Rule Five Dying Giants Friday

You may find this interesting, in light of current events – I did.  Russia is Dying Out.  Excerpt:

“One hundred and forty-six million [people] for such a vast territory is insufficient,” said Vladimir Putin at the end of last year. Russians haven’t been having enough children to replace themselves since the early Sixties. Birth rates are also stagnant in the West, but in Russia the problem is compounded by excess deaths: Russians die almost a decade earlier than Brits. Their President is clearly worried that he’s running out of subjects.

It’s a humiliating state of affairs because Russian power has always been built on the foundation of demography. Back in the 1830s, Alexis de Tocqueville foresaw that Russia would become a world power, because “Russia is of all the nations of the Old World the one whose population is increasing most rapidly”. The only other country with its population potential was the United States. De Tocqueville prophesised that, “Each one of them seems called by a secret design of Providence to hold in its hands one day the destinies of half the world.” A century later, they were the world’s two uncontested superpowers.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Russia’s population was 136 million, and was still booming, just as those of other European powers started to slow. Germany’s population was 56 million, excluding its colonies, and the threat of ever-larger cohorts of Russian recruits into the Tsar’s ranks haunted Germany’s leadership; historian and public intellectual Friedrich Meinecke fretted over the “almost inexhaustible fertility” of the Slavs while Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg complained that “Russia grows and grows and lies on us like an ever-heavier nightmare”. This pressure was probably the decisive factor in Germany’s 1914 leap in the dark. German Secretary of State Gottlieb von Jagow wrote to the German ambassador in London as the storm was gathering that “in a few years, Russia will be ready … Then she will crush us on land by weight of numbers.”

That was then.  This is now:

Meanwhile Russia is losing thousands of young men in the war in Ukraine. Many in their early twenties, they are unlikely to have had any children, which doesn’t bode well for Russia. Already ageing and shrinking, the nation simply cannot sustain the kind of campaign it has fought in the past. Its days of vastly superior manpower are over. A long, grinding war followed by a bloody occupation would cripple it.

Let’s face it:  Russia is already crippled.  As Mark Steyn so aptly points out, the future belongs to those who show up for it, and the Russians aren’t showing up.  They’ve got company:  Most of Europe, Japan and even China are facing severe demographic crises.  The United States’ increasing population is mostly due to immigration, legal and (increasingly) illegal.

But Russia’s problem is worse.  Russia has always seemed to be a nation that should have been great, but instead has always had a dark cloud hovering overhead.  They have vast territory and rich natural resources, but have always been hampered by bad government – first a progression of incompetent tsars, then the calamitous Soviet Union, now the oligarchy of Putin and his minions.

Sure, we have our demographic problems here.  But look at the flow of people – people are desperate to leave Russia, and desperate to get into the United States.  For all our problems, especially with our current incompetent leadership, we’re still pretty much the best place on the planet to live.

At least, we will be, if the ineptness of our current “political leadership” doesn’t blunder us into a third world war.  And that’s real danger in Russia’s current situation.  Desperate men will do desperate things, and men facing the death of their country by apathy may be exceedingly dangerous, especially when they have nuclear weapons.