Words matter in geopolitics. Think for example of the words “ally” and “enemy”. These words matter because of the simple, yet in particular contexts very popular assumption that all other countries in the world are either “allies” or “enemies”.
Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s Minister of Defence, suggests that an exception to this binary world view is possible . She creates a third option by using these words: “Russia is not our enemy, but it’s no longer our partner.”
Other words that matter in the current geopolitical debate are threat and refugee, among many others. How to define them, who decides on this and -given the selected definition- what is the right policy to deal with them? The selection of one particular definition for a word can actually have a huge impact on the policy preferences.
This article by Global Risk Insights provides another telling example of why words matter in geopolitics: the name of a country. Wouldn’t it be better to speak of “Czechia” instead “Czech Republic”? Actually, in the Netherlands we already speak informally of “Tsjechië”. So here, the name change wouldn’t have dramatic consequences.
But what would be the costs of the change in a global context? In answering this question, the GRI article suggests that there is a close relationship between language and economics as well in some contexts. It concludes that “the switch to Czechia is going to create confusion.” After all, words matter. Not only in geopolitics.
This post was earlier published by author on LinkedIn Pulse
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