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Chapter 15 – Nations: Borders and Power

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1 Chapter 15 – Nations: Borders and Power
In this chapter, you will learn about political power – the power to control or force behavior. You will also look at how nations set their borders and interact through international relations.


3 Essential Questions What factors determine where boundaries between countries are established? How do different countries relate to one another?

4 Geographic Terminology in this Chapter
Political Power Political Region Political Unit Borders Sovereign Government International Relations Balance of Power United Nations European Union

5 Important Ideas A. Governments generally set up clear boundaries and exercise their power within these boundaries, creating political units. B. Political maps show political units, such as countries, and their borders. C. Political power is distributed spatially within a political region or unit. D. A nation’s power affects its international role.

6 Political Regions Each government usually establishes clear boundaries, over which it asserts its authority. The area that a government controls creates a political region or political unit. Boundaries between countries are known as borders.

7 Political Regions Each country usually has several levels of government – such as cities, counties, or states (provinces). This creates several overlapping units with authority over the same area. Just as each place may belong to more than one physical or cultural region, it can belong to more than one political region.

8 Political Regions Houston’s Overlapping Governments. For example, the citizens of Houston, belong to several political units. First, they have their own city government. Houston has a Mayor-Council form of government, with elected officials serving concurrent two-year terms. The City Charter provides the constitutional framework within which its government operates. Houstonians also belong to Harris County. This county government provides services to the entire county. The residents of Houston are also citizens of the State of Texas. Texas passes its own state laws, regulates schools and businesses, issues licenses to drivers, defines crimes and their punishments, maintains state highways, and provides many other services to its citizens.

9 Political Regions Finally, the citizens of Houston also belong to the United States. Our national (or federal) government deals with issues that affect the entire country, such as national defense. Houstonians pay federal taxes, vote in federal elections, and obey federal laws. Some work for the federal government or serve in its armed forces.

10 Political Regions Supremacy of the National Government. Our national government is our highest level of government. If there is a clash between a local or state government with our national government, the national government is supreme. According to the U.S. Constitution, federal laws always preempt state law. Our national government is sovereign – it is not subject to any higher governmental authority.


12 The Question of Borders
The world today is divided into many separate independent, national states. Each such has its own sovereign government, like our federal government. Each sovereign government has final control over what happens within its borders. It is not subject to any higher authority on its own territory. Every nation has both a sovereign government and fixed borders. Who decides where those borders are? Physical features often provide the first step. Rivers, mountains, lakes, seas and oceans frequently serve as borders between countries. But the boundaries between states are also often the product of historical circumstances or political agreements.

13 The Question of Borders : Expansion of the United States
Take, for example, the United States. Its eastern border, the Atlantic coast, was set by geography, but its western border continually shifted in its early history. At the time of its independence in 1783, the country’s western border was the Mississippi River. Americans were interested in expanding westwards, but they are surrounded by areas claimed by other powers. To the north, Canada belonged to Britain. To the south and west were lands ruled by Spain.

14 The Question of Borders : Expansion of the United States
The United States was able to acquire some of these lands through negotiation and purchase. In 1804, the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France. In 1819, they bought Florida from Spain. In 1836, settlers in Texas won their independence from Mexico. In 1845, Texas was admitted to the United States. The United States then expanded to the Pacific Ocean by dividing the Oregon Territory with Great Britain. The United States also obtained territories (Mexico Cession) from western Texas to California by defeating Mexico in the Mexican-American War ( ). America’s borders were thus set by purchase and conquest, as well as by geography.

15 The Question of Borders : Mexico
Mexico is another nation that has seen its borders change. Between 1,000 and 300 B.C.E., before the first contact with Europeans, Mexico was home to several Mosoamerican civilizations – the Olmecs, Teotihuacans, Mayas, Toltecs, and Aztecs. In the early 1500s, the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes led a small army of conquistadors to conquer the ruling Aztec civilization. The territory, which Cortes named New Spain, was then colonized and became a part of the Spanish Empire.

16 The Question of Borders : Mexico
In 1821, Mexico received its independence from Spain. A province of Mexico, known as Texas, broke from Mexico and achieved independence in In 1846, a border dispute between the United States and Mexico led to war. Mexico surrendered nearly half its land to the United States, including California and New Mexico. In 1854, the U.S. purchased parts of Arizona and New Mexico – known as the Gadsden Purchase. This settled the borders Mexico still enjoys today.

17 The Question of Borders : mexico

18 The Question of Borders: Mexico

19 The Question of Borders : Mexico

20 The Question of Borders : Mexico

21 The Question of Borders : Poland and its Shifting Borders
Some countries lack good natural borders. For example, Poland sits on a flat plain near Europe’s center. It is bounded by the Baltic Sea to the north and the Carpathian Mountains to the south. However, Poland has no natural defensible borders to the east and west. For this reason, its borders have shifted throughout its history. During its “Golden Age” in the early 17th century, Poland included Lithuania and the Ukraine, and extended from the Baltic Sea almost to the Black Sea.

22 The Question of Borders : Poland and its Shifting Borders
In three partitions in the 1700s, Poland was then completely carved up by its neighbors. Poland regained its independence after World War I, but it was invaded again by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in After World War II, Poland’s border was shifted westward, taking territory from Germany and giving territory to the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, Poland became a satellite of the Soviet Union and fell under its control. In more recent times, Poland has enjoyed genuine independence.

23 The Question of Borders : Poland and its Shifting Borders

24 The Question of Borders : Poland and its Shifting Borders

25 The Question of Borders : Poland and its Shifting Borders

26 The Question of Borders : Poland and its Shifting Borders

27 The question of borders: France
France is another country that once sought to expand its borders. It was prevented by conflict and by international political relations. Louis XIV fought a number of wars to expand France’s borders eastwards. Napoleon expanded France even further, but these gains were lost when Napoleon was defeated in Belgium and the Rhineland, each part of France’s “natural frontiers” based on physical geography, were deliberately kept out of French hands by the other “Great Powers.” The French kept the city of Strasbourg, but it was taken by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War (1870). When Germany was defeated in World War I, Strasbourg was returned to France. The Nazis got Strasbourg back when they conquered France in The city was returned to France in 1945, when Germany lost the war. This example again demonstrates how historical as well as geographic factors determine a country’s borders.

28 The question of borders: Israel and Palestine
In 1947, the United Nations voted in favor of creating a Jewish state, but this proposal was rejected by Arab leaders. When Israel declared its independence in 1948, neighboring Arab stated immediately declared war on Israel. Today, after several wars and shifting borders, Israelis and Palestinians are now debating the future borders of Israel and Palestine. One major issue is whether a new Palestinian state should include some part of the city of Jerusalem.

29 The question of borders: Israel and Palestine

30 The question of borders: Israel and Palestine

31 The question of borders: Israel and Palestine
The creation of national boundaries is guided by physical geography but is also shaped by history – especially by the outcome of conflicts between neighboring states for the control of territory. Both physical and human factors shape countries’ borders as well as their internal political divisions.

32 The question of borders: Israel and Palestine
Sbarro pizza bombing in Jerusalem, in which 15 Israeli civilians were killed and 130 wounded.

33 Political Maps Political maps are designed to show the boundaries separating different countries, or their internal political divisions, such as counties. Usually a map key or legend explains what the different lines on the map indicate.

34 Political Maps For example, in this map of the Middle East, solid lines represent boundaries between countries. Stars show some of the capital cities in the area and black dots represent several other major cities.

35 Political Maps A political map might also show a single country with its states or provinces, or even a single state (like Texas) with lines to indicate the borders between counties.

36 Political Maps Maps can even be used to indicate the distribution of political power or voting patterns.

37 Political Maps Election Maps. Maps can also be used to show how people voted in an election or to see voting trends. They help us to understand the spatial distribution of political power. For example, the map below shows the results of the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.


39 International Relations and the “Balance of Power”
Within each country, a national government with sovereign power over nations. For this reason, nations often compete and even conflict in order to protect themselves. They are seeking greater security. Balance of Power. Geographers and historians sometimes speak of a “balance of power” between sovereign nations. This is the idea that if one country becomes too strong, other countries will band together against it. It is also the idea that the amount of power that the largest states enjoy should not become too unequal. The purpose of this “balance” is to prevent any single nation from becoming so powerful that it is tempted to force its will upon other nations. The main aim of the “balance of power” is to manage and limit conflict among the most powerful sovereign nations. Some experts argue that with the threat of nuclear weapons, a new “balance of terror” has replaced the traditional “balance of power” in the world.

40 International Relations and the “Balance of Power”
Many physical and human factors influence how much power an individual nation actually possesses: The amount of power a country enjoys greatly affects its control of territory and resources, its ability to defend itself or wage war, and its influence on the course of international relations generally.

41 The World’s Major Powers
Countries like the United States, China, Russia, and Japan exercise a large influence on international relations today because they either have powerful armed forces, a large population, or a dynamic economy. Many of these countries have all three of these characteristics.

42 The World’s Major Powers
United States. Americans have the benefit of a large land area, rich natural resources, high standards of living, and an educated population. It also possesses a highly skilled, experienced army with superior weapons. After World War II, the U.S. emerged as a Superpower, with the world’s first nuclear weapons. From 1946 to 1990, America had the world’s largest economy, while it engaged in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The United States also pioneered the development of new information technologies, like the computer and Internet. After the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, America became engaged in costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, Americans are being challenged by rising economic competition from overseas. America remains the world’s foremost power with the largest economy and most nuclear weapons.

43 The World’s Major Powers
China. Mao Zedong established a Communist totalitarian dictatorship in China in Although China had the world’s largest population and army, it had low standards of living and inferior technology. China’s economy was then dominated by government activity. In 1978, more than 90% of its economy was controlled by state-run enterprises. After Mao’s death, China allowed greater freedom of choice in its economy. Starting in the 1990s, China also began welcoming foreign investors and technology into China. By 2009, only 30% of its production was still created by state-run enterprises. Since then, China has developed into the world’s fastest growing economy. It also continues to have the world’s largest military force, with more than 1.6 million troops as well as its own nuclear weapons. Some experts predict that China will soon become the world’s greatest power.

44 The World’s Major Powers
Russia. Russia was the leading part of the Soviet Union, one of the two major Superpowers after World War II. Following its defeat in the Cold War with the United States, Russia has faced great economic challenges in its transition from a Communist to a free-style economy. It continues to have a large and advanced military and possesses the world’s second largest arsenal of weapons. The former Soviet Union

45 The World’s Major Powers
Japan. Japan has a much smaller population than China, the United States, or Russia. As the target of the world’s only nuclear attack at the end of World War II, Japan has also renounced the use of nuclear weapons. Because of the high education standards and inventiveness of its people, Japan is still a major world power based on its economic strength.

46 The World’s Major Powers
The United Nations. Some associations of countries are also very influential in international relations. The United Nations is an organization of all the sovereign nation states in the world. Founded after World War II, the aim of the United Nations is to promote peace, prevent war, and encourage development in all nations. All member states belong to the General Assembly. A group of especially powerful states, including the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France, belong to the UN Security Council. The Security Council has the power to send UN peace-keeping forces to areas of conflict around the world.

47 The World’s Major Powers

48 The World’s Major Powers
European Union. The European Union is another association of countries with influence on international relations. The EU is an economic and political union of member states. Now composed of a large number of European states, the EU forms a large area in which people and goods can pass freely. EU members also cooperate on many matters and follow EU directives and regulations. Most use the Euro, a common currency. Citizens in member states even elect representatives to a European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

49 The World’s Major Powers




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