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Thread: Is Russia still a key world power?

  1. #1
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    Is Russia still a key world power?

    A succinct summary of numerous insights that have been discussed about Russia on WAB over the last couple of years.

    Whether Russia, one of 15 successor states to the USSR, which broke up in 1991, is still a genuine world power in 2015 is open to question.

    It remains the world's largest country and the largest oil producer.

    It retains its permanent seat on the UN Security Council (one among five).

    Its nuclear arsenal (in Cold War times one of five countries, but now one of nine) has been progressively modernised.

    Sustained increases in defence spending have brought it close to its goal of escalation dominance in local and regional war.
    .
    But the economic base for these capabilities is steadily declining.

    Russia's economy is the 10th largest in the world, producing little of value beyond hydrocarbons.

    Corruption and rent-seeking extract an enormous economic toll.

    It remains burdened with Soviet era infrastructure, and its ability to meet the educational and medical needs of its population is rapidly declining.

    Whatever one's view, two further points for and against Russia's global standing are undeniable:

    Russia regards itself as a great power - it is not in question anywhere inside the country

    China has long since eclipsed Russia as the world's number two power behind the US

    Yet for all Russia's pretence about a rebalancing of priorities towards Asia, since the fallout over Ukraine, it still measures itself against the West, and America in particular.

    Distinct Eurasian niche

    Regardless of hypothetical rankings or real-world measurements, Russia has carved out a niche for itself as a distinct Eurasian pole in world politics, allied to neither Europe nor Asia but seeking influence there and beyond.

    Its membership of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group of rising powers suggests an acknowledgement that Russia has not quite arrived (there is no contradiction for Russia between this and pre-existing great power status) but also that is it is civilisationally distinct from Europe.

    Certainly, there is no current desire to be part of most prominent Western-led organisations such as the European Union.

    Indeed, Russia has striven to come up with its own alternatives over the years, the latest of which, a Eurasian Union, is designed precisely as a counterweight but free of the burden of Western norms and values.

    Whether it will have a longer life than its antecedents, considering Russia's failing economic fortunes and other countries' evident reluctance to be joined too closely, remains to be seen.

    Russia's mission beyond the quest for influence is hard to discern.

    It is the world's most ostentatious foe of democracy promotion.

    But its foreign aid is minimal (especially beyond the other former Soviet states - where its purpose is often regarded as a double-edged sword), and its contribution to UN-led peacekeeping has withered since the 1990s.

    World's largest economies by gross domestic product (GDP) (in millions of US dollars, 2014):
    US: 17,419,000
    China: 10,360,105
    Japan: 4,601,461
    Germany: 3,852,556
    UK: 2,941,886
    France: 2,829,192
    Brazil: 2,346,118
    Italy: 2,144,338
    India: 2,066,902
    Russian Federation: 1,860,598

    Until the recent campaign in Syria, Russia had talked of itself as a global power, but behaved like a regional power.

    Russia's greatest challenge is to preserve its global importance while most of the relevant indicators are dropping and its allies are few and far between (dictators, largely).

    For some, Russia's natural and historical pre-eminence mean it will always be a key player.

    Others fear Russia may compensate for weakness with risky foreign adventurism.

    Indeed, for many, it is already doing just that.

    James Nixey is head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House.
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34857908

    As has also pointed out by Wabbits, Russia's failure to develop a robust, multi-faceted, innovative, corrupt free economy and democracy since the fall of the soviet union is ultimately leading to their continued demise.

  2. #2

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    Without question.

    Will they remain such?

    Over the near team, certainly. Projecting further out is where the culmulative social, cultural, commercial and educational effects noted earlier can rear their ugly heads if not forestalled.

    That'll require a far more brutal self-assessment than the Russian people, on the whole, have seemingly considered. Without such, there'll be no internal demand for change and a significant change is required to reverse their trajectory.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski
    "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." Lester Bangs

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    Senior Contributor Bigfella's Avatar
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    Russia is doing what it has done for much the last 3 centuries - try to be a first rank power off the back of a second or third rank economy/society. It isn't overreaching as far now as it did under the USSR, but it is also a lot less capable of supporting its ambitions. The impact of a relatively tiny commitment to Ukraine is telling. The increasing dependence on oil is dangerous. So is dependence on Beijing as a customer & ally. The Comrades in Beijing have proven to have long memories when it comes to the humiliations of past centuries. I'm sure they have little trouble recalling the nature of their much more recent relationship with Moscow. Bottom rail on top now.

    To a considerable extent Russia is still living off the infrastructure & educational investments of a previous era. Russia has an average life span the same as India and it isn't heading in the right direction. That speaks to something being wrong at a fundamental level. No nation with as many nukes, people and resources as Russia has will ever be able to be ignored, but it could very easily slip back to being not much more than a regional nuisance. In many respects it is barely much more now.


    Win nervously lose tragically - Reds C C

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfella View Post
    Russia is doing what it has done for much the last 3 centuries - try to be a first rank power off the back of a second or third rank economy/society. It isn't overreaching as far now as it did under the USSR, but it is also a lot less capable of supporting its ambitions. The impact of a relatively tiny commitment to Ukraine is telling. The increasing dependence on oil is dangerous. So is dependence on Beijing as a customer & ally. The Comrades in Beijing have proven to have long memories when it comes to the humiliations of past centuries. I'm sure they have little trouble recalling the nature of their much more recent relationship with Moscow. Bottom rail on top now.
    The Soviets had a contagious ideology that could find new recruits to support its expansion, and the modern Russians don't -- so the Russians are more overstretched than the Soviets. It is essentially the demographics problem you mention later.

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    Never has so much been stolen for so long from so many by so few. Deal with that problem and Greater Muscovy may move forward.
    Last edited by snapper; 22 Dec 15, at 17:33.

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    Russia is a major power on par with UK and France and China. Russia has a smaller economy but a much larger nuclear arsenal and energy reserve. Russians have the will power to exert influence in near by regions. By "influence" I mean military power.

    If we think of France and UK as older, upper class gentlemen with some money and some influence, and China as a newly rich worker from the poor part of town, then Russia would be a hard-nosed mobster running downtown with its own rules. The mob may not be the good guys but they keep other bad guys from muscling into downtown.
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    Russia is still a key power in two big respects.

    Foremost is military power, the Russians may be in a club of 9 countries that possess nukes, but they are in a much smaller club of 2 that actually have enough warheads and delivery systems to fight a sustained war with them. Russian military power also extends into their role as the 2nd largest global arms exporter by quite a wide margin, which provides opportunities for significant military to military contact with many nations.

    Russia is also the key supplier of hydrocarbons to Europe. While this may be more of a regional than global impact in terms of area served, it nevertheless influences a disproportionate number of the world's first tier countries.

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    Is Russia still a key world power?
    Just look at this.
    http://mil.today/2016/Exercises1/

    The most useless exercises of the world.

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    Useless. Deliver a combat company a 1000 miles from the nearest support base under hostile enviromental and combat conditions. Yes, the most usless exercise in the world.

    Spare us your comic book analysis.
    Chimo

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    Russia to Cut Defense Budget by $2.1 Bln

    http://mil.today/2016/Economy2/

    "At the same time, development programs of a mobile railway-based missile system or fifth-generation strategic bombers can be suspended".

  11. #11
    Senior Contributor Versus's Avatar
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    I will recognize it as a power once it removes stray dogs from the streets. Anything other than that is just a posturing.

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    What is a Superpower?

    I'm giving a talk on Superpowers to a middle school group next month, so this is a topic of current interest to me. My conclusion is that Russia, like China, is a regional power more than a global one, and most certainly not a Superpower.

    Here's some thoughts (speaking notes, not polished text), and I'm open to suggestions:

    What is a Superpower?
    A Superpower is a nation-state with global interests, global influence, and the ability – and will – act globally. A Superpower may act in concert with other nations but need not do so. A Superpower is a default player in conflicts and catastrophes, but may choose not to participate in some arenas. It has the ability and interest to project its power in more than one region or issue area simultaneously.

    Global influence is not merely military, although having more aircraft carriers than the next 10 nations combined is a decided advantage. Global influence also relates to soft power, such as markets, investments, culture and support for allied or neutral nations. In these areas, a Superpower is a de facto player. Global influence may include the popularity of film or musical productions and widely distributed media outlets.

    A Superpower is a master of geography, economics, arms and diplomacy.


    The United States has the capability, money, experience, leadership, reputation, prestige and will to be a Superpower. It also has the intelligence, for example through satellites, and the soft power necessary to exercise that will.

    The USSR was a Superpower, ca. 1950s-1980s. It participated in both the European and Pacific theaters of WWII, and Cold War conflicts (hot and cold) in Africa, Latin America, Europe and Asia. The Soviet Union struggled to create and project soft power, however. Its economic clout was largely limited to donations and trade within the East European Ruble Zone, or COMECON. Music, arts, film and other cultural influences had only limited success and its news media was never taken seriously by most of the world.

    Britain was the world’s first Superpower, although the term wasn’t popularized until a century later. Through the Royal Navy and commercial enterprises such as The East India Company, British influence spread through Asia, Africa, North America and the Caribbean.

    Regional powers today include China, Germany, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa and Australia. Due to their own strength, and to their neighbor's weaknesses, they are able to project decisive power into local conflicts. They have regional cultural, economic and political influence as well. However, they rarely participate in other regions' activities.

  13. #13
    Senior Contributor Versus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dor View Post
    i'm giving a talk on superpowers to a middle school group next month, so this is a topic of current interest to me. My conclusion is that russia, like china, is a regional power more than a global one, and most certainly not a superpower.

    Here's some thoughts (speaking notes, not polished text), and i'm open to suggestions:

    what is a superpower?
    a superpower is a nation-state with global interests, global influence, and the ability – and will – act globally. A superpower may act in concert with other nations but need not do so. A superpower is a default player in conflicts and catastrophes, but may choose not to participate in some arenas. It has the ability and interest to project its power in more than one region or issue area simultaneously.

    Global influence is not merely military, although having more aircraft carriers than the next 10 nations combined is a decided advantage. Global influence also relates to soft power, such as markets, investments, culture and support for allied or neutral nations. In these areas, a superpower is a de facto player. global influence may include the popularity of film or musical productions and widely distributed media outlets.

    A superpower is a master of geography, economics, arms and diplomacy.


    the united states has the capability, money, experience, leadership, reputation, prestige and will to be a superpower. It also has the intelligence, for example through satellites, and the soft power necessary to exercise that will.

    the ussr was a superpower, ca. 1950s-1980s. It participated in both the european and pacific theaters of wwii, and cold war conflicts (hot and cold) in africa, latin america, europe and asia. The soviet union struggled to create and project soft power, however. Its economic clout was largely limited to donations and trade within the east european ruble zone, or comecon. Music, arts, film and other cultural influences had only limited success and its news media was never taken seriously by most of the world.

    britain was the world’s first superpower, although the term wasn’t popularized until a century later. Through the royal navy and commercial enterprises such as the east india company, british influence spread through asia, africa, north america and the caribbean.

    regional powers today include china, germany, japan, russia, india, brazil, south africa and australia. Due to their own strength, and to their neighbor's weaknesses, they are able to project decisive power into local conflicts. They have regional cultural, economic and political influence as well. However, they rarely participate in other regions' activities.
    omg

  14. #14
    Senior Contributor Versus's Avatar
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    What is super power?

    Super power is a state (not necessarily a nation state), who's most basic and therefore vital interests lie outside of its defined borders. Its entire existence is not self sustained yet it must be constantly maintained with power, projected outwards. Projection of power is not a thing of a "will" and its not a choice, yet it is bare necessity. For super power, expansion and projection of force is the only way of life, simply because as it spreads it becomes more and more detached from its base of self sustainability and builds its entire existence from inputs that are acquired externally.

    Therefore Russia can't be a super power not because it doesn't want to, but simply because its own base of self sustainability is so large that it can never produce incentive for global domination and projection of power. Only thing it could do is to "simulate" it. Russian dream of becoming a super power is a luxury so to speak, while for the Western Empires its necessity. That is why Russian dreams of global domination will always fail, because the key factor is missing and that key factor is lack of need to be a super power.

    It can spread its influence and project power outside its border, but that is not driven with the intention to dominate, conquer or to impose its values, yet it is a strategic move aimed to protect its own sovereignty. That is why Russian policy is always retro active and it doesn't create events, it never has the initiative yet it always passively answers to the events.

    In the mindset of super power, there is no such thing as "neutral states" as the aim of super power is global domination. Actually in the view of a global super power, there are no states at all, as global super power only sees itself only and takes itself as the only measure for all things, which makes its communication with the outside world an one way communication.
    Last edited by Versus; 20 Feb 16, at 12:48.

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    Senior Contributor Versus's Avatar
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    The main driving force for the United States as a super power does not lie in their desire to make money or dominate the world trough its military. Those are the benefits of super power. The main driving force for US domination lies in the sense of exceptionalism, embedded deeply in the mindsets of US elite. Those people have the mission that drives them to act the way they do.

    British empire, on the other hand, doesn't have the sense of mission. Its primary driving force is profit and nothing more.
    Last edited by Versus; 20 Feb 16, at 15:06.

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