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.

Putin’s Cult of Personality, Russia’s Gap Status

Did you know that you can buy a photobook of Putins’ best photos? It’s true! Like Chavez, Castro, Turkmenbashi, and the other Gap leaders, Putin is building a cult of personality?

Putin's Cult of Personality
Putin's Cult of Personality

This is now an old trend, consistent with Putin’s systematic destruction of ties with the outside world.

It also fits Russia’s status as a state in the Gap. While Georgia joined the WTO back in 2000, and Ukraine joined this summer, no formal meeting on Russia’s status has happened in years.

Not that Russia was close, anyway.

The Direction, but which one?

Tom left a comment on his own blog which is thought-out, well-written, and important he should upgrade it to being a post.

Fantastic piece by Spengler (Thomas P.M. Barnett :: Weblog)
The level of economic connectedness Russia has with the outside world, plus the network connectedness, is VAST compared to the Cold War. People unaware of that change are simply unaware of history.

People seem to ignore that delta, plus the huge cost involved in containing the Soviet Union for so long.

I grew up in that world for 27 years before the Wall came down, so yes, I will most definitely be among the slowest when it comes to blithely restarting the Cold War. I am well aware of the costs involved in getting Russia to this point in history, and I don’t advocate pissing that all away over Georgia.

People simply aren’t thinking this thing through and being realistic about the costs. They want their macho responses and are ready to commit on Saakashvili’s decision.

I find that response too short-sighted, too emotional, too unstrategic and just plain too fast.

The real problem here, decision-making-wise, is that we’re more scared about the world right now than Russia is. And I find that sort of wobbliness rather disturbing in its hyperbolic tendencies.

The most important sentence is the first. It ties to Tom’s thinking that we should focus on direction, not degree. Tom argues that because Putin’s Russia is so much more open and outward-looking that Brezhnev’s Russia, Putin should be seen as a reformer in the same way that Deng Xiaoping was.

The difference is that Deng was not only a reformer compared to the previous epic-making leader (Mao Zedong), he also was a reformer compared to the interim leader Hua Guofeng (who died yesterday). Deng was bringing China in the right direction, compared to the short-term (Hua Guofeng’s Two Whatevers policy), the medium term (compared to Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution), and the long term (compared to China since the socialist revolution).

Deng Xiaoping was a reformer.

But what is the direction of Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Compared to Brezhnev’s, Putin’s direction is arguably more positive — no better with regards to interstate war, democracy, open governance, life expectancy, and so on. However, Putin’s Russia is an oil company pretending to be a government, as opposed to a quasi-revolutionary state that people believed in. Along with this, Russia imports consumer goods with the capital its energy export provides (that is, Russia spends its income on economically nonproductive consumer goods), as opposed to misappropriating them into factories that make worthless tractors (that is, Russia spends its income on economically nonproductive industrial goods).

Unlike Brezhnev, with whom a comparison is hard, Putin is easily seen as regressive compared to Moscow’s other great leaders. Mikhail Gorbachev direction was strongly positive, bringing in economic reforms and political reforms, combined with the first attempts to attract investment capital (v. the flight of wealth under Putin). Likewise, Yeltsin was easily a more open and “soft-powerful” leader.

When it comes to Russia, focus on direction, not degree:

The degree of Russian openness may be historically high now, but that is because of other reformers, such as Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

The direction of Russia is in the direction of closure, pulling a dying state offline, and attempting to safe-guard a national oil company at the expense of the Russian people.

Focus on direction, not degree: Recognize Russia as the enemy of globalization that it is.

In Putin, we have Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons. In Russia, we have a belligerent Portugal.