Oct 05 2008
This morning’s Washington Post contains an editorial by Murray Feshbach on the massive internal challenges that confront the Russian Federation as its leaders struggle to re-establish their country as a global superpower.
In “Behind the Bluster, Russia is Collapsing,” Feshbach points to the volatile economic situation facing the nation’s oil-dependent economy and the host of public-health crises (ranging from appalling levels of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS to the more mundane, but rampant, scourges of chronic alcoholism and heart disease) that continue to fuel Russia’s demographic decline.
Predictions that Russia will again become powerful, rich and influential ignore some simply devastating problems at home that block any march to power. Sure, Russia’s army could take tiny Georgia. But Putin’s military is still in tatters, armed with rusting weaponry and staffed with indifferent recruits. Meanwhile, a declining population is robbing the military of a new generation of soldiers. Russia’s economy is almost totally dependent on the price of oil. And, worst of all, it’s facing a public health crisis that verges on the catastrophic.
Feshbach’s broader arguments are already well-known to Russian area specialists. As Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (and Research Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service) Dr. Feshbach has for many years been the leading voice regarding the calamitous state of Russian demographics. Readers unfamiliar with his opinions, should give them their due.