By Wilson C. ’20
The countries of Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, and Denmark make up a larger region in Europe known as Scandinavia. These countries have a similar climate and are renowned for their world-famous scenery as well as their extremely happy populations and extensive social welfare networks. Denmark, Sweden, and Norway all have the same national airline, Scandinavian Airlines, more commonly known as SAS. They also have a shared history when it comes to the settlement of these nations by the Vikings, from about 750-1000 CE.
Although highly unlikely, let’s imagine for a moment what would happen if these countries united to form a larger country, the United States of Scandinavia.
According to the United Nations, the country’s new GDP would be $1.534 trillion, making it the world’s 12th largest economy, slightly behind South Korea and and slightly ahead of Russia. Nearly half of the GDP would come from Sweden, who is currently the world’s 23rd largest economy at $538 billion. Iceland, which currently has a population of just over 300,000, would make up the smallest portion of this new economy at just $23 billion, or just about 1.5% of the United States of Scandinavia economy. The population of this new country would be approximately 26 million, or about the population of Madagascar. This would make the GDP per capita $59,000, putting it slightly behind the United States but ahead of Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. This means that the average quality of life would be very high. The World Happiness Report is an empirical report on happiness, and is the leading report of this variety. Currently, 4 of the constituent states are ranked within the top 5 happiest countries, the sole outsider being Sweden, who are currently ranked 9th. A perfect score is an 8, and the USoS would rank as the happiest country in the world, slightly ahead of Switzerland. Ultimately, the quality of life would be very high for residents in this country, and it would continue to be a popular destination for refugees.
The ethnic makeup of the country would be largely of European ethnic groups: about 18% of the country would be ethnic Norwegians, 30% would be ethnic Swedes, 18% would be ethnic Finnish, and about 20% ethnic Danish. As for religion, about 4 in 5 religiously affiliated people would be Christians, with Islam and Judaism each accounting for most of the remaining religious affiliation. Most of the people who live in these countries would live on the mainland of them, but about 1.1% of citizens would live in either Greenland, the Faroe Islands, or the Åland Islands. Overall, the new country would be fairly ethnically and religiously homogeneous, but this is unlikely to cause major racial conflict due to the fact that the countries making up the United States of Scandinavia are largely socialist and highly socially liberal.
As for the geopolitical factors in the new nation, one challenge would be keeping such a spread-out country united as one people. The northern regions of Norway, Sweden, and Finland are quite remote and very hard to access by road. Currently, Norway is embarking on a new $47 billion highway project to better connect its Atlantic coastal cities, but one goal of the new Scandinavian government would certainly be to build a more interconnected road system. The main official language would probably become English; each country has its own native tongue, but a majority of the population would already speak English fluently, thus allowing for easier communication. The country would have an area of 3.5 million square km, making it the 7th largest by area; ahead of India, but only about ¼ the size of Russia. However, it would have an extremely low population density of just 7.5 people per square kilometer. Over 60% of this country’s territory would be the almost-completely uninhabited tundra that is Greenland, and much of the farming would have to take place in the relatively fertile countrysides of Denmark and Sweden. Its geography would create an interesting dilemma, and as the country grows, it would be fascinating to see how its inhospitable landscape hampers its economic and societal growth. This country would be unlikely to become a world superpower, as the nations constituting it are not known for being colonial nor wartime powers. Iceland doesn’t even have a military, and the USoS as a whole would have just the 49th largest military in the world with about 92,000 troops, ahead of Argentina but behind Nepal. This does not mean that the country does not have geographically advantageous positions that are worth protecting. Denmark has the most strategic positionings of any country; Copenhagen, the USoS’ likely capital, is situated on an island through which straits run all the way to the Baltic states. Thus, Denmark could control a large amount of seafaring trade which would pass through the region. Furthermore, with the right development, Nuuk and Svalbard could become very valuable strategic outposts up north. Aside from Copenhagen, major cities in the USoS would include Helsinki, Oslo, Bergen, Stockholm, Malmö, Aarhus, Gothenburg, and Tampere. The cities are fairly evenly spread about the contiguous states, thus allowing for a somewhat decentralized country. This would be socially and economically beneficial for a collection of states which are already some of the most equal countries on Earth, because the countries’ wealth and population centers would not be concentrated in one area; allowing for less wealth disparity and a widening of the government’s geopolitical scope when crafting policy.
This new country would be an extremely popular tourist destination for many reasons. One, it would be a very safe and healthy country with the 13th-highest life expectancy (81.7 years) and a Human Development Index of .934, making it the fourth-most developed country in the world behind Switzerland but well ahead of the United States. The new nation would also have some brilliant tourist attractions, such as the Icelandic volcanoes, the world’s largest fjord, the Sognefjord in Norway, and for hardcore travelers, the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway.
As for athletics, the USoS would do fairly well: 1,841 Olympic medals places them comfortably at 2nd all-time behind the USA, and they would easily have the most Winter Olympic medals with 694 (more than 2 times what the US has). However, the country will have yet to win a FIFA World Cup, with their best finish being Sweden’s 5-2 loss to Pele’s Brazil in the 1958 finals. As their number of Winter Olympics medals suggests, the new country would also become one of the world’s leading ski resort providers, with 105 resorts spread across the five countries, making it a likely candidate to host an Olympic games in the near future. Ultimately, this unification would be extremely beneficial in the long run for economic growth and strategic positioning, but would not come without its topographical and logistical challenges. While highly unlikely, this Scandinavian unification would certainly be a sight to behold, and I can’t say that I wouldn’t be extremely interested in visiting the nation.