Monday, November 26, 2012

The Collapse of the Russian Empire

This article was first published on Al Fin blog

Russia is haunted by the history of empire -- an empire that is rapidly slipping the grasp of a bleeding bear. The collapse of Russia's male population is related to alcohol abuse and drug abuse. Russia's politically connected wealthy are stashing tens of $billions in foreign bank accounts, her best and brightest youth vie for overseas jobs, and her beautiful young women seek husbands in Australia, North America, and Europe. Besides oil & gas, Russia's main asset is bluster.
Russian Men and Vodka

The mansions and gardens of old imperial Russia have faded or crumbled, as have many of the collective farms that fed communist Russia. Today, the hamlets dot a forsaken land of rampant poverty where men drink from morning to night. The interconnected crises of low fertility, high death rates and ragged infrastructure have left much of the nation barren.

... Even darker times may lie ahead.

A major study that the United Nations released in April, authored by leading Russian experts, projected that Russia would lose at least 11 million more people by 2025. Another U.N.-sponsored report said last year that the population could fall to as low as 100 million in 2050.

That report cited a recent improvement in fertility but cautioned that, "while these favorable trends may last another five or six years, all recent forecasts . . . predict that Russia's population decline will only intensify."

"There's a risk that in the most negative situation, Russia will stop existing as a state," said Olga Isupova, a senior demographic researcher at the Higher School of Economics, a leading private Russian university in Moscow.

...Russia as a whole lost 12.3 million people from 1992 to 2008. An influx of immigrants, mainly from former Soviet territories, helped hide the extent of the problem. The population is now 142 million, but it would have been 136.3 million without that surge from outside.

...— the decay in the heartland suggests that Russia isn't a resurgent superpower so much as a nation that's trying not to come apart at the seams._NewsTribune

In a worst-case scenario, the population drops from a peak of around 145 million at the turn of the century to about 60 million by 2100, a catastrophic loss of 85 million people at an average rate of 850 000 per year. Unless the government brings in hundreds of millions of foreign migrant workers to compensate, Russia’s productivity and GDP would shrink along with its population.

Strategically, Goldman (2010) points out that a potential problem for Russia is that the depopulation rate in its far east, near the border with China, is higher than the national average. By contrast, the Chinese population on that increasingly sparsely populated border is growing rapidly. Will trouble brew on this border as a result? _Russia's Future
How can Russia help but come apart at the seams? It is only a matter of time before the country no longer has the manpower to hold its vast land area -- particularly when neighboring population overflow has been slipping into Russia for decades, diluting Russia's core population and national spirit.
Despite the rhetorical bluster by Putin and others, critics say that Russia's leadership is largely at fault for not diversifying the economy and helping modernize companies.... During the past decade or so of booming oil and gas exports that brought wealth and prestige, very little was done to revamp a nation still largely stuck in Soviet-era practices. _NewsTribune
On the local level, the problem is poisoning by vodka, drugs, and despair. On the national level, the problem is rampant corruption -- with Russia's heritage being stolen by government officials and their cronies, and shipped overseas.

There is no reason to expect Russia to be any more careful with its huge nuclear arsenal than it has been with any other national assets that might be stolen by insiders and sold to the highest bidder.

With few exceptions, the entire nation is in decay and decline. Expect trouble ahead as a result.

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