Potemkin Russia: Putin’s Make-Believe Juggernaut

Russia cannot mass produce any of its vaunted superweapons: Not the Su-57 “stealth fighter,” not the T-14 Armata “super tank,” not the RS-28 Sarmat super-ICBM, and none of the long line of vaporware advanced weapons systems that Putin boasts of. Russia has fallen far behind in the space race, the tech race, and the weapons race.

Russia’s annual defense budget tends to hover at around $60 billion, which places them on fairly equal footing with nations like the UK, despite maintaining a force that is significantly larger than that of its spending peers. As a result, Russia has been forced to make hard decisions regarding the allocation of its meager budget—sacrificing the capabilities of its surface fleet at times to bolster spending on new submarines and limiting orders of technologically advanced platforms like the T-14 Armata main battle tank and Su-57 stealth fighter to little more than “token” numbers, as a few examples. __ A Pretense of Strength

As Putin gradually expands his creeping invasion of Ukraine that was begun in 2014, Russia struggles with a demographic collapse, a long-term economic crisis, and the inability to build the high tech infrastructure to support Putin’s “weapons envy” directed toward the west.

Russia continues to develop these systems, despite the inability to fund their mass production, in part because merely having a military capability is often enough to get your name mentioned in the media alongside more formidable opponents like the U.S. or China. Russia’s troubled stealth fighter, the Su-57, serves as a good example of how Russia develops “capabilities,” that aren’t practical in a fight, but do garner headlines. __ Potemkin Russia

Few Good Men Left in Dying Russia

Russia has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world of 1.58 births per woman, which is also below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. Russia also has one of the oldest populations in the world with an average age of 40.3 years. Further contributing to Russia’s population decline is a low level of immigration.

While projections into the future of Russia are very difficult, it’s estimated that Russia will fall from the 9th most populous country to 17th by 2050. 

Russia 2022

Russia is losing its people of working age and military age. It is losing its qualified engineers and its brighter scientists and technologists. Russia is losing its future.

In the long run, Russia is dead — just like Putin. For the Russian thug’s gamble to work, it must work quickly. The Russian economy is not in great shape, and the Russian people do not feel the same affection for Putin that they may have felt 20 years ago. Putin has hurt Russia too often, for the sake of his own power, profit, and personal pride.

Putin is gratified with the weak response of US president* Joe Brandon Biden to his creeping aggression against Russia’s peaceful neighbor Ukraine. But Putin cannot count on Biden’s tacit complicity forever. In the US, the political landscape can change very quickly. Biden is a senile placeholder. It is the actual puppetmasters behind the puppet who are calling the shots. And today’s US puppetmasters are rapidly losing popularity.

Why China Will Retake Siberia

China is biding its time, pretending to be Russia’s ally. When the time seems right, China will make its move to take the land it believes is rightfully hers. While Putin’s attention is directed toward a failed gambit to its western flank, may be an opportunity.

Image Source

“A land without people for a people without land.” At the turn of the 20th century, that slogan promoted Jewish migration to Palestine. It could be recycled today, justifying a Chinese takeover of Siberia. Of course, Russia’s Asian hinterland isn’t really empty (and neither was Palestine). But Siberia is as resource-rich and people-poor as China is the opposite. The weight of that logic scares the Kremlin.

Why China Will Reclaim Siberia NYT

The logic for a Chinese takeover of Siberia is the exact mirror reflection of the logic for a Russian takeover of the peaceful and independent nation of Ukraine.

Putin’s blind trust in China may be his undoing.

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4 Responses to Potemkin Russia: Putin’s Make-Believe Juggernaut

  1. Carl T. says:

    Half the time you’re lamenting the slow down in Chinese population growth as a disaster for China.

    The rest of the time its China excess population for its resources as rationalization to take over half the world.

    Which is it? Or, better said, what exactly are you hoping for?

    • alfin2101 says:

      Carl, you pose a false dichotomy. The slow down in Chinese population is real, but not currently apocalyptic. At the same time, China has despoiled its own rivers, ports, air, croplands, and the countryside in general. It needs newer more pristine lands, and huge amounts of clean water. Siberia has what China needs. It is a simple argument, and if China decides to make a “Putinesque” historical argument for the ownership of Siberia, Russia has no other friends of consequence. The takeover will be nonviolent, slow, but progressive. It began over a decade ago. If you cannot see it yet, you are monitoring the wrong sources.

  2. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Well, according to that Zeihan video you posted previously, China is depopulating just like Russia, maybe even faster. I know that the cities in NE China (what used to be called Manchuria) have no young people in them because their birth rates have been so low for so long and all of their young people go to the flashy cities in the south. If they can’t even even keep the north east part of China populated, how are they going to annex and populate Siberia, which is much colder and nastier than the north east? I think Russia (and everyone else) will depopulate and NO ONE will bother to take over any part of it.

    • alfin2101 says:

      China needs clean croplands, clean water, and clean air. Almost 300 million Chinese have been working away from home in the former boom areas of China’s economy. Out of that number, many would be willing to relocate to agricultural parts of Siberia in exchange for certain privileges not available to them in their current situation. These are things that our “elite” media outlets are too lazy, stupid, and corrupt to point out. If China’s children continue to eat, drink, breathe, and immerse themselves in poisons for too many more years/decades, they will be as unhealthy as Russia’s young.

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