How reliable / respected are George Friedman / Stratfor's interpretations of geopolitics?

  • Recently, a talk by Stratfor's chairman George Friedman at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs attracted some attention in my homeland Germany, among other things because it appears he frankly supports suspicions that within German media and politics would immediately be dubbed conspiracy theories. To get some background for assessing his interpretations of geopolitics, my question is: How respected is George Friedman in US-american geopolitical circles? Are his claims and interpretations usually taken seriously? Since he runs an intelligence company, one could expect his earnings depend crucially on how respected he is. On the other hand, maybe it's also lucrative to sometimes overstep the bounds of reputable political analysis, just to gain some publicity.

    How respectable is who now? (the fact that I, someone who pays a fair bit of attention to US politics, have never heard of this guy should tell you something)

    @cpast the name George Friedman wasn't known to me either but Stratfor is a pretty known company that often gets quoted in respectable newspapers (Which I suspect is also the best possible answer)

    Thanks @user45891, yes I was surprised by cpast's comment because I also had the impression that Stratfor is moderately well known. Though the first time I heard about them it was because Anonymous had hacked into their servers and threatened to publish their subscribers list. So personally you'd say that since Friedman is the founder, CEO, and chairman of this moderately well-known company, you'd take his interpretations seriously?

    Can you give an example of something that would be considered a "conspiracy theory"?

    @ThePompitousofLove the statment A. Donda most likely is referring to is `The primordial interest of the United States [...] has been the relationship between Germany and Russia, because united they are the only force that could threaten us, and to make sure that doesn't happen.` from somewhere in this video:

    @user45891 - that's a VERY valid statement. By itself, neither Germany nor core Russia is a geopolitical threat to the USA. Combined, they can easily control most of Eurasia and thus scale up to become such a threat. One might quibble over some areas of this but as a concept it's preeminently not-insane. Whether conscious US posture had always derived from that concept is a different story.

    The question should be how effective is Stratfor in predicting future poltical developments. How well known, or popular they are, or may be, is irrelevant since popularity very often lacks substance. They should be judged by the results they produce. In that respect I think they are fairly successful, though at times I think they have ignored analyses that they have gotten wrong. What is also important to note is that unlike any other outfits that I've seen, there is a methodology that they use, a paradigm. One can debate the effectiveness of their methods, but to be sure what they produce is

    let's not have extended discussions in the comments

  • After all this discussion, it is worth answering the question decisively.

    George Friedman is an academic, who runs a side business providing popular commentary on International Relations. He has a PhD and is very much a part of the U.S. national security commentariat, and relatively well respected although, obviously, not everyone agrees with him. Because he does dedicate a certain amount of time to popular writing and lives outside of Washington, D.C. he is not nearly as influential as many people might think, but he is absolutely not a crock.

    That said, his assertion that a core interest of the U.S. is to prevent the emergence of a Eurasian hegemon, through the unification of Russia with Germany is uncontroversial in the U.S. Furthermore, preventing such a unification is also a core interest of Britain, France and essentially every European or Asian country as well.

    In fact, whether one is a realist with geopolitical leanings--which Friedman is--or a liberal, there is a strong case to ensure that neither Germany nor Russia dominate the other. From a realist perspective, were one country be able to marshal the forces of all or most of continental Europe, it is the only extant political situation that could legitimately threaten the U.S.'s national security (without using nuclear weapons). From a liberal perspective, the only way that either Germany of Russia could dominate the other would be through a collapse of domestic liberal democratic mechanisms which serve as safeguards against threats to other democratic countries. Either way, it is in the U.S.' national interest that neither Germany nor Russia come to dominate the other.

    Perhaps most importantly, this is not at all controversial among German scholars and the German National Security establishment either, as it is the direct basis for the high degree of confidence in U.S. security guarantees to Germany. Because Russia has the largest nuclear arsenal in the world, and Germany has been a good global citizen and a valuable partner, the U.S. need not fear that Germany will ever dominate Russia--and I am certain that Friedman had no intention of implying so. Therefore, Germany can rest completely assured that the U.S. will defend it against Russia because the only possible threat to U.S. national security comes from Russian domination of Germany, which neither the U.S. nor Germany wants.

    *collapse of domestic liberal democratic mechanisms* Sounds pretty much what happened the last 5 years in Russia.

    Thanks for the answer. – A comment: In my understanding, "united" doesn't necessarily mean "forming a political union" (I can't see that happening at all), but also "standing together on matters of common interest". With respect to that, publicized understanding in Germany would be that of course we are a souvereign country acting based on our own interests, and if those interests happen to align with those of russia there can be united action – it just so happens that our interests align much more with the US than with russia.

    Compared to that, what Friedman says sounds like no, German souvereignty is bogus, US foreign policy is directed at never to let such an alignment happen. A concrete example are current economic sanctions against russia, which strongly hurt parts of the German economy, but not in the same way the economy of the US. The "conspiracy theory" would be that Germany is not so much a valued partner, but a good little soldier that needs to be kept in line. It has now been a while since I watched that talk, but to German ears it sounds like that's what Friedman is saying.

    While I wouldn't be surprised if George came off as thinking that, I'm sure he doesn't. Sovereignty, especially of a major power like Germany, us a fundamental assumption of the realist paradigm, which George is a major proponent of.

    Nice answer, but come on... "whether one is a realist with geopolitical leanings, or a liberal"? Nice jab there.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM