Inadequate statements of Western politicians about Russia are probably caused by the incompetence of American intelligence companies
It is a common knowledge that American officials, with no exception of President Barack Obama, make regular statements about Russia that are far from reality in that way or another.
For instance, during his speech to Congress in January of the previous year, Obama stated that the consolidated efforts of the USA and their European allies had "torn apart" Russian economy and led to isolation of the country itself. While the situation in economy and foreign policy had indeed got pretty tough, the American President's evaluation proved wrong.
In 2016, those words are even farther from the truth. When many of the USA's European partners rushed to make investments in Russian economy, social groups appeared in those countries that began to demand that sanctions be lifted as soon as possible. At the same time, the Russian administration officially claimed the loss of interest to further discuss anti-Russian limitations. The explanation is simple: as many experts had predicted at the very beginning of the rivalry, the Russian market had adapted to the new economic conditions by means of import substitution and developing contacts with friendlier partners. As result, the initiators of the sanctions had been left behind the trade horizons.
The complications in foreign policy also cannot be branded as "isolation"; in fact, they are not even crucial. Moscow keeps on developing bonds and projects in the Middle East and South-East Asia, participates in infrastructural international projects in the framework of the European Union, etc.
The military officials of the USA and NATO believe - because he who neglects logic can only believe - that the hypothetical invasion of Poland by Russia can be fended off with the force of only one NATO battalion (560-900 soldiers). At least, such is the position of Antoni Macierewicz, Polish Minister of National Defense which he reported to Defence News.
There are more statements made by Western politicians that come in conflict with actual reality. At the end of June, the official representative of the White House Eric Shultz stated during one of the briefings that "the Western sanctions had resulted in" Russian economy's decrease by 15-16%. In fact, that number is no greater than 2-2.5%, and now it is on its way from negative to positive.
Two years ago Barack Obama claimed that male life expectancy in Russia was 60 years, which was leading to the loss of population. At the same time, the actual information can be found in such open public sources as the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) or even Wikipedia: in 2014, average life expectancy in Russia was 71 years (65,6 for men, 77,2 for women), in 2015 - 71,4 years, which is highest in the history of the country. If Obama was President in the 90s, perhaps he would have been right, but the hardships of that epoch had been overcome long ago.
In general, the rhetoric of the West considering Russia has two possible explanations. It is either blatant propaganda, and the facts are far-fetched, or failure of the system of information gathering and processing, which means that the officials really believe in what they say.
While both options are symptoms of severe disease of foreign policy, the second explanation is more probable.
Random predictions for particular price
It is known that the significant part of analytical data for the White House and defense institutions of the USA is supplied by private companies. The renowned Edward Snowden used to work for a private consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton which, despite its plain legal status, has provided stats and data for most important American governmental structures.
The most cited private intelligence company in American media is Stratfor; it was founded in 1996 by a political scientist George Friedman. The press has since labeled it "The Shadow CIA".
Predictions made by Stratfor - according to the company itself - affect both public opinion and governmental long-term foreign policy strategies. Individuals can gain access to some of these predictions by purchasing an annual subscription at the cost of $129.
Stratfor had indeed foretold some of the current global trends: for example, transformation of the economies of Russia and China, Moscow's attempts to maintain influence in the post-Soviet states and increasing contradictions in the European Union. However, those trends could be - and had been - predicted by usual international relations experts.
Russia is a distinct field of analysis for Stratfor. However, despite strong focus on the country, the predictions of "The Shadow CIA" often miss the mark.
The web-site of the analytical company Stratfor. Photo by: Russian Planet
After the perestroika of 1980s, Stratfor comprised a forecast for a period from 1995 to 2005 which predicted geopolitical advancement of the new Russian state.
However, the 1998 Russian financial crisis forced Stratfor to make corrections to the previous analysis and begin a new one. The 2000-2010 Stratfor forecast predicted that "Russia, separated from the Western capitals and unable to compete on the Western markets, would have to reinstitute an empire in the forthcoming decade that would reach the borders of Romania and Poland". In fact, there were no signs of "empire reinstitution" in the former Soviet borders in said period.
Having left behind another misfortune, the company reported in the 2005-2015 forecast that by the end of 2015 "Russia would have found itself in the middle of a systemic crisis and constant struggle between nationalistic forces and Western sympathizers caused by a number of political failures, perhaps including the loss of the Caucasus or disintegration so deep that Moscow would only have had nominal control over de facto independent regions".
It can be assumed that Obama's statements on Russian demography were based upon Stratfor's summaries. The evidence is the 2010-2020 forecast which reads as follows: "Although the demographic dynamic in Russia is much worse than in any European country, that will not have resulted in a national catastrophe by 2020". However, it only takes a brief look at open source statistics to see that Russian demographic indicators have exceled those of any Eastern European country's since few years ago.
It is somewhat amusing that even the real CIA, much like the "shadow" one, has claimed in their reference resource, The World Factbook, in the period from 2004 to 2011 that "Russians extinct at the annual pace of million people". However, some particular numbers in the book were exaggerated in comparison with the corresponding data of Rosstat by as much 15 times; the media had published these inflated statistics anyway.
Western analytical experts are obviously having difficult times with information on Russia. Even if data are taken from Russian sources, they cannot always correctly interpret and apply them.
One of the most resonant recent statements of Stratfor, which was referred to by Barack Obama, is that Russians have been fleeing from the country "during Putin's presidency". According to the company, 310 thousand people emigrated in 2014, and 350 thousand - in 2015.
There is even a reference to the site of Rosstat on Stratfor's diagram leading to the original source.
Unfortunately, "The Shadow CIA" had either concealed or missed out the full information: the directions of "Russian emigrants" are Uzbekistan (94,910), Ukraine (48,049), Tajikistan (36,276), and Armenia (25,137). Does it really look like the exodus of political dissidents and representatives of the creative class?
It should be noted that the year 2015 witnessed 536,157 migrants from the countries of the CIS and 62,460 more from other places of the globe. Thus, the opinion of the American president about the stagnation of migration flow in Russia is simply wrong.
Such a gap between theory and practice can only be explained by the deficit of real information about Russia and experts who would be able to gather and process it properly.
As result, Western politicians are making doubtful statements and yet more doubtful decisions which cut both ways.
At the beginning of the "game of sanctions", many experts predicted that the embargo on Iberian ham and parmesan would cause mass protests which would depose the Russian government. How surprised they were to see that Western measures had led to consolidation of Russian people!
Both sides had suffered from this economic confrontation, but it could not achieve expected results. If the West had collected verified data, and seen that Russia was never a country to be forced into anything, the mutual damage could have been avoided.