Friedman: Almost All Countries In Europe Have Border Issues

Authored by George Friedman via,

For centuries, Europe has fought wars over borders. In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, Europe’s borders shifted wildly. As empires fragmented, new nations arose and wars were waged.

After 1945 and the beginning of the Cold War, a new principle emerged on the Continent. The borders that existed at the end of World War II were deemed sacrosanct—not to be changed.

Europeans knew that border disputes had been one of the reasons of the two world wars and that even raising the legitimacy of post-war borders risked igniting passions that led to violence.

Similarly, untouchable were the existing spheres of influence on the Continent. There was the East and the West, and neither would mess with the other.

Thus, when the Soviets crushed independence movements in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the United States refrained from any military action (not that there were many options). When Yugoslavia chose a pro-Western neutrality over membership in the Warsaw Pact, the Soviets didn’t intervene.

But in the early 1990s, everything changed.

Border Issues Arise, Again

In 1991–1992, two things happened.

First came the fall of the Soviet Union; then came the signing of the Maastricht Treaty and the creation of the European Union. Border issues began to drive events again.

The border of the Soviet Union collapsed, and a multitude of countries popped up to reclaim their past. There were many questions about borders that were mumbled about.

But for Eastern European countries, other problems took precedence: establishing national sovereignty, finding their place in a Europe that they longed to join, and building a new life for their people. They let the border issue drop—for the most part.

Yugoslavia and the Caucasus were exceptions that drove home the lesson of European borders. There, outside the framework of the EU and of little consequence to others, more than 100,000 people died.

Compare this to the Velvet Divorce of the Czechs and Slovaks, which took place within the context of future European states and left no one dead.

After this, and with Yugoslavia and the Caucasus in mind, the European Union tried to reinstate the principle that borders were sacrosanct. It provided what it had promised—peace and prosperity—and treated borders as anachronistic. No one was supposed to care where the lines were drawn. But there was a problem.

The Europeans Union’s Oversight

The European Union had affirmed the principle of national self-determination while avoiding the question of what a nation actually was. A nation was, under the bloc’s definition, any political entity that was in place when the EU was formed. There was little consideration after that.

This is why Catalonia is so important, along with Scotland. The Scots rejected a divorce by a startlingly narrow vote. One would have expected 90% of Scots to want to remain in the United Kingdom. Slightly more than 55% wanted to.

This means secessionists are within striking distance of secession—which would not only divide Scotland from England, but would also maintain the divide among the Scots.

Add to this another critical element. Catalonia has been part of Spain for a long time, but it has considered itself a unique nation apart for an even longer time. Spain will not legalize an independence vote.

The underlying questions are the ones the Europeans tried to bury, particularly after Yugoslavia: What is a nation, and what rights does it have? Both Scotland and Catalonia are nations. Do they therefore have a right to national determination or have they lost that right?

And what are the consequences if the Catalans disagree?

No Solution

This is not the only such issue festering in Europe.

Hungary was partitioned between Romania and Slovakia. Does it have a right to reclaim these lands? Belgium was a British invention binding the Dutch and French in an unhappy marriage. Can they divorce? Lviv used to be a very Polish city, and now it is part of Ukraine. Can western Ukraine secede and its people rejoin the countries they were citizens of before 1945?

The European Union promised universal prosperity if everyone suspended the question of borders and ignored their identities. It was a good bargain. But times have changed, and economic problems make borders much more important.

Europe, of course, has no solution to the problem.

That we would be talking about an independent Scotland and Catalonia in 2017 would seem preposterous. No economist would see it as a rational discussion.

Nations matter because Europe is merely a continent, and the EU is merely a treaty. It is a useful entity, and being useful is the only thing that justifies it. If it loses its utility, it loses its legitimacy. And that would also mean that the boundaries it has set would wither and die.

Almost all current nations in Europe have border issues and some parts that want to be independent. Most are quiet at the moment. But they are watching Scotland and Catalonia. And they know where border issues in Europe lead.

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Escrava Isaura Haus-Targaryen Tue, 10/31/2017 - 05:11 Permalink

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Friedman: Almost All Countries In Europe Have Border Issues Borders are human creation. The left uses it to divide. The right uses it to exclude.  

In reply to by Haus-Targaryen

Manthong Escrava Isaura Tue, 10/31/2017 - 05:32 Permalink

  IMHO… the real border issue there is… That F’n US lead NATO moved their borders provocatively east. F. U. NATO…. ..and the white horse North American deep state you rode in on.   Gosh… I really hope it does not get shoved forcibly up the EU’s anus. But shit, they are positioning themselves for reaming without creaming. 

In reply to by Escrava Isaura

steaua Manthong Tue, 10/31/2017 - 06:02 Permalink

funny how NATO moving east is only commented here as an issue of US vs Russia.I grew up in eastern europe and if my country joined NATO or not I see it as the interest of my country. What US or Russia think of this is irelevant.In eastern europe support for NATO at the time the countries were accepted into NATO was overwelming >90% by why would all eastern european countries have such a support for NATO?guess history of the last 300+ years gives us the answer ... which by the way are just a sequence of never ending wars between the big boys Germany, Russia, Turkey, nicely located in someone else's house.  

In reply to by Manthong

Weisshorn steaua Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:33 Permalink

"why would all eastern european countries have such a support for NATO"At the time those Eastern European countries joined Nato it was not yet clear that it was really ZATO, and the governments were already falling under the control of the Cabal.  Zato drummed up the evil Slav's meme for Serbia during the destruction of Yugoslavia, and the Zio-media managed to push that narrative into the mainstream consiousness.In the interim we have had post 9/11 Zato expansion around the globe.  Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Ukraine, Georgia, Yemen and on and on and on.  The Zato mask has dropped for most intelligent people, especially since the advent of the Internet.  The fact that Eastern Europe still hasn't figured out the truth about Zato is likely evidence that what Hitler thought of Slavs was true.

In reply to by steaua

steaua Weisshorn Tue, 10/31/2017 - 12:57 Permalink

that is my friend a very simplistic view of eastern europe.for centuries countries in eastern europe have been pushed around by Germany, Russia and Turkey. the countries have each a large majority who hopes they could fare on their one and small minorities which align themselves with the big each country there is a pro-german and a pro-russian segment. they both try to sell to the population how good the masters will be.after the fall of communism the countries looked at US with hope, for something better. like it or not the eastern european countries do fare better now than they did for for how much eastern europe cares about say Lybia, is exactly as much as lybians cared about the Turkey-Russia wars happening in eastern europe: 0.nobody in eastern europe is a fooll my friend to think that NATO is all about peace. but the memory of endless wars between Germany, Russia and Turkey is enough to make them choose NATO, until NATO will decide to have a big war on their land

In reply to by Weisshorn

yvhmer Escrava Isaura Tue, 10/31/2017 - 09:13 Permalink

And the Schengen treaty turns a blind eye to the obvious elephant in the room.Indeed Borders are a human construct. But so do the borders on my house. The mason stone clearly indicates the dividing line between inside and outside. My garden also has a dividing line, clearly signaling what is public and private property and therefore the rules that govern it. A human construct, for good measure. Confined spaces have their uses.And it goes both ways. US is not invited in Syria, yet, they have a presence. Illegal therefore. But who cares. Borders are a human construct, right? Cheers  

In reply to by Escrava Isaura

BarkingCat Haus-Targaryen Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:47 Permalink

Horrible article. It is real with inaccuracies. Let's take the Scottish vote for example. It completely ignores the fact that it wasn't only Scotts that were allowed to vote, but anyone residing in Scotland.  Additionally there was lots of reporrs about fraud in counting those vote.You can see the videos on YouTube  (unless they've been deleted) of how obvious the fraud was. The people counting the votes were putting Yes ballots into the No stacks. Going to Slovakia and Romania being reclaimed by Hungary.  WTF??? Those countries were part of the Austra-Hungarian Empire and concurred lands, as were parts of Poland and Ukraine.Does the author perhaps propose reconstitution of the Ottoman Empire as well? So then part Bulgaria can go back under muslims as well as large chunk of former Yugoslavia. Oh, never mind. They decided to give France, Germany,  England and Sweeden to the muslims instead. However, this time willingly. I watched a couple of videos of this guy making speeches in Eastern Europe. He is a slimy (((tribal))) snake planting seeds of chaos.On the surface he sound like he is very supportive but when you really listen, what he is doing is trying to setup these people into a frame if mind where they will want something, but that something requires external assistance. Fucking (((snake))). Same method that has been used for centuries to drive wedges into places.

In reply to by Haus-Targaryen

2banana Tue, 10/31/2017 - 05:23 Permalink

The winners of WWII created the European borders of today.Those countries either don't exist anymore or are shells of their former glory.There will be new "winners" soon

julian_n Tue, 10/31/2017 - 05:32 Permalink

The Scots were misled and the SNP could not answer basic questions - like what currency to use  - and even with oil at $150 still voted 55% not to leave UK.Now oil is $50, they get massive subsidies from England (under Barnett formula), the SNP got hit in the last election and under 40% support independence. 

Thoresen julian_n Tue, 10/31/2017 - 06:19 Permalink

Most Scots seeking independence from the UK were in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Two pinpricks on the map of Scotland that voted to stay. Two areas infested by a certain party and type of voter.
Of course, all these independence movements in the EU want to become EU members in their own right, showing that they are not about independence at all, but political factions seeking to perpetuate their own movements at the expense of the public and separate from the main parties governing the country of which they are presently a part.

In reply to by julian_n

helloimjohnnycat Tue, 10/31/2017 - 05:44 Permalink

The only thing good about the article was the exclusion of photographic evidence showing the root problem.We know what Soros & the joo MEP'ers look like.We've seen what muzzies wear on their punkin' haids.We recognize sub-Saharan invaders.IOW, the countries don't have border issues, they have problems with jooz & a variety-pack chock-full of noggers. 

Joe A Tue, 10/31/2017 - 05:55 Permalink

Well, what is a nation? To some it is the accumulation of the consolidation of land that came forth out of feudalism. The move from a patchwork of earldoms, dioceses, principalities into kingdoms and then countries. For others, nation is people. And these two definitions collide.After the fall of the Berlin wall, it was said that it was the end of history. They forgot that wherever you go in Europe, history is around the corner, both literally and in the mind of people. The EU and EU countries forgot that. They thought that if you offered people jobs, wealth and the ability to go wherever you wanted in Europe (good things in my opinion) then people would forget about history. Thrust people into modernity/future and they will forget about history. People don't work like that, not in Europe at least. In the US perhaps a different story because it is a young country.People feel a connection to the place where they come from. History is in your bones and fabric. Along comes a financial crisis destroying jobs and wealth and once of a sudden people see new comers as threats. People long back to the familiar, to history. And that is what is happening right now with nationalism and the rise of the right. The EU elitists with their "Alle Menschen werden Brüder" idea of a Europe that you can shape and form the way you like forgot about history. It didn't end. They try to do what Tito did in Yugoslavia and what communism in general tried to do: erase history, break all ties with it (as seen in architecture, the shaping of the economy and society, etc.) and the promise of a brave new world. That didn't end well.

gcjohns1971 Joe A Tue, 10/31/2017 - 07:26 Permalink

Great post.First paragraph is the best.A small not to pick - but to pick with a purpose.The US is not such a young country.   I believe that the youth of countries, relatively speaking, was the point of your first paragraph? The difference in the US is tribalism.   Americans developed a unique identity and required newcomers to forego the ethnic identity they were born into.In Britain, France, or Germany a person from elsewhere can gain British, French, or German citizenship.  But they mostly cannot be accepted as British, French, or German because in people's minds the ethnic identity is prime over the national. 

In reply to by Joe A

Joe A gcjohns1971 Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:03 Permalink

Thanks.Compared to other countries, the US is relatively young. Although of course, that nation states in Europe were mostly formed in the 19th century. But Europe has a longer history (written at least and here I am disregarding the history before the arrival of the European settlers) than the US. The US basically started with a clean slate. The Americans took the best lessons from Europe and left the old bad things behind. That is why the US -on paper at least- is a much longer and better champion of democracy than Europe.You are right, I believe, about immigrants arriving in the US. They are much better accepted than in Europe. They also better succeed because unlike in Europe with it plentiful social benefits, immigrants are forced to do their best and make the best of it. However, I think they also stick to themselve, just like in Europe.I do, however, find it rather amazing that people come to the US and then once of a sudden are Americans and forget their ehnic backgrounds.You mention tribalism. That can come in many forms. Not only ethnicity, but also socially. I think that Europe is also quite tribal, more so than the US. That can be ethnicity, or country or belonging to a certain social class.

In reply to by gcjohns1971

msamour Joe A Tue, 10/31/2017 - 07:36 Permalink

I was having a discussion with a Russian a couple of years ago. He explained to me that the concept of the Russian Nation is not tied to a particular territory. For many Russians Russia is where Russians live. The more Russians that live in an area, the more they consider that territory as being Russian. It is not surprising that many Russians go to Eastern Ukraine to help the ethnic Russians in the Donbass area of Ukraine. Similarily, there are other countries that have large ethnic Russian population, I would bet they see those regions as legitimate Russian territory as well. I wonder what would happen in Alaska if there were still many ethnic Russians living there?

In reply to by Joe A

Joe A msamour Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:13 Permalink

It is even stronger than that. There is a thing called Slavic Brotherhood. Many Serbs for instance feel a strong bond with Russia and Russians because they are Slavs. Now, not all Slavs feel like that. The Croats for instance don't feel that bond at all although they are also Slavs (but don't tell them that, they don't like to hear that). And that is just the ethnic connections. There is also the Orthodox connection. Communists also feel some connection.In a sense, all are a form of tribalism.I am Dutch, that would make me Germanic in ethnicity and my language a Germanic language. But I don't feel that way at all. Don't get me wrong, I like the Germans but we are not like them in many ways although there are also similarities.In short, it is complicated, this whole tribal thing. The basic thing you need to understand in my opinion, is that we are all driven by the same wants and needs.

In reply to by msamour

Let it Go Tue, 10/31/2017 - 06:14 Permalink

Usually the politicians that refuse to give up control and this will not change. Borders are a creation of man and not visible to the birds flying above. Much bloodshed and many wars could be avoided if the issues of regime change or borders could be handled in a more rational and constructive way,  More on this and the recent votes to secede in the article below. Sovereign Borders And Self-rule Again An Issue

overmedicatedu… Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:12 Permalink

what is a melting pot?? in America the pot is cold, no melting in today's balkanization of unlimited importation of 3rd world into the west..those that know history or remember when the melting pot was hot and immigration served the nation to provide people who wanted to become American. are nowhaters and is a plan long in action with one group of people who pushed it in this one time it was a right the people had to control the make up of  WHITE AMERICA.

waspwench overmedicatedu… Tue, 10/31/2017 - 16:39 Permalink

When ingredients melt at different temperatures they cannot mix properly.European "ingredients" shared a melting point which allowed them to homogenize."Ingredients" currently being added to the pot have a different melting point.   Some cannot be melted at all.   This means that they cannot be absorbed into the mixture but will remain floating separately.   Some may be broken down into smaller particles while others may clump together but neither can properly become part of the mixture.

In reply to by overmedicatedu…

Cloud9.5 Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:13 Permalink

Where there are winners, there are losers.  Such is the nature of the game. The current construct is the product of abundant cheap energy. Cheap oil has fueled the growth of the complex systems we currently live under. Unfortunately, the history of the North Sea is the future of oil production.  Cheap oil is being replaced by very expensive oil and even that is in decline. The production, packaging and transport of food is a huge consumer of fossil fuels.  As the pool of affordable energy contracts the massive complexity we live in will begin to unravel.  At some point, the realization that there is not enough will impact the general population.  Then tribalism will truly rear its head.

css1971 Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:17 Permalink

For regular citizens as compared to oligarchs, small is better than large. Small countries serve them better than large ones do. Large states serve oligarchs and psychopaths.Balkanisation is good, not bad.The assault rifle means that even a small state can field enormous defensive firepower.

overmedicatedu… css1971 Tue, 10/31/2017 - 08:37 Permalink

the Mind is the only weapon that matters..we have lost the will to use said weapons..until the will to take up arms returns ..all the weapons in the world add up to zilch just dust catchers in a closet.if you think balkanisation is good, you missed alot of history and are an idiot."The assault rifle means that even a small state can field enormous defensive firepower."

In reply to by css1971

malek Tue, 10/31/2017 - 21:10 Permalink

"After 1945 and the beginning of the Cold War, a new principle emerged on the Continent. The borders that existed at the end of World War II were deemed sacrosanct—not to be changed."

What a fucking stupid statement to start with.

Maybe want to look up the "Peace of Westphalia" of 1648.