3 thoughts on “The Descent of Russia”

  1. A friend of mine is writing his thesis on the exact opposite premise – that Putin's military reforms first halted and then reversed the decline of Russian power.

  2. I don't really see Russia declining either. The average Russian has seen his GDP per capita raise from 500 to 5000 (USD) a year. A middle class is forming and Russia is starting to rebuild its military. Putin is very popular among his people and Russians are starting to feel somewhat important again (Notice I didn't say 'happy' again, as Russians are only happy when miserable).

    However, while Russia will become stronger and more prosperous over the next 20-30 years, after that, Russia will crash and burn. Demographics are destiny, and I see Russia, along with the rest of Europe falling because of this. Unless Russia/Europe have a spiritual awakening of world shaking proportions (leading to Europeans wanting to breed again) its all downhill after about 2040ish.

    If you don't breed, you die.

  3. Adrian,

    Interesting! What evidence does he cite?


    What fraction of the rise in Russian living standards is a function of rising energy costs?

    Agreed on Russia's demographic collapse — it's far worse than Europe's, or almost anywhere else's in the world.

  4. Indeed, Russia is losing people at an astounding rate. Plus, for all of Russia's renewed military prowess, it cannot pacify Chechnya. I think the analogy to Mubarak is right on, and I'd add that there's a heavy gangster element to it too.

  5. “What fraction of the rise in Russian living standards is a function of rising energy costs?”

    I don't know if you're asking me to figure this out or if this is a rhetorical question but probably a significant fraction. But if Putin hadn't taken the steps he had, these profits would be going to the so called “oligarchs” and not the Russian people. As far as Chechnya, I don't know? Maybe you can point out where the best news, information, analysis is regarding this situation because I never hear anything about it anymore? I think its safe to say that its going better than Iraq or Afghanistan. But I really don't know.

    I need to look into what other industries are growing in Russia besides their normal exports of energy, minerals, and guns. I would assume that investing in infrastructure, construction, and financial services are safe bet but I think i read somewhere that they have a rising software industry as well? (I know the Baltic States do)

    Regardless, Russia is doomed in the long run and it won't be too long before Russian energy companies start paying “contractors” to defend Siberia from the Chinese. If anyone is in the Private military business around here, I think Russia will be the source of much demand in 30 to 40 years. Think Blackwater with lots of Javelin anti-tank weapons (And sun glasses of course) picking off T-90's on the Russian-Chinese border. Actually, by that time, we might just see a Blackwater employee sitting behind a computer monitor at their Michigan HQ's directing intercontinental anti-tank rounds into these T-90's?

  6. When a decent road is built between Moscow and St. Petersburg, I'll believe that real infrastructure investment is going on (or maybe some new rail stock).

    Russia's current economic boom is almost entirely from the wellspring of energy and that is how the current leadershipis placing its power moves. If you want to seen an inside look at how that may go, check out the blog “White Sun of the Desert”[1]

    If you want to find a parallel to Russia, I think that Mexico provides and apt example. It is an empire within itself, the empire of Moscovy and all money flows to the center, while the hinterlands are largely ignored. Now, just as in mid-century Mexico they have taken over the oil and not treated the foreign companies well. Those companies have the expertise to make sure production stays up, or at least constant. What happens when they don't help? Ask Mexico, or Venezuela, or Iran. The major difference, of course is population and birthrate. Russia will never be able to rely on remittances the way Mexico has.

    Your comment about a 'client state' is very clever. It may indeed be the only way for Russia to keep her far east, by making a deal. No wonder the Mongolians want to cozy up with the Americans, given their vise-like predicament.

    [1] http://www.desertsun.co.uk/blog/?p=320

  7. Boy, I love this thread (threads?). Hope we get an answer about who has news, reliable, about Chetnya. Probably have to read Russian blogs (probably suppressed by now.) Putin has moved fast to lockdown communications.

  8. Robert,

    News from Chechnya appears to have been clamped down in 2003… I doubt any accurage information is publicly available. Certainly as of the most publicly available years, Russia was losing soldiers in Chechnya at far higher rates than MNFI and NATO were in Afghanistan and Iraq, combined.


    Excellent article!

    Best parts:

    “Here's a number to ponder: 25,500. That's how many miles of expressways China has built since 1988. The same statistic for Russia? A few hundred.”

    “The first of the privately financed road projects is likely to be something called the Western High-Speed Diameter near St. Petersburg. Early next year, the local government is slated to choose one of four international groups vying for the right to build the 28-mile, eight-lane expressway that will link the city with existing highways to Helsinki and Moscow by 2015”

    I wonder if by 2030 they can extend it to 30 miles!


    Hopefully the growth-oriented “Rimland” superstates of China and Europe will begin to politically and economically absorb Russia from the East and South/West, preventing any reemergence of a Heartland Russian power

  9. Michael,
    Thanks, I remember reading about his and could not find it in the limited time I had. Let's hope that the road projects get done, because the more integration with Europe, the better as it will encourage (hopefully) good behavior.

    “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, right? I think Europe (and China) should take the same development/integration policy toward Russia as I think the U.S. should take toward Mexico. Let's just hope that a global economic slowdown doesn't lead to isolationist feelings in the rich countries and a poor use of resources in the building countries.

  10. ElamBend,

    In North America, the United States managed to effectively disarm Mexico as an independent fighting force in the late 19th century, and bend Canada / Britain to its way of seeing things by the early 20th. Russia, meanwhile, is sponsoring militant movements in numerous places that irritate its customers (Europe and China), as well as its competitors (Saudi Arabia).

    That said, hopefully Europe and China's current policy of integration/disintegration will work well.

  11. Dan,
    We're in agreement, so let me re-state. True, Mexico has been effectively disarmed for some time now, but it's further integration is still critical for our security. Until then, they are a potential source of anarchy or co-option by an enemy state. (Imagine a weak but hostile Mexico that cozied up to China). However, we are far down the road that we want to travel.

    The further that Europe sinks her veins of commerce into the East, the more she gains a hidden hand on the rudder of Russia's direction. As long as Russia remains simply an oil state, she will continue be susceptible to despotism, xenophobia, and obsession with its imperial boundaries (assuming that this condition can be changed). Of course the danger is their reliance upon Russia's energy.

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