The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 marked the end of the Eighty Years' War between the Spanish and the Dutch, and the end of the German portion of the Thirty Years' War. During these peace talks, world powers signed treaties and divided up the land, creating the modern state system as we know it.
The amount of countries in the world has continued to grow since Westphalia, and today we have almost 200. Over the centuries, new countries are typically created in the wake of conflict, war, and colonization. Presidents, prime ministers, and other relevant parties present proposals, negotiate terms, and divide up territory in some cases. In other cases, particular groups of people attached to a geographical area seek independence.
Sometimes proposals fail, involved parties don't like the terms, or the rest of the world doesn't support independence. Below, you will find four countries that almost existed.
Arab Islamic Republic
During WWI, the British promised Arabs, especially those in Egypt, a single Arab state if they rose up and fought against the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans were defeated, but the British never fulfilled their promise. Ultimately, the U.K. and France, with assent from Russia and Italy, created the nations of today's Middle East. Unhappy with the way borders were drawn, Arabs continued to hope for a single state. One of the biggest proponents was Muammar Gaddafi, the late Libyan dictator. He spent much of his early years trying to form a unified Arab state.
Gaddafi began close to home and tried to get Tunisia's dictator, Habib Bourguiba, to agree to merge Tunisia and Libya into one in the early 1970s. Bourguiba was worried Egypt would become too powerful because of their relationship with Libya, so he initially rejected the idea. Eventually, Bourguiba agreed and signed a declaration of the unification at a meeting with Gaddafi on the island of Djerba in 1974. Under the new Arab Islamic Republic, Bourguiba would be president of the country and Gaddafi would be the head of the military. The leaders scheduled referendums for votes in their respective countries to ratify the agreement, but internal opposition prevented the deal from ever coming to fruition.
Quebec is Canada's largest province by area and second-largest by population, and it almost existed as its own country. Quebec's beginnings are rooted in New France, established by the French in the early 1600s. Since the British acquired New France in 1763, those native to the area have fought to maintain recognition as a founding group within Canada. During this period, the British allowed the French settlers to live under French law and practice Catholicism in an event to avoid revolution like that which occurred in the Thirteen Colonies.
In the 1960s, Quebec's French-speaking community began to organize as a Québécois majority, building their own state apparatus to protect and "enhance their social, cultural, demographic, political and economic power." Ultimately the Québécois attempted to secede from Canada to form a new country in 1995. During a province-wide vote, 49.4% of residents voted for independence from Canada, and 50.6 percent of residents voted to keep the status quo. Today Quebec maintains its French roots and language, and the fight for independence has gone by the wayside.
North American Technate
The Great Depression was a difficult time for U.S. residents, causing a wide variety of economic and political philosophies to emerge around the globe. In the U.S. and Canada, the new philosophy at the time was technocracy, which hinged on the idea that politicians, who they viewed as corrupt and ineffective, needed to be replaced with economists, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. People were looking for relief and a better way. President Franklin Roosevelt's answer to the Great Depression was the New Deal, another economic pathway. Once this series of reforms were signed into law, technocrats lost their appeal to most. Canada went as far as to outlaw the movement.
The most active group that advocated technocracy was Technocracy Incorporated, the brainchild of founder Howard Scott. The group wasn't very popular, but they did offer many proposals. One, in particular, was to combine Central and North America into a "technate." The group argued that the natural boundaries of this large landmass provided a foundation for an independent, self-sufficient superstate, similar to the Soviet Union, making North American Technate a country which almost existed. As the economy recovered after the New Deal, the ideas of the technocrats faded into oblivion.
World War I left the globe fearing Germany and doubting Russia's intentions, creating a desire to keep both countries in check. The original Intermarium plan was for a large country to act as a buffer between Russia and Germany, and protect those who lived in the area between and could easily fall victim to either side during war. Jozef Pilsudski, the Polish leader, developed this geopolitical strategy involving the land stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, which included Ukraine, Lithuania, and Belarus, in addition to Poland. After the Russian Empire dissolved at the end of WWI, these countries went through a brief period of independence. Pilsudski believed if they acted together, they could protect their sovereignty.
Most of the world's major powers believed that an Intermarium alliance wouldn't last, or they were fearful of a new large country becoming too powerful under Polish leadership. France was the only country to support the creation of the new state. Intermarium never formed. Many researchers, academics, and survivors of WWI question what might have been if Intermarium had become a country who had the capability and resources to defend from Germany and Russia. The Intermarium Project faded for some time but reemerged periodically throughout the century. The Soviet Union censored discussion of the project in Central and Eastern Europe during the Cold War, ultimately causing the original idea to fade. Yet, since the fall of the USSR and Russia's aggression towards Ukraine, talks about Intermarium have increasingly resurfaced as having potential in the near future. Intermarium almost existed, but all hope is not lost.