Washington Times – DALE: Russian decline
Russia is currently losing population at a spectacular rate of 700,000 people per year, which will amount to 31 percent between 2005 and 2050. It is a decline that has started earlier than elsewhere in the developed world. Unlike Western Europe, where you can truly talk about graying populations as life-expectancy has grown in tandem with collapsing birthrates, Russians are experiencing declining birthrates as well as falling life expectancy. Birth rates are now around 1.2 to 1.3, while life expectancy for Russian men is now back to what it used to be in the 1950s – 59 years of age, a full 20 years less than Japanese men and three years less than Bangladeshi men. The causes are not far to seek – a dismal health-care system and vast alcohol consumption.
Oil wealth might make Russia look strong today, but its human capital is being inexorably eroded with consequences for economic growth as well as social and family cohesion. Mr. Putin has called population decline “the most acute problem facing our country today.” Attending population decline, write the authors of the study, are political trends that we already see playing themselves out. Ethnic composition will change, for instance, as Russia’s Muslim population will grow proportionately to its Slav population. Muslims may be in the majority by 2050. Tendencies towards illiberal political solutions may well be the choice of the threatened ethnic group, as we are indeed seeing in Russia today with Mr. Putin’s authoritarian grab for perpetual power. And it may lash out against other nations in a diversion from internal problems – just ask the Georgians.
Meanwhile, the rather distinct silver lining in all of this for the United States is that while Russia collapses and Western Europe declines, the United States will experience healthy population growth due to sound fertility rates and immigration – and with it growing international influence among developed nations. In 1820, the United States held 6 percent of the population of the developed world; today it is 34 percent, and in 2050 it will be 43 percent. “In tandem,” write the authors, “the influence of the United States within the developed world will likely rise.”