Russia was already in trouble long before the drop in oil prices and the laying on of western economic sanctions. Russia’s middle class was in rebellion, and Putin’s popularity was slipping rapidly. He had to do something drastic, and quickly. Clearly his appeal to national paranoia was the winning ticket for the wannabe mafia tsar, in his quest for renewed popularity.
The annexation of Crimea won over provincial Russia and legitimised his rule even in the eyes of many who had protested against him two years earlier. As Mr Dmitriev sees it, unmet hopes of personal fulfilment were assuaged by symbolic victories for the state.
…Russia’s budget cuts are a good guide to Mr Putin’s priorities. The upkeep of the Kremlin and spending on the army and security services take 40% of the entire budget. But spending on health care and infrastructure has been reduced twice as much as spending on defence. Among other winners in the budget are the state media which spew out hatred and aggression.
The object of this aggression can vary: two years ago it was migrants and corrupt officials. Now it is the West, “national traitors” and a “fifth column” that included Boris Nemtsov, a liberal politician assassinated in Moscow in February. In this way the Kremlin’s aggression has become a narcotic that may lead to an overdose, causing it to lose control. Indeed, the mood could one day switch from an external enemy back to Mr Putin himself, not least because the image of America constructed by the Kremlin’s propaganda bears such a close resemblance to the reality of Russia. __ Economist
Putin’s violent interventions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine were meant to serve several purposes at once, including keeping Ukraine from moving to the west for economic, social, and military ties. That purpose clearly failed. But Putin succeeded in harnessing Russian popular paranoia in bolstering his personal popularity ratings. His personality cult is riding high — but such cults always have a due date, whether visible or not.
Putin also hoped to “reset” Russia’s prosperity, perhaps by causing oil prices to go up in all the instability and confusion. Instead, oil prices went down, and the normally weak and wobbly Obama demanded medium-strength sanctions — something totally out of character for the bobble-head president, and no doubt a surprise to Putin.
So instead of reversing Russia’s long-term decline, Putin’s actions in Eastern Europe are having the opposite effect, accelerating Russia’s brain drain, occult (off the books) capital flight, womb drain, inflation, unemployment, boosting corruption, and increasing the everyday hardship on everyday Russians. Only Putin has seemingly benefited in a strong way — to this point. Oh, and the mafia clans, of course.
Russia’s ongoing decline is steepening, and Putin has no one to blame but himself. Eventually, even a drunken and corrupted Russian nation will begin to understand what has been happening.
Drug and alcohol abuse grow, while Russia’s health care system is dying. Most abortions are now “off the books,” that is, if the woman can afford to pay a doctor directly. Otherwise, the woman’s choices become very grim very quickly.
Those women who do choose to give birth face many risks, from losing a job to dying in childbirth. According to the World Health Organization, a Russian woman is six times more likely to die in childbirth than a German woman. Combined with the high chance of giving birth to an unhealthy child and the unstable finances of the majority of the population, it is no wonder the birth rate has decreased. __Dying Mother Russia
Russia has recently undergone a “dead cat” population bounce, but is now quickly moving back into a depopulation phase. This is due to a rapid decline in Russian women of reproductive age. At the same time, Russia is experiencing an acute “skills shortage” due to a rapid ageing of working men, while lacking a sufficient healthy cohort of younger men to replace them. All of Russia’s best are leaving the country as quickly as possible.
In late 2014, the Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) published Russian population migration data covering the period from January to August 2014. The report at once attracted the attention of journalists: it showed that in the first eight months of 2014, 203.6 thousand people left Russia, compared to the 186.4 thousand who left over the course of 2013. When the final numbers are tallied, the number of Russians who emigrated in 2014 will likely surpass the record high of 1999, when the country officially “lost” around 215 thousand people. — http://imrussia.org/en/analysis/nation/2224-a-new-emigration-the-best-are-leaving-part-1
Russian state employees are forbidden from leaving — and emigration controls are likely to tighten further. It is too early to say how many young Russian men will escape their conscription into Ukraine and the west, but that is likely to become an important trend the longer Putin’s charade goes on.
Russia was already shrinking at an incredible rate. Now Putin has put that process on steroids.
Russia has nearly 20,000 ghost towns — places once built to serve strategically important locations or rich mineral deposits whose significance was later downgraded to unnecessary…
Loss of population for ethnic Russians is occurring from the outside-in. Thousands of villages are depopulating in the East and in the North, while ethnic Russians are slowly being replaced by children of Muslim immigrants in the birthing wards and schools of the cities.
…the depopulation of Russia as a whole began in earnest during the disintegration of communism ― in 1992 more people died than were born for the first time since World War II. Ever since, numerous factors have led to a precipitous decline in the rural population. The prevalence of chronic disease, poverty (23 million Russians live on less than $231 a month), high rates of violence and the abuse of alcohol and tobacco push up mortality rates, while birth rates remain low. The life expectancy for Russian males is 61.8 years, compared with 74.2 years for females.
… the Berlin Institute for Population and Development predicted that Russia’s population will fall by another 24 million people before 2050 ― making it the world’s 14th most populous state, one place above Vietnam.
… In villages across the region, the ruins of imperial estates and churches dwarf modern houses of cheap, gray bricks or wood. Glimpses of once enormous landscaped gardens are preserved in alleys of trees, scummy ponds and fountains which haven’t worked for decades. __ Ghost Town Russia
Besides Russia’s population and its power, Russia’s prosperity is also fading.
Russia leaks more oil across the taiga every year than 7 Deepwater Horizon spills.
“Russia is now in a state of strategic isolation and is trying to establish contact with anyone it can in an attempt to show that is not, in fact, isolated.”
… “strategic isolation” coupled with the willingness to team up with whatever allies are at hand only indicates a condition of intellectual and moral poverty. __ Moscow Times
Russians drunk on vodka have been celebrating Putin’s “victories” in Crimea and Donbass for some time now. What is it that Putin has actually “won?”
Let’s assess the results of these “victories” under Putin. The people of what Moscow has long hailed as its “brotherly neighboring state” now view Russia as an unmitigated aggressor. The Ukrainian representatives at the Tallinn conference were unanimous on this point.
Now Moscow will have to wait decades before it can even broach the subject of integrating Ukraine and Russia in any form. Conference attendees repeatedly called on NATO to abandon its previously declared principles and immediately bring Ukraine into the alliance, arguing that it is the only way to stop Russian aggression.
Recall that Moscow justified its decision to seize Crimea and start a war in Ukraine as the best way to prevent NATO forces from nearing Russia’s borders. Now that policy has only intensified NATO’s presence and hastened its approach.
Russia had just as fiercely objected to the appearance of NATO troops in the Baltic states. However, Moscow’s escapade in Ukraine prompted NATO leaders to decide at their most recent summit in Wales to rotate NATO forces through Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
In doing so, they followed the example of Moscow when it announced that, by positioning contingents of thousands of soldiers near the Ukrainian border, it was not violating the Vienna Document — the last agreement still in force that seeks to maintain some measure of trust and transparency between Russia and the West on military matters. __ Putin’s “Victories”
Russia’s boom cities are going bust, and Putin seems powerless to slow the process. Once-prosperous shopping malls are turning into ghost towns, resembling China’s “ghost city” and “ghost mall” phenomena.
The lethal combination of corruption and quasi-command economy may work for a while — if a country has massive natural resources to be stolen, like Russia, or if it has a huge number of intelligent and poorly paid workers, like China. But eventually the misallocation of resources caused by crippled markets will tell. And edifices will crumble and become abandoned.
China’s population is large enough to ride out any number of significant brain drains, capital flights, and corruption scandals. Russia’s population was already shrinking badly before the latest sustained downturn in the economy.
Putin’s Ukrainian gambit has only bought him some time. As things deteriorate further, he will need to find another rabbit to pull out of his hat. The next rabbit he pulls may affect you and yours far more significantly than what is happening in Ukraine.
Think about it. If you live in Europe or the Anglosphere, your nation’s immigration and multicultural policies may be creating demographic imbalances and instabilities in your cities. Where are the crimes, the rape gangs, the organised crime presence growing most rapidly in your country?
Putin is more likely to act through proxies to promote instability before he openly commits acts of war against the west. But he does want sanctions dropped, he does want his French ships and other western weapons systems, and he desperately needs western oil technology and expertise. China is not entirely trusted, and could not entirely fill the gap anyway.
Russia is threatening nuclear retaliation against Estonia, Denmark, Poland, and other countries, but if a nuclear detonation does occur it is more likely to be a plausibly deniable act of terrorism by one cat’s paw or another, perhaps an obscure group from the Caucasus or Central Asia.
An assassination of a western political figure — one that might stir up particular political, religious, or ethnic factions — is no doubt under consideration. As long as no clues point back to Putin. Keep all of these things in mind.
In the end, Putin may finally realise that he has trapped himself in a corner. He may decide that if he is to fall, then Russia must also fall, and the rest of the world with it.
“By its own policies,” Zharkov says, “Russia has put itself and its future at risk. The world looks at [it] with surprise and horror.” For a time, it may be frightened into going along. But as with everything, there is a limit to this – and the world may decide that it can do without Russia just as it has learned to live without Carthage and without the Golden Horde. __ Muscovites Slowly Growing Wary of Putin
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Be dangerous. Be very dangerous.
A somewhat more frantic interpretation of Putin’s “end game”:
Russian leaders have never acted in the best interests of Russians
There are many choices between abject appeasement and total war. This, I suppose, is the main point here: The west has a very broad range of choices. Thanks to Putin, Russia’s choices are vanishing rapidly.