What we are not counting

However, first we will describe measures that could have been useful, but do not exist and those we are not considering because of limitations that they bring, lack of access or difficulty of their collection.

Among the measures used by other authors of papers on state power in the international arena are the number of Nobel prize winners of a given country1, which is closely correlated with the results of institutions of higher learning, which we include in our work. In addition, it would be worthwhile to collect global data about institutions of national culture existing abroad because they implement “soft” foreign policy of a country. The same goes for funds spent on non-governmental agencies active in other countries or think tanks.

It would also be worthwhile to include spending by individual countries on intelligence services, wiretapping its citizens and spying. Because of obvious reasons, such data is secret. Nevertheless, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Russia spends 34 per cent of all of its budgetary spending on security to fund special services and spying. By comparison, the US spends 18 per cent2. Of course, by excluding these data the power of some countries is underestimated because the ability to gain secret materials could have a significant effect on real power3.

In our ranking, we are not conducting wide empirical research of soft power, such as polling countries how they perceive each other. In our efforts to estimate soft power, we have to satisfy ourselves with the selection of two factors (education and the influence of individuals on diplomacy), which to some degree reflect soft power. Unfortunately, all existing state rankings based on soft power do not have a global reach—although countries from around the world are included, these are only selected countries: published rankings include up to 30 countries4. Using such rankings would present a problem because data for the remaining countries would have to be generated independently. In one poll of this type, 16,000 internet users from various countries chose adjectives that would best describe a given country and in the end 10 were chosen that have the most positive connotations. This ranking was won by Germany, followed by Canada and Great Britain5. Poland did not make the list of the 60 most liked countries in the world.

The existing soft power indicators cannot be used to construct our index also for another reason: the perception of countries has only been measures for several years, while we wanted to gain an indicator that could show the strength of a given country starting in the 1990s. For the same reason, the Global Cybersecurity Index described above could not be used in the construction of the State Power Index because it was created only once.

As for the economic power dimension, some researchers take into account the public debt level. Since public debt is the property of foreign investors it may be susceptible to external shocks. China, for example, holds about 6 per cent of the US public debt, which is often criticised by US politicians as constituting an excessive economic reliance6. However, the authors of this publication do not believe that data on public debt in the hands of other countries have a real effect on the lowering of the power of a given country in the international arena. The issue of bonds for foreign investors is a normal strategy for managing the debt of a given country. The use of the measure of total debt should be treated in a similar fashion because the amount of public debt today is not the most important criterion to assess economic effectiveness. Furthermore, there are very few sovereign defaults.

Similar problems with creating economic measures appear when we want to divide specific companies to individual countries. For example, the number of companies on the Global 5007 list would be very difficult to translate into an indicator because of the basic problem of being able to assign corporations to a home country in the global era. Companies operate in too many countries at once and their capital structure is too complicated to allow it to be clearly associated with one economy.

We also ignored sport as a factor. More than 3 billion people around the globe watched the world football championship. A significant portion of the population (especially male) watch football matches, not only the teams from their national leagues, but the best football leagues in the world in Germany, Great Britain, Italy or Spain. Some researchers believe that the position held by each country in the FIFA ranking is an important factor representing the aspiration of a particular country8. The problem is that this is not an important soft power factor for all countries (a good example of this is the US, where football, or “soccer”, is not an important in the popular culture or on the map of its national aspirations). We collected these data in the preparatory phase of our project, but they introduced too much variance to the entire system of indicators. A similar problem is shared by measures that would be based on the number of medals won by national teams in the Olympics—sport in many ways is an important measure of a country’s strength in literal terms, but the Olympics take place every four years and the first games where most countries of the former eastern bloc took place was 1996. Because of this these data could not be included in our research.

In addition, there are measures of the technological level of an army, but there are no data sets that would show different types of weapons available to different armies in the time frame starting in the 1990s9.

The last indicator that was not included because of the lack of data since 1991 is the spending on research and development (R&B) as a portion of a country’s GDP. This basic measure of the innovation of economies cannot be used because of a low quality of public statistics of some countries.

  1. W. Orłowski, op. cit.
  2. A. Biryukov, The Secret Money Behind Vladimir Putin’s War Machine, Bloomberg, 2 June 2015.
  3. See for example P. Musgrave, Why would Russia interfere in the U.S. election? Because it sometimes works. And America is no stranger to the tactic, “The Washington Post” 2016, July 26.
  4. J. McClory, The Soft Power 30, op. cit.
  5. US News, 2016, Best countries ranking.
  6. K. Amadeo, 2016, U.S. Debt to China: How Much Does It Own?, The Balance.
  7. Fortune Magazine, Global 500 Ranking.
  8. J. Kim, S. Kim, J. Wang, op. cit.
  9. This is not allowed by, for example, data from Military Balance and SIPRI.