Yglessias’ hit piece on Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili is the same faddish blame-America’s-friend-first gargabe manages to be less balanced than Kos, but his post on Russia’s capacity is top-notch:
Via Robert Farley, Charlie Whitaker makes the important and too-often-neglected point that notwithstanding Russiaâ€™s evident ability to kick around a tiny country that borders it, present-day Russia is really a poor manâ€™s peer-competitor:
Now that we can measure it,* we find that Russiaâ€™s GDP is approximately equal to that of Portugal (which is not to knock Portugal). Much of Russiaâ€™s wealth comes from resource extraction: in other words, Russia is not making stuff. Is it thinking stuff instead? Well, is there a nascent biotech or semiconductor industry in Russia today? (Or is there maybe some other, more esoteric kind of activity that hasnâ€™t yet permeated popular consciousness?) How are Russian universities doing?
Russia is fairly populous, although no one would call it densely populated. However, its population is shrinking; in part, because it is not a healthy country.
Long story short, the whole â€œRussiaâ€™s Back!â€ narrative needs to be kept in perspective. Thereâ€™s a lot of demand out there for â€œnew cold warâ€ scenarios featuring Russia or China or maybe both, but fundamentally that kind of talk is out of step with reality.
Matthew Yglesias Â» Russiaâ€™s Weak Fundamentals.
Indeed. Putin isn’t a new Stalin, or even a new Brezhnev. His country is much to weak for that analogy to hold. Putin’s a Saddam with nuclear weapons, a dangerous criminal whose power must be taken from him.