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Monday, August 27, 2007

Putin's Posturing Can't Hide Russia's Fundamental Weakness

The Telegraph reports:

Russia's nuclear bombers are permanently airborne once again and President Vladimir Putin loses no opportunity to strut the world stage and flex his country's muscles. Yet all the sound and fury disguises one essential fact: far from being a rising power like China or India, Russia is locked in long-term decline. At present, high oil prices give Russia's economy a temporary lift - and afford Mr Putin the cash to display his military prowess.

But demographics underlie every dimension of national power. Mr Putin cannot avoid the fact that Russia's population falls by about 800,000 people every year. Instead of the present level of 142 million, Russia will probably have fewer than 100 million people by 2050 and vast swathes of the country will be depopulated. Nations with a real chance of shaping events in the late 21st century do not have falling populations. National decline is virtually guaranteed by low life expectancy, alcohol abuse and the remarkable fact that Russian women experience more abortions than live births.

Power in the 21st century will divide between America's 300 million people, the European Union's 460 million and China and India with more than a billion each. Against this background, Russia looks insignificant.

Mr Putin's second Achilles Heel is the Russian economy. Its dependence on oil and natural gas is a blessing when, as now, prices are high. If prices fall or a long period of volatility begins, Mr Putin will quickly feel the pinch. The uncomfortable fact is that Russia is not a centre of innovation. There are no world class Russian manufacturing companies, no universities churning out new inventions. Instead, the economy is largely resource-dependent and rises or falls with global energy prices. In other words, Mr Putin has virtually no control over Russia's economic destiny. The vagaries of the world energy market will decide how belligerent he can afford to be.

Hence Russia's gross national product is only about £800 billion. Britain, with less than half its population, has one worth £1.3 trillion.

While every rattle of Mr Putin's sabre raises new memories of the Cold War, today's military situation does not compare with the era of the Iron Curtain. In those days, Central Europe was a Russian fiefdom and the Kremlin deployed 18 armoured divisions in the old East Germany, projecting its military power to the geographical centre of Europe. Today, by contrast, the satellite states are independent. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, once republics of the Soviet Union, are members of both the EU and Nato. Nato's eastern border is now a short drive from St Petersburg. These fundamental realities betray Russia's essential weakness - which Mr Putin is doing his utmost to mask.


Penny said...

Russia may be rotting away, but, the hard cold facts are that Putin would be voted for again, and again, and again.

There is no question after Putin's cronies drive the oil industry into the ground, suck out every kopeck to their Swiss bank accounts, Russia will devolve real fast into third world status in all spheres.

Reading Grigory Pasko's travel accounts at Robert Amsterdam's site is very depressing. Alcoholism and ignorance seem the rural norm.

There is no solidified consensus or force to overturn the inevitable. It's just a question of the West's countering the more dangerous Russian elements while time takes its toll.

La Russophobe said...

Hi Penny!

You're quite right in pointing out the great danger that we will see Russia's weakness not as an opportunity, an imperative to act while the iron is hot, but rather as an excuse to do nothing, hence waiting until Russia is a much thornier problem on the off-chance that it will quickly destroy itself. Granted, that's always a possibility where Russia is concerned, but it would be foolish to bet on it. Even a feeble Russia can cause all sorts of problems, not least for its own people.

Anonymous said...

Phoby, phoby, phoby. Russia's post-Soviet birth rate hit 9/1000 population in 1999. Its up about 20% since then, to just shy of 11/1000 population. And Russia has net immigration. That's right, in net, people leave other countries to come to Russia.

Now, western-oriented Ukraine has a birth rate of less than 9.5/1000 population, and, in net, people leave Ukraine and go to other countries.

Yes, Yushchenko's Ukraine is headed for demographic oblivion, with no recovery in sight. Sounds like Ukraine needs a Putin far more than it needs to get closer to the West.

La Russophobe said...


(1) Choose a name or your comments won't be published. Follow our rules or get lost.

(2) Link to evidence to support your claims or else we'll just laugh at you, little monkey.

(3) Its THE DEATH RATE, stupid.

Anonymous said...

Russia has net positive immigration....... and it's population is still declining by several hundred thousand a year, the situation is worse than I thought

Anonymous said...

Here's the data and links:

Birth rate: 10.92/1000 population
Death rate: 16.04/1000 population
Net migration: +0.28/1000 population

Population decline rate: 0.48%/yr

Here's the data for Ukraine:
Birth rate: 9.45/1000 population
Death rate: 16.07/1000 population
Net migration: -0.13/1000 population

Population decline rate: 0.67%/yr

Like I said, Yushchenko's Ukraine is headed for demographic oblivion, with no recovery in sight. Russia's birth rate is on an upward trend. Ukraine's is not. Sounds like Ukraine needs a Putin far more than it needs to get closer to the West.

I will go away now, having supported my points with data and links, as I was so politely requested.

La Russophobe said...

Like we said, its the DEATH RATE, stupid. That's what's causing Russia's population decline, which is STILL GOING ON. Russia is a dangerous society which will kill you, and doesn't make nearly enough babies to replace the lives it has lost. That's total failure at the level of biology. What's more, Russia is currently receive net immigration due to Russians being kicked out of former Soviet slave states and returning home. When that stops, as it soon will, the population loss will get even worse.

You ignored the point like a good little propagandist. That kind of "thinking" destroyed the USSR and will destroy Russia too. You are an accomplice. Instead of working to make Russia safer, you rationalize danger. You're more dangerous to Russia than any foreign enemy.

It's really pathetic that instead of comparing itself to the United States, Russia compares itself to the Urkaine.

It's not your choice to leave, as we told you you are now banned.

akm76 said...

Why is this being linked from WSJ site?

Factual contents of the blog aside, Russophob doesn't quite convey the idea of truth and objectivity, to say nothing of the negative reaction of most russian nationals leaving abroad and/or able to read in english.

Tell me how "russophob" is better/different from, say, "anti-semit". It does sound borderline hateful and contrary to the diversity principles of the civilized world.

Also the way you dealt with the anonymous poster, who wasn't even trying to flame, simply disagreed with your opinion (which, by the way lacks the references) was immature at best. This blog lost all the credibility for at least one visitor.

La Russophobe said...


Are you really arrogant enough to think we we burst into tears that you don't approve of us? Ever occur to you that Vladimir Putin doesn't either? That Hitler didn't approve of the Jews?

This is the number 1 Russian politics blog in the English language, which our sidebar clearly demonstrates.

It's simply BIZARRE and IDIOTIC that you question our accuracy without giving one single specific example of any inaccuracy.

Newspapers do not link to blogs for OBJECTIVITY, they like for DISCUSSION and OPINION. Wake up, moron.

Russian is a NATIONALITY, not a race, you pathetic germ-brained cretin. If you spent even five minutes reading our sidebar items which CLEARLY EXPLAIN why the blog is called what it is, you'd know how STUPID your question is. But you can't be fair, can you? You can only accuse others of being unfair.

Worked for NASHI long little boy?

Anonymous said...

Why was my post offering up-to-date statistics on the Ukrainian birth rate deleted?

La Russophobe said...


No comments have been intentionally "deleted" after being published. If you mean a comment wasn't published, there could be several reasons including violation of our rules or technical glitch. Feel free to re-post your comment, it should appear this time. Save a copy so that you can repost again if necessary, or you can send by e-mail and we'll post it for you.

Anonymous said...

Well, to be frank I don't feel like digging through all the statistics again. (I'm lazy. Shoot me.) Basically, some guy said that Ukraine's fertility rate was crashing with no recovery in sight. I pointed out that according to the Ukraine Statistical Institute at, births were up 35,000 in 2006 compared to 2005. Ukraine still has a long way to go, but I felt that the guy whose name I am too lazy to scroll up and check wasn't being totally honest or up to date.

Also, births are up 5,000 this year in Ukraine relative to the same period last year.