As events in the Ukraine continue to unfold and the prospect of Russian invasion appears real (or has already occurred) the reality is that the map of Europe could change dramatically appears real. Whether Russia absorbs parts of the Ukraine along with the Crimea or if an independent puppet state emerges, remains to be seen but this isn’t the only spot where the borders on a map could change.
You don’t need to look very far from Ukraine to see where other changes to the map could occur. September 18th of this year will see a referendum on Scottish independence from the rest of United Kingdom. Although polls currently point to the No side having an advantage, there are still several months between now and the vote and a dramatic shift could still occur. In Italy, Venice and the surrounding areas are voting to see if they will secede and reestablished an independent republic called Repubblica Veneta. With voting beginning on March 16 and lasting a week, independence supporters have said that a “yes” vote would result in steps being taken to breakaway from Italy (withholding tax revenues, signing a declaration of independence). Meanwhile in Spain, the state of Catalonia appears to be attempting to put forward a non-binding referendum on negotiations for independence. Although there is debate of whether the Spanish national government would block or recognize this vote, the fact that it seems to be moving forwards certainly gives an indication that future change could be afoot.
Further afield, Thailand which has quietly been in the grip of a violent independence movement had The Economist floating the idea of dividing the country in two as a potential solution to break the deadlock. Not far away, China has laid claim to large tracts of the South China Sea leading to disputes with Japan, Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan of who owns a number of islands and atolls and the resource rich seabeds that surround them.
A civil wars rage in Syria which I previously commented could (although increasingly unlikely as Assad regime continues to regain control) redraw the map of the Middle East. In neighbouring Iraq, Baghdad has resorted to an economic siege of the northern Kurdish areas in order to attempt to subjugate the region. The failure of the national government to pay the dues for oil company has fuels resentment between Arabs and Kurds in Iraq, thus continuing to fuel the fire of Kurdish nationalism in an already unstable region.
Even in the peaceful Great White North of Canada there appears to be a renewed spirit of independence in the Province of Quebec. With provincial election set for April 7th and the Parti Quebecois apparently on the path to a majority government, most conventional wisdom if some commentators are believed (here, here and here) is pointing to a referendum on sovereignty coming sometime in the near future.
Although many of these map alterations may never come to pass, this year appears to be shaping up as a pivotal one for the existing geography of the nation states world.