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Addressing Analytic Pitfalls Regarding Russia’s Future

Addressing Analytic Pitfalls Regarding Russia’s Future

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Published by dniolet
I cannot stand the residual animosity between the US and Russian left over from the Cold War. What I particularly do not like is how it is propagated by the old vets of the Cold War as well as those who have no clue.
I cannot stand the residual animosity between the US and Russian left over from the Cold War. What I particularly do not like is how it is propagated by the old vets of the Cold War as well as those who have no clue.

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Published by: dniolet on Sep 30, 2011
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05/12/2014

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Addressing Analytic Pitfalls Regarding Russia’sFuture
By Damian Niolet
The views expressed in this paper belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of the USAF.
 
Introduction
U.S. accounts of world history contend that the “Cold War,” during which the U.S. was ina nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union and a war of which the U.S. does not hesitate to proclaim itself the victor, lasted for 44 years. It is no wonder, therefore, that many U.S. analystsare devoted to solving the enigma that is today’s Russia – despite such a decisive victory over theformer ardent foe – the Cold War was 44 years of conditioning, after all. Tensions between thetwo countries, upon the Soviet Union’s collapse right up to this day, have remained. Thosetensions have subsided over time thanks in part to certain reforms Russian leaders have“initiated,” which the U.S. smiled upon initially; however, the U.S. has since deemed thosereforms to be stagnant, that recent developments demonstrate a reversal of those initiatives andin some instances a reprisal of Soviet governance, causing renewed tensions.The tidal nature of these tensions is disconcerting to U.S. policymakers, who want tounderstand the future of Russia so as to best orient their relationship with the country towards astrategic end. Whether that strategy involves positioning the U.S. defensively against areemerging Soviet Union or positioning the U.S. as a supportive equal to a truly FederatedRussia depends on the analysis of U.S. analysts. In order to provide U.S. policymakers with theinformation they need so as to choose the appropriate course of action, the majority of U.S.analysts are focusing on the top leaders of the country – President Dmitri Medvedev and to agreater extent Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – believing that Russia’s future can be channeledout of an examination of said leaders. This analytic method is rife with problems. The method isstifling true analysis because it is plagued by overwhelming assumptions, which act as anchoring
 
 biases. The fact is one cannot begin to understand Russia’s future until one understands theguiding and ruling ideology of the entire country.
The Analytic Pitfalls Associated with Analyses of Russia
It should first and foremost be caveated that this paper will examine open source materialwhile pursuing a review of the prevailing sentiments regarding Russia and the country’s future.The reason for this is because U.S. analysts (and policymakers by extension) rely more on opensource material for constructing their worldview of international affairs than on classifiedreporting. If one wants to learn about the general perception of policymakers regarding a topic,one need only listen to NPR reporting on that topic in recent times. In addition, theoverwhelming attitude of journalists toward Russia pervades and colors any sort of analysis thatoccurs behind closed doors and thus must be taken into account first. There are bestsellers thatare viewed as more authoritative than any classified report. For purposes of this paper, analystsand journalists will be grouped together and simply referred to as analysts.Conducting research on predictions of Russia’s future reveals a striking reality – U.S.analysts are mesmerized by Putin. It would be too daunting a task to statistically encapsulate thisview. Suffice it to say that from the personal experience of this author, having read many areport on Russia, very little serious analysis concerning Russia’s future exists that does not beginwith or lean heavily upon an examination of Vladimir Putin. A good deal of these reports citePutin’s former affiliations with the now defunct KGB and/or the now thriving FSB and hint at acertainty that these affiliations are the primary factors that influenced Putin’s politicalgovernance paradigm.
1
Other reports utilize and sensationalize what little evidence there is that
1
Adi Ignatius, “A Tsar is Born,”
 Time
, December 31, 2007, 57.

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