Which countries are surrounded only by bad relations?

Recently Macedonia signed a “good relations” treaty with Bulgaria, so Macedonia cannot be said to have bad relations with all of its neighboring countries; they get along OK with Kosovo too.  Israel is another possible candidate, although it could be argued that de facto relations with Egypt are not so bad.  How about Palestine?  Qatar is a country surrounded by hostile powers, and for the time being they win this designation.

Belarus is on increasingly bad terms with Russia, but Russia has quite a few adjoining countries, and I am not sure if all of those relations are so bad.  China has frosty relations with many neighbors, although with Russia you would call it mixed and “not yet negative.” And relations with “the Stans” are not terrible.  They don’t like North Korea so much any more, even if they won’t topple it.

I think of Chile as bordering on a hostile Bolivia, but relations with Argentina are acceptable, even if Porteños look down on the Chileans for being provincial.


Then there are countries with only one neighbor, such as how Haiti and the Dominican Republic rather uncomfortably share the island of Hispaniola.  Relations across Central America seem to have improved considerably.

Which countries are the other contenders for this honorary designation?


The UK, which neighbours Spain and (awkward given Brexit - build the pale!) Ireland. Still an improvement over when they held Calais.

I think Singapore is closer than Chile.

Armenia is also in a bad spot, having lukewarm relations with Georgia as its best neighbour.

Lukewarm is an understatement, honestly I think things with Iran are better. Of course Russia is a rather intimidating "friend" to have and it borders two of Armenia's problems.

Georgia however not just surrounded by unfriendly states it is penetrated by its most dangerous foe, and its relations with Armenia are terrible and almost entirely self inflicted. Fortunately for them Armenian desires to straddle the NATO-Russia fence and Georgia's extreme weakness mean their provocations are generally ignored.

The UK doesn't actually have bad relations with either Spain or Ireland, though. They have minor disputes within an overall context of good relations (even an open border with Ireland).

Armenia's actually also got rather good economic relations with both Russia (which has troops stationed in the country and where many Armenians go to work) and Iran (where many Armenians go to trade, profiting from selling on goods Iran can't trade because of sanctions).

No border w/ Russia, though. I was friends w/ many Armenians when I lived in Russia. They would get very annoyed when Russians would call the muslims, but then again, the Bush Administration made that mistake too for a while. My impression was that Armenian-Armenians (as opposed to U.S. Armenians) were much more eager for better relations with Turkey, though that was several years, and a better Turkish government, ago. Maybe the situation has gotten worse. If you get the chance, try some Armenian cognac (*) - it can be really very nice. (*) When sold in the US it's "brandy" because of stupid WTO regional designation laws, though if you can read the Cyrillic on the bottle you'll get it. Such rules are protectionist nonsense, really.

Yeah, Matt's right. No border with Russia. Of their four neighbors, the border is closed with two (Turkey and Azerbajian). Relations with Georgia are frosty. The only one that is decent is the small border with Iran.

Tyler has likely heard of Japan. Not good relations with North Korea, South Korea, China or Russia, but other than those four, they are on good terms with East Asian countries.

"Neighbor" seems to be defined as sharing a land border here (Haiti and DR are said to have only one neighbor, even though there are other countries nearby). So Japan doesn't have any neighbors.

Japan and Russia are so close that they have a maritime border.

Largely unremarked, yesterday was the 72nd anniversary of the Hiroshima A-Bomb attack.

It was marked by duck-and-cover nuclear fallout drills...in response to North Korean aggression, says the BBC.

To be largely unremarked is the lot of 72nd anniversaries.

Thailand's relations with its neighbors have never been great and certainly not at their low points, but, nonetheless, the best current relationship is probably Laos.

Lebanon. They've been invaded by both their neighbors, Israel and Syria (with the complicity of parts of Lebanese society, but also with violent opposition from other parts.) Even when not being attacked by these neighbors, their troubles (e.g. Syrian refugees) easily spill over into what is a very small place (my wife is Lebanese and she often explains to people that the entire country is smaller than the county in Colorado where we live).

On a similar note, there is also Iraq to consider. You have ISIS/Syria on one side, Iran on the other, Kurdistan/Turkey to the north, and Saudi Arabia to the south. Iran would like Iraq to be a client state, and while I am sure the Shiites in Iraq do not object to the funds and the arms from Iran, I doubt they really want to be vassals to the Persians. Saudi Arabia of course is the unofficial sponsor of ISIS, and I wouldn't be surprised if they have also sent arms and money to Iraqi Sunnis to try and foment civil war, ethnic cleansing, etc. Kurdistan wishes to be independent, and take a large chunk of oil revenue with them. I would guess that Iraq's relations with Jordan and Kuwait aren't comparable to Iraq's relations with its other neighbors, but when your nation is the site of a proxy war, arguably no other nation is truly friendly unless they are working to end the proxy war.

Is Lebanon a country?

Consider Ethiopia; surrounded by Somalia (which it invades occasionally), Eritrea (a long and destructive war), North and South Sudan (South Sudan sends occasional raiding parties, not sure about North Sudan). But they do have good relations with Kenya and Djibouti, so it's not all bad.

Pakistan is besties with its neighbour China while the Deep State is intent on keeping relations just short of outright war with India and does its best to antagonise Afghanistan and provoke Iran by turning a blind eye to anti-Iranian combatants (Saudi and CIA-funded?) operating in Baluchistan which neighbours the country. So 3 out of 4 are unfriendly.

Morocco has bad relations with its neighbours: Algeria, Front Polisario and Spain. They even built a wall in the desert to separate their occupied of Occidental Sahara from the one left to Front Polisario. The Moroccan border with Mauritania is a no man's land of a few kilometers but the relations are OK.

In fact relationship with Mauritania is bad too. They even got expelled from the African Union. So Morocco is a winner here. This country is a bit like Qatar as they have the largest reserves of phosphates in the world that will last them for centuries. And phosphate is absolutely necessary for modern agriculture and has no substitute.

I was expecting Tyler to suggest Singapore.

Singapore is an island, so it would have no neighbors under Tyler's definition.

England (Scotland, Wales and France)

Ha ha. But where is this English-French border?

Under the English channel, in the middle of the tunnel.

I must say I thought Chunnel was a great film.

Perhaps East Timor and its only shared land border with Indonesia?

I believe Mexico's relations with its three neighbors are strained, if not quite bad.

The country that actually meets Tyler's criteria is India. It has bad relations with almost all its neighbors. Pakistan and China are no brainers. Sri Lanka is no fan of India; few people know that the Hambantota port was first offered to India, and China was invited only after India refused. India has not even managed to make a friend of tiny Nepal. India's border dispute with Bangladesh took 68 years to resolve.

After 70 years of independence, South Asia could easily have been India's backyard, but in reality countries here are moving closer to China than to India.

China has frosty relations with many neighbors, although with Russia you would call it mixed and “not yet negative.” And relations with “the Stans” are not terrible.

MR has always been a website where the comments section makes more sense than the actual post, and Tyler seems committed to proving me right each time. Of course neoliberal outlets such as The Economist desperately try to downplay relations between China and Russia, but that is largely a result of bias and cherry picking facts - rather than any comprehensive analysis.

China and Russia are enjoying the closest relations since the Mao/Stalin era. Their border disputes are completely resolved; even the treaties were ratified in the 90s. Both speak the same language on North Korea. Their central banks coordinate beautifully to circumvent the US dollar monopoly, including liquidity swaps. Moreover, they use their own national currencies for trade, not the US dollar. They recently concluded a 30-YEAR gas deal. They conduct military exercises regularly. And as a bit of diplomatic rhetoric, China and Russia recently upgraded their relationship to a "special relationship" and Russian officials called the friendly relations "unprecedented".

The relationship is also superbly complimentary: China wants raw materials and Russia wants foreign investment. No wonder Russia is one of the strongest supporters of OBOR. And so are the "Stans", with whom China also resolved all border disputes more than 20 years ago.

"Mixed" relations indeed.

Lots of interesting insights and information here.

Fascinating perspective. Thanks.

For some time there were complaints in Russia about illegal logging and other such things by the Chinese in Siberia, including with it a fair amount of illegal migration. It was maybe always more of a worry and complaint than a real issue (there is always some tension among some in Russia about the fact that Siberia is sparsely populated and China is close by) but has this situation improved or just really show itself to have been more propaganda for domestic consumption than real? (I haven't paid attention to it for several years now.)

India have good relations with bhutan, at least with regards to the latest border trouble with china. And if we want to get this thread kicked off the chinese internet, tibetan-indian relations have been pretty good.

India's relationship with Nepal at best can be described as that of "love-hate", and that with Bangladesh is positively chummy these days...

The Chinese have better places to go, if they want to emigrate, then to the trackless wastes of eastern Siberia. GDP per capita differences between the Chinese and the Russian sides of the border have disappeared. There is some migration, of agricultural workers to the Far East, but this is a seasonal migration. At least as important is the migration of Russians to booming, populous China.

The U.S. under the current government

Trump ain't that important.

Do the Mexicans share that opinion?

Apparently Trump has a 5% approval rating in Mexico (no surprise there).

I guess it depends on what "bad relations" means. It's a vague term so there is all sorts of room for interpretation. But to me, there would need to be some kind of concrete change to our relationship with Mexico--not just some general unpopularity of politicians and insults lobbed around. Mexico is still a close partner with whom we trade and cooperate on a variety of things. Building some more miles of wall on an already policed border is not going to change that. Renegotiating NAFTA (if that really happens--I'm skeptical) would only move the needle slightly. I just don't see Trump fundamentally changing this relationship.

Do "bad relations" mean exporting gang violence, ignorance, heroin, meth, poverty/welfare burdens, and weed to the neighboring country?

How exactly does one export "ignorance"?

Is that how you got yours Dick? Imported and not domestic?

Just tell the great unwashed masses in Mexico that the Big Gringo hates you.

Then tell Mexico's elite that Americans are racist.

Then tell the cartel cadres that the DEA is training better sniffer dogs.

Presto, 5% approval.

Brazil is surrounded by caudillos, drug and guns dealers and gangsters. It is the only Spanish-speaking country in South America and had to effect regime changes in many of its neighbours in the last 200 years just to survive.

You might like to correct your blunder.

Our only blunder was allowing those countries to exist. They betray us every chance they have.

In which dearieme smartly and hilariously gets Thiago to prove, once and for all, that he does not live in Brazil.

Well played, sir.

Maybe YOU should live surrounded by Paraguay (attacked us with no provokation after WE armed them), so-called Uruguay (a renegate Provinvce of the former Empire of Brazil), Colombia and Bolivia (drug exporters), Argentina, that betrayed us during the Paraguan War and undermines our trade treaty, Venezuela, that exports refugees to our northern states) and Guyanas, that hate us.

Você fala português?

Fluentemente, pois é minha língua materna. A língua de Machado, Camões e Vieira! Escreve e leio em mais duas línguas, mas falo mal.


I'd hardly call it proof, though it is a little baffling.. I'd think that making a mistake in a non-native language is fairly easy. Also, self-editing is unreliable since you tend to read it the way it already is in your head.. The alternative is that someone believes that there is only one Spanish speaking country in South America. I could be wrong, but if that is the sort of mistaken beliefs a person has, there would be many more obviously wrong beliefs, and dishonest claims of origin would be low on the list of things to criticize.

Thomas/Thiago and his little game have completely saltou o tubarão

No, it has jumped the shark, because it is not a game.

Yes it is a game.

No, it is not, but, if it were, I would be winning.

Yes it is, and you've already lost.

"Also, self-editing is unreliable since you tend to read it the way it already is in your head..."
Yep, I intended either mention being surrounded by Spanish-speaking peoples or being the sole Portuguese-speaking people at the neighborhood. I ended up mixing both ideas, but everyone knoepws there are more than one Spanish-speaking country in South America amd many know Brazil is not one of them, so everyone knows what I meant and I do not get what all the hoopla is about.

No, it is not.

Yes, it is.

It is not and never will be.

It is, and always was.

No, I will never allow it to be.

Yes, and your opinion counts for nothing.

you're not Brazilian. that whoopsie in your post with Spanish-speaking stands out like a sore thumb right down to the correct capitalization and hyphenation. Give it up dude.

Oh, OK, I exchanged "the only Portuguese-speaking country, surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries" for "the only Spanish-speaking country, surrounded by Portuguese-speaking countries". Big deal!! I guess even Americans know there are more than one Spanish-speaking country in... South America. So you know I did not mean a Spanish-speaking country, but the only one that is not (OK, there are the Guyanas, too, who cares?!). Serious, guys, what is the matter with you?

if you were actually Brazilian this would all be so laughable that you wouldn't waste the effort in replying, but you're not, so you must defend yourself against the accusation because it makes you uncomfortable because it is true

+1, exactly. A real Brazilian would have stopped replying to every troll ages ago.


A real Brazilian never gives up, never surrender. Brazilian trumpet players do not learn call retreat.

The whole reason that Qatar is on the outs with the other arab states (and now Israel) is that it's too friendly with Iran, so it's not like they're completely without friends in their neighborhood.

The question to ask is not Who



Fights over water or other common resources; historical segregation based on religion; alliances with countries outside of their region who create alliances within the region and their rival creates competing alliances.

The reason we are not at war with Canada is that we both like hockey and the Property Brothers.

And we don't even actually like hockey.

"Which countries are the other contenders for this honorary designation?" The two Irelands?

Eritrea: its neighbors are Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti. Need I say more?

North Korea? China's treatment of them is about as hostile as the Arab states' treatment of Qatar, and they're technically still at war with their other neighbor.

I was surprised to get this low in the thread without North Korea being mentioned. And what about South Korea? Since their only border is with the North, they win easily. (Not sure if Japan counts as a neighbor or not.)

+1 to South Korea, an obvious choice that has been missed.

North Korea is also a good fit, though perhaps a rogue state that everybody dislikes by default is not quite what we imagined this exercise being about.

+1 South Korea was all I could think about, surprised I had to scroll this far to see it.

In Africa, possibly Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia. And those countries including Congo around Lake Victoria. In Europe maybe Greece and their neighbors (Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Macedonia /FYROM).

DRC is huge, it borders hostile countries like Rwanda and has relatively amicable relations with countries like Congo or Angola (things with the latter are becoming a bit colder as of late though). The best example is Africa is now gone: apartheid South Africa.

Does the caliphate of ISIS count as a country?

Or how about the People's Republic of Donetsk?

They're in good terms with Russia.

Good but not great. Since February Russia no longer recognise documents (marriage, car license, etc.) from the People's Republic.

This article reminds me of an old Cold-War era joke: "Q: What country is neighbored entirely by hostile Communist states? A: The USSR!"

How about Transnistria, the Republic of South Ossetia, Republic of Abkhazia, the Gaza Strip or the West Bank?

Transnistria is not a real country, it is a rogue part of Moldova, that is a legitimate part of Romania. .

My impression was that Romania was not eager to have Moldova back, and not only because of the problematic (and intentionally placed) ethnic Russian population on the border. Think about why you don't want your really poor hill-billy relative to come live with you (perhaps if you are already of modest means) and you'll know why Romania doesn't want Moldova back. (I feel sorry for Moldova, though - they make wine that is better than most of what people around the world drink, but can barely sell it, and were crushed by transparently political Russian sanctions on it. Trader Joe's should get in on it. It's much better than most of what it sells, and cheaper, too.)

Soon or later, Moldova will return to Romanian control. It is a latin land and Slavs have nothing to do there.


Yes - Kurdistan is a good example. A de facto country with its own government, military, currency (USD more widely accepted than Iraqi Dinar). Ever since the 'liberation' of Iraq it acted as an independent country on all issues that matter (collect oil revenue despite Baghdad's directives that the revenue be centralized and then shared). Suffered targeted military incursions from Turkey to the north due to the conflict between the Turkish government and the ethnic Kurdish minority. Relationship with Iran and Syria, or what's left of it, are as bad as relationship with Turkey for the same reason. Kurdistan is still de jure part of Iraq only thanks to significant efforts by the US Government to keep them together for the fear of Turkish response - a waste of time in my opinion.

We have two countries. The Haves and the Have Nots.

I paid more taxes than Donald Trump.

You also made more money than Donald Trump

I would put Greece on the canditates list.

- Very bad relations with Turkey with daily air fights
- Blocking Macedonia in every possible way, countered by the border fence of Macedonia
- Albania and Bulgaria not liked either

And by now even their diaspora seems to turn their back on them

Israel, duh.

I'd say that Chile-Perú relations are better described as respectable (and improving) than the Chile-Argentina relation. Chile and Argentina have perfectly healthy relationship. As good as can be expected of two neighboring countries.

Regarding Bolivia. It is definitely accurate to say the governments stance towards Chile is hostile, and will continue to be as long as Morales is in power.

I agree that Chile-Perú relations are good, but this is only because Perú has a "newish" president. For some reason, Peruvian presidents become unpopular as their term advances, and one of the easy ways for them to distract the population is to take an anti-Chilean stance. I would predict that we will hear a negative attitude towards Chile in a couple of years or so. However, none of those comments will affect the many Peruvians who happily live in Chile or the economic integration of the two countries.

With respect to Bolivia, I think that Morales has made things worse, but any new president that is elected will continue to make unfriendly comments to Chile since it pays for them, politically speaking.

Argentina and Chile have a good relationship, especially now with Macri. I think this will not change and maybe even improve. I would also add that Argentineans no longer consider Chileans provincial, especially given how much better Chile has been doing. In fact, there is a significant migration of Argentinean professionals to Chile, and they are spreading the word.

Let me add that Chile's relations with the rest of South American countries is very good, except with Venezuela, especially given how many people have chosen to flee to Chile for safety.

If the South American Fascists wanted better relations with Bolívia, maybe they shoukd have considered not stealing Bolívia's land.

Canada's only border is with a pariah state.

That's a rather harsh assessment of Quebec.

South Korea, obviously.
North Korea, mostly.

Historically, the answer to this question is Korea and Poland, the two countries that have the misfortune of being bordered by three Great Powers (Russia, Prussia, Austria and China, Russia, Japan). It is only a recent phenomenon (last 50-60 years) that these countries are not constantly being invaded by their neighbors.

You could add Georgia to that list (Russia, Turkey, Persia). It is only a recent phenomenon (last 5-10 years) that this country is not constantly being invaded by their neighbours.

I think India wins in this regard...bad relations all around. And since 2014 with Nepal too

They have beef with Bhutan?

Only the Muslim ones have beef with Bhutan.


Turkey should at least be a candidate. Greece to the east, Syria to the southeast, Kurdistan Iraq to the southeast, Iran and Armenia to the east, and facing Russia across the Black Sea. It does border Georgia, and I don't know how things are between them. It also has a few toes in the Cyprus situation.

I meant Greece to the west and Syria to the southwest, of course. Arggh!

I'm glad someone mentioned Turkey. Even before the Syrian conflict, they didn't care for the Arabs.

Turkey's relations with Iran have warmed up a lot since the Qatar isolation and they are trying hard to repair relations with Russia, hence the missile deal made with them last week.

Gambia? It's had fraught relations with Senegal for some time — closings of key border crossings, cross-accusations of supporting resistance movements, etc. But maybe things have gotten better with the new (Gambian) administration.

China has so many neighbors it would be impossible not to have bad relations with some of them. By contrast, we have only two, Canada and Mexico, and seem to be having difficult relations with them. Actually, the difficult relations are mostly contrived for political effect. As for China's neighbors, China has decided to focus good relations on its neighbors to the south, from Myanmar all the way to Singapore. Go south, young man, go south. Of course,, in China one must go south to go west. One belt, one road, to the south leading to the destination in the west. The problem with having a contrived view of the world is that one doesn't know where one is going; and if one doesn't know where one is going, one probably won't get there.

The US, increasingly.

>Israel is another possible candidate, although...

".... although I could easily lose my professorship for implying they are anything but a villain, so let's move on."

Spot on.

Venezuela is moving fast towards that "Me vs.. Everybody" situation.

Sweden! The other Scandinavian countries all loath the Swedes, for good reason.

Armenia's sense of siege is mitigated by a supportive emigre community, visiting and sending money, perhaps unlike some others mentioned here


Singapore's neighbors are more or less friendly now, but in the pre-ASEAN area that was definitely not the case, especially under konfrontasi. Sukarno actually sent in commandos to carry out terrorist attacks targeting Singaporean civilians. The "surrounded by enemies" theme is a major part of the officially sanctioned Singaporean national narrative.

Not sure why Macedonia is an example here at all. It also has a good relationship with Serbia to the north, and even with Greece in the south there is no real hostility, just a childish dispute about the name. Its problems are internal (potentially inflammatory ethnic diversity), not with neighbors.

North korea is not in good relationship with neighboring countries due to missile lunch.. They are not in good term with Japan, South Korea, little bit OK with China due economy relationship in terms of trade. They also not in good term with Malaysia and other Asia countries.

Washington D.C. when viewed as a city-state, is utterly surrounded by hostile neighbors who view the city (correctly) as simultaneously a deeply corrupt imperial colony encroaching on sovereign territory, and also a dysfunctional impoverished urban shithole.

Yemen? Finland and, as a group, the Baltic nations. Russia's military invades their air and maritime borders frequently and it's commentariat comment noisily and threateningly wrt to the Russian speaking populations.

Arguably, hostility from Armenia's immediate neighbours has spurred its people into relationships with the wider world beyond its immediate borders, im trade and cultural. Same cannot be said for, say, Uzbekistan.

The libertarian nation of Liberland (surrounded by hostile Croatia)

Do Israel and Jordan not get along?

There are so many things happening around the globe, it all must be watched closely. As a trader, I find it all too easy due to broker like OctaFX, who got outstanding set of schemes whether it’s to do with small spreads from 0.1 pips for all major pairs, zero balance protection, swap free account and then there are many other benefits too, it enables one to perform nicely and keeps it all going good for us and keeps it all good.

Comments for this post are closed