Contestable Claims

Far too often we see a significant gap between Russia-related claims, even by top officials and respected authors, and the reality on the ground. We also often encounter a wide divergence in expert views on crucial policy questions related to Russia. This section has two basic aims: (1) to dispel misconceptions that could adversely affect the quality of U.S. policy toward Russia, particularly when vital U.S. interests are involved, through rigorous fact-checking where possible and (2) to identify and debate key dilemmas for decision-makers per the adage that “truth is born in argument.”

We invite you to explore the section and send us more claims to fact-check or debate using the rectangular red button below. (For most fact-checks, we’ve adopted the "traffic light" rating system: red for incorrect; yellow for partially correct; green for correct.)

Claim in 2017: “In terms of per capita income, Russia ranks 73rd (in terms of purchasing power parity)…”

Partially Correct: While the CIA ranks Russia 73rd, the country's lowest ranking from either the World Bank or IMF in their most recent data is 52nd. (Fact-check done in April 2017.)
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Claim in 2017: Russians’ “life expectancy at birth ranks 153rd in the world, just behind Honduras and Kazakhstan.”

Correct: That is the most recent ranking, given by the CIA. Slightly older World Bank and U.N. rankings came close. (Fact-check done in April 2017.)
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Claim in 2017: "Because we [the U.S.] have stood firm, Russia is now—despite the boasts of its leaders—plagued by dwindling financial reserves, a historically weak ruble and poor international relations."

Partially Correct: At the time of this statement the Russian ruble was stronger versus the U.S. dollar than at any time since Fall 2015. (Fact-check done in January 2017.)
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Claim in 2016: Russia’s “economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy, except oil and gas and arms.”

Partially Correct: Russia also successfully sells goods and services in the space and nuclear-power industries. (Fact-check done in December 2016.)
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Claim in 2016: Russia’s GDP contracted by 40% between 2013 and 2015. Its economy is now half the size of Great Britain’s.

Partially Correct: Correct only when measured in current USD without adjusting for inflation or other variations. (Fact-check done in November 2016.)
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Claim in 2014: Immigrants aren’t rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity.

Incorrect: Russia’s international migrant population is the world’s third largest. (Fact-check done in October 2016.)
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Claims in 2015-2016: Russia is internationally isolated.

Partially Correct: This is debatable. (Fact-check done in September 2016.)
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Claims in 2014 and 2016: Life expectancy in Russia is falling.

Incorrect: It has been rising since 2003. (Fact-check done in September 2016.)
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Claims in 2014-2015: Russia’s population is shrinking.

Incorrect: It’s been growing since 2009. (Fact-check done in August 2016.)
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What else should we fact-check or debate?

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