Major Powers and Strategic Partners: A Graphic Net Assessment

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The Emeritus Chair in Strategy atat CSIS has developed a graphic net assessment of the United States, selected strategic partners, China, and Russia. This analysis is entitled Major Powers and Strategic Partners: A Graphic Net Assessment. A downloadable copy is attached at the end of this transmittal note, and the analysis is also available on the CSIS website here.

The analysis presents a wide range of graphics showing key trends and the current quantitative balance in the economic, civil, technological, and military strength of the U.S., major European and Asian military powers, Russia, and China. It provides a tangible picture of the civil and military security challenges that key powers face in the broader competition between major powers, and how rapidly this situation has changed in recent decades.

At the same time, no amount of graphics can come close to being a full net assessment. Metrics are only limited measures of capability and key trends, and cannot reflect many key aspects of civil and military strength and aspects of quality versus quantity. Moreover, current sources often differ sharply in relative accuracy, in their methods of comparison, and in the sources and definition of their data.

More broadly, there is only marginal standardization of most international data by country. The data given countries submit, or are estimated for them, can differ sharply even when they seem to be directly comparable. Official reporting often differs even when it comes from the same government in the same country–—the U.S. is often an example of such conflicts, sometimes even within a given federal agency or department.

This is why the selection of graphics often provides deliberately diverse and sometimes conflicting comparisons. It is also why the selection focuses on comparisons and data developed by major international organizations, national governments, and well-known research centers.

At the same time, these limitations should be kept in perspective. Failing to quantify key comparisons and trends is far more misleading. It tends to reduce policy planning and analytic efforts to a focus on ideology and rhetoric. Far too many official strategy and policy documents fall into this trap, one compounded by politicizing the analysis; failing to integrate planning, programming, and budgeting; and failing to provide any meaningful form of net assessment.

Numbers are no substitute for thought and analyzing all the relevant factors shaping a key trend and comparison, but imagination, politics, ideology, and rhetoric are no substitute for numbers.

Table of Contents

Comparative Economics  - 4

Comparative Per Capita Income and Mass Education - 8

Comparative Manufacturing and Corporate Efforts - 12

Comparative Technology and RDT&E - 17

Comparative Exports, FDI, and Trade - 30

Comparative Defense and Military Spending - 34

Comparative Defense Technology and RDT&E - 41

Comparative Arms Transfers - 44

Comparative Conventional Military Forces - 48

Comparative Nuclear Forces - 63

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