Just how strong is Russia? That is a question that many Americans may be asking themselves in the aftermath of the alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election. Sure enough, the Russian campaign of disinformation had sown doubts in many a mind about the integrity of our democratic process, but Russia's actions can also be seen as a sign of weakness. That's because, on most measures, Russia cannot go toe to toe with the United States.
When it comes to the size of its economy, income per person, population, fertility rate, life expectancy, competitiveness, innovation, food production and manufacturing, America's traditional foe lags behind—often well behind. Put differently, Russia has to rely on "asymmetrical" measures, such as weakening America's domestic cohesion, to cause us pain.
Yet, I would not go as far as to agree with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who once dismissed Russia as "a gas station masquerading as a country." Russia is home to the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, which alone guarantees it world-power status. As such, the U.S. government must do more to counter Russia's destabilizing efforts by investing in cyber security and making use of some of the best brains in our technological arsenal.
Regrettably, in that most important of government functions—provision of security—our government had failed us. It allowed a much weaker country to undermine our confidence in our institutions; it convinced tens of millions of U.S. citizens that our government is illegitimate; and it made itself (Russia) seem much more powerful than it really is. Russian tactics may be deplorable, but the incompetence of our government is lamentable.
1. Total GDP, 2014 U.S. dollars, PPP, millions.
2. GDP, per person, 2015 U.S. dollars, PPP
3. Total population, thousands
4. Total fertility rate, births per woman
5. Life expectancy at birth, years
6. Global Competitiveness Index, overall score, scale 1-7
7. Capacity for innovation, scale 1-7
8. Cereal yields, hectograms, per hectare
9. Manufacturing value added, current U.S. dollars
10. Nuclear weapons stockpiles, United States and USSR/Russia, number of warheads