Russia is bad

Russia is bad

Or to put the sentence more meaningfully

Russia’s actions are largely determined by variables which makes it paraistical to global wealth and international peace.

States act in predictable ways. Their behavior is affected by important concepts such as their history, their geography, and their economy. International relations is not a true social science like voting behavior or organizational psychology, but nonetheless there is plenty of evidence that these three factors can be expected to explain variance once reliable paradigms are established in that field.

Russia’s history is one of authoritarianism. Russia’s action patterns are of a strong government, a standing band of thieves who provide minimal security services in exchange for expropriating the wealth of the countryside. First the Russian government organized the nobles to exploit the peasants, and once its capacities expanded it reduced the nobles as well. Unlike countries which were able to generate the income disparity necessesary to limit the central government’s influence (Iceland, England, etc), Russia stayed mried in tyranny with tyrannous traditions. The government’s patterns of actions are to expropriate wealth and to crush civil society. This is not necessarily because of any bad characteristic of individual leaders, but rather a function of the Russian government drawing on what has worked for a very long time.

Russia’s geography is one of authoritarianism. Free countries are those with easy transportation and ready access to the sea. Unfree countries are those with difficult transportation and difficult access to the sea. Thus pennsular countries are naturally predisposed to be free, while continental countries with long coast-lines will naturally face a “red-blue” divide of exophilia and exophobia. Landlocked countries, or those with very limited access to the sea, have little chance to develop external links and will naturally fall back to dependence on the government. Russia is such a country, with little access to the sea from population or industrial areas.

Russia’s economy is one of authoritarianism. To an extent, this is also a product of the first two risk-factors. Russia’s history has led to reegular confiscation of private property, and thus encourages a relatively short time-horizon (except for government service, which is a reliable method of earning the prviilege of looting the wealth of others). Likewise, Russia’s seperation from the sea means that wealth-generating international trade is difficult in the first place. Further, the one industry that Russia does have (oil and natural gas exploitation) gives it only a highly variable source of wealth to raise it up only to the level of Portugal. Oil is the opium of the masses, as it allows an awful government to dysfunctional indefinitely.

Russian influence must be limited to the extent possible. Russia, regardless of the particular leadership at any specific time, is overdetermined by factors outside its control to tend to be a bad actor.

Russia’s invasion of Georgia threatens to expand Russia’s power, and Russia’s ability to act on its bad instincts.

Invest in a better Eurasia. Expel Russia from Georgai.

7 thoughts on “Russia is bad”

  1. Please avoid geographic arguments in the future.

    Switzerland has long been “free,” it is land-locked and mountainous.

    The Russian (ex-Soviet) transportation system probably makes most of Canada look entirely inaccessible.

    There simply is no comparison, at all, between modern Russian transportation and 1783 American.

    Russia has sea routes out through the Baltic and Black Seas and that tiny Pacific Ocean.

    The Russians tried to set up a system where everyone owned everything, and only workers got a say.

    Stalin, and his top lieutenant Beria, were both Georgians.

    I’d argue that Bush is more authoritarian than Clinton, but only as a side note. Bush certainly doesn’t want the South Ossetians or Abkhazians to decide their own future.

    Putin, I will not deny it, is more authoritarian than Bush, or even Saakashvili, but that doesn’t mean he’s always in the wrong.

  2. Josh,

    Thank you for the comment.

    Your point is well made, though I don’t think it is successful either against the Heartland/Rimland [1] model in general, or against the case of Switzerland in particular.

    Russia has sea access, but still does not have an world-facing industrial base of China, Europe, America, etc.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_J._Spykman

  3. Russia has much, much, much, much better transportation networks now than America did in 1783, but that doesn’t matter.

    Poland was the most democratic nation between the fall of the Roman Republic and the end of the property restriction on suffrage in America, a period of almost 2000 years.

    Isn’t Poland heartland? It looks like it only had a few dozen miles of coastline at the time.

  4. Mark in Texas,

    What quality the Russian ‘tip of the spear’ has!

    Is this the best they could send to Georgia? If yes, the Russian army is a very sorry state. If no, Putin obviously thinks reaction to his invasion of Georgia is not that important.

    Josh SN,

    Poland is well inside Rimland or the inner Crescent [1].

    Comparing 2008 Russia to 1783 if besides the point, unless you are arguing that Russia is at a similar cultural and economic level to a slaveholding decentralized confederation (which strikes me as absurd).

    [1] http://www.oldenburger.us/gary/docs/TheColdWar.htm

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