Diplomat and Harvard professor Joseph S. Nye, who coined the term “soft power” to represent non-military geopolitical advantages, talked about the Russian threat this week with the BBC. His assessment of Putin’s Russia is comforting, at first. Nye sees Russia “as a country in decline. It’s a one-crop economy; two-thirds of its exports are energy. It has a terrible demographic problem; the number of Russians is shrinking. It has a huge health problem; the average Russian male dies at about age 61.” In addition Putin, Nye continues, has cut his country off from “the sources of Western technology that they really need for modernization.” So no reason to be alarmed right?
But Nye the historian is quick to bring up what sometimes happens with beleaguered nation-states. “Sometimes declining countries are more risk-accepting and dangerous. Look at Austria and Hungary a century ago…” In other words, on the brink of the First World War. Listen To Nye here. Nye’s 2011 book is called The Future of Power. His new book is called Presidential Leadership and the Creation of the American Era.