South America’s Population: Clinging to the Coasts

July 28, 2017 The defining characteristic of South America is that its geography will not allow any nation to project power across the continent. Those that have come to power have been confined to either the Pacific Coast or the Atlantic Coast. Some were even able to hold power on both coasts, but none were able to form a seamless political entity.

Their separation is largely due to the Andes Mountains, which span the entire length of South America near the continent’s western edge. Other geographic features, however, accentuate the east-west divide. In the north, the vast Amazon rainforest prevents the movement of people from one population center to another and stunts urban development. The Amazon River and its tributaries, which flow from the west to the east, enable ventures farther inland, but upstream waters quickly become unnavigable to large ships.


The Polar Silk Road: China Comes to Greenland

China is investing in Greenland, and it’s making the U.S. nervous.

Mexico, Drug Trafficking and US Relations

Violence in Mexico is on the rise, particularly homicides, kidnappings and extortion by drug trafficking organizations and other organized crime groups. This trend raises the issue of the potential for spillover into the United States. A significant increase in spillover violence would likely lead to a redefinition of the bilateral relationship. While other places in the world have higher rates of violence than Mexico, greater scrutiny is placed on Mexico because of its proximity to the U.S. and the impact violence may have on Mexico’s emergence as an economic power.

The UK’s Shifting Economic Structure

March 31, 2017 Joining the European Union dramatically changed the structure of the United Kingdom’s economy because it had to respond to different market needs. Three sectors define the structure of the British economy. The primary sector includes activities related to natural resources; the secondary one includes all goods produced by the industrial sector; the tertiary sector includes services such as banking and finance.

In the first half of the 20th century, the primary sector was the core of the British economy while manufacturing spurred industrial growth. The role of both of these sectors in the British economy drastically declined after the U.K. gained access to the EU free trade area in the mid-1960s and became a member of the EU in 1973.

Tracking the Central American Migrant Caravans

Three weeks ago, a caravan of thousands of migrants from various Central American countries departed on a journey to the U.S.-Mexico border. All the governments involved, including those from source countries Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – together dubbed the Northern Triangle – have different agendas here.

Sub-Saharan Africa Natural Resource Deposits

Nov. 18, 2016 Sub-Sahara Africa’s natural resource deposits are a key feature that tie the region into mainstream geopolitics. Countries in the region have historically depended highly on export of raw materials, which fueled economic growth in industrialized economies.

This strong dependence on the sale of natural resources has also made many Sub-Sahara African countries very susceptible to the exporters’ crisis – both in terms of falling commodity prices and lower demand from major customers like China. Nigeria’s oil and gas sector accounts for about 35 percent of GDP, while hydrocarbons account for about 45 percent of Angola’s GDP. Oil and petrol account for 90-95 percent of exports in both countries. The price of other commodities, including gold, iron ore, platinum and copper, has remained low. Production of these materials figure prominently in the GDPs of South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.

Germany and US Grapple With Wealth Inequality

Domestic problems are affecting German and U.S. behavior in eerily similar ways. In both countries, a widening gap in wealth inequality is creating the conditions for potentially radical political change. This trend is creating serious political problems: In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is cobbling together a coalition after German voters turned outside the mainstream to voice their frustration with the status quo. In the U.S., the government is squabbling with itself rather than efficiently solving problems, whether at home or abroad.

German Intelligence Failures Ahead of Stalingrad

Nov. 24, 2017 The Battle of Stalingrad had its origins in a pivotal German miscalculation at the start of the war. Operation Barbarossa, the code name for Germany’s invasion of the east, was designed to destroy the Soviet Union, securing Germany’s eastern flank and thereby guaranteeing German control of continental Europe. The invasion began on June 22, 1941.

The Shores of Lake Balkhash

Russia has offered to help Kazakhstan build a nuclear power plant near Lake Balkhash.

The US Role in the Syrian Civil War

A look at the evolution of the conflict, and the United States’ involvement in it.