Fancy a Trip to Russia? Better Not. It's The '11th Most Dangerous' Country in the World.

Better travel to Ukraine, Mexico, Colombia, Mali, Mauretania, Yemen, Libya, Turkey or Egypt instead

Sat, Jan 30, 2016 | 10290 Comments

If you’re perusing the holiday brochures any time soon, be sure not to book a trip to Russia, for according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s 2015 Global Peace Index, it is the 11th most dangerous country in the world. Yes, that’s right.

Forget taking advantage of the great ruble rate and planning the trip of a lifetime. Pack your bags and head somewhere else, folks. It just ain’t worth the risk.

Still, you might prefer some of the safer places for your summer hols — and indeed there are plenty of great options. Fresh off the NATO regime change carousel, Libya appears to look more inviting. Or perhaps war torn Yemen? Even a summer sojourn in Eastern Ukraine would seemingly be safer than a trip to Moscow.

Okay, let’s be serious. This ranking is incredibly misleading. Regardless of the methodology used, there is no way Russia ends up the 11th most dangerous country on earth, one notch above North Korea, more dangerous than war-torn Middle Eastern countries and some of the most poverty-stricken regions of Africa. Even if the indicators were all accurately measured (which is highly unlikely as these things often rely on perception), the combined result is still highly misleading.

I can understand how, based on some of the indicators measured, Russia could score highly. Incarceration, nuclear weapons, weapons exports. Fine. But then you look at the “combined major factors” and find Russia scores 2.7 out of 5 on “Domestic and International Conflict” whereas the US scores 1.7 out of 5. That just doesn’t tally, if you’re making any fair assessment of where the US stands in terms of “international conflict”.

On “violent crime” Russia scores 3/5 while US scores 1/5. On“militarization” and “access to weapons” Russia also scores significantly higher than the US. Ask a different “analyst” on a different day and the US would be dripping blood red on any of these indicators.

Then there are indicators like “political terror” where again, Russia obviously scores higher than the US (which I would agree with). But, look a little closer and you’ll see how they actually measured it: using information from Amnesty International and, you guessed it, US State Department Country reports. A lot of the actual ranking process is then done by EIU analysts. That is, Economist Intelligence Unit analysts, of the Economist Group — not exactly known for its fairness and accuracy in reporting on Russia.

“Perceptions of criminality” (4/5 to the US’s 2/5) also has an effect on where Russia lands in the ranking, as does “neighboring countries relations” (5/5 to the US’s 2/5). These are extremely subjective and I can’t see any accurate way of measuring them fairly. Despite the common perception, Russia has good relations with a number of its neighbors — and where that is not the case, the historical factors affecting that indicator are incredibly different (and not even comparable to) the US’s relationship with Canada, for example.

Then there are factors like “violent demonstrations” (Russia’s 3.5/5 to the US’s 2/5) which are measured, not on the actual number of violent demonstrations, but the “likelihood” of them. Again, all completely subjective and ultimately lacking in much real meaning.

Now, look at the map. The top 12 countries are marked in red. Why not just the top 10? But oh look, Russia’s at 11, so we better make the top 12 red, so we can splash red across that huge swathe of the earth. Scary stuff. Better not go there any time soon!

It’s difficult to tell what the authors of these reports actually mean when they refer to countries based on their level of “danger”. Is it that the country is dangerous to visit, or that it is a danger to the world? Or both? And how can you fairly combine the two anyway? When you combine factors like “perceptions of crime” with “nuclear weapons” you are going to get some seriously strange results.

Your regular Joe or Jane is not going to read the report in detail and come away with a nuanced understanding of all the combined factors. They’re going to see the headline and the map, their eyes will be drawn to the red, and they’ll go holy shit, Russia must be a God-awful place.

You therefore can’t just fling all this information down onto a list of “most dangerous” countries and think you won’t be misleading people.

Unless misleading people is not a major concern?