Monday, August 27, 2007

Russia: Inevitable Decline?

Here's a pretty pessimistic view on Russia's future, with which I tend to agree (which is easy, because it's all pretty much factual). There are some sobering quotes:

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.

And on economics:

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.

All of this does go against some of my earlier prognostications that Russia is a long-term threat. I suppose it depends on what one means by "long-term." I'd say, over the next few decades, Russia could cause some problems, but beyond that, it looks like they're in for some real problems.

Read the whole thing.

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