Uncle Jimbo's Bug Huntin' Range
They left it out in the Oort before we crawled from the sea.
The gate of Paradise.
Or the mouth of Hell.
In the 21st century, the Old UN continued from the disgrace of the late 20th century post-communist collapses into complete helplessness. A host of regional powers copied the 20th century Cold War policy of alternately ignoring and manipulating the Old UN, meanwhile sending their own troops to interfere in increasingly vicious and uncontained local conflicts. In the 2040's and 2050's world peace collapsed completely with the India-Pakistan conflict, Chinese, Siberian and Tibetan Revolutions, and The Big One: the War of American Reformation. The widespread environmental changes of the 21st century, at that time considered to be a calamity that threatened global civilisation, likewise posed a threat that the Old UN was pathetically unprepared to face. The organisation was formally dissolved after the First Corporate War.
The New UN was formed specifically as a military world government in opposition to American and corporate domination. From the start, the founders used harsh measures in crushing regionalism and corporate control. They forced all countries to adhere to environmental and moral standards, and levied heavy taxes to support the global projects that the UN founders considered to be essential. The armies of the member states were dissolved, even the police forces absorbed into the Global Armed Force chain of command.
Many states, betrayed by the rich nations for a century of bloody conflict, refused to accept these conditions. Others did not meet the stringent economic criteria for integration into the Collective Monetary Union. Even after a century of isolation, trade sanctions, financial and diplomatic persuasion, many regions remain outside the UN as Non-Integrated States.
The Non-Integrated nations are widely different in history and culture, even more so in economic strength and military power. Some are sophisticated nations grown rich on industries condemned by UN environmental and cultural laws. Others are polluted wastelands which have been fought over by rag-tag clans and factions for centuries. Overall, they remain the environmental pariahs and violent danger spots of Earth, filled with intrigue and unique pitfalls for outsiders.
The shards of the Russian-Soviet empire meet a string of Islamic fundamentalist governments across the edge of the Himalaya mountain shield. Although not everywhere in this region is desert or mountain, these are the terrains that dominate.
In the mountains, a few fertile valleys have been fought over through centuries of tribal and religious rivalry. The terrain gives every advantage to lightly-armed guerrillas over modern armies. H-panzer columns, giant bombers and division-scale assaults are useless in the mountains. Tactical nukes, regarded as the equaliser of 23rd-century warfare, are worse than useless, destroying the centuries-old irrigation and roads which make these rocky valleys worth conquering.
The Fergana and Isfara valleys in the Pamirs, and the upper Amu Darya gorges along the Afghan border have passed back and forth between all the powers of this region. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iran, and rogue GDF commanders in Tibet, Kazakhstan and Siberia all launch campaigns to conquer these fertile and strategic areas. The corporations provide liberal assistance and interference to all sides, hoping to gain influence in this vital and volatile region.
Uzbekistan stretches from the edges of the Pamir Mountains between the twin Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, through barren desert regions towards the long-dead Aral Sea basin. The people are descendants of the greatest nomad empires ever known in Asia, as well as numerous ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. Most of the population lives in the relatively fertile mountain area in the ancient cities of Tashkent, Samarkand and Bokhara.
Tajikistan is an anarchic region fought over by factions of different Muslim faiths. In the various conflicts, the Tajiks have sent waves of hard-bitten freebooters to whichever side paid and promised best, while betraying and murdering outsiders who set foot in their mountains. Uzbeks are a significant minority, brokering deals with their ethnic cousins. Kabul Emergent mutants are not uncommon.
Kyrgyzstan is a high mountain region, rich in minerals essential to 24th century industry - gold, rare earth metals and radioactives. Coal and oil also occur in abundance. The Kirghiz mining towns are dangerous places, rife with brawling between corrupt mine-owning dynasties and murderous resistance movements. The mine-owning families appoint a President from their own ranks without the need for elections. Kirghiz Presidents have consistently tried to expand the nation by hiring mercenaries and buying out rivals.
Turkmenistan is a region of poisoned deserts between Uzbekistan and Iran, dotted with smoke-belching gas wells and tiny cotton enclaves preserved by massive use of agricultural chemicals. Turkmenistan is the last major source of natural gas for the Central Asian states' obsolete chemical industries and vehicles. Each Turkmen clan holding is defended by advanced weapons, bought with the old wealth of the resident family.
Afghanistan is the home of the reviled Taliban form of Islam, organised into a ferociously repressive, but terminally poor and isolated state. Petty warlords control large parts of the country, cashed up by outside backers and opium-growing. The Afghan mountain passes lead directly into bombed-over Pakistan. Afghanistan is the home of the swift and lethal Kabul Emergent mutant genotype, derived from drifting fallout and the tens of thousands of Pakistani refugees who settled here. These feared warriors make up whole villages. They play on their horrific reputation to add a special nastiness to Afghan warfare, especially against the few UN forces which have ventured north of the Protectorate.
After three centuries of global warming, the Antarctic ice shield has shrunk to a third of its former size. A 22nd century USH desperate for minerals sent hundreds of exploration and mining crews into the newly cleared continent, conscripting its poorest and most resentful citizens to tame this frozen place. Their notably bloody revolt created one of the most unique of Non-Integrated states.
Burma (warlords, opium armies, flooding of Rangoon)
UN: East Asian Protectorate, Indonesian Protectorate (flooding, environmental collapse), China (confederation of Socialist republics), Papua (mountain cyber-cities), New Zealand (intrigue-filled gateway to Antarctica, Fiji and Australia)