1980s-style thinking aside, Russia is in no position to fight a “Cold War.” Indeed, a serious challenge to the west by Russia is much less likely than from, say, Venezuela and Iran. Russia is a short- and medium- term problem for Europe that can be countered by the development of alternative energy sources and alternative fuels, from nuclear power to BioDiesel.
The scale of Russia’s problem, from The Economist:
Russiaâ€™s demographic crisis is one of the main constraints on the countryâ€™s economy. Although Russiaâ€™s population has been ageing, over the past decade the country has enjoyed a â€œdemographic dividendâ€ because the age structure was in its favour. This dividend has now been exhausted and the population of working age will decline by about 1m a year, increasing the social burden on those that remain. Over the next seven years Russiaâ€™s labour force will shrink by 8m, and by 2025 it may be 18m-19m down on the present figure of 90m.
What makes a shrinking population dangerous for a country that has always defined itself by its external borders is the loss of energy it entails, Mr Vishnevsky argues. The Soviet Union did not just try to exploit the resources of its vast and inhospitable land, it tried to populate it. Now large swathes of land in Siberia and the far east are emptying out as people move to central Russia. The population density in the countryâ€™s far east is 1.1 people per square kilometre. On the other side of the border with China it is nearly 140 times that figure.
The farther oil and natural gas prices fall in the near- and medium- term, the less power Russia will have to harm the world, and the more incentived Russia’s government will be to harness what is left of the Russian economy into wealth-producing activities.