Russia Is A Marginal Power

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Illustration by Thomas James

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Disarming Syria. Asylum for Edward Snowden. Arming Iran. Deploying troops to Crimea. Is Vladimir Putin flexing his muscles, while our own president fades into the background of world politics, or is it all a global game of smoke and mirrors? Russia is one of the world’s largest oil producers and has the power of veto on the U.N. Security Council, but it remains an authoritarian state, rife with corruption and economic struggles. Is our toxic relationship something to worry about, or is Putin’s Russia fading in importance?

  • Bremmer90

    For

    Ian Bremmer

    Founder and President, Eurasia Group

  • Lucas90px

    For

    Edward Lucas

    Senior Editor, The Economist

  • Blackwill90

    Against

    Amb. Robert D. Blackwill

    Fmr. Deputy National Security Adviser under Pres. George W. Bush

  • Peter-HitchensColor90

    Against

    Peter Hitchens

    Columnist, Mail on Sunday & Fmr. Moscow Correspondent, Daily Express


    • Moderator Image

      MODERATOR

      John Donvan

      Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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Bremmer90

For The Motion

Ian Bremmer

Founder and President, Eurasia Group

Ian Bremmer is the founder and president of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm. The company provides financial, corporate, and government clients with analysis and expertise about how political developments move markets and shape investment environments across the globe. Bremmer created Wall Street’s first global political risk index (GPRI) and has authored several books, including the national bestsellers, Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World (2012) and The End of the Free Market: Who Wins the War Between States and Corporations? (2011). Bremmer is a contributor for the Financial Times A-List and Reuters.com. He has a PhD in political science from Stanford University and is a global research professor at New York University. His analysis focuses on global macro political trends and emerging markets, which he defines as “those countries where politics matter at least as much as economics for market outcomes.”

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Lucas90px

For The Motion

Edward Lucas

Senior Editor, The Economist

Edward Lucas is the international section editor at The Economist, the world’s foremost newsweekly, where he has covered the central and east European region for over 25 years. He is the author of The New Cold War (2008), a prescient account of Vladimir Putin’s Russia; Deception (2011), an investigative account of east-west espionage; and The Snowden Operation (2014), which was published as an e-book. He is a regular contributor to BBC’s Today and Newsnight, and to NPR, CNN and Sky News. Lucas is regularly cited by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the top 100 Twitterati. For many years a foreign correspondent, he was based in Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Moscow and the Baltic states. His weekly column for European Voice (Brussels) has appeared since 2005; he also writes for the Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Foreign Policy and Standpoint. As well as working for The Independent, the BBC and The Sunday Times, he co-founded an English-language weekly in Tallinn, Estonia: The Baltic Independent.

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Blackwill90

Against The Motion

Amb. Robert D. Blackwill

Fmr. Deputy National Security Adviser under Pres. George W. Bush

Ambassador Robert D. Blackwill is the Henry A. Kissinger senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for strategic planning under President George W. Bush, and served as U.S. ambassador to India, presidential envoy to Iraq, and the administration’s coordinator for U.S. policies regarding Afghanistan and Iran. From 1989 to 1990, he was special assistant to President George H.W. Bush for European and Soviet affairs. Blackwill is a member of the Trilateral Commission and the Aspen Strategy Group and is on the board of Harvard’s Belfer Center. He was co-chairman of the Task Force on Russia and U.S. National Interests, co-sponsored by the Belfer Center and the Center for the National Interest, which produced the report “Russia and U.S. National Interests: Why Should Americans Care?”

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Peter-HitchensColor90

Against The Motion

Peter Hitchens

Columnist, Mail on Sunday & Fmr. Moscow Correspondent, Daily Express

Peter Hitchens, an author and journalist, is currently a columnist for the London Mail on Sunday. He also publishes a blog on current affairs and moral, cultural and social issues. He was a resident correspondent for the Daily Express in Moscow from 1990 to 1992, and in Washington, D.C. from 1993 to 1995. He has spent many years as a foreign correspondent, reporting from Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Gaza, South Africa, Venezuela and Cuba. He has also revisited Russia and other former Soviet republics several times. In recognition of his foreign reporting, Hitchens was awarded the Orwell Prize in 2010. He is the author of six books, including The Rage Against God (2011), The Abolition of Britain (1999) and The War We Never Fought: The British Establishment’s Surrender to Drugs (2013).

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Declared Winner: Against The Motion

Online Voting

Voting Breakdown:
 

49% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (14% voted FOR twice, 32% voted AGAINST twice, 4% voted UNDECIDED twice). 51% changed their minds (9% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 1% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 9% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 3% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 12% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 17% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST) | Breakdown Graphic

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    13 comments

    • Comment Link Eric Friday, 11 April 2014 22:19 posted by Eric

      I may claim understanding a Russian "soul" being born in Kiev. We do not have good "moles" in their government, and that's why there are so many "experts" giving advice on the next Putin's step. It looks like only H. Kissinger is well accepted by both Russians and Ukrainians because he is a good listener! Ronald Reagan with his irresponsible speeches "evil empire" had almost caused a nuclear confrontation in 2008 during NATO exercises. Russians especially Krutchkoff, KGB was absolutely sure that it's a "maskirovka" leading to a pre-emptive strike.

      Russians simply play a proxy war with US feeling the policy of the containment. They have historically big egos and want some "respect" and super power recognition after reorganizing their strategy around global energy. Did anybody see on the front page that Russians have signed long-term agreements to supply liquid gas to Japan, Korea and Vietnam?! What about Western Europe when Germany is out of nuclear energy and 40% depends on Russian supplies?! How did we allow this to happen when US has the largest gas deposits and prices were declining steadily for the last few years from $5 to $3. Also, did anybody see in big print in WSJ the decision of US to build two facilities on the gulf to liquefy gas (Texas and Louisiana) for? our strategic partners e.g. Japan! This country did not have an energy plan since Nixon!

    • Comment Link danvolodar Thursday, 10 April 2014 22:07 posted by danvolodar

      >Demographically, Russia's total population is crashing and crashing fast with more reliable estimates showing the worlds largest country will have between 90 and 120 million people by 2030.

      How's life in 2011, Jacob?

    • Comment Link frank Saturday, 05 April 2014 14:42 posted by frank

      nobody knows the difference between a beet that goes into borscht and a sugar beet that makes sugar?

    • Comment Link Deborah Sunday, 30 March 2014 13:29 posted by Deborah

      hmmm. I am struck by the fact that "intelligence squared" seems to feature mostly white middle-aged men. In the past four shows including this one, there have been only 2 female debaters, for example. I am curious about this choice. Does the moderator believe that intelligence is predominately found within one group -- white men? How peculiar and inexplicable!

    • Comment Link Bobbi Thursday, 27 March 2014 08:05 posted by Bobbi

      I was really disappointed by the snark and rudeness of the against side. I've been impressed by the quality of debate in the past but this debate was a sad example of how NOT to be civil and measured. I sincerely hope decision-makers will be more mindful of those two considerations when selecting debaters.

    • Comment Link Joe Saturday, 22 March 2014 13:53 posted by Joe

      All Lucas left out of his discussion of "what matters in the world" and "responsible countries" is a call to colonize Russia so he can personally teach them how to behave like civilized people.

    • Comment Link Nick Thursday, 20 March 2014 14:18 posted by Nick

      What a silly debate, honestly. Peter Hitchens is literally the worst person you've ever had on this show.

    • Comment Link robert Tuesday, 18 March 2014 10:43 posted by robert

      Bremmer and Lucas were excellent debaters and Blackwill held his own. Hitchens is a coook and contributed absolutely nothing. In spite of the persuasive "for" side argument, Blackwill sealed it with his closing remarks.

    • Comment Link Al Dorman Monday, 17 March 2014 12:53 posted by Al Dorman

      Haven't listened to the debate yet but the participants is disappointing. The Against side seems to be right-winger who hate Russia and so is the For side (Edward Lucas is anti-Putin to the point of delusion).

    • Comment Link JanDeDoot Saturday, 15 March 2014 01:54 posted by JanDeDoot

      I've been watching IQ2 debates for years and this was probably one of the most one-sided match-ups I've seen. Blackwill rambled on about nothing and was barely coherent at times, while Peter Hitchens talked about only tangentially relevant issues and pretty much admitted that the other side was right several times. Bremmer and Lucas put together a fairly cogent and convincing argument that appeared to all but win over the moderator.

      Of course, that being said I was utterly baffled by the final vote. I would love to know why people thought the other side won the debate.

    • Comment Link Sally Thorner Thursday, 13 March 2014 13:29 posted by Sally Thorner

      By far the most compelling and informative debate I've witnessed so far!

    • Comment Link Samuel Wednesday, 12 March 2014 16:15 posted by Samuel

      Prediction: The side for the motion will win. This motion may not have sounded obvious when it was chosen, but not it sounds obvious that it should fail. When that happens, low information audience members tend to vote one way, but then some get swayed by the nuance inherent in all of these questions. It is rare for one side to come in as the overwhelming favorite and then win over more supporters than the other side.

    • Comment Link Jacob Saturday, 11 January 2014 14:53 posted by Jacob

      Russia is facing a series of steep problems. Demographically, Russia's total population is crashing and crashing fast with more reliable estimates showing the worlds largest country will have between 90 and 120 million people by 2030. Already over the past decade Russia's population has seen a severe loss.
      Second i would argue that Russia is very politically unstable in a multitude of ways. Firstly there is a large and growing radical Islamic insurgency in southern Russia which is already starting to have effects on areas outside the Caucus region. This is fueled by the trend of increasingly Islamic radicalization, being frozen out of the political process and a growing Islamic population in the face of a declining over all population and a severe decline in ethnic Russians.
      On an economic note, the financial crisis has shown that Putinomics is very unstable, being no better than a third world strategy to export natural resources while prices are high and hoping periods of low prices wont effect too adversely state revenues. While because of the massive size of Russia and the inherent infrastructural difficulties in building a modern economy are evident it is clear that instead of allowing the natural resources boom to work its way to improving the economy, the money is being funneled into the coffers of the security state and well connected oligarchs. As the US begins to use its new found energy resources to challenge Russian supply, the once mighty Russian natural gas organization will take a blow from increased and credible global competition.
      Finally, Putin himself is setting up Russia to fail. Russia has no stable or even modestly independent governing institutions. All authority is vested in Putin and he is slowly losing the acceptance of the people from his failure on economics, to rule of law, to corruption and basic security concerns.
      Putin will no doubt, barring an act of God continue to be the all powerful Russian leader but he is not setting up Russia for success. When he can no longer hold office there will most likely be a Soviet style succession crisis that coupled with a weak economy, over burdened military budget and domestic political instability will make for a bleak long term or even medium term outlook for the Russian state.

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