The book Prisoners of Geography starts off with telling of Western Europe’s physical geography as a whole. It’s climate, rainfall, and fertile soil allowed for great farming, which resulted in population growth as well as trading centers and towns in those areas. Western Europe had the perfect conditions, both agriculturally and economically. This later led to people turning towards technology and ideas, which allowed for Western Europe to conduct the first industrialized war. Europe’s northern countries have usually been richer than the southern countries.
While the northern countries could easily trade with each other, the Spanish had to go to great lengths to trade because of barriers (the Pyrenees). Because the of the North European Plains, the north could use it to their advantage with agriculture and trade. The south had worse conditions for agriculture and suffered more natural disasters than the north. France was best suited to take advantage of the North European Plains because of it’s flat land and many connected rivers. Spain, on the other hand, has somewhat suffered because of its geography. The narrow coastal plains have poor soil, and short rivers and the Pyrenees to its north have limited trade. The Pyrenees has always hampered trade throughout Europe, especially those to the south of it and on the other side of the Mediterranean.
Greece has also suffered from geography. Because of its 1,400 islands that can barely be patrolled, Greece has spent tons of money towards its military; money that Europe doesn’t have to spend. After the Financial Crisis of 2008, Europe was barely able to keep Greece afloat, and northern countries soon became upset of how their money was going to Greece. Cracks were starting to appear in Europe. Greece now looks like a semi detached member of the EU and conflict is starting to spark again in the east. Poland needs the peace to stay more than anyone, as history shows of it being caught in the middle of chaos. With new fears of Russia rising to power, Poland joined NATO and became allies with the United States.
Now with the Balkan countries being free after the wars of the 1990s, the region is now a battleground to the EU, NATO, the Turks, and the Russians all wanting power and influence. Russia is now regularly flying missions to test the European air defense systems and are trying to consolidate them self into other countries. The new tensions and fears of Russia have made Sweden consider joining NATO, especially after not being able to defend themselves after the Russian Mock bombing run on them. The EU and NATO countries know they need to present a united front against these threats, but that will be impossible with the tensions between France and Germany. France had the most influence, money and power until Germany united. Overtime, France’s new neighbor to the northeast started to overpowered France. Although, Germany always had bigger geographical problems than France.
With Germany’s powerful neighbor France to the west, and Russia to the east, they came to fear of an attack against them. Germany’s solution was to attack France first. NATO was soon setup after World War ll, because of everyone’s exhaustion from war and safety guaranteed with the American military. It has worked very well for Germany, after it recovered from World War ll.
Now, it uses its geography to its advantage instead of fearing it. When the EU was created, most countries didn’t know what they were going into and weren’t ready, especially with the new Euro currency and ideology. With Euro crisis and economic problems, the EU started to break. Germany knows that if the Union fails, old fears of Germany will reappear and could be even worse with now being one of the most populous and wealthy countries in Europe. The French would be in misery as well, as it has finally made relations with Germany. Both countries are trying to do what they can to preserve the Union.
Furthermore, with the shadow of World War ll hanging over Germany, it has not been allowed to use its military strength for much of anything and sits on the sidelines in most conflicts. The United Kingdom is in a good place when it comes to geography; it has good farmland and rivers, and access to the water. It is close enough to trade with the European countries below it, but protected by its islands. This is also shown with the repercussions of both world wars as they were not nearly as harmed as the countries in continental Europe. The great conditions of Britain led to the industrial revolution and its rise to power controlling a global empire. The British are now considering leaving the EU, as it has not worked in their favor with immigration and the amount of laws intact. New immigrants have now influenced Britain as they feel the EU allows them to pass through countries. The change is now having an affect on foreign policies, especially in the Middle East, as European governments have to now consider their Muslim citizens.
Rises of debates and many other issues are being influenced by the large number of Muslim citizens. Now, with problems starting to come to the surface and cracks starting to show all over Europe, countries are starting to make some serious recalculations. If peace is to continue in post World War ll Europe, it will need support and action from all European countries.