August 15, 2013

Watch out for that bear!


Watch out for that bear!

Today I stumbled across an interesting article. At first I thought it should be filed in the "some nutcase stirring the Cold War pot." 

The article, titled The Rise Of The Bear: 18 Signs That Russia Is Rapidly Catching Up To The United States was on a blog with the url "thesurvivalistblog.net," which reposted it from "theeconomiccollapseblog.com," so let's just say a healthy dose of skepticism was warranted.

But then I read on. The meat of the post is a list of 18 reasons why Americans should be concerned about Russia again (because it is "rapidly catching up to the United States"). Here goes:

#1 Russia produces more oil than anyone else on the planet.  The United States is in third place.

#2 Russia is the number two oil exporter in the world.  The United States is forced to import more oil than anyone else in the world.

#3 Russia produces more natural gas than anyone else on the planet.  The United States is in second place.

#4 Today, Russia supplies 34 percent of Europe's natural gas needs.

#5 The United States has a debt to GDP ratio of 101 percent.  Russia has a debt to GDP ratio of about 8 percent.

#6 The United States had a trade deficit of more than half a trillion dollars last year.  Russia consistently runs a large trade surplus.

#7 The United States has an unemployment rate of 7.4 percent.  Russia has an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent.

#8 Since Vladimir Putin first became president of Russia, the Russian economy has grown at a very rapid pace.  The following is fromWikipedia...

Under the presidency of Vladimir Putin Russia's economy saw the nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) double, climbing from 22nd to 11th largest in the world. The economy made real gains of an average 7% per year (1999: 6.5%, 2000: 10%, 2001: 5.7%, 2002: 4.9%, 2003: 7.3%, 2004: 7.2%, 2005: 6.4%, 2006: 8.2%, 2007: 8.5%, 2008: 5.2%), making it the 6th largest economy in the world in GDP(PPP). In 2007, Russia's GDP exceeded that of 1990, meaning it has overcome the devastating consequences of the recession in the 1990s.

During Putin's eight years in office, the industry grew by 75%, investments increased by 125%, and agricultural production and construction increased as well. Real incomes more than doubled and the average salary increased eightfold from $80 to $640. The volume of consumer credit between 2000–2006 increased 45 times, and during that same time period, the middle class grew from 8 million to 55 million, an increase of 7 times. The number of people living below the poverty line also decreased from 30% in 2000 to 14% in 2008.

#9 According to Bloomberg, Russia has added 570 metric tons of gold to their reserves over the past decade.  In the United States, nobody seems to be quite sure how much gold the Federal Reserve actually has left.

#10 Moscow is the second most expensive city in the world.  Meanwhile, the United States actually has the unfriendliest city in the world (Newark, New Jersey).

#11 More billionaires live in Moscow than in any other city on the globe.

#12 The Moscow metro system completely outclasses the subway systems in Washington D.C. and New York City.

#13 The United States has the most powerful military on the planet, but Russia is in second place.

#14 Russia has introduced a new "near silent" nuclear submarine which is far more quiet than anything the U.S. has...

The Borey Class submarine, dubbed Vladimir Monomakh, has a next generation nuclear reactor, can dive deeper than 1,200 feet, and carries up to 20 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

Each of these "Bulava" ICBM's can carry ten detachable MIRV warheads, what they call "re-entry vehicles," capable of delivering 150 kiloton yields per warhead

#15 While Barack Obama is neutering the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal, Vladimir Putin is working hard to modernize Russian nuclear forces.

#16 Russian missile forces will hold more than 200 drills during the second half of 2013.

#17 Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made headlines all over the world when he climbed into the cockpit of Russia’s new "fifth generation" fighter jet and announced that it was far superior to the F-22 Raptor.

#18 It is estimated that Russia has more spies inside the United States today than it did at any point during the Cold War.

 

Each point links to outside references, so you can follow them up on your own. They pretty much check out. But the interesting thing is the interpretation.

Are we to conclude that, because Russia has a strengthening capitalist economy (what we supposedly were arguing they needed all throughout the Cold War) that this is a bad thing for the US? Or that Americans should be concerned because Moscow has a great metro or more billionaires, that this somehow subtracts from our standard of living?

Sure, the military-related items (14-18) are worth note, but none of it is news. 

What is interesting are some of the economic statistics about debt, trade and reserves.

And the real upshot, which is news to most people who might come across this, is that Russia is quietly normalizing, that it has some significant resource and geographical strengths (see our post, "Does Russia Matter," on this long ago) that make it a far more stable and resilient state than many would have us believe. 

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