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I have five mini countries / states who have signed a pact to merge into a Union, in total about the size of Poland, with borders such that a national 'capitol' city to be designated that borders all of the five states. Each state can make its own laws independantly but the union as a whole is recognized in whatever international unions and courts etc.

There is a national court, with one judge from each state and one from the capitol; there is a national military with members brought from each state at whatever rate the states provide it; a national police / investigation bureau for interstate crime investigation and national police force stuff. The five states had the same currency before signing the pact and were pairwise in good foreign relations conditions.

Each state has its own legislature and president, but the union doesn't have its own national legislature which binds all states under common laws necessarily, nor a national president. However, states have the right to use economic force (and military force, although that's kinda extreme) against other states in order to meet an agenda, as well as swaying public opinion. Each state has a government that is somewhat sensitive to changes in public opinion.

How strong would such a union be? What would it take for the union break down into fighting?

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  • $\begingroup$ You have a union that binds five independent states and that union has an army. But it doesn't have any legislature to direct the actions of that army either domestically or abroad. Who commands the national army? Also, since the states reserve the right to apply military force against each other, do the states also have armies, or do they borrow the national army to beat each other up? Also, the union stands for all five of its member states in all matters of global politics, but without a national legislature, how does anything get done at a global level? $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Feb 2 '15 at 7:01
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    $\begingroup$ I don't feel that this question is possible to answer at the moment. It will be as strong or as weak as you want it to be... $\endgroup$ – Tim B Feb 2 '15 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ @TimB True, but I've found it easy enough to address specific points given. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Feb 2 '15 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ Faraz we need a bit more information otherwise this could have a hundred different answers all of which are equally legitimate. It would help if you define the states and their political systems. What is the national level bureaucracy like? Meaning who controls the national institutions and gives them direction? It would also help to know WHY they are unionizing in the first place. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 2 '15 at 19:15
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Such a union doesn't seem very viable.

...there is a national military with members brought from each state at whatever rate the states provide it; ...

I can see this being a source of conflict in itself. When one state starts providing more people to the military, suddenly they can claim that since the military is mostly theirs, they should be allowed to use it more then anyone else. To prevent this, other states might start putting more people forward too; eventually everyone is involved in the military and the whole Union becomes a military state.

...a national police / investigation bureau for interstate crime investigation and national police force stuff.

These guys are going to have problems. Differing laws in each state mean that either every case needs an investigator or two from each state (a very inefficient way of investigation), or the time taken to train a member of this force would be prohibitive.

...but the union doesn't have its own national legislature which binds all states under common laws.

So how are they getting global recognition as a joint Union? This situation is far more likely to lead to other countries viewing them as separate countries. And, to expand on a comment made, without national law how do they govern the use of the military? Instead they would have to call a conference every time they want to use it, and by the time that's over there'll be no point, the situation may well have gone.


However, given that this is a fictional grouping that you can play around with, it's a bit subjective. You can hand wave and say the union is very weak and liable to break down; you can also hand wave and say it's been together for centuries and won't break up. It's up to you.

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A good model for such a political structure would be the European Union. As an inter-national union rather than a national union of states (like the USA), it reflects your description pretty well: each member state remains sovereign, making its own laws and possessing its own government leadership, but they are bound together by certain shared judicial structures and military resources.

As the real world shows, such a union could be a source of conflict as well as cooperation. Social, political, or economic circumstances could cause tensions between stats, which must be resolved in order to preserve the union. And, as @ArtOfCode points out, each stats would operate as its own nation on the world stage, creating the possibility for political drama reaching beyond the bound of the union. Furthermore, there would undoubtedly be friction between the states and the apparatus of the union itself - individuals or groups at the state level might resent the union, which is nominally 'on top', while the union lacks the legal authority of a real supreme government. While the EU does have a common set of laws (most obviously the right of free movement of citizens within its member nations), it's easy to imagine a union which lacks the authority to establish a shared legal code (or perhaps to enforce it).

For a police/investigation bureau, a good model might be Interpol. Despite how it's portrayed in movies, it's not really a police force in the traditional sense - its main function it to facilitate cooperation between the police of its member states. Of course, you can play around with how much authority they have, and jurisdictional disputes among the states' forces and the union's force would doubtless arise on occasion.

In term of the military situation, there's a wide spread of possible setups. The European Union's military branch is pretty minimal, fitting its non-sovereign nature. If you wanted to beef it up, NATO would be a good model of a long-term international military operation, which troops drawn from various member nations. On the other hand, there's very little real armed conflict between EU states. You could go the other direction and ramp up military tensions, so that the union has to constantly work to keep its member states from falling into war. This might make sense especially if the union originated in response to some shared crisis which has since past, and its members are historically more enemies than allies.

The present-day EU has real problems, and sometimes seems to be teetering on the brink of collapse. Despite this, politicians from its member states have become experts at muddling through by way of compromise and appealing to their peoples' shared interests. Then again, these are democratic states; a union among less 'principled' nations could be significantly more volatile. In any case, I think the guiding principle is that such a union wouldn't be 'strong' per se, but flexible; it would be good at bending without breaking. If bent too far, however, most likely by internal war, it would be hard-pressed to put itself back together.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice first answer. I would suggest we elaborate a bit on the question and flesh it out a bit, once done you may need to re-evaluate your answer. Welcome to the site. $\endgroup$ – James Feb 2 '15 at 19:10

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