March 26, 2014


Puny Putin (TIM CONGDON, April 2014, Standpoint)

The truth is that Russia is at best a middle-ranking nation in economic terms. According to the International Monetary Fund's database, its share of world output was just under 3 per cent last year. But that figure was calculated in terms of so-called "purchasing power parity", a technical method which is best if living standards in different countries are being compared. If the economic size of a nation is instead to be measured by its ability to import from other nations and to participate in international trade, the right technique is to calculate gross domestic product "at current prices and exchange rates". 

On this basis Russia may still be a medium-sized nation, but it is overshadowed by four much more significant powers. World Bank data show that in 2012 Russia's output was $2,015 billion, the same as Italy's, whereas the outputs of the US, the European Union, China and Japan were $16,245 billion, $16,687 billion, $8,227 billion and $5,960 billion respectively. Even Brazil has a slightly higher GDP than Russia. In the EU four nations (Germany, France, the UK and Italy) produce the same as or more than Russia. 

The notions of "the West" and "the rest" may have been overworked recently, but they give us a way of thinking about the issue. The West may still be viewed as a fairly cohesive group, with its membership represented in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and its spokesmen generally on the same wavelength in G20 gatherings. The US, the EU and Japan, plus Australia and Canada, are all recognised OECD nations. Their combined GDP in 2012 was $42,245 billion, more than 20 times that of Russia. Russia may dominate world maps, but it is an economic pygmy compared with the developed nations as a bloc.

Posted by at March 26, 2014 12:59 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus