George Will on Potemkin Putin

Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter George Will, writing on Real Clear Politics:

America’s “progressive” president has some peculiarly retro policies. Domestically, his reactionary liberalism is exemplified by his policy of No Auto Company Left Behind, with its intimated hope that depopulated Detroit, where cattle could graze, can somehow return to something like the 1950s. Abroad, he seems to yearn for the 1970s, when the Soviet Union was rampant and coping with it supposedly depended on arms control.

Actually, what was needed was not the chimera of arms control but Ronald Reagan’s renewal of the arms race that helped break the Soviet regime. The stately minuet of arms negotiations helped sustain U.S. public support for the parallel weapons spending.

Significant arms agreements are generally impossible until they are unimportant. Significant agreements are those that substantially alter an adversarial dynamic between rival powers. But arms agreements never do. During the Cold War, for example, arms negotiations were another arena of great power competition rather than an amelioration of that competition.

The Soviet Union was a third-world nation with first-world missiles. It had, as Russia still has, an essentially hunter-gatherer economy, based on extraction industries — oil, gas, minerals, furs. Other than vodka, for what manufactured good would you look to Russia? Caviar? It is extracted from the fish that manufacture it.

Today, in a world bristling with new threats, the president suggests addressing an old one — Russia’s nuclear arsenal. It remains potentially dangerous, particularly if a portion of it falls into nonstate hands. But what is the future of the backward and backsliding kleptocratic thugocracy that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia?

Putin — ignore the human Potemkin village (Dmitry Medvedev) who currently occupies the presidential office — must be amazed and amused that America’s president wants to treat Russia as a great power. Obama should instead study pertinent demographic trends.

Nicholas Eberstadt’s essay “Drunken Nation” in the current World Affairs quarterly notes that Russia is experiencing “a relentless, unremitting, and perhaps unstoppable depopulation.” Previous episodes of depopulation — 1917-23, 1933-34, 1941-46 — were the results of civil war, Stalin’s war on the “kulaks” and collectivization of agriculture, and World War II, respectively. But today’s depopulation is occurring in normal — for Russia — social and political circumstances. Normal conditions include a subreplacement fertility rate, sharply declining enrollment rates for primary school pupils, perhaps more than 7 percent of children abandoned by their parents to orphanages or government care or life as “street children.” Furthermore, “mind-numbing, stupefying binge drinking of hard spirits” — including poisonously impure home brews — “is an accepted norm in Russia and greatly increases the danger of fatal injury through falls, traffic accidents, violent confrontations, homicide, suicide, and so on.” Male life expectancy is lower under Putin than it was a half-century ago under Khrushchev.

Martin Walker of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, writing in The Wilson Quarterly (“The World’s New Numbers”), notes that Russia’s declining fertility is magnified by “a phenomenon so extreme that it has given rise to an ominous new term — hypermortality.” Because of rampant HIV/AIDS, extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and alcoholism, and the deteriorating health care system, a U.N. report says “mortality in Russia is three to five times higher for men and twice as high for women” than in other countries at a comparable stage of development. The report, Walker says, “predicts that within little more than a decade the working-age population will be shrinking by up to 1 million people annually.” Be that as it may, “Russia is suffering a demographic decline on a scale that is normally associated with the effects of a major war.”

According to projections by the United Nations Population Division, Russia’s population, which was around 143 million four years ago, might be as high as 136 million or as low as 121 million in 2025, and as low as 115 million in 2030.

Marx envisioned the “withering away” of the state under mature communism. Instead, Eberstadt writes, the world may be witnessing the withering away of Russia, where Marxism was supposed to be the future that works. Russia, he writes, “has pioneered a unique new profile of mass debilitation and foreshortened life previously unknown in all of human history.”

“History,” he concludes, “offers no examples of a society that has demonstrated sustained material advance in the face of long-term population decline.” Demography is not by itself destiny, but it is more real than an arms control “process” that merely expresses the liberal hope of taming the world by wrapping it snugly in parchment.

13 responses to “George Will on Potemkin Putin

  1. Some say Obama is american Gorbachev))

  2. @Chiffa…..And some don’t!!

  3. Some say Obama is american Gorbachev))

    In the sense that Gorbachev policies lead to the demise of the Soviet Union, and Obama’s policies are leading to the demise of USA.

    I hope not; or rather, I hope that United States is much more resilient than USSR.

    • Niether do I, Felix, neither do I.
      Unfortunately, the fall of USA will have huge consequences for every other country.
      Mostly, those will be negative consequences.


      Let’s see if we understand: The “fall” of Russia is just temporary, but the “fall” of the USA is permanent, right?

      And the USA has “fallen” just like Russia, even though its per capita GDP is many times larger, right?

      And Putin bears no blame for attacking the USA before its fall, and thus helping it to fall and wiping out demand for Russian oil, the sole basis of the Russian economy, right?

      Your comments are so idiotic they make one weep for Russia’s future.

  4. Unfortunately, the fall of USA will have huge consequences for every other country.

    So will the collision of Earth with an asteroid… but why do you bring it up?

    You make one-sentence posts with a lot of seemingly hidden hints. LR picks more ridiculous meaning; I don’t pick any.

    The best way to avoid misunderstanding is to say clearly what you want to say!

    • Ok, I’ll just say agree with you, I hope that United States is much more resilient than USSR. That’s just it, nothing more.
      Is this better?

  5. America is in the process of demise and desintegration and noone can stop it.
    I think we Russian ought to arm the Hispanics and Blacks to take back what is theirs(California and Texas)


    Well, that certainly proves what kind of country Russia is! We rest our case, and apologize to our more civilized readers for this barbarism, which we must let stand for obvious reasons.

  6. Thats Ok, we will arm the Ingush, Dagesh, Chechens, Georgians, Ukrainians, Finns, Poles, Tartars and about 20 other anti Russian groups and let them tan your arse.
    US is no more in decline than it was in the 1930’s
    Whereas Russia is in economic & demographic decline, can’t wait until your whole substandard culture is consigned to the wastebin of history.

  7. First of all,Russia is a national state 80% of the population are Russians and with the Russians in the near abroad we number around 200 million.
    We are bound by blood and common heritage.
    Yes we had a population decline but the birth rate is constantly picking up while in the US the WASP population is declining while there are more and more Blacks and Hispanics who despise you.
    When we together with China introduce a new reserve currency (remember we got 3 trillion in cash while America is bancrupt) this will be the final blow for the parasite US economy.
    America is becoming slowly but surely a third world nation and this transformation will only speed up.
    The result of this might be a civil war between the thousands of ethnic groups, you will be fighting each other like a hord of rats.


    It’s pretty hilarious that you think the Chinese don’t notice Russian racism and see Russia as a partner as opposed to a slave state. You are in for a rude awakening.

    Didn’t you notice that the Chinese refused to recognize Ossetia? Think that was just an oversight, you ridiculous little maggot?

  8. Read this and begin crying you son of a Jewish whore!

    Not to mention the SCO where China and Russia are allies and form together with Central Asian states a new defense pact.

    Your parasite economy is in for a disaster,100% debt in comparison and very soon the loose of the reserve currency status.Hmmmm guess who will be profiting from that…

    • Russianturd,
      “When we together with China introduce a new reserve currency (remember we got 3 trillion in cash while America is bancrupt) this will be the final blow for the parasite US economy.”

      Let me see, Russia and China are holding U.S. currency as a cash reserve. You are wishing the U.S. to fall apart, which will leave you with what for cash? You make about as much sense as a person stashing their cash in their mattress, then burning their house down. The U.S. will see a decline as a percentage of the world economy, but your pathetic Russia won’t have anything to say about it.

  9. Once again. Russian Bear shagger shows the true nature of the vile Russian mind.

    Russians are a failure, and will soon be consigned to the rubbish tip of history.

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