Seeking papers on unification / division and geopolitical strength

Sunday, June 12, 2011

This might be a better question for somewhere like Reddit (I'll ask there in a day or two as well), but here goes:

Is there a consensus on types of unification and division and geopolitical strength? For example, the current poll on the right asks whether readers believe Romania and Moldova should be united. With the exception of Transnistria, one would assume that a unification of the two would be a good idea since Romania is relatively small (certainly not tiny, however) and Moldova even more so, while the two together would do a better job promoting the language and culture than separately.

Belgium is the opposite: one could make the argument that Belgium doesn't really help out either the French or Dutch sphere, since even now Belgium doesn't seem to be certain as to what sort of identify the country should have and even whether it will still exist in its current form a decade or so from now. Flanders joining the Netherlands and Wallonia joining France, however, would on the surface seem to be beneficial for both languages. Especially for Dutch, which is quite an underrated language. The Netherlands is a bit like the Korea of western Europe - impressive on its own, tiny in comparison to its neighbours. Just adding Flanders would make the country some 30+ larger.

The Nordic countries often talk about the prospect of a union, though it seems to be more for the sake of an interesting hypothetical than anything else:

I remember Norway or Sweden commenting on a recent G20 conference, belittling the idea that the top 20 economies in the world should gather together to decide policy while countries placing just a little bit below that (23rd-largest, 26th-largest, etc.) don't get invited. Sweden places 23rd on this list, Norway is 25th, Denmark is 31st. Put together they would be 14th, and that's automatic G20 territory even though membership isn't strictly decided by just looking at a list and picking the twenty largest. So there's a clear example of a benefit to a union for those three. Then again, the Nordic countries already have a great deal of cooperation between them and are part of the Schengen Area, even if Norway and Iceland remain outside of the EU.

Canada: whether Canada is a net benefit for the French language is a matter of dispute. Is French better served as an official language of a larger Canada (even if very few outside Quebec speak it), or as the only official language of an independent Quebec? Without Quebec it's very doubtful that French immersion would remain as popular in parts of the country far from the east and people there might gravitate towards Spanish and Chinese instead. But then again, an independent Quebec gets all the perks of an independent nation - visa rules, UN membership, you name it.

Kaliningrad: a Russian exclave, since the fall of the Soviet Union it has been effectively isolated. Whether a country benefits from trying to retain such exclaves is another issue that I would love some more background on. Personally I think larger countries with such exclaves are best served by building them up and promoting their independence, in order to avoid a more painful separation later on. In Kaliningrad's case this would mean eventual EU membership, and thus the first Russian-speaking nation in the union. Russia is far too large to do something like this on its own.

So those are a few of the countries I have in mind when considering whether union or dissolution is better for the geopolitical strength of a particular language or culture. It may be that there is no one consensus on which is more effective. One particularly interesting region to keep an eye on regarding this is South America, where we have one country colonized by the Portuguese holding about half the continent, and the other half almost entirely composed of Spanish-speaking countries that all put together make up about the same population and GDP. There is probably no better region out there to make the comparison.


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