Monday, March 06, 2023

The 2nd biggest nuclear arsenal is sitting on a demographic time bomb

It's weird how enamored conservatives are with Putin's Russia, because just about every way I try to look at the country, it just looks doomed:

A demographic tragedy is unfolding in Russia. Over the past three years the country has lost around 2m more people than it would ordinarily have done, as a result of war, disease and exodus. The life expectancy of Russian males aged 15 fell by almost five years, to the same level as in Haiti. The number of Russians born in April 2022 was no higher than it had been in the months of Hitler’s occupation. And because so many men of fighting age are dead or in exile, women outnumber men by at least 10m.

The article is probably paywalled for most of you, but the bottom line is Russia's crashing population has multiple causes. Most former communist European countries have had low birth rates which have produce shrinking populations. But Russia isn't just part of that overall trend, it also is waging a war that is killing a phenomenal number of its men (the gender imbalance in Russia is growing). There are large numbers of Russians emigrating both to dodge the draft and to avoid economic problems in the country, and those leaving are largely the most educated/most economically productive class. Plus, Russia had one of the worst COVID responses in the world. The excess deaths, which was bad enough to shave about a full percent off Russia's total population. Putin's belligerent foreign escapades are clearly making matters worse and the only thing the Russian government seems to be doing to stop a demographic crash is kidnapping Ukrainian children.

It just seems inevitable that a huge sprawling country, which rules over an extremely diverse range of ethnic minorities, many of which are not losing population, won't be able to keep things under control if these trends continue. That's a far bigger threat to Russia than NATO.