Russia Running Out of Time

In a few short years, Russia will degrade from having a very small and expensive skilled labor pool to not having one at all, forcing the Russians to choose which bits of their system to not maintain.

__ Zeihan on Geopolitics

Russian education is corrupt and ineffective.

With few Russian universities tackling plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty at an institutional level, “cheating is blossoming both among students and faculty and reinforcing corruption practices outside academia”, he adds. __

Bribery, cheating, and plagiarism are particularly common in law, finance, engineering and medical schools, where it is not the most talented who win out, but those with the richest bribes to officials.

Russia 2015 Population Pyramid Source

Russia 2015 Population Pyramid

The 2015 Russian population pyramid is provided as an example of why Russia must act precipitously, if it is to pursue regional and international dominance.

Maintaining the Russian system — which includes everything from the national rail network to the natural gas fields to Moscow’s steam tunnels to the Red Army to the nuclear missile forces — for a territory as expansive as the Hordelands requires a huge skilled labor pool that Russia simply no longer has.

… Technical training in Russia collapsed before the Soviet fall, and now the youngest cadre of engineers who have the full suite of technical skills has entered their 50s. In chauvinist Russia, nearly all are men, and according to the last non-politicized data that escaped the Federal State Statistics Service, male mortality is only 59.

__ Zeihan on Geopolitics

There are still enough skilled Russian engineers to custom-build functioning submarines, tanks, missiles, and aircraft. But mass production of advanced, high quality weapons systems is quickly falling out of reach for reasons mentioned in the article linked above. That is one of the main reasons that Russia is forced to depend upon China for advanced manufacturing of high tech systems. Ukraine once provided that role, but for obvious reasons can no longer be counted on by Putin.

Russia is too large a nation for its central government to control and maintain. The economy continues to deteriorate, the ethnic Russian population is rapidly aging and failing to reproduce itself, and Russia’s coterie of engineers is dying off — leaving the massive landmass without the capacity to innovate quickly enough to keep from falling behind the more advanced nations of the world.

Putin is focusing on possible future threats from Europe. But it is the nearer-term threats from China and nearby Muslim regions that are far more acute and realistic. These more tangible and probable threats are being swept under the rug by the massive Russian propaganda machine.

Relationship Between Russia and China Growing More “Poignant”

In Russia, flight of foreign capital began in 2012 and accelerated after the Crimea escapade and Putin’s Donbass adventure. It is not safe to invest one’s assets in Russia unless you hold significant leverage over Putin and his inner circle. China feels it has enough leverage over Russia to invest in Siberian energy assets and to safely loan operating capital to the increasingly desperate Putin regime.

China is negotiationing to purchase a large chunk of Russia’s most profitable enterprise, Rosneft, and is purchasing some of Russia’s most advanced military technology — including the Su 35 fighter jet. In addition, China is beginning to take over Ukraine’s former role as a crucial manufacturer of the most advanced military components in Russia’s higher tech weapons systems.

All of these factors — and more — indicate that Putin has no choice but to increase Russia’s dangerous dependency on a China with serious problems of its own. Some of China’s problems can only be solved by the acquisition of large parts of Russian territory, resources, and sensitive technologies. Putin will have a harder and harder time saying “no.”

Islamic Terror is a Ticking Time Bomb for Russia

… Russia [has] the dubious distinction of contributing the most fighters to ISIS from any non-Muslim majority country, surpassing even France, the leading European contributor of fighters to ISIS.

… A testament to the ubiquity of the Russian fighters in ISIS was provided by Jamal Khweis, a 26-year-old from Virginia, who was captured in Iraq by Kurdish forces earlier this year after allegedly having fought for ISIS.
Khweis told his captors that during his time in ISIS guesthouses he was surrounded by Russians and Uzbeks.
ISIS caters to its potential recruits in Russia with Russian language propaganda. Last year, ISIS debuted a Russian language propaganda magazine titled Istok and the group also launched Furat Media, a Russian-language social media wing, through which it declared its establishment of an ISIS “province” in the North Caucasus area of Russia.

__ CNN

Putin and Kadyrov have been successful in shunting most of these homegrown terrorists to places such as Syria and Iraq — as well as Turkey — where they can do their mischief outside of Russia’s borders. But what goes around comes around, and Russia is growing a humongous karmic debt on all fronts.

Putin Digs an Ever Deeper Grave for Russia

Even without the recent long string of strategic mistakes, Russia would be in serious trouble. Civilian infrastructure has been neglected since Soviet times. Ease of doing business in Russia is horrific, driving foreign investment away, and preventing crucial economic reform.


In Hong Kong it takes 1-2 days to set up a business and there is no minimum capital requirement. By contrast, in Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world, there are 16 procedures required to start a business taking 213 days to complete. __ HKB

Another reason that Russia is doomed to remain relatively poor, is the culture of distrust and lack of cooperation. Studies have indicated that in “high-trust” cultures, only a small amount of punishment is needed to nudge “free-riders” back onto a more productive pathway.

However, when they conducted the identical experiment with subjects in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Turkey, Greece, Saudi Arabia, and Muscat, they found that the opportunity to punish other group members had much less ability to stave off a decline in contributions, and that the likely cause was that in those subject pools, punishing cooperators was almost as common as punishing non-cooperators. As a consequence, subjects in the “bad” subject pools earned less in the experiment than did their counterparts in the “good” ones.

It wasn’t lost on the experimenters that people in the countries having “well behaved” subjects also tend to earn more on average in everyday life than do those in the other countries.


“Well behaved” subjects included those living in countries such as “the U.S., Australia, England, Switzerland, Germany, China, and South Korea.” This line of research suggests that the Russian people themselves suffer from a culture of mistrust and bad behaviour that causes them to make poor decisions and to choose life paths of perpetual dysfunction and malcontent.

More on why some nations are rich and others are poor

Home Distilled Spirits a Booming Industry

Alcohol imports are falling, and purchases of high priced vodka are plummeting. But Russians are not drinking less, but more. The difference is being made up by moonshine and industrial alcohols, which are filling the desperate need for drink at a time of economic crisis.

Over the past year, the number of queries such as “Buy a still” on the Russian search engine Yandex has increased by 50 percent. In response to this query, the search engine produces a lot of offers, including “Rum at home,” “Still as a gift” or “Distiller for home delivery, inexpensive.”

The latter is most often true: The minimum price of a still ranges from 5,000 to 7,000 rubles ($65-90) in different online stores – a feasible amount for a Russian with an average income.


The average Putin supporter would rather drink spirits than to eat, any morning-noon-or night.

Counterfeit Tobacco Pervades the Economically Weakened Motherland

In the last year there has been a sharp increase in the volume of counterfeit tobacco in Russia, including incidents of illegal supplies of cigarettes from China. Experts believe that this unexpected phenomenon is due to restrictions on tobacco sales. However, despite this initiative, the total number of smokers in the country remains practically unchanged. __

Official sales of legal cigarettes have declined, leading to a loss in government revenues. But smokers are simply turning to pirated, non-taxed tobacco — and are often “rolling their own” cigarettes, off the books.

Consequently, although official Russian statistics have been hijacked by propaganda services over the past few years of increasing weaponisation of all information coming out of Russia, it is clear that one cannot expect any relief in Russian mortality rates due to “official” declines in vodka sales and imports, or in “official” declines in cigarette sales. In fact, the opposite is likely due to the increased consumption of tainted goods incorporated into dysfunctional lifestyles that tend to remain unchanged until death.

Ethnic Russian Population Declining Much More Rapidly Than Russian Population Overall

Russian cities are filling up with immigrants from [Muslim] Central Asia and their children. The Russian Far East is beginning to host ever larger numbers of illegal Chinese immigrants. Russia is losing its ethnic Russians from the periphery inward, as a rapidly aging population dies off prematurely and fails to reproduce itself.

As Russia loses its healthy and competent populations to premature death, emigration, low fertility, and a lack of opportunity to innovate and do business free of corrupt and criminal government, the bear falls further and further behind its competition — both weak and strong. The combination of overall loss of numbers of ethnic Russians with the centralisation of ethnic Russian populations into an area that roughly recreates “the Grand Duchy of Moscow.” Perhaps even smaller.


Russia really is losing its creative potential, but not [merely] because many people are leaving, as my family did. Had we stayed in Moscow, our daughters probably wouldn’t have received a useful education: The system is deteriorating, not least because saber-rattling is expensive and oil revenue is shrinking. Russian graduates are losing their international competitiveness. Ten years from now, they may find it harder to leave the country for political or economic reasons than I did. The migration numbers that everybody likes to use will look stellar, though.

__ Bershidsky in Bloomberg

Russia is running out of time for multiple reasons, including the ongoing loss of its most talented innovators and risk takers, and the defection of its most family-oriented women and girls.

Collapse of medical, educational, transportation, etc. infrastructures from loss of funding cannot help.

The problem of bribery, corruption, cheating, and plagiarism in universities is also disturbingly common in Chinese higher education, although it is not as pervasive or destructive to society as what is seen in Russian schools.

The root-cause of university corruption lies in the absence of efficient anti-bribery measures and in the crisis of the entire system of Russia’s higher education, experts say.

“Students in the West realize their future career hinges on the quality of knowledge they get, and that’s why bribery doesn’ t flourish there,” says Yevgeny Bunimovich, the chairman of education committee at Moscow City legislature. “On the face of it, many Russian students need graduation certificates just for the sake of a mere formality, and then many teachers themselves believe palm-greasing is a normal thing,”

Education is not the only sphere affected by corruption, which has shot through the whole of Russia society. __ Bribery at Russian Universieties

Corruption, bribery, payoffs, and all forms of cheating and lying are expected, and considered the norm in Russian society. Many naive western observers are unaware of the deep disconnect between societal norms in Russia and those in the west, and are thus easily misled by Russian propaganda outlets and internet trolls.

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6 Responses to Russia Running Out of Time

  1. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Yeah, I saw this chart in Xeihan’s book with the comment of the youngest people with a full engineering education being 51 years old (52 this year).

  2. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Perhaps Putin and his cronies are on the payroll of the Chinese.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Payoffs to members of Putin’s inner circle by the Chinese have been documented.

      Timchenko and a small set of elites from Putin’s inner circle have been the recipients of a series of multibillion-dollar sweetheart deals from Beijing designed to keep Putin’s clique both happy and looking east…. Beijing has realized that winning allies among the small group of Putin’s friends is a good way to influence the Russian president’s judgment — and keep a secure source of cheap hydrocarbons and sophisticated weapons close-by. __ FP

  3. infowarrior1 says:

    Communism seemed to have damaged russia permanently. The only thing going for them is healthy religion as well as old believer immigration and birthrate. Russia will probably recover but the wreck of communism will be ongoing meanwhile.

  4. Abelard Lindsey says:

    It was Stalin. Stalin essentially traumatized the country such that it will take generations to recover, if it does. One thing Stalin did that did immense damage was to create a “token” based economy. The “Economist” had an article about this in the early 90’s (when it was still good).

    • alfin2101 says:

      Yes. Stalin left deep scars in the Russian psyche. But Russia has been living under mass murderers and oppressors for many hundreds of years. This means that the entire concept of “trauma and recovery” must be seen in a somewhat different light for Russia and Russians.

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