monster country
n. A large and populous country, especially one that wields enormous economic, cultural, and political power.
The Brazilian approach to foreign relations is very different. Its diplomats, politicians, and commentators write and speak about Brazil as a continental power. Pointing to its size and population, they argue that Brazil should be counted among the world's giant countries, alongside the United States, Russia, China, and India. Indeed, prior to his appointment as foreign minister a year ago, Celso Lafer argued that the interests of Brazil and these other "monster countries" (a term coined by U.S. diplomat George Kennan) go beyond specific issues and outcomes. They have a major stake — and therefore should have a major say — in how global affairs are managed.
—Peter Hakim, “Two Ways to Go Global,” Foreign Affairs, January 01, 2002
Kennan sees the United States as a "monster country" a problem compounded by bureaucratic elephantiasis and the singular neglect of "intelligent and discriminating administration." The U.S., he submits, might be better governed if decentralized into a dozen constituent republics, some of which might grow akin to Latin American neighbors in language and culture.
—David P. Calleo, “An Elder Statesman Speaks Out,” The Washington Post, February 23, 1993
1993 (earliest)
We are, if territory and population be looked at together, one of the great countries of the world—a monster country, one might say, along with such others as China, India, the recent Soviet Union, and Brazil.
—George Kennan, Around the Cragged Hill, W.W. Norton, January 19, 1993
This phrase has undergone a subtle but significant shift in the ten years or so that it has been a part of the language. It was first used by the American diplomat George Kennan in his 1993 book Around the Cragged Hill (see the earliest citation). In his view, a monster country is one that is so large, so powerful, and so diverse, that it has become essentially ungovernable. For some reason, the pejorative angle — the monster country's ungovernableness — has been dropped from the usage, and these countries are now merely the big and the powerful. The leaders of some countries — Brazil, in particular — even want their nations to be known as monster countries.
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