Christmas, Hanukkah, the New Year would not be complete without a little GPP Great Power Rankings would it!?! The last rankings created quite a bit of discussion and I look forward to even more this time around. There have been a couple slight movements in the actual rankings, but many of these great powers have shown to either be trending upward or downward. As I stated before I released my first rankings; ‘Great powers have come to their position of power slowly and have generally left their esteemed place in international politics in a similar fashion, so how can one do a monthly Great Power – Power Ranking system, one may ask? Long term prognosticating will of course be an important aspect of GPP’s rankings, but short term moves, issues, and strategic successes and failures will also be considered. For instance, if I did a power ranking after Russia’s successful invasion of Georgia, which proved Moscow’s hard power was not only still capable, but willing to be used, Russia would have gotten a ‘bump up’ in my rankings.’ Let’s get to it!
Here are the criteria in which the great powers are measured:
- Power – Basically, how much total influence does your state have in the world. In what ways can your state make other states or actors do something that they don’t necessarily want to do?
- Economy – What is your GDP? Is your economy growing? Declining? How much can your economic power be easily translated into ways to influence other actors?
- Permanent/Near Permanent Resources – natural resources controlled, population size, geography
- Ideology/Cultural – How powerful is your state’s governing and lifestyle philosophy in the world? Do your beliefs and ideas translate to influence around the globe?
- Internal State Strength – How strong and legitimate is your domestic government? How stable?
It is time. Below are my Top Ten Great Power Rankings, followed by a Tier breakdown, with short explanations to follow:
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
Tier B – China
Tier C - Russia, Germany, Japan
Tier D – India
Tier E – Brazil, France, Turkey, United Kingdom
1. USA – It has been an interesting few months, isn’t it always, for the USA. The recession appears over for good, but in many ways the damage has been done. The unemployment rate is still above 10% and the government’s debt is reaching ridiculous levels. Economist Niall Ferguson persuasively has argued that unless the US starts to tackle this debt problem, it will face constraining budgetary options for decades to come. This can affect the United States’ superpower status by forcing it to reduce its role in the world. For example, if interest rates on our debt keep eating a fair amount of our federal budget, we may not be able to maintain a base or two in East Asia or to provide financial aid to an ally in trouble. Or it could force the US to continue to fall behind in the space race. However, things are not all gloom and doom for America. After all, its economy is growing again, its relationship with rising India has taken a positive step in military matters, and its arms sales still dwarf the competition. Concerning the last item, the numbers are overwhelming. In the last year, the US has made weapons agreements totaling more than $37 billion dollars. Not impressed? Second place was Italy…..at $3.7 billion.
2. China – This was a strong few months for China’s great power status. First off, the President of the United States paid the country a visit and by looking at the lack of results for the US side, the orchestrated visits and speeches, and the delicate manner that Obama treated the host government, one could appropriately ponder ‘just who is the superpower here?’ The United States did not come back with progress on any of these fronts; North Korea and Iranian nuclear programs, currency manipulation, emissions, human rights, etc. The Communist government also stuck out its chest with an extensive, ostentatious military parade, followed by exercises, through the streets of Beijing celebrating 60 years of its rule. Of course, the fact that the government had to have security so tight for the parade that most citizens were forced to stay in their homes and watch from their windows also showcases a government with a political legitimacy weakness. Lastly, the lack of progress on any type of climate binding agreement in Copenhagen was a clear sign that China will not be pushed around, even with tremendous pressure coming from the EU and United States. China’s influence on more and more matters that effect people and states around the globe is becoming more apparent everyday.
3. Russia – Pretty much in a holding pattern from the last rankings, but I have decided to move them into a lower tier than China. The Russians have been getting closer to Venezuela, keeping sanctions against Iran at bay, sending nuclear submarines off the US east coast, likely to ensure an advantageous new START agreement with the Obama administration, and still has the buffest leader in these great power rankings.
4. Japan – Japan is definitely a country in transition. The Democratic Party of Japan has started what will no doubt be a consequential first period in power. It is still too early to tell how much the DPJ will change Japan’s role in foreign affairs from the LDP’s long standing American centered one. President Obama’s stop in Japan was rather uneventful, with both choosing to put off the most contentious part in the relationship, the placement of American military bases in Okinawa, for a year. Just like most state governments right now, the DPJ are spending most of their attention on the rebuilding the domestic economy. In this regard, one writer sees a culturally and economically stagnant Tokyo, calling it ‘a middle-aged man contemplating his afternoon nap.’ But on the bright side, Japan has their first aircraft carrier since World War II, well kind of.
5. Germany – Political and economic structure still look very stable compared to Japan. The country’s role in Afghanistan is a constant challenge for its government and citizens.
6. India – On the one hand, India is a clear winner in the US decision to stay and help build up the Afghan state. India has been quietly working to strengthen the Karzai government as it is considered innumerably more friendly than a Taliban-controlled Afghan state. India has also upped its defense spending by 10% this year, though this is still far below China’s estimated build up, and as was alluded to earlier, India and the United States partnered up for what was called a ‘massive‘ war game, though details were hard to come by. But for this rankings, I have to give India a dropping ranking. This decision mainly has to do with Mumbai terrorist attacks from last year. How does an attack from last year hurt India’s place in the rankings today? Well, I watched the CNN Fareed Zakaria documentary of the attack and lets just say, the Indian police and government did not show themselves well. Mumbai is one of India’s most vibrant and important cities and it was basically taken hostage by a group of terrorists. The police reaction, both local and federal, was shown to be pathetically incompetent. Great powers need to first be able to protect their own homeland before they can really expand their influence around the globe.
7. Brazil – One would think that in a period when they won the 2016 Olympics over many other worthy applicants, I would have Brazil trending upward, but this is not the case. The Olympic victory definitely is an opportunity for Brazil to show it has arrived on the global stage, but it has also shone light on other less flattering facets of the country. The massive blackouts it had last month show that like the Mumbai terrorist attack, the garnering more of the world’s attention isn’t always for the better. Jose Cardenas also voices some reservations regarding recent Brazilian efforts in regional and world affairs: ‘Brazil aspires to be a global leader deserving of a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. But it stumbled badly on Honduras. It moved quickly to denounce the removal of Zelaya and led the regional charge for Honduras’s isolation, but in the end failed to influence the course of events. More egregious, however, was allowing the fugitive Zelaya to re-enter the country and set up shop in its embassy in Tegucigalpa, inflaming an already dangerous situation. Which raises the question, if Brazil can’t even responsibly manage a crisis in tiny Honduras, how does it propose to influence Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?’
8. France - Rien à dire ici
9. United Kingdom – I have listened to the comments of my GPP readers and they have shown me the light on the UK. And that light shines on a sign that says in a powerful, echoing voice, ‘Move the UK above Turkey!’. The long term influence of this medium-sized island has been monumental for centuries and though its capacity to affect world events and actors has faltered greatly in past decades, its cultural and political influence continues to show itself. Like the United States, it has also shown an ability to live in a realist world, where military power still matters, and in a liberal internationalist world, where democracy, multilateral institutions, and economic connections lead the way. The only problem now is that France and the UK are right next to each other in the rankings. Can they get along?
10. Turkey – The Islamist AK party, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ruling Turkey appears to be strategically turning to the East and closer to the Muslim world. While relations with the EU and Israel are on the decline, Turkey’s ties with Syria, Iran, Sudan, and China are growing stronger. Now geography is destiny so one shouldn’t blame Turkey for trying to foster stable, productive relationships with its neighbors, but Ankara must be careful not to seriously damage decades of growing good will with Europe and the United States. Though this is likely just a passing phase, it will be well worth watching closely in the next year.
Comments? Critiques? Questions? Praises!?!