We have developed a methodology for calculating "national power".
What is the state of Russia today, when Vladimir Putin begins his new six-year term as president? Analysts are trying to understand whether Russia is growing stronger, is going to decline or is in a state of stagnation since Putin came to power in 1999.
Some experts say that Putin's Russia is in a state of free fall, and some say that it is second only to the United States.
Representatives of the "decadent" camp are Stephen Kotkin of Princeton University, Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute and Harvard professors Joseph Nye and Stephen Walt. Participants of a special project from the Washington Jamestown Foundation last year wrote a book on 200 pages called "Russia in Decay" (Russia in Decline). Other analysts say that Russia in the 21st century is close to collapse or is in death agony.
Chin-Lung Chang (Chin-Lung Chang) from the Taiwanese University of Faw-Guan argues that after the Cold War Russia remains the country number two. The US, in its National Security Strategy published last fall, said that Russia "defies American power" and returned to "the rivalry of the great powers."
Andrew Kuchins (Andrew Kuchins) of Georgetown University writes that Russia is simultaneously increasing and weakening.
We decided to measure the national strength of this country.
In our new study, we use four models to measure national power. Three of them show that the power of Russia increased after 1999, and the power of the West weakened.
Of course, the important question is how to measure this very "national power". In our analysis, we followed the changes in Russian national power in the period after 1999, analyzing a large amount of different data, including production volume, energy consumption, population size, life expectancy, military spending, power efficiency and even patents.
In the interests of comparative analysis, we compared Russia and the world as a whole, as well as Russia and certain groups of its key rivals and peers. These are the five leading Western powers (the United States, Germany, Britain, France and Italy), the four BRICS countries (Brazil, India, China and South Africa), all the former Soviet republics, with the exception of the Baltic states, and some oil and gas producing countries.
To present the results in quantitative form, we adapted three existing models to measure national power and invented a fourth, experimental model. Here is their simplified description.
1. In the first model, we measure one variable: the ratio of Russia's GDP to the world GDP and from the GDP of countries comparable to it in terms of purchasing power parity. As a matter of fact, this is the purchase of a standard set of goods.
On these indicators, Russia developed faster than the world as a whole, and than the five of its Western competitors, but lagged behind China and India. China in 2016 also outstripped the US in absolute terms of national power.
2. Further, we estimated the population of these countries, their territory, GDP and military power. The results for Russia were similar to those of the first model, and China in 2016 again proved to be a stronger state than the United States.
3. In the third model, we included the total population by country, urban population, energy consumption, military spending and value-added production. This time Russia's performance was better than that of the five leading Western economies, but slightly worse than in the world as a whole. According to this model, all elements of Russian national power, with the exception of military expenditures, grew more slowly than in the world as a whole. And China in 2016 again proved to be a stronger state than the United States.
4. In the fourth model, we tackled the calculation of national resources, such as territory, population, economic power, military power and technological progress, and also took into account the country's ability to "tap resources". Here, Russia outperformed the five western countries, China and India, in terms of growth, although in absolute terms it was weaker than the United States, China and India.
In this model, the United States bypassed China. We believe that the reason for Russia's unrivaled growth in this model is to improve the efficiency of state administration in Putin's first two presidential terms, as well as the rapid growth of military spending.
In general, we have drawn the following conclusions.
The statements about the imminent demise of Russia seem unfounded. Three of the four models indicate that the power of Russia against the background of the world as a whole in the 21st century has increased. All the models, with the exception of one, showed that the power of Russia increased with respect to Western countries.
In absolute terms, all four models showed that Russia lags behind the United States in its power, and one has demonstrated that it lags behind Germany as well. According to all four models, Russia in absolute terms lagged behind national power from China and India.
But it seems that Russia's achievements in national power are gradually disappearing, as its economy shows weak results, and the improvement of demographic indicators, such as the cessation of population decline that began with the collapse of the USSR, and even its modest growth in 2011-2015, ends .
We think that Russia's weakening of China and its strengthening relative to its Western competitors helps explain the reasons why Moscow is looking for Beijing's location and is increasingly aggressively challenging the West.
Here is just one example. Russia found enough strength and courage to launch military interventions in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine, when they tried to join Western alliances. If we are right about the relationship between national power and military interventions, then tracking changes in national power will help to predict the actions of countries against their competitors, equal in their forces.
What is the conclusion? The world today is no longer a unipolar one.
Our study indicates that the period of American world domination, which began after the Cold War, is coming to an end. It seems to us that these results indicate that the world is returning to the era of rivalry between the great powers.
Three of the four models show that China has outstripped the United States in terms of national power. But China will not soon become the world's only dominant power, as the US was at the beginning of the 21st century, and Britain at the end of the XIX century.
Of course, Moscow faces the most serious challenges in its attempts to maintain or increase national power in the 21st century, although all four models indicate that the forecasts of the collapse of Russia are groundless. Whatever the methods of calculation, Russia will remain among the world's players. And the way it builds its relations with the world will have a long and very thorough influence on the world order.
In whatever direction the trend lines have gone, the rest of the world needs to closely monitor the indicators of national power. Both rivals and partners of Russia should formulate their own policy with regard to this country, taking into account realistic assessments of its national strength.