04 November 2011

The Ongoing Decline and Fall of a Former Superpower

While Russia’s population began to fall in absolute terms in 1992, the seeds of the decline were planted two decades earlier. In the mid-1960s, when Stalin-era policies to promote childbirth ended, birth rates began to decline and death rates edged up.

Indeed, the birth rate today of 12.5 per 1,000 people is less than half the Stalin-era high of 26.9 in 1950. The death rate, at 14.2 per 1,000 people, is also almost double that of 1960, when the figure was 7.4.
Imagine Russia Without Siberia

Population decline among Russians was already in full swing before the collapse of the USSR. But with the loss of superpower status in 1991, and a seeming loss of purpose for the Russian nation, birthrates plummeted further, suicides rose, and public health across Russia disintegrated.

The Russian government claims to have gotten things under control. They say that the suicide rate is down, although it is still sky-high. They say that birthrates are going back up -- but let's look at that claim a bit more closely:
Then in 2009, Rosstat, the government statistics agency, measured a small uptick at last: the population rose by 23,000 compared with a year earlier, the first annual rise since 1992.
This statistic was, however, controversial among professionals. Igor Beloborodov, director of the Demographic Research Institute in Moscow, is one of a number of experts who believe the increase was arrived at by a statistical sleight of hand – the rules on the registration of immigrants were changed prior to the study. “They relaxed a number of criteria, and voila!, there was growth,” he says.

“It was [politically] impossible that so many policies could be announced and they would have no effect,” he says, “so they had to make some effect happen.”

Rosstat denied the charge, insisting its methodology was credible. Since then the population has resumed its downward trend. Figures released last month revealed that the population of the Russian Federation declined by 80,000 in the first eight months of the year, to 142.8m, and births fell from 1.27m over the same period to under 1m.

The Russian military is having difficulty procuring enough spare parts to keep their machines operating. And whenever they can, Russia's own military buys equipment and parts from outside Russia -- for the better prices and higher reliability.

Morale within the Russian military remains extremely low. As the number of fit military age Russians declines, Russia must stock its armed forces with the unfit and the disloyal. Hazing runs rampant, suicide is common. But Russia's defence forces may learn something from US military quartermasters, and start spiking their MRE's. Put the right chemicals in your K rations and the troops may perk right up.

The writing is on the wall for the huge Bear, the former superpower. While Russia still maintains a giant arsenal of world-ending nuclear weapons, and can still afford to send assassination teams around the world to hunt down and kill the enemies of the regime, the nation and its defence forces are becoming more of a huge and empty shell.

The next 20 years are crucial, for future cartographers of Asia. China will continue to grow in military power over the next 2 decades, while Russia will continue to collapse. China's huge human population needs the resources which Russia's dwindling numbers claim to control.

Imagine Russia without Siberia. It isn't hard to do.


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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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