Friday, September 14, 2007

What Makes A Power Great?

I'm attending the Worldviews of Major and Aspiring Powers: Exploring National Identitiesconference today. I'm intrigued so far by some of the points raised in discussion. Are robust military capabilities still really considered to be the mark of a great power--the ability to intervene or project power? Or is "great power" status defined by a country's ability to shape a regional or global agenda or to transform a region? This has obvious implications for the conversation in the first session, which dealt with Europe, the United States and Japan.

More to come.

Look at Russia. She has been a great power over 300 years without being a great economic power. During teh same time, France, UK, Austria, Germany, and Japan have all disappeared as great powers.

Use her as your yard-stick.
Anonymous 11:04,

At any given moment, Russia has not been the most comprehensively modern economy in relative terms, but in absolute terms I don't think it has ever been insignificant. Before the industrial revolution, Russia was the largest pre-modern European agrarian state. From the 1890s to 1914 it had the fastest-growing industrial economy, and from the 1930s until the 1960s Russia was a major industrial state. Today it is a leading energy exporter.

I agree that great power requires more than just economic power. The question is whether political institutions or inclinations that worked in the past will continue to work in the future. Every great power may find itself challenged on this point in different ways.
Also let's be clear: Russia did not have to be a great economic power because it squeezed its population hard. As North Korea demonstrates, a poor country can become a nuclear power if it wants to let its people starve.
Is Russia really a shaper of the world order in the way the US or EU is, or just a power that can obstruct or slow something down? So perhaps that is also a distinction to draw.
Problem with comments? Tried to post a query re: comments made on Japan and also if Jun will follow up from his post a few days ago.
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