Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Russia is dying and Islamists will grab parts of the carcass
Posted on 10/30/2005 11:04:36 AM PST by Dundee
Mark Steyn: Russia is dying and Islamists will grab parts of the carcass
REMEMBER the months before 9/11? The new US President had his first meeting with the Russian President. "I looked the man in the eye and found him very straightforward and trustworthy," George W. Bush said after two hours with Vladimir Putin. "I was able to get a sense of his soul." I'm all for speaking softly and carrying a big stick, but that's way too soft.
Some experts started calling Vlad the most Westernised Russian strongman since Peter the Great and cooing about a Russo-American alliance that would be one of the cornerstones of the post-Cold War world.
It's not like that today.
From China to Central Asia to Ukraine, from its covert efforts to maintain Saddam in power to its more or less unashamed patronage of Iran's nuclear ambitions, Moscow has been at odds with Washington over every key geopolitical issue, and a few non-key ones, too, culminating in Putin's tirade to Bush that the US was flooding Russia with substandard chicken drumsticks and keeping the best ones for itself. It was a poultry complaint but indicative of a retreat into old-school Kremlin paranoia.
Russia's export of ideology was the decisive factor in the history of the 20th century. It seems to me entirely possible that the implosion of Russia could be the decisive factor in the 21st century.
As Iran's nuclear program suggests, in many of the geopolitical challenges to the US, there's usually a Russian component in the background.
In fairness to Putin, he's in a wretched position. Russia is literally dying. From a population peak in 1992 of 148 million, it will be down to below 130 million by 2015 and thereafter dropping to perhaps 50 or 60 million by the end of the century.
The longer Russia goes without arresting the death spiral, the harder it is to pull out of it, and when it comes to the future, most Russian women are voting with their foetus: 70 per cent of pregnancies are aborted. A smaller population needn't necessarily be a problem but Russia is facing simultaneously a huge drain of wealth out of the system.
Add to that the unprecedented strains on a ramshackle public health system. Russia is the sick man of Europe, and would still look pretty sick if you moved him to Africa. It has the fastest-growing rate of HIV infection in the world. By 2010, AIDS will be killing between 250,000 and 750,000 Russians every year. It will become a nation of babushkas, unable to muster enough young soldiers to secure its borders, enough young businessmen to secure its economy or enough young families to secure its future. True, there are parts of Russia that are exceptions to these malign trends. Can you guess which regions they are? They start with a "Mu" and end with a "slim".
So the world's largest country is dying and the only question is how violent its death throes are. Yesterday's Russia was characterised by Winston Churchill as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Today's has come unwrapped: it's a crisis in a disaster inside a catastrophe. Most of the big international problems operate within certain geographic constraints: Africa has AIDS, the Middle East has Islamists, North Korea has nukes. But Russia's got the lot: an African-level AIDS crisis and an Islamist separatist movement sitting on top of the biggest pile of nukes on the planet.
Of course, the nuclear materials are all in "secure" facilities: more secure, one hopes, than the supposedly secure public buildings in Nalchik that the Islamists took over with such ease two weeks ago. They also killed a big bunch of people.
Poor old Russia is awash with resources but fatally short of Russians and, in the end, warm bodies are the one indispensable resource.
What would you do if you were Putin? What have you got to keep your rotting corpse of a country as some kind of player?
You've got nuclear knowhow, which a lot of ayatollahs and dictators are interested in.
That's the danger for America: that most of what Russia has to trade is likely to be damaging to US interests. In its death throes, it could bequeath the world several new Muslim nations, a nuclear Middle East and a stronger China.
Russia's calculation is that sooner or later we'll be back in a bipolar world and that, in almost any scenario, there's more advantage in being part of the non-American pole.
In 1989, with the Warsaw Pact crumbling before his eyes, poor old Mikhail Gorbachev received a helpful bit of advice from the cocky young upstart on the block, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: "The Islamic Republic of Iran, as the greatest and most powerful base of the Islamic world, can easily help fill up the ideological vacuum of your system."
In an odd way, that's what happened everywhere except in the Kremlin. As communism retreated, radical Islam seeped into Afghanistan and Indonesia and the Balkans. Crazy guys holed up in Philippine jungles and the tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, who would have been Marxist fantasists a generation or two back, are now Islamists: it's the ideology du jour. And, despite Gorbachev turning down the offer, it will be Russia's fate to have large chunks of its turf annexed by the Islamic world.
We are witnessing a remarkable event: the death of a great nation not through war or devastation but through its inability to rouse itself from its own suicidal tendencies. The ideological vacuum was mostly filled with a nihilist fatalism. Churchill got it wrong: Russia is a vacuum wrapped in a nullity inside an abyss.
Deny God and that's what happens.
Ping. Mark Steyn article.
Is this the same Russia that has a gdp growth of 10% and endless oil wealth? And why are they loosing population?
Wonder why China is not seen as a threat to Russia??
".... most Russian women are voting with their foetus: 70 per cent of pregnancies are aborted."
"Russia is the sick man of Europe, and would still look pretty sick if you moved him to Africa. It has the fastest-growing rate of HIV infection in the world. By 2010, AIDS will be killing between 250,000 and 750,000 Russians every year."
"Russia's got the lot: an African-level AIDS crisis and an Islamist separatist movement sitting on top of the biggest pile of nukes on the planet."
"Russia's calculation is that sooner or later we'll be back in a bipolar world and that, in almost any scenario, there's more advantage in being part of the non-American pole."
Steyn appears to have a good grasp of the situation.
I am not willing to count the Russians out quite yet.
Hitler made the same mistake in the late 30's....
It's going to take a couple generations for the Russians to grow out of the filth that was Communism....
I have long recognized that Russia's negative growth rate is a certain future crisis that could doom the country.
The government needs to do much more to encourage more births.
It's turning into one giant Canada.
The attempt at communist-self-genocide was an 80-year, 80 L-O-N-G years year tale of abyssmal tragedy and misery to the millions and millions of Russians (and an enormous expense [trillion$] to us).
The Russians are back BECAUSE Communism failed (with the relentless "help" of the U.S./Reagan, the Catholic Church/Poland/Solidarity, Soviet bloc countries, East Germany, ETC.). Their culture (history, religion, tradition, that is, their soul) did survive because it was a very strong one and the Russian people were determined that it do so.
It will take the Russians at least three generations to recover. But, that is only my humble little guessimate. Who knows.
Putin is for Russia. No one gave a damn about Russia other than to defeat the Evil Empire. Putin will serve Russia and he will continue to go a good job. (My opinion)
He will continued to be villified by us and by all other countries to whom he doesn't kneel or bend over for. He will never do enough. What he does will never be good enough. No matter what he says or does, he WILL be considered wrong.
That he refrains from obvious comments like, "The hell with you," "Where were you when....," "Yeah, like this is going to be good for us......" "What's in it for us? Nothing? Oh, surprise, surprise," "Who are you to tell us how we MUST deal with Iran or any other country," is amazing.
I don't want to go to Russia; I'm not enamored with the Russians we have here; I'm not in love with their culture, religion or language; I don't like poetry or their icons and their operas are long, boring and tedious (zzzz too many verbose, weeping sopranos--no comments here on verbosity, please). However, their contributions of music, ballet, literature (thick books, depressing books, plays, characters), science, etc., are fantastic. I admire and respect their culture, that is, their soul.
I can't say the same for other countires, non-communist, communist and/or post communist countries. No names, please. :o)
An unloaded gun is as much of a threat to someone as a loaded one, if they don't know it's unloaded.
An Islamofascist with a nuke -- any nuke -- suddenly becomes a key player to be negotiated with.
1. Me neither.
2. So did Napoleon 100 years earlier.
3. I'd say AT LEAST three generations.
So does his black-belt training in martial arts.
As does his upbringing in the Russian Orthodoxy. His mother was a devout Christain. Putin attends Mass regularly as well.
He is an interesting hybrid.
Why does this come as a surprise? Heck, the West already has shown itself willing to slice off parts of the former Yugoslavia and hand them to the Muhammedans in a modern-day Munich Agreement.
I've no doubt the Muhammedans hope they'll be as stupid when it comes to former Soviet areas.