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Geography - Country Profile Notes

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Afghanistan:
landlocked

Albania:
strategic location along Strait of Otranto (links Adriatic Sea to Ionian Sea and Mediterranean Sea)

Algeria:
second-largest country in Africa (after Sudan)

American Samoa:
Pago Pago has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the South Pacific Ocean, sheltered by shape from rough seas and protected by peripheral mountains from high winds; strategic location in the South Pacific Ocean

Andorra:
landlocked

Angola:
Cabinda is separated from rest of country by the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Antarctica:
the coldest, windiest, highest (on average), and driest continent; during summer, more solar radiation reaches the surface at the South Pole than is received at the Equator in an equivalent period; mostly uninhabitable

Arctic Ocean:
major chokepoint is the southern Chukchi Sea (northern access to the Pacific Ocean via the Bering Strait); strategic location between North America and Russia; shortest marine link between the extremes of eastern and western Russia; floating research stations operated by the US and Russia; maximum snow cover in March or April about 20 to 50 centimeters over the frozen ocean; snow cover lasts about 10 months

Argentina:
second-largest country in South America (after Brazil); strategic location relative to sea lanes between South Atlantic and South Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage)

Armenia:
landlocked

Ashmore and Cartier Islands:
Ashmore Reef National Nature Reserve established in August 1983

Atlantic Ocean:
major chokepoints include the Dardanelles, Strait of Gibraltar, access to the Panama and Suez Canals; strategic straits include the Strait of Dover, Straits of Florida, Mona Passage, The Sound (Oresund), and Windward Passage; the Equator divides the Atlantic Ocean into the North Atlantic Ocean and South Atlantic Ocean

Australia:
world's smallest continent but sixth-largest country; population concentrated along the eastern and southeastern coasts; regular, tropical, invigorating, sea breeze known as "the Doctor" occurs along the west coast in the summer

Austria:
landlocked; strategic location at the crossroads of central Europe with many easily traversable Alpine passes and valleys; major river is the Danube; population is concentrated on eastern lowlands because of steep slopes, poor soils, and low temperatures elsewhere

Azerbaijan:
landlocked

Bahamas, The:
strategic location adjacent to US and Cuba; extensive island chain

Bahrain:
close to primary Middle Eastern petroleum sources; strategic location in Persian Gulf which much of Western world's petroleum must transit to reach open ocean

Baker Island:
treeless, sparse, and scattered vegetation consisting of grasses, prostrate vines, and low growing shrubs; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

Barbados:
easternmost Caribbean island

Belarus:
landlocked

Belgium:
crossroads of Western Europe; majority of West European capitals within 1,000 km of Brussels which is the seat of both the EU and NATO

Belize:
only country in Central America without a coastline on the North Pacific Ocean

Benin:
no natural harbors

Bermuda:
consists of about 360 small coral islands with ample rainfall, but no rivers or freshwater lakes; some land, reclaimed and otherwise, was leased by US Government from 1941 to 1995

Bhutan:
landlocked; strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes

Bolivia:
landlocked; shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m), with Peru

Bosnia and Herzegovina:
within Bosnia and Herzegovina's recognized borders, the country is divided into a joint Bosniak/Croat Federation (about 51% of the territory) and the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska [RS] (about 49% of the territory); the region called Herzegovina is contiguous to Croatia and traditionally has been settled by an ethnic Croat majority

Botswana:
landlocked; population concentrated in eastern part of the country

Bouvet Island:
covered by glacial ice; declared a nature reserve

Brazil:
largest country in South America; shares common boundaries with every South American country except Chile and Ecuador

British Indian Ocean Territory:
archipelago of 2,300 islands; Diego Garcia, largest and southernmost island, occupies strategic location in central Indian Ocean; island is site of joint US-UK military facility

British Virgin Islands:
strong ties to nearby US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

Brunei:
close to vital sea lanes through South China Sea linking Indian and Pacific Oceans; two parts physically separated by Malaysia; almost an enclave of Malaysia

Bulgaria:
strategic location near Turkish Straits; controls key land routes from Europe to Middle East and Asia

Burkina Faso:
landlocked

Burma:
strategic location near major Indian Ocean shipping lanes

Burundi:
landlocked; straddles crest of the Nile-Congo watershed

Cambodia:
a land of paddies and forests dominated by the Mekong River and Tonle Sap

Cameroon:
sometimes referred to as the hinge of Africa

Canada:
second-largest country in world (after Russia); strategic location between Russia and US via north polar route; nearly 90% of the population is concentrated within 160 km of the US/Canada border

Cape Verde:
strategic location 500 km from west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; important sea and air refueling site

Cayman Islands:
important location between Cuba and Central America

Central African Republic:
landlocked; almost the precise center of Africa

Chad:
landlocked; Lake Chad is the most significant water body in the Sahel

Chile:
strategic location relative to sea lanes between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel, Drake Passage); Atacama Desert is one of world's driest regions

China:
world's fourth-largest country (after Russia, Canada, and US)

Christmas Island:
located along major sea lanes of Indian Ocean

Clipperton Island:
reef about 8 km in circumference

Cocos (Keeling) Islands:
two coral atolls thickly covered with coconut palms and other vegetation

Colombia:
only South American country with coastlines on both North Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea

Comoros:
important location at northern end of Mozambique Channel

Congo, Democratic Republic of the:
straddles Equator; very narrow strip of land that controls the lower Congo river and is only outlet to South Atlantic Ocean; dense tropical rain forest in central river basin and eastern highlands

Congo, Republic of the:
about 70% of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railroad between them

Coral Sea Islands:
important nesting area for birds and turtles

Croatia:
controls most land routes from Western Europe to Aegean Sea and Turkish Straits

Cuba:
largest country in Caribbean

Czech Republic:
landlocked; strategically located astride some of oldest and most significant land routes in Europe; Moravian Gate is a traditional military corridor between the North European Plain and the Danube in central Europe

Denmark:
controls Danish Straits (Skagerrak and Kattegat) linking Baltic and North Seas; about one-quarter of the population lives in Copenhagen

Djibouti:
strategic location near world's busiest shipping lanes and close to Arabian oilfields; terminus of rail traffic into Ethiopia; mostly wasteland

Dominican Republic:
shares island of Hispaniola with Haiti (eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic, western one-third is Haiti)

Ecuador:
Cotopaxi in Andes is highest active volcano in world

Egypt:
controls Sinai Peninsula, only land bridge between Africa and remainder of Eastern Hemisphere; controls Suez Canal, shortest sea link between Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea; size, and juxtaposition to Israel, establish its major role in Middle Eastern geopolitics

El Salvador:
smallest Central American country and only one without a coastline on Caribbean Sea

Equatorial Guinea:
insular and continental regions rather widely separated

Eritrea:
strategic geopolitical position along world's busiest shipping lanes; Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon de jure independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993

Ethiopia:
landlocked - entire coastline along the Red Sea was lost with the de jure independence of Eritrea on 24 May 1993

Europa Island:
wildlife sanctuary

Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas):
deeply indented coast provides good natural harbors; short growing season

Faroe Islands:
archipelago of 17 inhabited islands and one uninhabited island, and a few uninhabited islets; strategically located along important sea lanes in northeastern Atlantic; precipitous terrain limits habitation to small coastal lowlands

Fiji:
includes 332 islands of which approximately 110 are inhabited

Finland:
long boundary with Russia; Helsinki is northernmost national capital on European continent; population concentrated on small southwestern coastal plain

France:
largest West European nation; occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as mistral

French Guiana:
mostly an unsettled wilderness

French Polynesia:
includes five archipelagoes; Makatea in French Polynesia is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Nauru

French Southern and Antarctic Lands:
remote location in the southern Indian Ocean

Gambia, The:
almost an enclave of Senegal; smallest country on the continent of Africa

Gaza Strip:
there are 24 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Gaza Strip (August 1999 est.)

Germany:
strategic location on North European Plain and along the entrance to the Baltic Sea

Ghana:
Lake Volta is the world's largest artificial lake; northeasterly harmattan wind (January to March)

Gibraltar:
strategic location on Strait of Gibraltar that links the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea

Greece:
strategic location dominating the Aegean Sea and southern approach to Turkish Straits; a peninsular country, possessing an archipelago of about 2,000 islands

Greenland:
dominates North Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe; sparse population confined to small settlements along coast; world's second largest ice cap

Grenada:
the administration of the islands of the Grenadines group is divided between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada

Guam:
largest and southernmost island in the Mariana Islands archipelago; strategic location in western North Pacific Ocean

Guatemala:
no natural harbors on west coast

Guernsey:
large, deepwater harbor at Saint Peter Port

Haiti:
shares island of Hispaniola with Dominican Republic (western one-third is Haiti, eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic)

Heard Island and McDonald Islands:
primarily used for research stations

Holy See (Vatican City):
urban; landlocked; enclave of Rome, Italy; world's smallest state; outside the Vatican City, 13 buildings in Rome and Castel Gandolfo (the pope's summer residence) enjoy extraterritorial rights

Hong Kong:
more than 200 islands

Howland Island:
almost totally covered with grasses, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs; small area of trees in the center; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

Hungary:
landlocked; strategic location astride main land routes between Western Europe and Balkan Peninsula as well as between Ukraine and Mediterranean basin

Iceland:
strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe

India:
dominates South Asian subcontinent; near important Indian Ocean trade routes

Indian Ocean:
major chokepoints include Bab el Mandeb, Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca, southern access to the Suez Canal, and the Lombok Strait

Indonesia:
archipelago of 17,000 islands (6,000 inhabited); straddles Equator; strategic location astride or along major sea lanes from Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean

Ireland:
strategic location on major air and sea routes between North America and northern Europe; over 40% of the population resides within 97 km of Dublin

Israel:
there are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank, 42 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, 24 in the Gaza Strip, and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 1999 est.)

Italy:
strategic location dominating central Mediterranean as well as southern sea and air approaches to Western Europe

Jamaica:
strategic location between Cayman Trench and Jamaica Channel, the main sea lanes for Panama Canal

Jan Mayen:
barren volcanic island with some moss and grass

Japan:
strategic location in northeast Asia

Jarvis Island:
sparse bunch grass, prostrate vines, and low-growing shrubs; primarily a nesting, roosting, and foraging habitat for seabirds, shorebirds, and marine wildlife

Jersey:
largest and southernmost of Channel Islands; about 30% of population concentrated in Saint Helier

Johnston Atoll:
strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean; Johnston Island and Sand Island are natural islands, which have been expanded by coral dredging; North Island (Akau) and East Island (Hikina) are manmade islands formed from coral dredging; closed to the public; former US nuclear weapons test site; site of Johnston Atoll Chemical Agent Disposal System (JACADS); some low-growing vegetation

Juan de Nova Island:
wildlife sanctuary

Kazakhstan:
landlocked

Kenya:
the Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa; glaciers on Mt. Kenya; unique physiography supports abundant and varied wildlife of scientific and economic value

Kingman Reef:
barren coral atoll with deep interior lagoon; closed to the public

Kiribati:
20 of the 33 islands are inhabited; Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Makatea in French Polynesia, and Nauru

Korea, North:
strategic location bordering China, South Korea, and Russia; mountainous interior is isolated and sparsely populated

Kuwait:
strategic location at head of Persian Gulf

Kyrgyzstan:
landlocked

Laos:
landlocked

Lebanon:
Nahr al Litani only major river in Near East not crossing an international boundary; rugged terrain historically helped isolate, protect, and develop numerous factional groups based on religion, clan, and ethnicity

Lesotho:
landlocked; surrounded by South Africa

Liechtenstein:
along with Uzbekistan, one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world; variety of microclimatic variations based on elevation

Luxembourg:
landlocked

Macau:
essentially urban; one causeway and two bridges connect the two islands of Coloane and Taipa to the peninsula on mainland

Macedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic of:
landlocked; major transportation corridor from Western and Central Europe to Aegean Sea and Southern Europe to Western Europe

Madagascar:
world's fourth-largest island; strategic location along Mozambique Channel

Malawi:
landlocked

Malaysia:
strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea

Maldives:
1,190 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls (200 inhabited islands, plus 80 islands with tourist resorts); archipelago of strategic location astride and along major sea lanes in Indian Ocean

Mali:
landlocked

Malta:
the country comprises an archipelago, with only the three largest islands (Malta, Ghawdex or Gozo, and Kemmuna or Comino) being inhabited; numerous bays provide good harbors

Man, Isle of:
one small islet, the Calf of Man, lies to the southwest, and is a bird sanctuary

Marshall Islands:
two archipelagic island chains of 30 atolls and 1,152 islands; Bikini and Enewetak are former US nuclear test sites; Kwajalein, the famous World War II battleground, is now used as a US missile test range

Mauritania:
most of the population concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River in the southern part of the country

Mayotte:
part of Comoro Archipelago; 18 islands

Mexico:
strategic location on southern border of US

Micronesia, Federated States of:
four major island groups totaling 607 islands

Midway Islands:
a coral atoll managed as a national wildlife refuge and open to the public for wildlife-related recreation in the form of wildlife observation and photography, sport fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving

Moldova:
landlocked

Monaco:
second smallest independent state in world (after Holy See); almost entirely urban

Mongolia:
landlocked; strategic location between China and Russia

Morocco:
strategic location along Strait of Gibraltar

Nauru:
Nauru is one of the three great phosphate rock islands in the Pacific Ocean - the others are Banaba (Ocean Island) in Kiribati and Makatea in French Polynesia; only 53 km south of Equator

Navassa Island:
strategic location 160 km south of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; mostly exposed rock, but enough grassland to support goat herds; dense stands of fig-like trees, scattered cactus

Nepal:
landlocked; strategic location between China and India; contains eight of world's 10 highest peaks

Netherlands:
located at mouths of three major European rivers (Rhine, Maas or Meuse, and Schelde)

New Zealand:
about 80% of the population lives in cities

Niger:
landlocked

Niue:
one of world's largest coral islands

Northern Mariana Islands:
strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean

Norway:
about two-thirds mountains; some 50,000 islands off its much indented coastline; strategic location adjacent to sea lanes and air routes in North Atlantic; one of most rugged and longest coastlines in world; Norway is the only NATO member having a land boundary with Russia

Oman:
strategic location on Musandam Peninsula adjacent to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil

Pacific Ocean:
the major chokepoints are the Bering Strait, Panama Canal, Luzon Strait, and the Singapore Strait; the Equator divides the Pacific Ocean into the North Pacific Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean; dotted with low coral islands and rugged volcanic islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean

Pakistan:
controls Khyber Pass and Bolan Pass, traditional invasion routes between Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent

Palau:
includes World War II battleground of Beliliou (Peleliu) and world-famous rock islands; archipelago of six island groups totaling over 200 islands in the Caroline chain

Palmyra Atoll:
about 50 islets covered with dense vegetation, coconut trees, and balsa-like trees up to 30 meters tall

Panama:
strategic location on eastern end of isthmus forming land bridge connecting North and South America; controls Panama Canal that links North Atlantic Ocean via Caribbean Sea with North Pacific Ocean

Papua New Guinea:
shares island of New Guinea with Indonesia; one of world's largest swamps along southwest coast

Paraguay:
landlocked; lies between Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil

Peru:
shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake, with Bolivia

Poland:
historically, an area of conflict because of flat terrain and the lack of natural barriers on the North European Plain

Portugal:
Azores and Madeira Islands occupy strategic locations along western sea approaches to Strait of Gibraltar

Puerto Rico:
important location along the Mona Passage - a key shipping lane to the Panama Canal; San Juan is one of the biggest and best natural harbors in the Caribbean; many small rivers and high central mountains ensure land is well watered; south coast relatively dry; fertile coastal plain belt in north

Qatar:
strategic location in central Persian Gulf near major petroleum deposits

Romania:
controls most easily traversable land route between the Balkans, Moldova, and Ukraine

Russia:
largest country in the world in terms of area but unfavorably located in relation to major sea lanes of the world; despite its size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture

Rwanda:
landlocked; predominantly rural population

Saint Helena:
harbors at least 40 species of plants unknown anywhere else in the world; Ascension is a breeding ground for sea turtles and sooty terns

Saint Pierre and Miquelon:
vegetation scanty

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:
the administration of the islands of the Grenadines group is divided between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada

San Marino:
landlocked; smallest independent state in Europe after the Holy See and Monaco; dominated by the Apennines

Saudi Arabia:
extensive coastlines on Persian Gulf and Red Sea provide great leverage on shipping (especially crude oil) through Persian Gulf and Suez Canal

Senegal:
The Gambia is almost an enclave of Senegal

Serbia and Montenegro:
controls one of the major land routes from Western Europe to Turkey and the Near East; strategic location along the Adriatic coast

Seychelles:
40 granitic and about 50 coralline islands

Singapore:
focal point for Southeast Asian sea routes

Slovakia:
landlocked

Somalia:
strategic location on Horn of Africa along southern approaches to Bab el Mandeb and route through Red Sea and Suez Canal

South Africa:
South Africa completely surrounds Lesotho and almost completely surrounds Swaziland

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands:
the north coast of South Georgia has several large bays, which provide good anchorage; reindeer, introduced early in this century, live on South Georgia

Southern Ocean:
the major chokepoint is the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica; the Polar Front (Antarctic Convergence) is the best natural definition of the northern extent of the Southern Ocean; it is a distinct region at the middle of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current that separates the very cold polar surface waters to the south from the warmer waters to the north; the Front and the Current extend entirely around Antarctica, reaching south of 60 degrees south near New Zealand and near 48 degrees south in the far South Atlantic coinciding with the path of the maximum westerly winds

Spain:
strategic location along approaches to Strait of Gibraltar

Spratly Islands:
strategically located near several primary shipping lanes in the central South China Sea; includes numerous small islands, atolls, shoals, and coral reefs

Sri Lanka:
strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes

Sudan:
largest country in Africa; dominated by the Nile and its tributaries

Suriname:
mostly tropical rain forest; great diversity of flora and fauna that, for the most part, is increasingly threatened by new development; relatively small population, most of which lives along the coast

Svalbard:
northernmost part of the Kingdom of Norway; consists of nine main islands; glaciers and snowfields cover 60% of the total area

Swaziland:
landlocked; almost completely surrounded by South Africa

Sweden:
strategic location along Danish Straits linking Baltic and North Seas

Switzerland:
landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France and northern Italy, contains the highest elevations in Europe

Syria:
there are 42 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights (August 1999 est.)

Tajikistan:
landlocked

Tanzania:
Kilimanjaro is highest point in Africa

Thailand:
controls only land route from Asia to Malaysia and Singapore

Tonga:
archipelago of 170 islands (36 inhabited)

Tromelin Island:
climatologically important location for forecasting cyclones; wildlife sanctuary

Tunisia:
strategic location in central Mediterranean

Turkey:
strategic location controlling the Turkish Straits (Bosporus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles) that link Black and Aegean Seas

Turkmenistan:
landlocked

Turks and Caicos Islands:
30 islands (eight inhabited)

Uganda:
landlocked

Ukraine:
strategic position at the crossroads between Europe and Asia; second-largest country in Europe

United Arab Emirates:
strategic location along southern approaches to Strait of Hormuz, a vital transit point for world crude oil

United Kingdom:
lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and now linked by tunnel under the English Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters

United States:
world's third-largest country (after Russia and Canada)

Uzbekistan:
along with Liechtenstein, one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world

Venezuela:
on major sea and air routes linking North and South America

Virgin Islands:
important location along the Anegada Passage - a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural, deepwater harbors in the Caribbean

Wake Island:
strategic location in the North Pacific Ocean; emergency landing location for transpacific flights

Wallis and Futuna:
both island groups have fringing reefs

West Bank:
landlocked; highlands are main recharge area for Israel's coastal aquifers; there are 231 Israeli settlements and civilian land use sites in the West Bank and 29 in East Jerusalem (August 1999 est.)

Yemen:
strategic location on Bab el Mandeb, the strait linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, one of world's most active shipping lanes

Zambia:
landlocked

Zimbabwe:
landlocked




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