The Definition of the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap

In the Esquire article, “The Pentagon’s New Map,” Thomas Barnett defined the Core and the Gap this way:

So how do we distinguish between who is really making it in globalization’s Core and who remains trapped in the Gap? And how permanent is this dividing line?

Understanding that the line between the Core and Gap is constantly shifting, let me suggest that the direction of change is more critical than the degree. So, yes, Beijing is still ruled by a “Communist party” whose ideological formula is 30 percent Marxist-Leninist and 70 percent Sopranos, but China just signed on to the World Trade Organization, and over the long run, that is far more important in securing the country’s permanent Core status. Why? Because it forces China to harmonize its internal rule set with that of globalization—banking, tariffs, copyright protection, environmental standards. Of course, working to adjust your internal rule sets to globalization’s evolving rule set offers no guarantee of success. As Argentina and Brazil have recently found out, following the rules (in Argentina’s case, sort of following) does not mean you are panicproof, or bubbleproof, or even recessionproof. Trying to adapt to globalization does not mean bad things will never happen to you. Nor does it mean all your poor will immediately morph into stable middle class. It just means your standard of living gets better over time.

In sum, it is always possible to fall off this bandwagon called globalization. And when you do, bloodshed will follow. If you are lucky, so will American troops.

In the glossary to Blueprint for Action: A Future Worth Creating, Thomas Barnett defined “Functioning Core” as:

Functioning Core Those parts of the world that are actively integrating their national economies into a global economy and that adhere to globalization’s emerging security rule set. The Functioning Core at present consists of North America, Europe both “old” and “new,” Russia, Japan and South Korea, China (although the interior far less so), India (in a pockmarked sense), Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and the ABCs of South America (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile). That is roughly four billion out of a global population of more than six billion. The Functioning Core can be subdivided into the Old Core, anchored by America, Europe, and Japan; and the New Core, whose leading pillars are China, India, Brazil, and Russia.

and “Non-Integrating Gap” as:

Non-Integrating Gap Regions of the world that are largely disconnected from the global economy and the rule sets that define its stability. Today, the Non-Integrating Gap is made up of the Caribbean Rim, Andean South America, virtually all of Africa, portions of the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East, and most of Southeast Asia. These regions constitute globalization’s “ozone hole,” where connectivity remains thin or absent in far too many cases. Of course, each region contains some countries that are very Core-like in their attributes (just as there are Gap-like pockets throughout the Core defined primarily by poverty), but these are like mansions in an otherwise seedy neighborhood, and as such are trapped by these larger Gap-defining circumstances.

Contrast against:

My initial definition of the Core has been and always will be: these are not places where America should expect to war. You can counter, “But we should expect to go to war with everybody all the time! That’s the only prudent thing to do.” But I disagree. A strategy of defending against all possibilities is not a strategy, but a ceding of all initiatives to your enemies. Plus, successful grand strategy is about maximizing your friends and minimizing your enemies. It’s not about a fair fight, but a completely unfair routing of your opponents. You just need to be clear about who those are and who your friends are and who you can live with and work with from among the undecideds.

If “Core” / “Gap” is merely some self-selected conflict space, where we refuse to be maneuvered into conflict, then we can shrink it by merely avoiding conflict when it presents itself. By this definition India has no Gap except Kashmir, because the Indian government just ignores insurgencies elsewhere.

If the likelihood of military conflict is a function of economic connectedness, global rulesets, etc, then likelihood of being a theater of armed conflict is a good description of the Core/Gap divide.

Georgia and Ukraine are connecting. They are new democracies. They are both in the WTO. They have been talks with the European Union and NATO, and hopefully more will come of this in the future. Paying attention to the direction of connectivity, Georgia and Ukraine are on their way “up” to the core.

Russia is disconnecting. It is a new dictatorship. Russia is not even close to being in the WTO. It has suspended its cooperation with NATO. Paying attention to the degree on connectivity, Russia is on its way “down” to the gap.

17 thoughts on “The Definition of the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap”

  1. The problem with all your theories is you don’t have any facts.

    India has/had numerous insurgencies besides Kashmir. Punjab is the best known, although it was in the 1980s. You have the ongoing fights in the Northeast (4 major ones), maoist uprisings, naxalites, and the various islamic/criminal bombings elsewhere. The indian government isn’t “ignoring” any of these — except maybe the maoists where the Communist Party of India is sometimes in coaltion with the terrorists.

  2. Good post. I generally agree, although I wouldn’t say that Russia is disconnecting to the global economy. Rather, they seem to be trying to export their own rule sets with regards to their mafia-business of energy export (The rule set being that Russia will provide energy to Europe, or else…).

    Granted, Tom has stated that the New Core states (Russia, Brazil, India, China) are the creators of new rule sets. But if these new rule sets are too radical or too much out of the interests of other Core States, then I think the Core will split into separate cores, each exporting their own brands of globalization and connectedness. In this light, the fomenting of unrest in Russia’s near abroad (Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, and even into Central Europe) can be seen as a creation of a separate, competing core, with it’s own globalization rule sets.

    So, Tom is correct–Russia today is vastly more connected to the global economy than the autarkic USSR ever was. But that doesn’t mean Russia is integrating their new Rule Sets into the rest of the Core.

    This greatly complicates Tom’s grand strategy of shrinking the Gap, as Gap countries attempt to retain their disconnectedness, while competing Cores attempt to gain access to these Gap areas, to secure access to raw materials, people, and energy, while exporting cash, security, and Rule Sets. Gap countries will have the ability to possibly play the Cores against each other, much as Georgia is doing with Russia and West today.

    My thoughts are not firm on this; this comment is mere conjecture. Your thoughts, Dan?

    Semper Fidelis,
    SE

  3. I would add that China, Brazil, and India each bring their own rulesets to the core party as well. From the Europe POV, Russia is absolutely core, Russia is the fastest growing comsumer market for European goods in the world.

    I also fail to see how the symbolic status of WTO membership makes Georgia new core. I can’t recall any other time you’ve made the argument that symbolism (WTO status) trumphs substance (economic integration), but that is what you are saying with Georgia. The facts on the ground suggest the only place Georgia has integration is in one sector, energy, that’s it!

    Instead of integrating other aspects of their economy Georgia picked the road of military connectivity with the US. That is not any definition of core.

    My definition of core and gap is the same as yours, I think our disagreement is based on POV of why a country is connecting or disconnecting from the global economy. There is no evidence that Europe is disconnecting in a major way from the Russian market, even after Georgia (althought Russia has taken a hit), nor that Russia wants to disconnect from Europe.

  4. Galrahn,

    Thank you for your comment.

    I would add that China, Brazil, and India each bring their own rulesets to the core party as well.

    True, but not relevant.

    From the Europe POV, Russia is absolutely core, Russia is the fastest growing comsumer market for European goods in the world.

    You are arguing that if a petro-state recycles its earnings into non-productive goods, it counts as core?

    If so, Russia (and the USSR before that) has been core for a looooong time.

    Are you are arguing that a high rate of consumption makes a country Core?

    Something else?

    I also fail to see how the symbolic status of WTO membership makes Georgia new core. I can’t recall any other time you’ve made the argument that symbolism (WTO status) trumphs substance (economic integration), but that is what you are saying with Georgia.

    You can claim I’m saying things I not all you want, but it will make it hard to have an honest conversation.

    As far as I can tell, you are asserting that absolute size of content-flow, but not import of rulesets, determine Core membership. Is this correct?

    The facts on the ground suggest the only place Georgia has integration is in one sector, energy, that’s it!

    Russia, but not Georgia, is a petrostate.

    Did you mean something else by this, or were you mistaken?

    Instead of integrating other aspects of their economy Georgia picked the road of military connectivity with the US. That is not any definition of core.

    From this, can I assume you are arguing that Russia is losing her Core status, as she scares away foreign investors?

    My definition of core and gap is the same as yours, I think our disagreement is based on POV of why a country is connecting or disconnecting from the global economy.

    I doubt this. You seem to define connecting as “consumption.” From this definition, you naturally lump a central asian petro-state (Russia) in the core. To be consistent, you also need to include Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, while excluding investment-heavy new Core states in East Asia.

    Smitten Eagle,

    Good post. I generally agree, although I wouldn’t say that Russia is disconnecting to the global economy.

    Obviously Russia has every interest in recycling capital is receives, instead of locking it in a vault somewhere. The Soviet Union did the same thing. Still, they were “disconnected” in the sense that this recycling was focused on non-productive but politically expedient consumption, as opposed to flowing in accordance to Core rulesets or leading to economically productive investment.

    Granted, Tom has stated that the New Core states (Russia, Brazil, India, China) are the creators of new rule sets. But if these new rule sets are too radical or too much out of the interests of other Core States, then I think the Core will split into separate cores, each exporting their own brands of globalization and connectedness. In this light, the fomenting of unrest in Russia’s near abroad (Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, and even into Central Europe) can be seen as a creation of a separate, competing core, with it’s own globalization rule sets.

    I agree that the new core generates the new rules, but Russia is a gap state [1], and so should naturally fall outside this. (Their “new rules,” like those of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, and so on, is a satire of the past.)

    So, Tom is correct–Russia today is vastly more connected to the global economy than the autarkic USSR ever was.

    Remember the USSR’s fall was in part a reaction to a credit crunch, and its inability to pay back western creditors or balance its own books. [2]

    The difference is that in a pseudo-tyranny, one wastes money and nonproductive factories while in a pseudo-democracy, one wastes money on consumer goods.

    Still, it’s a capital cycle that’s been familiar since at least the 1980s, if not before that.

    My thoughts are not firm on this; this comment is mere conjecture. Your thoughts, Dan?

    I love sharing them, as you no doubt have guessed. 😉

    Charlie,

    My comment re: India was in context to their ‘get rich first’ policy, which is generally sensible. More discussion of the subject appears elsewhere [3] on this blog.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/22/the-price-of-the-portuguese-this-salazar-with-a-slavic-name.html
    [2] http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n5_v41/ai_7441353
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/20/india-unrelated-to-pakistan.html

  5. Dan,

    Russian economic growth is not limited to petro, although it is fair to say it is dwarfed by petro. Many sectors of the Russian economy are growing at a higher percentage than petro, but fewer total dollars. Those other sectors are integrated into the global economy.

    When I’m talking about energy in Georgia, I’m talking about BTC. Despite all the talk of the great place Georgia is to do buisness in the newspapers, the only FDI in Georgia is BTC. I do not believe that is a trivial fact. BTC represents the only acceptable risk for foreign investment in Georgia. How is a state that has political policies that curb foreign investment in the core? This is the same argument I would make why Russia is losing its core status.

    The market stayed away from Georgia because of Georgia’s political instability, not because of their security issues. The market was proven correct, the military focus of Georgia was ultimately used for offensive purposes, not security as it was sold. If the market was correct to stay away, doesn’t that argue the rule set has been arguing against Georgia the whole time?

    All I am saying re:WTO is that membership means nothing in a vacuum. In the case of Georgia, WTO membership still means nothing due to the political factors that discourage economic connectivity.

  6. Galrahn,

    I agree that non-energy segments of Russia’s economy are trivial in relation to the whole. This undercuts your argument, not minde.

    How is a state that has political policies that curb foreign investment in the core? This is the same argument I would make why Russia is losing its core status.

    Could you clarify this? I do not see how you can use this argument against Georgia, without it applying equally wel to Russia.

    All I am saying re:WTO is that membership means nothing in a vacuum. In the case of Georgia, WTO membership still means nothing due to the political factors that discourage economic connectivity.

    Such as occupation by Russia?

  7. Yes, I will grant the point that much of the economic activity in Russia is related to the current oil boom and can be compared to Houston in the late 1970s – early 1980s but the fact is that many of the Russian people are experiencing that boom in the form of more purchasing power and a widespread feeling of prosperity.

    That boom is not being experienced in Ukraine or Georgia. That means that Ukraine has a significant fraction of its population that finds Russia pretty attractive right now and that is not even considering the ethnic Russians who are living in Ukraine, primarily in the eastern part of the country.

    It would be a real trick to provide economic or military support to Georgia without a dependable Ukraine to rely on. Right now, such a thing does not exist. We can bring a reliable Ukraine into existence over the next few years, but it will not just happen without deliberate actions.

    First, Ukraine must act to reduce the amount of cronyism and corruption required to get anything done. Even if they can get it down to political boss Frank Hague’s predictable formula of “three percent off the top for an efficient and well run government” that will be an enormous improvement.

    Second, we must do everything that we can to reduce the value of oil, making Russia less attractive. I recommend Robert Zubrin’s plan but I am open to other suggestions. France could make a significant contribution by building new nuclear electric plants in those countries where they are politically feasible. That will reduce the demand for Russian natural gas.

    Third, we need to do what we can to encourage FDI in Ukraine. the Ukrainians will have to do their part, mentioned if the “first” section to make this possible.

    The thing is that even under the best of circumstances, it will take several years for any of these things to start having an effect. If Ukraine becomes a prosperous and politically united ally of the United States, supporting Georgia becomes pretty easy and straightforward. Until that happens in Ukraine, it will be as difficult for the US to support Georgia as it is for Russia to support Serbia in trying to prevent Kosovo independence.

  8. Mark in Texas,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Putin’s monocrop welfare state [1] does not classify him as Core, or elevate him out of the gap.

    If the US is serious about lifting the prohibition on interstate war in important areas of the world, there’s little reason for Ukraine to expect us to be there. [2]

    Meanwhile, there are many countermeasures we can use to roll back Russia’s invasion that do not depend on Ukraine [3].

    Agreed on nuclear power and increased FDI in Ukraine.

    Joshua,

    Brilliant! I hadn’t realized the Kazakhstan link, but it makes sense. Thanks for the link!

    [1] http://response39.blogspot.com/2008/08/russia-typical-monocrop-economy.html
    [2] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/22/us-interstate-war-is-an-acceptable-form-of-diplomacy.html
    [3] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2008/08/16/countermeasures.html

  9. For quite some time, I asked Dr Barnett in every way I could to define some sort of outline for dealing with backsliding states, states that drop from core to seam to gap. So far as I can tell, he has never done so. Until he (or someone else influential enough to matter) does so, Core/Gap will not be a serious grand strategy. Without that piece it is, and will remain, a fairy tale where everything always gets better once you reach the mythical threshold of Core membership.

    Progress is not irreversible. Backsliding is possible. So long as we do not plan for it, we will be poorly prepared for unpleasant reality.

  10. TM,

    For quite some time, I asked Dr Barnett in every way I could to define some sort of outline for dealing with backsliding states, states that drop from core to seam to gap. So far as I can tell, he has never done so

    This is an important point. Tom’s previously said that he’s much more willing to add countries into the Core designation than take them out. To me, this sounds like he’s expecting his model to become increasingly biased and error-prone.

    Now, Steve has a very fine blog [1] that serves to promote his corporation very well. It’s quite possibly Tom is transitioning his blog into that mode, with less objective analysis and more pr-in-context. If so, there’s no purpose on being mad as we see more of these contradictions, but we should begin taking statements with a grain of salt, as well.

    [1] http://www.enterpriseresilienceblog.typepad.com/

  11. Dan

    The point is not whether or not Russia is a Core state. The point is that Putin has seen to it that enough of the oil boom wealth has trickled down to enough people in Russia that the place looks more attractive to people who’s economies are not doing as well. Yes, it is not solid, diversified Core state wealth. Yes, there will probably be an oil bust just like there was in Houston in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The thing is that right now things look good in Russia to a lot of people in Ukraine and that, combined with the Orange Revolution not delivering economic prosperity or even clean and competent makes Ukraine vulnerable to appeals to return to the Russian fold or to a civil war between western and Russian advocates.

  12. Mark in Texas,

    These months later, your comment seems especially prescient.

    In this time of global financial crisis — and oil slump — the world’s reaction to Ukraine’s [1] problem is nearly as important as Russia’s own [2,3].

    Russia should be an example of where one does not want to live and what one does not want to be like.

    [1] http://www.kyivpost.com/business/31444
    [2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/feedarticle/8102742
    [3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/01/AR2008120101876.html

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