Putin is president of a dying Russia. But he can still kick US President Obama’s ass down the road whenever he wants. Even if Russia is no longer an full-fledged global superpower, it is still a nuclear weapons superpower — and a dying nuclear weapons superpower is something to be feared.
Russia is dying. The once-mighty Russian state is undergoing a catastrophic post-Soviet societal decline. Health standards are abysmal, and life expectancy in Russia is nothing like it is in the West — just age 60 for men (less than in Botswana and Madagascar) and 73 for women, roughly the same as in Saudi Arabia. Alcoholism — the scourge of Soviet society — continues to ravage the country, with a death rate among Russia’s youth that is 35 times higher than among their counterparts in Europe. So does drug addiction. According to United Nations statistics, more than a fifth of all heroin consumed globally every year occurs in Russia. Prevalent, too, is a corrosive culture of abortion, with unofficial estimates placing the number of annual abortions at 2 million to 2.5 million — close to 2 percent of the Russian Federation’s potential population.
In all, the country is contracting by close to half-a-million souls every year owing to both death and the emigration of its citizens (to Europe and beyond). At this rate, according to the Kremlin’s own estimates, Russia could lose a quarter of its population by the middle of this century. It’s a phenomenon that demographers have described as “the emptying of Russia” — a wholesale implosion of Russia’s human capital, and a collapse of its prospects as a viable modern state.
Russia is also transforming. The country is experiencing a radical change in its ethnic and religious composition. Today, Russia’s roughly 21 million Muslims are still a distinct minority. Comparatively robust birthrates have put Muslims on track to account for a fifth of the country’s population by the end of this decade, and possibly a majority by midcentury.
Such a demographic revolution will fundamentally change Russia’s character. That is not a problem, per se. In recent years, though, the Kremlin has discriminated against its Muslim minority and ignored (even abetted) the rise of corrosive xenophobia among its citizens. This has bred resentment and alienation among Russia’s Muslims — sentiments that radical Islamic groups have been all too eager to exploit. The result is an increasingly restive Muslim minority that has little connection to — or love for — the Russian state.
Finally, the Chinese are coming. Over the past two decades, Russia’s population east of the Ural Mountains has declined by a fifth, and now stands at some 25 million, or some six inhabitants per square mile on average. This depopulation has sharpened the strategic competition over the country’s resource-rich east, which is now increasingly coveted by an energy-hungry China. In this unfolding contest, China, a rising global economic and strategic power, holds the upper hand over a declining Russia. Because it does, China could soon grow bold enough to challenge Russia for dominion over the latter’s economically vital eastern territories. __ A Dying Russia
Russia has seen both the number of young people in the country and their share in the total population decline steadily in recent years, an Education Ministry official said on Tuesday.
“According to the Federal State Statistics Service, in 2012 there were 31.6 million people in the 15-29 age group – making up 22 percent of the country’s total population,” Alexander Stradze, who heads the department for further studies, training and youth policy, said at an Education Ministry board meeting.
Stradze noted that there were 32.4 million people in this age bracket in 2011, and 33.7 million in 2009: 23 percent and 24 percent respectively, describing this trend as steady decline, but not detailing potential causes.
… Sergei Belokonev, head of the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs, added that the number of young people in the country is expected to fall further, to 25 million, in the coming decade. __Russia’s Disappearing Youth
Russia’s military is in slow collapse, with a rapid decline of the military’s industrial infrastructure and a steady loss of quality officers and officer candidates as the best of Russian youth move abroad for better opportunity.
The more savvy Russia observers among Russia’s neighbors can see the writing on the wall, and are biding their time, waiting for Russia’s boundaries to begin collapsing toward the centre.
The more incompetent observers, such as current political leaders in the EU and the US, continue to cringe at every threat out of Putin’s mouth.
Russia still has a large number of nuclear weapons, some of which are still capable of working as designed, no doubt. Caution is always warranted against such a foe. But naivete and incompetence, of the Obama variety, can be catastrophic.
Many more articles on Russia from the original Al Fin blog. Discover how a few of the brighter journalists are only now discovering things that Al Fin was telling you several years ago. The mainstream of skankstream journalism is still tooting Putin’s and Russia’s horn, of course.