In the 12 months since Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine, the war has turned into an accelerating disaster for Russia. Although Ukrainians are the primary victims of the Kremlin’s unprovoked aggression, the war has already left hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers dead or wounded. Unprecedented Western sanctions have squeezed the Russian economy, and Moscow’s large-scale mobilization and wartime crackdown on civil society have caused hundreds of thousands of the country’s high-skilled workers to flee abroad. Yet the greatest long-term cost of the war to Russia may be in permanently foreclosing the promise of Russia occupying a peaceful and prosperous place in the twenty-first-century world order.The Russia That Might Have Been “Foreign Affairs”
In the near term, Russia has an uphill struggle. It is losing 1 million people per year, and that decline will accelerate due to the rapid loss of women of child-bearing years. Deaths are up, births are way down.
If you add pandemic mortality to the casualties of war and the flight from mobilisation, Russia lost between 1.9m and 2.8m people in 2020-23 on top of its normal demographic deterioration. That would be even worse than during the disastrous early 2000s, when the population was falling by roughly half a million a year.
What might that mean for Russia’s future? Demography is not always destiny; and Russia did for a while begin to reverse its decline in the mid-2010s. The impact of population change is often complex, as Russia’s military mobilisation shows. The decline in the number of ethnic Russians of call-up age (which is being raised from 18-27 to 21-30) will make it harder for the armed forces to carry out the regular spring draft, which begins in April.
Such complications notwithstanding, the overall effect of demographic decline will be to change Russia profoundly—and for the worse. Most countries which have suffered population falls have managed to avoid big social upheavals. Russia may be different. Its population is falling unusually fast and may drop to 130m by mid-century. The decline is associated with increased misery: the life expectancy at birth of Russian males plummeted from 68.8 in 2019 to 64.2 in 2021, partly because of covid, partly from alcohol-related disease. Russian men now die six years earlier than men in Bangladesh and 18 years earlier than men in Japan.Economist “Russia’s Population Nightmare”
If the looming Russian Civil War Occurs as Expected…
A Disintegration Feared by Putin and Others
If the looming Russian Civil War occurs as expected, Russia’s population loss will accelerate even faster, as besides the deaths due to war, any Russians with skills will immediately leave the country. China may see an opportunity to fill the vacuum, of course, to say nothing of an opportunity to purchase large numbers of nuclear warheads on the cheap.
Russia without Russians would represent a lot of land and a lot of resources without anyone to exploit them, except perhaps the Chinese. Of course, most of Russia has never been occupied by actual Russians.
Russian empire has always been a combination of various territories and peoples kept together by force, being distinguished by its strict limitation on the development of “horizontal ties” in establishing overall rule from the center. As the Russian commentator points out, “In seeking to subordinate everything to a ‘vertical’ administration, its imperial ruling class interfered directly in the natural rise of horizontal ties among the various parts of the empire” (Kasparov.ru, March 6). However, the Russian empire did something more: it deformed the Russian nation by compensating for its subordination by encouraging it to feel superior to all others. __ Source
Moscow is the real country. Everything else is a collection of buffer colonies meant to feed and protect Moscow from invasion. The people of Moscow have a feeling of outward superiority, while secretly fearing that Russia is inferior, and uncultured.
Moscow invaded Ukraine a year ago in the effort to add more colonial buffer and more colonial people. But now Russia has lost 200,000 dead in that war, and roughly another 100,000 wounded, captured, and deserted. These young Russians are lost to the empire, as are any progeny they may have had.
Which nation will collapse soonest: Russia or China? China has a lot more people, a larger and more modern military, and a stronger manufacturing base. With no Russians in the way, China will expand into Siberia in the effort to absorb Russian resources — in a last gasp effort to extend the life of the communist state.
All of the neighbors of China and Russia want those countries to fail, and will not hesitate to strip them of their wealth once they are no longer capable of bullying the sovereign nations of their respective regions.
How Russia Rebuilds to Be Better Than Before
Note: Russia = Moscow = Organized Crime
The crime mob in Russia occupies three main levels: top, middle, bottom. The top level is dominated by former officials of the USSR and close associates. The middle layer is associated with local and regional governments and oligarchs. The bottom layer is the thugs and enforcers, who are the ones you usually think of when contemplating the Russian Mafia.
The following policy suggestions are given with the above in mind (along with the purge mentality existing inside Russia since long before the Bolsheviks), containing just a touch of the satirical element:
First, depose all former officials of the USSR and execute them. These are the corrupt people that seized Russian resource wealth and forced ordinary Russians to live on crumbs without reliable health care or civil rights.
Next, depose all government officials at all levels and execute them. These are the corrupt people that kowtowed to the corrupt former officials of the USSR, and who held the populations down as third world colonies for so long.
Next, strip the non-governmental oligarchs of all their wealth and execute them and their associates. These are the mafia dons of Russia who bled Russia and the colonies dry for so many years.
Next take the state propagandists of Russian media and execute them. These are traitors to the people, who did the dirty work of fooling and misleading the people away from the truth.
Next, give the wealth and power of Russia to ordinary Russians who will finally be able to see reality, without the smokescreen of propaganda blinding them. With clear vision they will be able to take Russia in the direction that it needs to go.
Keep in mind that Moscow is Russia and Russia is Moscow. Everything else is colonies, and in the brave new world the colonies will also have the right to go their own way apart from Moscow.
In the new world, the distorted proportions of the empire will be normalized and rectified. China will be another issue, for another day.
Preparing for the breakup of Russia
The risk of territorial secession would add to that of political secession. There is no real Russian nation, according to political scientist Sergueï Medvedev: “there is just a population governed by a State.” The country now comprises 89 federal subjects, including 21 non-Slavic autonomous republics. Russian citizens (Rossiiskii) are not all ethnic Russians (Russkii), and the proportion of ethnic Russians (approximately 80 percent today) is on the decline. The other main nationalities – notably the Tatars, the Bashkirs, the Chuvash, and the Chechens – are experiencing population growth. As is well known, the poorest populations, often from remote areas, contribute disproportionately to the country’s military; to the point that, as in past empires, they have a sense of serving as cannon fodder for the central government.
A Newer Stronger Poland Occupies Strategic Ground Once Again
Poland stopped the Bolshevik war of conquest in its tracks at the Battle of Warsaw (1920). Poland was also instrumental in starting the dismantling of the USSR dominated Warsaw Pact in the late 1980s. Poland has long been the bitter pill in the Russian borscht. As an important member of NATO, Poland once again stands in the way of atavistic Russian conquest.
I have a friend who owns a business in China who thinks China is preparing to take the Russian far east and Siberia once Putin is either sick or dead. He says the Chinese are stock piling lots of military hardware and supplies in the far northern reaches of China. He thinks all of this noise over Taiwan is a diversion. The reason the Chinese want this region is because of the natural resources of the region.
My friend also claims that the provincial government have been lying about their birth and population stats for 20 years and that the real population of China is now down to 950 million. He says the reason for this lying is that provincial governments get money from Beijing based on population and that this rack has been going on for at least 20 years.
An interesting POV. Thanks for passing it on.
Chicoms are frustrated and diminished by the success of offshore China (Taiwan etc.) which is capable of doing many things that mainland China cannot. But as I wrote ten years ago (about both Xi and Putin), mainland China would be better off biding its time and growing wealthier and more capable, rather than rushing to a confrontation it cannot win. With Russia, China is being handed the keys to the kingdom by a much diminished Kremlin.
I don’t know if my friend is correct. I had not talked to him in about 10 years when I sent him email last year asking about the insane lockdowns after covid was no longer a thing in the states last year. He said it was all political and that Xi was facing a rebellion instigated by the two ex-presidents; Hu Jintou and Jiang Zemin. This is when Shanghai had the most draconian lockdown, because it was the major stronghold of both the Jintou and Zemin cliques. He also said that China is bankrupt and that they had briefly considered invading Taiwan for no other purpose than to get at their foreign reserves. This was May of last year.
He also said that China faced food shortages because they had three years of bad harvests, mainly due to both flooding and drought. It was a couple of weeks ago that he gave me the information I posted above. He also said that China’s economy actually contracted 3% last year and that the 5% growth target is a myth.
My friend’s comments imply corollaries that will be observable by all in the next year or two.
Very interesting. Thanks again.