Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Crafting an SFnal Setting: EU Ponderings

The setting is a relatively near future one. I am thinking that it ought to be between the late 2030s and the early 2050s. However, there ought to be a few important notes to be made about the setting. There is no world government. The states that are around are the ones that have been around still today. There are some changes to them. One of these is that the European Union has evolved into a more cohesive state than it is now and it is larger than it is now. This one seems like a straight forward consideration of its current trends. The 'core' EU has expanded out to Ukraine and Belarus in the east, Georgia, Armenia, and Turkey in the southeast for sure. However, there are two 'ummmmms' still with the EU.

The first is whether or not the Mediterranean nations have joined: this means North African ones stretching from Morocco to Egypt plus Syria, Lebanon, and Isreal. This entirely depends on whether or not Islamists are still a force there and if Isreal would ever trust itself into Europe's care. The latter I doubt. They have a very much go it alone attitude that I think has gotten too deep into its national character and culture. The former...I am not sure. I have a feeling that for the next thirty years the fundamentalists in Islam are going to be a royal pita. Religious trends like that just seem to don't go away in most parts of the world in a generation. It might be that some of the nations have joined though: Morocco, Lebanon, and Tunisia seem like the greatest candidates. In fact, Tunisia looks like, with anotehr couple decades of development and political reform to be the leading candidate. I'll mull here. Still pondering what it'd mean to have these nations as participants in the EU.

The second big 'hrm' is Russia. The further east that the EU and NATO moves, the more paranoid that Russia will become about others on their border. In some sense they have some right to feel that way: whenever they've had a major power on their border, they've gotten the short of it. This has been especially been true of major European powers. Whether it was the Swedes, Germans, French, or others, the Euros have loved to thump Russian skulls. Not always that successfully, but tis happened, painfully, repeatedly in cultural memory. On top of that, the Russians are not exactly a humble people. They have what I like to call the Great Russian Mentality. That they have the same or larger cultural chip on their shoulder with respect to the rest of the world that Americans do, but doubly so with respect to other neighboring cultures: their attitude towards Ukrainians, frex, is there is no such thing as a Ukrainian. They're Little Russians, inferior peasant Russians, but still Russians: the Malorus. Ditto for the Belarus (White Russians). Unless they've been humbled in some sort of a deeply cultural manner, I just can't seem them joining the EU by 2020, 2030, or maybe even 2050.

The problem for the Russians is that in the next 50 years unless there are some radical changes, they're going to become like France or Germany is today: a second tier power. If the EU grows at the same rate it ahs been it will end up with an economy somewhere in the $50 trillion PPP range. The US will prolly (barring uber stupidity) between $55 - $65 trillion PPP range. China will be somewhere around the $85 trillion PPP range. India will be around the $60 trillion PPP range. At best, Russia will have a $25 trillion PPP economy. This will be in line with Brazil (assuming Brazil doesn't find a gimic growth area like IT has been for India).

So, the question becomes do I want Russia in the EU of my writings. I could write a Russia that doesn't accept its second rate status and over spends on its military making it an economic basket case. I could write a Russia that has been humbled, but not part of the EU. I could also write a Russia that's a part of the EU. That means the EU stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The problem still remains: what changes that cultural quirk of the Russians? There are some possibilities that I can see. Either the Russians get thumped - bad, really bad - in a war. Perhaps with China? Or there is a possibility of a civil war that rends Russia from end to end enough that they seek outside help? Or would an extreme nastiness environmentally do the trick? Cheronbyl style meltdowns all over + the global warming fun?

The war with China has some appeal. It'd be a grim war though and have global repurcussions. I'd have to think it through. It'd also set up the EU has being not so friendly to China either. We'll see. I'm thinking in type here.

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