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 I was reminded of the map above over the weekend.  It is by Chirol at cominganarchy.com showing those regions and parts of larger nations that are thought to be more likely than less likely to become separate states within Europe by 2020.  A sign, perhaps, of the powers of devolution, and the decline of the nation state.

You might think that this imagining of separation of chunks of established countries into microstates is purely daft speculation, but there are strong forces pushing these countries into being.  Looking at them you can see they all exhibit a strong sense of self identification, a unique identity supported by shared language and histories or religion.

It’s not as if microstates do not already exist within Europe.  We  have Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and, the daddy of them all, the Vatican State.  Malta being as my commentator below reminds me the only one within the European Union.  That said, the political union that is “Europe” might well like a larger number of smaller, less difficult, more amenable countries to manage than ones like say, the United Kingdom.

What interest might this have for America and her foreign policy?

Well for US policy wonks it was indeed of note that in the otherwise dull and slightly silly event that is the meeting of the Nation Capital Tartan Day Committee in Washington on March 28th something interesting did happen.

Oh yes – Tartan Day – such a thing really does exist and please don’t look it up on Wikipedia as it’s just embarrassing.  Normally National Tartan Day is an excuse for a load of poncy Scots toffs, over-rated ex-pats and Government Officials to flit over on an all expenses paid junket to Washington where they can pretend to be important, dress up in a load of old Victorian kitsch and set back the image of Scotland as a vibrant modern industrial nation by years. Think of a (very) poor man’s St Patrick’s day.

A famous tax-avoiding ex-pat: Picture Wikipedia

They do however hold the odd symposium and the one on March 28th was about political and economic implications for the United States should Scotland leave the UK to form an independent state, as might happen if the referendum goes the present ruling party’s way in 2014.

This year’s symposium was different, it was visited by a Russian. One Dmitry Cherkashin of the Russian Embassy dropped by, where he seemed most interested in what a prospective Scottish state was going to do with Trident, the British owned nuclear armed submarines, based at Faslane and Coulport.  The United States though has rather more control over these assets than the British might care to admit.

If the US loses Faslane and the four nuclear submarines based there, she may lose control of the GIUK marine gap allowing Russian subs and Russia’s navy unobserved and unchallenged access to the Atlantic.

And it is this threat to America’s sense of her proprietorial interests that has finally, at last, made Tartan Day interesting.  The Scottish National Party having famously stated that come the day they will ask the subs to ship out!  Expect lots of American authored dirty tricks, scare tactics and political interference in the days between now and the putative Referendum in fall 2014.

Copyright David Macadam 2012