Moscow once again broke American diplomats in tatters. If they are so poor, how is it that they are smart? - Americans play Monopoly, and Russians play chess. Russia found fault lines in American politics and compensated its insignificant presence with an advantage in leverage. So, Russia took advantage of the indecisiveness of the last two US administrations in relation to Iran, exposing itself as a solution provider for the problems it helped create. From a technical point of view, Moscow’s work is commendable, even if its plans are malicious.
Of course, Russia is in crisis. But Russia is in crisis since the time when Peter the Great built modern Russia with one foot in Siberia, and the other in Eastern Europe. This is not a national state, but an empire, the structure of which had defects from the very beginning. Russia has always taxed European provinces to support non-economic expansion in its Far East. This policy ended in failure between the 1905 war of the year and Japan and the 1914-1918 war. with Germany. In 1945, Russia regained its influence in the East and lost it in 1989.
Its population has fallen from its 149-million maximum in the 1992 year to 143 million in the 2012 year and threatens to fall even faster. Russia's demographic data is weak, although it is worth wondering if it is much worse than in the 1945 year after it lost 15 percent of its entire population in the war, not to mention a significant part of the production capacity and material base. This did not prevent the Soviet Union from building thermonuclear bombs and ICBMs, as well as outrunning America in space. The USSR suffered from the economic equivalent of arteriosclerosis, but almost won the cold war. Putin's economy suffered from a series of self-destructive failures, but this did not take Russia out of the game.
After the collapse of the USSR, Russia weakened, but not completely, and the self-reassuring triumphalism that characterized American ideas about the country turned out to be a poor adviser in formulating a political course. The new book by Ilan Berman - in fact, an essay stretched by long applications to the size of the book - assesses Russia's recent return of the status of a world power from the point of view of a predicted long-term catastrophe, which, in my opinion, will not occur within the horizon of political planning.
“At the moment, most observers are not seriously considering the possibility of the collapse of Russia,” writes Berman, vice president of the American Council on Foreign Policy. - Indeed, the future of Russia looks relatively bright. Although the decade after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 was an eyewitness to Russia's pacification and humiliation, over the past ten years, it has caught up, returning to the international stage under the leadership of its current president, Vladimir Putin. ” Berman published the book before Russia seized the initiative in the Middle East with a plan to destroy the chemical weapons Syria, which only underlines his arguments.
However, Russia faces what it calls a demographic collapse:
Russia is dying. Russia is undergoing a catastrophic post-Soviet social recession caused by an extremely low standard of living, which has escaped the control of drug addiction and the AIDS crisis, which officials call a “trap”. Due to death and emigration, the population of the Russian Federation is reduced by about half a million souls each year. At this rate, the once powerful Russian state may lose a quarter of its population by the middle of this century. And according to some forecasts, if the demographic curve of Russia does not change, by 2080, the number of its population can collapse only to 52 million people. This phenomenon — the massive reduction in the country's human capital and the collapse of its prospects as a viable modern state — was described by demographers as “the devastation of Russia”.
News, however, is that the trajectory of the movement of Russia has changed, although it is difficult to say how much. As 25 in July on the Forbes website, Mark Adomanis noticed, according to preliminary estimates, the birth rate in Russia in 2012 in the year soon exceeded the American one. Russia's demographic prospects are still unenviable, because the number of women of childbearing age will decline due to the extremely low birth rate in the 1990-s.
In 1990's birth rate in Russia collapsed
... Therefore, the total number of women of childbearing age will fall:
Source: UN Forecast, Medium
The total fertility rate in Russia is now around 1,7 births per woman, with an average European 1,5 value, compared to the lowest level of 1999 of the year - less than 1,8. This heralds a recession, although much slower than many analysts had expected. This is not Hungary, where the fertility of the Hungarians barely exceeds the 0,8 births per woman, or half of the Russian level. In order to compensate for the demographic hole of 90, the birth rate must rise somewhere before 2,5, and this goal is almost impossible to achieve.
Berman adds: “Today, Russian Muslims, estimated at 21 million, still remain in a clear minority. But Muslims are on the way to constitute one fifth of the country's population by the end of this decade, and by the middle of the century its majority.
However, fertility recovery in Russia seems to be distributed among its regions in a more uniform way, and this suggests that the Muslim majority is a more distant perspective than was expected by demographers. Moreover, as I documented in my book 2011 of the year “How civilizations die (and why Islam dies too),” the birth rate among Muslims showed the sharpest decline among the rest of the world’s population. New documentary data on this subject in the 2012 study of the year led by Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute.
Russian demography is a moving target. As Berman notes, “in the 2012 year, for the first time since the fall of the USSR, the number of newborns exceeded the number of deaths. This excess was insignificant (the population of the country from January to September, 2012, grew by only two hundred thousand), but it was enough for Kremlin officials to announce that the demographic fortune turned to their country. ” Of course, this is not the case, but the strategic consequences will be felt, at the earliest, in a generation.
The jump in the birth rate in Russia over the past few years is partly due to the practice of offering state awards equivalent to 9500 US dollars to families after the birth of their second or third child. But there is almost no doubt that the revival of the Russian Orthodox Church played an important role. Throughout the industrialized world, there is a deep and stable relationship between faith and fertility, and the restoration of religion in Russia is a new and decisive factor in the country's demography.
The website of the Orthodox Church claims that moral imperatives are more important than financial incentives: “Putin gave Russian families a tangible incentive, maternity capital, in order to have children. He and his administration are now trying to change cultural norms in favor of a three-child family. But his success will depend on opponents of abortion, euthanasia and family supporters ... on their efforts to transform Putin’s appeals and financial support into a national movement. The fate of the Russian people depends on their success. "
The Orthodox Church claims that since 1991, it has almost tripled the number of its parishes. How widespread its impact, time will tell. This issue is crucial. However, Berman rejects the revival of the alliance of the Russian church and state as the beginning of "Orthodox Iran":
At the start of the 1990, Russia officially recognized the 31 religious denomination. But in subsequent years, the presence of most of them was reduced to zero by legislative means. Today, as a result of a return to the past, only four religions - Russian Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism - are officially recognized by the Russian government. And with the help of the Kremlin, the Orthodox Church strengthens its influence and position. No wonder that this has exacerbated the already tense relations between the Russian state and its growing Muslim minority ... The Russian church — encouraged by the support of the Kremlin — is beginning to force out other forms of defining religious identity in Russia. And she does this just at the moment when the bonds holding together the various nationalities of the country are tense as never before.
The Orthodox Church has always been jealous of its position and tried to limit the activities of other Christian denominations. Orthodox revival occurred at the expense of the American missionaries - evangelists and Mormons. It also left an imprint on Russian politics, expressed in its distinctly conservative bias, including the hated law against “propaganda of homosexuality”. Although the fact that many aspects of life in Russia cause rejection among representatives of the West is hardly news. Rather, the question is whether the Orthodox revival will help reverse the country's demographic trends and the decline of morality, as well as boost Russian power. I do not know the answer to this question. Berman did not bother to ask him.
What is extremely lacking in today's Russia is the Russians themselves. As I reported in the 2008 essay of the year published here, the official figures for the Russian population do not include about 7 millions of Russians abandoned after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the “near abroad”, and now working in Russia as illegal migrants. Another 15 of millions of ethnic Russians live in Belarus, in Western Ukraine (as in the text; note mixednews.ru) and in Kazakhstan. To get them would be the fastest way to increase the number of Russians, and on this issue, Berman notes, unanimity reigns throughout the Russian political spectrum:
Those who determine the political course of Moscow recognize that adding ten million Belarusian citizens to the population of the Russian Federation would increase its total number by about 7 percent. The accession of Ukraine would give even more; ethnic Russians make up about 20 percent of the 45-million population of Ukraine, and if even a part of the country officially voted for joining, the number of Russian citizens would increase significantly. If other territories, which Moscow currently craves, including parts of neighboring Georgia and Kazakhstan, would be added, this figure would be even higher, which would significantly strengthen the weakening demography of the Russian Federation.
As I wrote in the 2008 year, “Russia is vitally interested in absorbing Belarus and Western Ukraine. No one cares about Belarus. She never had an independent state or national culture; The first grammar for the Belarusian language was printed only in 1918 year, and at home a little more than a third of the population of Belarus speaks it. Never territory with a population of 10 million people had a weaker argument in favor of independence. Given this reference, it seems natural to ask why Ukraine should worry about someone. ” Washington should allow Russia to reabsorb its orphaned provinces, but for its price, you get ethnic Russians, and we get your agreement on issues that are important to us: strategic defense in Poland and the Czech Republic, help with Iran and so on.
Could the United States make a similar deal with Putin at the beginning of the 2000s? - a moot point, given the sponsorship of America over 2004's Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which convinced Putin that he could not do business with the United States. The Bush administration brought Moscow out of itself, but did not struggle to maintain its influence in Ukraine and Georgia. The Obama administration simply handed over its positions, first abandoning the anti-missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe, and then adopting the Russian chemical weapons scheme for Syria (and it is possible that it plans the same for Iran’s nuclear program). Both approaches did not justify themselves.
What should America do now? Berman hints that the US should focus on fault lines in Russia itself, anticipating an internal explosion:
The Russian leadership is conducting a tough campaign against Islamic radicalism, hoping that the overwhelming superiority in forces will pacify the restless republics of the country. The failure of this approach is seen in the growth of Islamist violence in places like Tatarstan, as well as in the spread of radical Islam throughout the Eurasian center. In the coming years, this phenomenon will represent an increasing challenge to the stability and legitimacy of the Russian state ... Thus, the foundation for a future civil war in Russia, a fierce struggle for the soul of the Russian state, which will be fought along religious and ethnic lines, is now being laid.
Since the United States (quite rightly, in my opinion) armed the Afghan jihadists in the eighties in order to exhaust the Soviet Union, parts of the American foreign policy community dreamily look at Russia's Muslim underbelly as a potential source of pressure on America’s old enemy. cold war. This idea was good at the height of the Cold War, but now for a number of reasons it is disgusting. First, radical Islam is a greater threat to Western interests than Orthodox Russia, as we should have noticed after the explosions at the Boston Marathon. Secondly, it is doomed to failure. Russia is more ruthless than Washington in the repression of internal (note that messages from Russia always speak of those killed and not captured by terrorists). And most importantly, thirdly, American attempts to take advantage of Russia's internal problems simply cement the Chinese-Russian alliance. This is the most likely Russian reaction to a number of problems. America took advantage of the Sino-Soviet split to win the Cold War. Moscow may well decide that it is better to adjust to the growth of China’s power than to resist it.
Of course, Russia is very upset by the invasion of China into the territory of its former possessions, including the Far East and Central Asia. China’s growing economic influence on Russia's near abroad, such as its oil concession in Kazakhstan, relies on its commitment to infrastructure investments in transport, communications and energy in what China calls the “new Silk Road”.
China’s desire for leadership in the south and east of Russia is an annoying circumstance for Moscow, but not a “hotbed of tension,” as Berman suggests. The likelihood of a military conflict between China and Russia over the next 20 years ranges from negligible to non-existent. China operates with a long-term perspective; he will not fight for the territory, which, most likely, will fall to his feet in one or two centuries. Russia will probably conclude that it will receive more from China than from the United States. Russia and China have a common interest in containing potential problems with Muslims in Central Asia, and their cooperation is a natural consequence of a common need.
Washington should be worried about Russian and Chinese efforts to catch up with the United States in aerospace technology, which has not changed much in America over a generation. Whether the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA or the Chinese J-20 can compete with the American F-22 at the moment is doubtful. But after 5-10 years, the answer may already be different. America's technical superiority in the military aviation at risk, and its navy is shrinking to sizes unusual for a superpower.
The most unfortunate name was given by Berman to the chapter on “Russia who does not understand the Muslim world” In fact, Russia very clearly understands the Muslim world. She has teamed up with Saudi Arabia in supporting the Egyptian military government in the face of American pressure, and with Iran in defending the Syrian government against a motley company of jihadists thrown against him. Russia may well provide a replacement for American weapons that have suffered from a reduction in military aid to Egypt; if this happens, then Saudi Arabia will pay for it. Russia played for both sides in Iran, building a nuclear reactor in the Iranian Bushehr and alternately offering-recalling high-tech air defense systems.
Russia's tactical goals are impossible to discern; its goal, I suppose, is to retain the initiative, provoke its opponents to mistakes and turn them to their own advantage, as far as possible. As soon as America lost its determination to use force with respect to Iran’s nuclear program, it didn’t stand up to other problems in the region, especially the Syrian one, which gives Russia a chance to crawl as a regional mediator.
It is dangerous for the United States to make plans based on the assumption of Russia's internal collapse. Such a result cannot be ruled out, but it is unlikely. Russia is here for a long time; it will never return the positions that the Soviet Union occupied in 1980, but will remain a force in the foreseeable future. Washington never really understood that Russians are chess players, and chess is a game in which you cannot bluff. It is possible to interact with Russia only with the help of force, and the power of America flows away through several wounds that it has inflicted on itself.