The world’s mountainous regions house only a tenth of the earth’s population, yet they host a strikingly disproportionate share of its conflicts, including in Europe. We ignore the role of topography at our peril.
Some of the most persistent ethnic nationalist rebellions since the Second World War have taken place in mountainous areas − the Basque Country, Chechnya and Kosovo among them. These remote, often archaic, and seemingly exceptional communities are crucial to the future stability of the world at large.
The Kurds’ violent yearning for their own homeland complicates a tripartite peace for Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Muslim separatists continue to destabilize the North Caucasus. Kashmir has brought India and Pakistan to the nuclear brink. And no outside power has ever found a way to pacify Afghanistan.