It is not unusual for governments, international organizations, and private groups to constantly assess the power of countries. The assessments often measure and categorize countries in terms of diplomatic, economic, military, political, foreign aid, foreign investment, and cultural, among other indicators, clout. Such studies are a good way to track change over time in countries and thus come to policy recommendations.

The Henry Jackson Society (HJS), an influential British think tank, has just released its 2019 Audit of Geopolitical Capability. The report assesses 20 countries. More specifically, the audit uses four key attributes to determine geopolitical might: national base, national structure, national instruments, and national resolve. Within these criteria is the capability of countries to overcome the “tyranny of distance”—their ability to exert military, economic, or diplomatic power around the world. The audit categorizes the countries in five categories (superpower, global power, hemispheric power, regional power, and local power) according to how capable they are of surmounting this “tyranny of distance.”

The following bullet points show which attributes are needed for each category:

  • “Superpower (80%-100%) – A country with a vast national base and enormous national structure, from which to generate overwhelming national instruments and resolve to project and extend itself and its interests – often comprehensively – around the world.
  • Global power (50%-79.9%) – A country with a large national base and/or structure, from which to generate extensive instruments and resolve to project and extend itself and its interests – sometimes selectively – around the world.
  • Hemispheric power (40%–49.9%) – A country with a significant national base and/or structure, from which to generate substantial instruments and resolve to defend itself and its interests, primarily within its own hemisphere.
  • Regional power (30%-39.9%) – A country with a moderate national base and/or structure, from which to develop modest instruments and resolve to defend itself and its interests, primarily within its own region.
  • Local power (below 30%) – A country with a lacking or unharnessed national base and/or structure, from which only weak or uneven instruments and resolve can be generated to try to defend itself and its interests, primarily within its own neighboring areas.”

Crucially, the report doesn’t limit its scope to the war-fighting capabilities of a country, but rather focuses on how countries “compete for influence in the ‘gray zone’ between ‘peace’ and ‘war.’” For example, the HJS argues that it doesn’t matter how many nukes a country has, but rather if it can accomplish its geopolitical goals without resorting to a full-out conflict—a reasonable argument given the fact that nuclear weapons serve more as a deterrent rather than as a viable option in case of war.

As for the results, the U.S. remains in first place as the world’s only superpower. China comes in third behind the United Kingdom. As for Russia, it comes in 10th place. This would raise some brows given the Kremlin’s ability to exert influence and accomplish goals (e.g. the annexation of Crimea).

(Credit: Henry Jackson Society)

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