Political Cartoon Map, 2016

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Above is a cartoon map displaying Europe’s current political climate. Trump re-writing the NATO agreement, the Baltic States pushing back Russian expansion into Eastern Europe, Britain moving further away from the EU after their Brexit vote – what else stands out to you from the map?

China’s Population Density

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Only about 30 percent of China’s landmass is habitable with approximately 40% of it’s land covered by mountains (in the southwest) and an additional 25% deserts (in the northwest). The maps above display that 94% of China’s population lives on the eastern side of it’s territory. The map below displays the location of China’s deserts and arid regions.

China and India make of 40% of the world’s population and although this figure seems strikingly high, estimates from 1 AD indicate the China and India combined for 60% percent of world population back then! Anyone who has visited either country is aware that both have very high population density. For comparison, world population density is 140 people per square mile – India is about 10 times that with 1008 people per square mile (ppsm) and China is 370 ppsm. Given what we know about the geography of China, this density estimate is quite low and once discounting it’s uninhabitable land, China’s density is more around 1233 ppsm. (Given that about 25% of India’s land is uninhabitable, a more direct comparison would put India density at 1344 ppsm). For those interested, here is the population density for some other countries: European Union (UK included) 304 ppsm, United States 85 ppsm, Brazil 62 ppsm, Russia 21 ppsm, and Canada 9 ppsm.

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Expansion of Russia

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Russia is the world’s largest country in area with nearly 11% of the world’s landmass. This area is approximately the size of the United States and Canada combined! It is a transcontinental country with territory extending into Europe and Asia. In fact, its Asian land portion alone makes it the largest country in Asia and its European land portion alone makes it the largest country in Europe! Above is a map displaying the expansion of Russian territory from 1613 to 1914. Despite all this growth in territory over the years, approximately 80% of Russia’s population still lives in the Green or Yellow portions on the map above (territory Russia controlled dating back to 1613).

Russian Military Bases Aboard

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Overseas military bases enable a country to conduct expeditionary warfare and maintain order in their respective areas of control. The vast majority of countries in the world are not powerful enough to exhibit influence outside their defined boarders – they have a difficult enough time maintaining order within ‘their’ country as is. In fact, there are only 9 countries that have a military base located outside their own territory. Further, most of these countries only have influence (bases) around countries that boarder them and are not much of a global force.

The map above displays the location of Russian military bases aboard. All of these are located in former USSR and other past communist allies. Russia has 9 bases located in another country’s territory, fourth most by a country in the world. Below is a list of the 9 countries that have bases located in other nation’s territory (note – this is not the number of total bases, but the number of countries that listed country has bases located in):

Japan – 1, China – 1, India – 2, Turkey – 4, Italy -5, Russia – 9, UK – 13, France – 14, USA – 63

Another way to look at this is:

All other countries combined – 47, USA – 63


World Legal Systems

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The legal systems of countries around the world can be said to fit generally into three distinctive categories – Civil law, Common law, and Sharia law. Civil law makes up the majority of countries in the world and is derived originally from Roman law and later the Napoleonic code spread by the French empire across Europe. Civil law can be described simply a law structure that is highly codified into a referable system. It leaves little room for interpretation from judges as each law should be referable to a previous statute.

In contrast to Common law, also know as case law or precedent law, is derived from the English legal tradition. Common law puts much more power into the hands of judges and their interpretation of the law over time.  These judge-made decisions create precedential authority to prior court decisions which bound the judge’s opinion to pervious court rulings. This legal system was spread by the British Empire to it’s dominions across the globe including: the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and is a hybrid system in many others.

Sharia law or Muslim law is present in muslim majority countries in the Middle East and North Africa. This legal tradition is derived directly from the Quran and was spread during Islamic Caliphate in 750 AD. The remaining parts of the world including most of the countries in Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia have some hybrid law system mixed between Civil, Common, Sharia, and Customary law. Refer to legend below for what category your country falls into.

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United Nations Veto Power

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A criticism of the United Nations Security Council is the veto power of the five permanent nations – China, France, United Kingdom, United States, and Russia. A veto from any one of these nations can halt any possible action the Council could take. This veto may cripple any UN armed or diplomatic response to a crisis somewhere in the world.

Above is bar chart displaying the number of vetoes by the five permeant members of the UN Security Council. Typically in the western media it is presented that, time and time again, if it where not for vetoes from China or Russia the West could have intervened and prevented some conflict. Yet, a look at history presents a counter narrative.

Early in the history of the UN, the USSR used it’s veto power frequently. From 1945 to 1966 the USSR had a total of 105 vetoes compared to 6 for the four other members combined! However, over the next decades the situation reversed itself.

From 1986 to 2007, the United States took a dominate position using it’s veto power 36 times compared to 18 for the remaining four members. Combining the UK and France with the US (the UK and France voted in combination with the US on all of their vetoes) the total is: Western nations – 47, Others – 7. Further, John J. Mearsheimer is quoted that “since 1982, the US has vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, more than the total number of vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members.”

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To be fair, since 2007 there has been a large uptick in vetoes cast by Russia and China – virtually all them concerning the situation in Syria and the Ukraine. The total vetoes from 2007 to present are: Russia – 9, China – 5, France, UK, US combined – 1. Further, China voted with Russia on all 5 of it’s vetoes.