A poll by Gallup on perceived threats to the U.S. found that Russia is now the critical threat to America. Much of the recent Russian negativity has been driven by the belief that Russians hacked the 2016 presidential elections. Other than citing a few Russian trolls and intelligence actors, no evidence has been produced showing how this “hacking” changed American minds to vote any differently than they did, nor whether President Trump was involved. News Forecasters takes a look at Russia today to see if the fear of Russia is justified and where Russia may go in the future.
Russia’s foreign policy is only regional in acquisitional nature, though for sure if you are in these regions, it may not be good. Russia currently has eye’s on the annexation of Crimea (done) and the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. Russia may try as well to absorb the tsarist-era territories of in southern Ukraine, linking up with Transnistria, the eastern sliver of Moldova loyal to Russia, and thereby cutting off Ukraine’s access to the Black Sea.
But over the next 10 years, even these attempted acquisitions may be a stretch. Russia’s global foreign policy will be one of staying relevant on the global scene using its military power in order to maintain their own economy – as well as national pride. As of 2019, the estimates of Russia’s stockpile of nuclear weapons is roughly 4,490 nuclear warheads – assigned for use by long-range strategic launchers and shorter-range tactical nuclear forces. Russia has always been a military powerhouse and remains a top cyber, electronic warfare, nuclear, and conventional threat, but China is quickly surpassing Russia.
Recently Russia’s recent involvement in the Middle East has raised concerns by some. It is two-fold. First to open markets for military sales. The other is to be proactive in the northern expansion of Islam into the southern parts of Russia. Islamic terrorism in Russia has been a growing concern. If current demographics in Russia continue, around 30% of the Russian population will practice Islam within the next 15 years. Russia culturally today does not suffer as much as the West when dealing with groups trying to change a country’s culture. Russia will be aggressive with limited success, to deal with this serious threat.
Then there is the issue of Putin. Feared by many and scoffed by others. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the President of Russia since 2012, previously holding the position from 2000 until 2008. In between his presidential terms, he was also the Prime Minister of Russia under President Dmitry Medvedev. Many believe Russia is a pseudo-democratic dictatorship and highly corrupt. Putin won 77% of the vote in 2018 – margins that are unheard of in more realistic democracies.
In Russia, while most people usually condemn corruption, polls show that people are also convinced of its indestructibility. Corruption in Russia’s military quadrupled in 2018, according to some prosecutors as an example. Putin’s estimated net worth is said to be near $200 billion – interesting for a man that has worked in government for his whole life.
Russia simply has not built the necessary democratic institutions for a flourishing democracy. Putin at 66 will not live forever. The succession could be ugly, though News Forecasters believes it will stay contained in Russia. For the citizens of Russia, if you liked the past 20 years, you will like the next – more of the same. Putin has built the apparatuses necessary to keep control over his people effectively for years to come (even with a 54 out of 157 Gini index – a measure to revolt). But storm clouds are building, will the current or future leaders of Russia deal with it?
The Russian economy at best is dubious. In the 10 years from 1999 to 2008, Russian GDP grew by 94%, and per capita GDP doubled. The value of the economy rose from $210 billion in 1999 to a peak of $1.8 trillion in 2008. The crisis knocked the value back to $1.2 trillion, and with the stagnation now the economy is not expected to get back to $1.8 trillion until 2023. Some blame U.S. sanctions, and others blame the Oil markets under pressure, of which is where Russia has its most exports.
Oil in the future, with all the New Green Deals floating around, may not be the best place to be. Looking at Russia’s share in global GDP, Russia has returned to where Putin started in the late 1990s. Russia’s role in the global economy was at its peak in 2008, but Russia is now in danger of getting left behind as the rest of the world grows faster than Russia does. Russia’s economic power is almost just an Astrix on the global stage.
Social ills are mounting in Russia. For example, alcoholism rates in Russia are the 4th worst in the world. Murder rates in Russia are the 9th worst in the world. Single parent homes in Russia is nearly 33% – one of the highest in the modern world. Russia is rotting from the inside out.
Then the nail in the coffin for Russia – demographics. The UN’s forecast estimates that the Russian population in 2050 will drop to 120 to 132 million from its current 146 million. 100 million by the end of the century. Birth rates among Russians are only 1.62 today – one needs at least 2.1 to have a stable population. Russia can not maintain any relevance in the future like this, despite government efforts to change the culture.
We went through all these Russian issues to ask, does this sound like a country to be feared? For sure Russia is a challenging country – sometimes they are capable of jabbing the West with annoying and nefarious acts. Then there is always that catastrophic nuclear error always lurking in the background.
They do have a military to reckoned with and an intelligent proud people, but News Forecasters believes Russia will be more focused internally and will only come out when necessary to prop up its domestic and regional situation. In fact, if Russia wasn’t being used as a political football by certain U.S. politicians, as in WWII Russia could be a better ally. This, however, is not likely to happen short-term.
For Russia, its leaders are willing to watch Russia’s decline, while they are happy to enjoy the riches of their country today.
A video presentation of this subject: