Foreign Policy magazine has announced its 2007 “failed states index” and, interestingly, Russia has actually made a bit of progress — even though its overall outlook remains horrifyingly bleak. With a score of 81.1 (120 is as bad as a country could get), Russia is the 62nd biggest failure out of 177 nations surveyed, a bigger failure than China, Venezueala or Cuba and sandwiched between Lesotho and Azerbaijan. However, both Russia’s score and its ranking were improvements on last year’s data, when Russia’s ranking was 43 and its score was 87.1. Russia’s ranking is now roughly back where it was on the 2005 study, mired in the middle of the “warning” states that could lapse into failure at any time. The prognosis for Russia is states as follows:
While some progress has been made on the economic front, Putin has re-centralized power around himself in recent years and democratic institutions remain weak. Russia has severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement, although sporadic violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus. Without addressing corruption, it will be difficult to build democratic institutions, but plenty of Russians appear content to make this a second-tier priority. Russia is playing a renewed assertive role in the world, although its continuing economic stratification is a potential source of future internal conflict. The police forces suffer from massive corruption, and have been accused of some abuses. The Federal Security Services of the Russian Federation are responsible for internal security such as the fight against organized crime (which is extremely prevalent) and terrorism. The organization has been accused, however, of suppressing internal dissent, surveilling individuals, and influencing important political events, as the KGB did in the USSR. Security forces are reported to regularly single out individuals from the Caucasus for document checks, detention, and the extortion of bribes. Detainees were often beaten or tortured. Russia, instead, suffers from a severe population decline, due to disease—including AIDS—and poor health care after the collapse of the more equitable Soviet health care system. Deaths outnumber births, and most of those who die are in the 20-49 year age group, the most productive segment of the population. This may have a devastating impact on the workforce. Russia received high scores for group grievance, mainly because of an ongoing nationalist-separatist conflict in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim area in the north Caucasus.
These results are a sign that the increasing pressure being brought to bear on the Kremlin regime may be bearing some fruit. At least, it seems that the Kremlin is being a bit more careful about how thuggish and barbaric it appears to the world, but it also highlights the need to avoid being fooled by neo-Soviet propaganda, which will only increase as the Kremlin consolidates its grip on power.
The results also make it utterly impossible to support the argument that Russia belongs in the G-8. China’s score is higher, but China isn’t in the G-8. India’s score is far higher, but India isn’t in the G-8 either. A borderline failed state can’t be a reliable partner for the G-8 democracies, none of which are classified as “warning” states the way Russia is.