Russia’s been in the news a lot lately and is wound up in our Tumultuous Times, so I thought I’d collect my thoughts on the subject and put them on the blog.
(I’m an amateur at this, but the pro’s seem to have completely blown it)
Russia’s a Kleptocracy. It’s run by Putin and his Oligarchy, his super wealthy organized crime buddies, who are stripping assets as fast as they can and running the country into the ground.
The official HIV rate in Russia is 1.2%, the real rate is much higher. HIV in Russia is also seen throughout the population, not just isolated groups like IV drug users, which is a huge problem as well. The Russian state seems to be doing right about zero about this.
The Russian birth rate is currently 1.75 births per woman and has been well below replacement rate (2.1-2.2 depending on who you’re talking too) for the entire post-Soviet era. Drug and alcohol issues are rampant. It’s hard to get good numbers on the number of addicts in Russia because the Russians straight up lie about it. As with HIV the Russian government isn’t doing much to combat this. The overall picture is one of a population that’s set to collapse.
Russian infrastructure is collapsing. 22% of Russians live in poverty (that’s the official number, the real number is bound to be higher). And so on and so forth. Everything in Russia looks bad. Everything looks like a collapsing empire to me.
Which brings up a few questions like:
1. What do the Russians want? Seems to me they want to be left alone. Putin and his buddies want to continue to be some of the richest people on the planet and the rest of the country seems to want peace, and stability, a roof over their heads, and food to eat.
2. Why are the Russian beating the war drum? It keeps the population in line on the home front, keeps Putin and his buddies in power, and it keeps the neighbors and the U.S., who have been poking and prodding and looking for soft spots off balance and off their backs. Or at least that seem to be their thinking. I think it would go better for them if they stopped threatening the world.
3. If the Russians are a collapsing empire why are we so worried about them? Why are we beating the war drum as well? Um… Maybe because having a boogie-man helps keep people in line on the home front and keeps profits flowing in from the 100% government dependent (ours and the other governments we sell arms to) military industrial complex. And stay tuned for more news after a word from our official corporate sponsor… It keeps us tuned into the corporate media.
4. What would happen if we left Russia alone? Looks to me like the areas of the map that were traditionally part of the Russian/Soviet sphere would be more aligned with the Russians and Putin and his buddies would consolidate power until some other group came along and knocked them off. Oligarchs have a tendency to get shot in basements and back-gardens, hung from lamp-posts etc. The Russian population is set to collapse, regardless. The Ukraine, Latvia, and some of the other former Eastern Block countries are also set for steep population declines. Things are bad in Russia and, at least in the near term, it doesn’t look like we can change/help that.
5. What should we really worry about then? From Russia and much of the former Eastern Block: failed states and anarchy. Leaking nuclear reactor and waste dumps. Bad actors of various kinds getting their hands on military grade weapons.
6. Given all this what should we be doing about Russia? Limiting our exposure. Currently the only thing that can really ding us from Russia is their oil sales going off line and spiking the price of oil. That means getting the U.S. off oil. No more 2,000 mile Cesar Salads and tomatoes shipped from the other side of the continent. Grapes from Chile? Forget it. Walking and biking for short trips. Stop expanding suburbia.
Putin and his cronies really are horrible and really have over-stepped in their fiddling in American affairs. To combat this we need to understand that the Russian Oligarchy needs access to American financial markets to launder/use their cash. Limiting access to our markets is the way to go. Not allowing anyone with a suitcase of Rubles to buy real estate in America would be a good start. Targeted sanctions are also the way to go and we should probably be more aggressive about it. But, remember, right now if the Russian pull oil off the market we get hurt. We need to look to ways to reduce our dependency on oil as we ramp up sanctions.