The colonialists concentrated on getting the wealth out of each region, to the coast and on to foreign markets. Even after independence the predominantly European coastal elites failed to invest in the interior, and what population centres there are inland remain poorly connected with each other. (Location 2792)

Two hundred years after the beginning of the struggle for independence, the Latin American countries lag far behind the North Americans and the Europeans. Their total population (including the Caribbean) is over 600 million, and yet their combined GDP is equivalent to that of France and the UK, which together comprise about 125 million people. They have come a long way since colonialism and slavery. There is still a long way to go. (Location 2801)

Note: Gdp of latinamericais less than uk plus france

The Panama Canal may well be a neutral passageway, but at the end of the day passage through it is dependent on American goodwill. So, why not build your own canal up the road in Nicaragua? After all, what’s $50 billion to a growing superpower? The Nicaragua Grand Canal project is funded by a Hong Kong businessman named Wang Jing who has made a lot of money in telecommunications but has no experience of engineering, let alone masterminding one of the most ambitious construction projects in the history of the world. Mr Wang is adamant that the Chinese government is not involved in the project. Given the nature of China’s business culture and the participation of its government in all aspects of life, this is unusual. (Location 2928)

Tags: china, panama canal, nicaragua

Note: .nicaragua a hong kong businessman is looking to build a canal in nicaragua

Brazil, which makes up fully one-third of the land of South America, is the best example. It is almost as big as the USA, and its twenty-seven federal states equal an area bigger than the twenty-eight EU countries combined; but unlike them it lacks the infrastructure to be as rich.

A third of Brazil is jungle, where it is painfully expensive, and in some areas illegal, to carve out land fit for modern human habitation. The destruction of the Amazon Rainforest is a long-term ecological problem for the whole world, but it is also a medium-term problem for Brazil: the government allows slash-and-burn farmers to cut down the jungle and then use the land for agriculture. But the soil is so poor that within a few years crop-growing is untenable. The farmers move on to cut down more rainforest, and once the rainforest is cut it does not grow back. The climate and soil work against the development of agriculture. (Location 2978)

Tags: brazil

Note: .brazil brazil is bigger than all eu countries combined, but one third is forest

To this day most people still live close to the coastal areas, despite the dramatic decision made in the late 1950s to move the capital (previously Rio de Janeiro) several hundred miles inland to the purpose-built city of Brasilia in an attempt to develop the heart of Brazil. (Location 2991)

Tags: brazil

Note: Most people in Brazil still live close to the coast, despite the capital moving inland to Brasilia in the 1950s

If you look at many of the Brazilian coastal cities from the sea there is usually a massive cliff rising dramatically out of the water either side of the urban area, or directly behind it. Known as the Grand Escarpment, it dominates much of Brazil’s coast; it is the end of the plateau called the Brazilian Shield which makes up most of Brazil’s interior. (Location 2996)

Brazil lacks the volume of trade it would like and, equally importantly, most of its goods are moved along its inadequate roads rather than by river, thus increasing costs. On the plus side Brazil is working on its transport infrastructure, and the newly discovered offshore gas reserves will help pay for this, reduce reliance on Bolivian and Venezuelan energy imports and cushion the inevitable economic dips all nations suffer. Nevertheless, Brazil will require a Herculean effort for it to overcome its geographical disadvantages. (Location 3005)

The melting of the ice cap already allows cargo ships to make the journey through the Northwest Passage in the Canadian archipelago for several summer weeks a year, thus cutting at least a week from the transit time from Europe to China. The first cargo ship not to be escorted by an icebreaker went through in 2014. The Nunavik carried 23,000 tons of nickel ore from Canada to China. The polar route was 40 per cent shorter and used deeper waters than if it had gone through the Panama Canal. This allowed the ship to carry more cargo, saved tens of thousands of dollars in fuel costs and reduced the ship’s greenhouse emissions by 1,300 metric tons. By 2040 the route is expected to be open for up to two months each year, transforming trade links across the ‘High North’ and causing knock-on effects as far away as Egypt and Panama in terms of the revenues they enjoy from the Suez and Panama canals. (Location 3151)

Tags: arctic

Note: .arctic the melting ice caps provide shorter shipping routes

The melting ice reveals other potential riches. It is thought that vast quantities of undiscovered natural gas and oil reserves may lie in the Arctic region in areas which can now be accessed. In 2008 the United States Geological Survey estimated that 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids and 90 billion barrels of oil are in the Arctic, with the vast majority of it offshore. As more territory becomes accessible, extra reserves of the gold, zinc, nickel and iron already found in part of the Arctic may be discovered. (Location 3159)

Tags: gas, oil, arctic

Note: .arctic melting ice caps make natural resources more accessible and countries will try to exploit

All the sovereignty issues stem from the same desires and fears – the desire to safeguard routes for military and commercial shipping, the desire to own the natural riches of the region, and the fear that others may gain where you lose. Until recently the riches were theoretical, but the melting ice has made the theoretical probable, and in some cases certain. (Location 3250)

Tags: arctic

Note: .arctic countries want natural resources and shipping rights

The final frontier has always called out to our imagination, but ours is the age in which humanity has lived the dream and pushed out into space, a millimetre into infinity, on our way to the future. Humanity’s restless spirit ensures that our boundaries are not confined to what Carl Sagan famously called the ‘Pale Blue Dot’. (Location 3282)

Geography has always been a prison of sorts – one that defines what a nation is or can be, and one from which our world leaders have often struggled to break free. (Location 3286)

Tags: geography

Note: Geography has a huge impact on the fortunes of a country