Why Russia. a country with less money than Canada and fewer people than Nigeria. runs the world
Why Russia a country with less money than Canada and fewer people than Nigeria runs the world now
Russia makes less money per year than Canada. For 2016, its $1.3 trillion GDP was roughly on par with Australia, a country with one-sixth the population and less than half the square footage.Why Russia runs the world now
The countrys 147 million population isnt all that impressive either; Nigeria, Bangladesh and Brazil all have more citizens.
And yet, between hacking the U.S. election and intervening in Syria, Russia is utterly dominating foreign affairs.
With this in mind, the National Post contacted historians, political scientists and diplomats with a single question: Why a Eurasian economic basketcase is running the world now.
Being large enough
Sometimes a derringer is just as effective as a smart bomb. Russias military spending is only one tenth that of the United States, it has fewer military personnel than India, and thesmoke-billowing flagship of the Russian navy has to be followed everywhere by a tug in case it breaks down. And yet, this all seems to be plenty for a country that is very good at commanding global influence on the cheap. Crimea was seized without firing a shot. The Syria intervention required only about 50 aircraft and cost only $500 million exactly the same amount the U.S. spent on training Syrian rebels. With Russia, it may not be so much the size of the army, but the fact that theyre demonstrably willing to use it. The country has sent its armed forces into battle no less than five times since the year 2000: In Chechnya, in the Caucasus border areas, Georgia, Ukraines Donbass region and, of course, in Syria.Why Russia runs the world now
Trust no one
Russia, much like Israel, is never entirely sure who it can trust as an ally. The old members of the Warsaw Pact took off almost as soon as the Berlin Wall was down. Ditto with many of the former Soviet republics, three of whom are now NATO countries directly abutting Russias border. Russia also has a jihadist problem in the Caucasus and a vast, empty resource-rich region sharing a largely undefended border with an expansionist China. The implication is that Russias aggressive approach to foreign affairs is partly a product of its neighbourhood. If Canada had to share the 49th parallel with North Korea, Azerbaijan and half a dozen other countries of dubious intentions and stability, it might also be a bit less polite.
Security council veto
Russia inherited the Soviet Unions UN Security Council veto, which it earned through victory in the Second World War. Whats more, Russia uses it. Since 2000, Russia has used its veto power on 13 Security Council resolutions mostly in regards to the Middle East. France and the U.K., by contrast, havent touched their vetoes since 1989. A veto-happy Russia naturally makes it hard to discuss global crises without inviting them to the table.
Theyre an easy villain
Heres a headline from the U.K. tabloids, Russia may organize migrant sex attacks in Europe to make Angela Merkel lose German elections. Its a ridiculous story, but the point is that British readers can apparently imagine that the Kremlin is capable of parachuting armies of sex offenders into Western Europe. Critics say that while Russia is no saint, the country gets a disproportionate share of Western condemnation simply because its so easy to score political points by taking shots at a former Cold War enemy. Yes (Vladimir Putin) is authoritiarian, yes he uses extralegal methods to put down opposition and dissent, but its small potatoes to what our allies do on a daily basis, said Norman Pereira, a Russian historian at Dalhousie University. Pereira pointed in particular to Turkey, a NATO member and longtime Western ally, which is still conducting a massive purge of perceived political opponents following a failed 2016 coup attempt.
Very good at diplomacy
The United States expelled 35 Russian diplomats in retaliation for Russian interference in the U.S. election. The next day, Putin magnanimously invited the children of U.S. diplomats to the Kremlin in order to see his Christmas tree. It was a shrewd move, and the product of a country that puts a lot of stock in diplomatic positioning. Since the Soviet era, diplomats around the world have acclaimed their Russian counterparts as well-trained, relentless and extremely professional. The truth is, actually, Putin, in all of our meetings, is scrupulously polite, very frank, U.S. President Barack Obama told the Atlantic in 2013. Although the crme de la crmenature of the diplomatic corps may have diminished under Putins tighter control, theyre still scoring some major Russian foreign policy wins: Brokering the Syrian chemical weapons disarmament deal, rapprochement with China and creating the E.U.-style Eurasian Economic Union with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Between 2014 and early 2016, the Russian ruble lost nearly half its value against the U.S. dollar. The Russian economy is contracting and real incomes dropped as much as nine per cent in 2016. This is the point where many countries in a similar position would dial back their foreign dealings and work on domestic programs. But in Russia, the strategy has been the opposite: Abandon economic worries to double down on efforts to grab geopolitical status. The Russian mantra is that Russia is a great power (which is actually somewhat dubious land mass and nuclear weapons aside) and the Kremlin has been able to project that image on the international arena, Jeanne Wilson, a Russian foreign policy expert at Wheaton College, wrote in an email to the National Post. Theres two ways to see this: Either Russia is soberly deciding to trade wealth for prestige, or Putin is distracting from their poor economy with wins abroad. German chancellor Angela Merkel takes the latter view. Hes afraid of his own weakness, she said after a famous 2007 meeting in which Putin brought along a large black dog allegedly in order to destabilize the dog-skittish German leader. Russia has nothing, no successful politics or economy. All they have is this.
In 1985, Hezbollah kidnapped four Russian diplomats in Beirut. In response, according to the Jerusalem Post, the KGB immediately killed a family member of a Hezbollah leader and mailed a piece of the corpse to the kidnappers. The Russian hostages were freed soon after. Its hard to quantify ruthlessness, but every source contacted by the National Post spoke to a Russian culture of brute endurance; of being hard. This makes Russia willing to cross boundaries that other countries wouldnt touch so openly. If we find them in the toilet, excuse me, well rub them out in the outhouse, Putin said of hunting terrorists in 1999. Not even George W. Bush standing on the ruins of the World Trade Center used this kind of language.
And, of course, Russia is one of only two countries that can still annihilate all life on planet earth. Russia has the worlds largest nuclear stockpile with 7,300 weapons, according to Ploughshares Fund. Compare that to North Korea, who makes near-weekly nuclear threats despite a stockpile of only a dozen or so low-powered atomic weapons. India and Pakistan could destroy each other with nuclear weapons. The U.K. and France could lay waste to most of Western Europe. But only Russia and the United States retain the Cold War-era capability to turn the globe radioactive.