Europe (East & SouthEast)

Just How Powerful Is Russia Internationally?

After the 2016 U.S. election, Barack Obama provided some perspective on the U.S.'s growing fear of Russia; fear that has only grown in the year since.

“Russia can't change us,” Obama said. “They are a smaller country, they are a weaker country, their economy doesn't produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil, and gas and arms.”


Obama was appealing to an analysis students are taught in first-year undergraduate international relations class: the idea, espoused in Yale history professor Paul Kennedy's textbook The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, that military power is determined ultimately by industrial power. Kennedy's work is full of tables showing the relative industrial power of countries in armed conflict. The winner in each case is the one with more industrial power.

Table 33, Tank Production in 1944, shows Germany producing 17,800 tanks, Russia producing 29,000 tanks, Britain producing 5,000, and the US producing 17,500. Germany produced less than Russia alone, in other words, and far less than the Allies combined.

Table 34, Aircraft Production of the Powers, shows how year after year, the allies out-produced the Axis, by the end, by more than four times or five times. Table 35 shows combined military production: The Allies produced $62.5 billion in arms in 1943, compared to $18.3 billion from the Axis.

Based on the tables, the allied victory was inevitable. The tables don't lie. Look at hundreds of years of war and in each conflict, the side that brings the most economic power to bear almost always wins.

Trying to estimate Russia's relative power has been a Western preoccupation for centuries. One quote, “Russia is neither as strong nor as weak as it appears,” has been attributed to Western statesmen from Metternich to Talleyrand to Churchill.

The Ossington Circle Episode 15: Ukraine, Russophobia, and Canada with Halyna Mokrushyna

The Ossington Circle Episode 15: Ukraine, Russophobia, and Canada with Halyna Mokrushyna

In this episode of the Ossington Circle, Ukrainian-Canadian academic Halyna Mokrushyna discusses the conflict in Ukraine, Russia and Russophobia, and the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.


The Ukrainian crisis falls neatly into a long-standing mythology that a fraction of the left and a large majority of liberals in the West buy into each time the media decides to engage in a foreign policy morality tale. It is the same old story of the good – be it 'democracy', ‘human rights’ or ‘self-determination’ - that 'we' bring to others. In fact this mythology is the dangerous product of a deep-seated racism in Western societies that still hasn't come to terms with the legacy of colonialism, exploitation and genocide that 'we' have in reality imposed on 'them.'

Ukrainian opposition poster shows a PORA jackboot stomping on an insect representing the current government and its supporters. Such racist dehumanization of opponents is a critical precursor to conflicts and is a hallmark of fascist movements.

US-backing for opposition forces in the Ukraine - which has already been exposed in some progressive and main-stream publications (see links below) - has been well documented. What hasn’t been addressed, however, is the way in which the reality of the situation on the ground has been obscured in the main-stream press in order to confirm old Cold War stereotypes and perpetuate the current mythologies of Empire globally. The ‘fairy tale’ of the Ukrainian elections is designed to legitimate attempts to reorder to post-Soviet space – through the agency of NATO, the IMF/World Bank, and civil society promotion outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID, the Open Society Institute, etc. - in ways that serve the geostrategic and economic interests of Empire.

Thus, while opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko has been represented as a liberal reformer and his opponent Viktor Yanukovych as the incarnation of Soviet style authoritarianism, the reality is quite different. Yuschenko essentially represents the modern face of a conservative Ukrainian nationalism that has been progressively revived in the western portions of the country since the declaration of Ukrainian independence in 1990, while Yanukovych is little more than a typical post-Soviet petty-capitalist oligarch - of which there are dozens of examples of in the region (and that generally, although not in this case, enjoy the backing of Western policy makers).


I got a curious email yesterday from a friend studying at Cambridge University who’s been involved in Palestine solidarity activism on UK campuses. Yesterday he got yet another job offer in his mailbox through the ‘Career Service’ listserve run by Cambridge (see the end of this blog entry for the full text of the offer). The position caught his eye because it related to Palestine. It seems like Adam Smith International, the spin off consultancy of the conservative Adam Smith Institute in the UK, is looking for a Refugee Policy Advisor to consult the Palestinian Authority on aspects of refugee policy. While the link between neo-liberal economics – with a Thatcherite accent - and Palestinian refugee rights may seem abstract, it makes perfect sense if we consider the actual objectives of the international community’s intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For those who have been following the Palestinian issue closely, this type of intervention and ‘advice’ on a crucial topic like refugee rights will come as no surprise. After all the ‘international community’ has been inching ever closer to an open endorsement of Sharon’s disengagement/annexationist plan since it was announced during the Likud party’s Herzaliya conference in December 2003. This last April, Sharon was invited to the White House and received full approval for ‘disengagement’ from the Bush Administration, including a willingness to overtake responsibility for the security situation in Gaza either directly or through regional proxies. This point was highlighted by Martin Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, in a Washington Post article that he penned shortly after the Bush-Sharon summit. Indyk is a primary proponent of imposing an international trusteeship over the Palestinian ‘state’ (read Bantustan) that is scheduled to emerge sometime in the middle or near the end of the year 2005.