Rusija

Notes

  • 1997-ais išleista geopolitinė knyga, kurią galima laikyti šiandieninės Rusijos geopolitinėmis instrukcijomis. Pradedant nuo to, kaip mažinti JAV įtaką Eurazijoje ir aneksijų, bei aliansų pagalba atstatyti Rusijos įtaką. Keli knygoje pateikiami pavyzdžiai: -Russia should use its special services within the borders of the United States to fuel instability and separatism, for instance, provoke "Afro-American racists". Russia should "introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics". -The United Kingdom should be cut off from Europe -Ukraine should be annexed by Russia because "Ukraine as a state has no geopolitical meaning, no particular cultural import or universal significance, no geographic uniqueness, no ethnic exclusiveness - Russia should manipulate Japanese politics by offering the Kuril Islands to Japan and provoking anti-Americanism

Why Russia is politically and militarily strong while being an economic dwarf

1. The territorial heartland of Russian is militarily indefensible. Russia (particularly the most farm-able region within a couple hundred miles of Moscow) has faced, throughout the centuries, near-constant invasion on 3 fronts: the Mongols and Tartars from central Asia, the Europeans from the south-west, and the Scandinavians from the north-west. It faces these because there is effectively no geographic features – mountain ranges, oceans, etc – that prevent invasion. Just a long, long steppe of relatively-flat land, until you get to China, Iraq or Romania. If the Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Baltic peoples, hell even the Swedish invaded a few times – if all those guys can just march into your lands, burn your villages, and try to claim your territory, how do you, as a people, respond? A) Centralize power with the best military minds and forces you can muster, and B) Expand until you hit the mountains or the sea.

2. Because it’s us-or-them, Russia has had to expand to survive. The people that became the Russians were not the first group to occupy the area near Moscow; their predecessor peoples were driven out and/or killed. History, particularly Asian history, is not a heart-warming tale full of invention, discovery, and jovial rulers. It’s competition for scarce resources, and lots of people dying. The people in Kievan Rus’ could farm for wheat in the region north of the Caucasus mountains, but if they couldn’t fend off the Vikings, Mongols, and other nomadic invaders, they’d end up like the Huns and Scythians and every other group before them. So once Moscow started ruling the region, they expanded east to the Ural mountains, south to the Caucasus (no more Cossack invasions!), and slowly absorbed other tribes in the area:.

Moscow was a good strategic base: it was on a navigable river, but sufficiently far inland to avoid raids from the Vikings and Baltic tribes. And it was at least several hundred miles away from other population centers, so there was enough of a buffer that it wasn’t easy for a foreign army to invade, exterminate, and steal their farmland. But it was still pretty possible. So they expanded. And expanded.

And once they got good enough at military operations, they didn’t just absorb adjacent peoples over the course of centuries of intermingling – they conquered them. A huge fraction of Russian’s population is actually conquered peoples. That’s why Chechnya, a tiny thing by the standards of great powers, was dealt with so punitively (and let’s not talk about Nagorno-Karabakh). How much political power do the Native American tribes have in the US? What would have happened if we’d given them the vote in the 1830s? Yeah, well, that should explain why basically all of Russia’s rulers have ruled through terror and autocracy rather than trend towards liberalism. You can’t be politically liberal and inclusive if it could risk rebellion, civil war, and a nasty demise to your country, people and family. It sucks but it easily beats the alternative.

Post-WW2, Stalin expanded to basically all the states that drove right up to those peripheral mountain ranges. But the mentality of „expand or die“ has persevered in Russian military thinking, hence the spheres-of-influence and containment mentality that dominated the Cold War. Putin is no different today: Crimea has strategic value, as a possible source of invasion between two mountain ranges. He took it when he could, and he’ll take more of Ukraine if he can. Abkhazia is a joke of a puppet state. You’d do the same in his shoes, if that mentality had for centuries been the only thing between your people and family surviving, or being invaded and driven out.

3. Most of Russia’s territory is badly laid out for capital creation. By that I mean, if you (as a feudal landlord, king, President, whatever) want to create excess wealth beyond the cost of feeding your people, you generally need 3 things: 1) Enough arable farmland to feed a higher density of population than nomadic hunter-gatherers, 2) Temperature and weather conditions that enable that farming, and 3) Navigable rivers to enable trade.

Russia only has #1 and #2 in that area south of Moscow, and frankly the weather ain’t great. Yeah, they have twice the land area of Canada, China and the US, but the vast majority of it isn’t farmable. The economic value of oil and gas has only mattered in the 20th century, and a lot of history had locked-in their culture and population distribution by then. Moreover, it doesn’t matter if you have natural resources if you can’t feed your people.

But it’s #3 that’s the real killer. Bear in mind, the Mississippi River system, from New Orleans to Minneapolis to Pittsburgh, is the largest navigable river system in the world. Everything in between, and quite a bit beyond, is arable farmland. And the USA conquered all of it, largely unchallenged, with an ethnically homogeneous population. And if we want to ship the products of this farmland to the east coast population centers, we have a ring of barrier islands to break up storms and prevent shipwrecks as they go around from New Orleans and up the East Coast. That’s why we’re rich. The #2 such system in the world is the Yellow River system in China. Germany and most of Western Europe is chock full of large, navigable rivers. The ancient core of Paris, Ile-de-la-Cité, is a defensible island on the Seine river which empties into the English Channel – pretty sweet place to start a capital city. Barcelona is surrounded on 3 sides by large, fortified hills and on the 4th by the Mediterranean. These places are where they are for good, geographic reasons.

Another example: Egypt has a huge river (Although not a lot of branches that would allow farming of a bigger fraction of its land) that has enabled capital generation. It has seas to the north (Mediterranean) and east (Red), the biggest desert in the world to the west, and mountainous regions to the south in Sudan where the Nile becomes much harder to navigate. That’s pretty darned defensible. You don’t need to conquer a lot of foreign peoples – you can leave the Nubians to the south all alone, and the Berber tribes of the Sahara are neither a threat nor an opportunity. Just lock down the Sinai and you’re good to grow for millennia.

By contrast, Russia has very few navigable rivers and they don’t interconnect a whole lot. The Volga lets you ship stuff to the Caspian Sea, but that doesn’t get your goods to useful places (other than Iran). It’s really hard to trade, and thus generate capital. Because them just having a secure, defensible state requires vast geographic distances, it also limits their ability to generate income „the normal way“ for developed countries. If you’re building a nice European or East Asian country, you have lots of farmable land, cities that the farmers can retreat to and defend against invaders, and you send your surpluswhatever to far-flung lands to trade for what you can’t generate. Russia, by those standards, is screwed by geography.

4. If you can’t generate wealth and you have to have a militaristic state constantly expanding, your populace simply isn’t going to be enjoying a tranquil existence. That’s the real answer to the question above. Russia can feed its people and can defend its borders, but to meaningfully improve the lives of its people, it would have to take an incredible, history-defying risk: decide that in today’s world, the odds of invasion and disintegration was minor, the risk of civil war from conquered peoples was minor, and the value to be gained by becoming an open, civil society was huge. If you were in Putin’s shoes, nevermind Stalin’s or Catherine the Great’s, that would look like a ludicrous proposition to you:

„OK, so I can only barely feed my people and the breadbasket territory I need to do so is in a flat, semi-arid region a thousand miles wide, surrounded by conquered peoples on all sides. I can only hold it together with intimidation. Give a lot of these people wealth, and they’ll probably stage a war of independence that the broader world would support on humanitarian grounds, meaning that the hard-won lands that I need to defend us will be more-or-less permanently separated from our country. Give people a real vote over real power, and they’ll vote in their economic self-interest… but the pie isn’t going to get any bigger if people stop stealing. Our pie is small. This is a zero-sum game here, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to roll the dice just because Amnesty International thinks I should.“

That’s not to say Russia doesn’t have meaningful societal assets. They have an incredible educational system that turns out great engineers and scientists and thinkers. They have natural resources that can generate capital (but it has to be mostly routed to defense and infrastructure, not individuals – see above). Their social values and attitudes have imbued their people with an ability to routinely bear incredible strain with a stoic indifference (and a little vodka), which is how they could kinda-sorta-settle the Urals and Siberia and endure its winters, or survive invasion from Napoleon, Charles XII, and Hitler. But their country isn’t really a base from which a thriving services economy could spring – real IP protection, transparency, and pursuit of individual wealth are all kinda prevented by structural barriers derived from their geography and history.