By Douglas Kohn
Russia is an enigma wrapped in a riddle and shrouded in mystery. Much of the world is up in arms with angst about the resurgence of the legendary Bear. But what is Russia today? Is it making a serious and competent attempt to restore its former place in the world? Is it truly an emerging market as envisioned by Goldman Sachs? The answer to most of these questions is an emphatic no.
Russia is a country in static, constant decline, lashing out as its neo Nazi fringe distorts its politics, rampant abortion distorts its demographics and oligarchs swallow up the vast majority of its wealth.
First we must look at demographics. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the future of the Russians as a people. In 1992, Russia had 148 million people. Today, in 2008, it has under 142 million. The Russian birthrate is paltry and its abortion is at a level unprecedented in human history. 64% of all pregnancies in Russia are aborted. Russia has by far the highest abortion rate in the world.
What does this say about the former superpower? Not only is a moral outrage and wanton disregard for human life, it says much about the Russian psyche. It is a litmus test. The ultimate statement of belief in a bright future is to have a child. Russia, clearly does not believe in its future. Even the most Liberal pro choicer would see this is a horrible reflection on a society. Combined with high rates of alcoholism and drug use (half of all of Russia’s premature deaths are alcohol related) clearly shows this is not a functioning society.
That being said, Russia could still cause many problems in the world. Their economy, as with the economy of the Soviet Union, has been given steroids due to the high price of oil. But what is this really but fleeting wealth? Vladimir Putin himself once stated ‘if you can start a business in Russia you deserve a medal.’ I guess he would be the one to know. This is not a real economy. Russia has very little long term strength in every aspect of its existence.
We also have to be aware of Russia’s history. There is no question that the United States completely mistreated this historically great and powerful nation. We made grave errors in moving our NATO based empire up to Russia’s borders. Russia must have its sphere of influence and there is nothing the United States can do about it. For 45 years we spent all our energy avoiding a shooting war with the old Soviet Union. Why should we now risk one with Russia when we can really just wait out the price of oil and let their demographic crisis remove them as a serious threat?