Is Stratfor worth paying attention to? I’ve never been clear on this. Some of their articles seem pretty insightful, but on the other hand some of them seem like something a bright sophomore might come up with after half an hour with google.
This recent article about Russia seems closer to the latter category to me, but maybe I’m missing something. The article discusses six “pillars of Russian strength”:
Geography — Russia is adjacent or close to all the areas that are strategically important to Russia.
Politics — Russia has a stable authoritarian system. The government is securely in power and doesn’t have to worry about what anyone else thinks.
Social System — Russia’s population is docile .
Natural Resources — Lots!
Military — Getting better. Also, nukes.
Intelligence — Best in the world, and still has most of the “Near Abroad” wired for sound.
All of those things are true as far as they go. And, to be fair to the article, it’s written as a corrective to the idea that the financial crisis will cripple Russia, or at least make the Kremlin more cautious and/or inclined to play nice. On this very broad point, I’m inclined to agree.
But as for “pillars of Russian strength”… well, we could pick these apart one by one: the Russian military may be getting better, but that’s because it was in really horrible shape until recently; reasonable people can disagree whether a stable, authoritarian government without meaningful opposition is really a strength; there’s a case to be made that Russia’s natural resources are nearly as much a curse as a blessin; yadda, yadda, yadda.
But what comes to mind instead is this: twenty years ago, this exact article could have been written about the USSR. Powerful military, natural resources, the KGB… you wouldn’t have to change a dozen words in the whole thing.
I dunno. What do the rest of you think?