Over a quarter of a century has passed since the Soviet Union dissolved into its constituent republics, and since its satellite countries in Eastern Europe have declared their independence from Soviet hegemony. Yet many in Europe and the USA are acting as if the Soviet Union still exists.
NATO continues to act as if Russia were the Soviet Union. The European Union continues to challenge Russia’s real and perceived interests in Eastern Europe. Some politicians in the USA are preparing to urge the new president to be ‘tough’ with Russia.
What’s going on? And what are the facts underlying the purported similarity of today’s Russia with the defunct Soviet Union that certain politicians and talking heads are promoting?
How strong was the Soviet Union in 1989 before its dissolution? And how strong is its successor state, Russia?
- In 1989 the Soviet Union was the third most populous country, after China and India, with the USA in fourth place.
- In 2016, Russia was the ninth most populous country, after China, India, the USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, with Japan in tenth place.
- The population of Russia today is about one-half that of the Soviet Union in 1989.
- In 1989, The Soviet Union’s share of World Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 13.5%.
- In 2016, Russia’s share of World GDP was 3.3%
- In 1989, The Soviet Union’s fertility rate (births per woman—all women) was 2.4, comfortably above the population replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman. Its population was growing at a rate of 0.8%
- In 2016, Russia’s fertility rate was 1.61, well below population replacement rate. Its population was shrinking at the rate of -0.06%
Here are two charts, one for 1989 and one for 2016, which underly the above statements:
I offer questions and ideas for discussion on this and related issues:
- India seems poised to take the path which China has taken in the last quarter century, in terms of population and economic growth, while the other ‘great powers’ are slowing down in these respects. Why are ‘we’ not afraid of China and India, or at least as much as ‘we’ seem to be afraid of Russia?
- Is it in the nature of the Russian character and its history as a regional power to expand its influence through the use of raw, i.e., military power?
- I have seen it asserted that China is not ‘expansionist’ in nature, but rather seeks economic strength, and stability in its relations with other entities.We have not seen India as an expansionist entity, but perhaps Pakistan has a different perspective.
- All European countries, except France and Iceland, are losing population, even with the recent migration waves from Asia and Africa. Eastern European countries are experiencing the greatest reductions in fertility and population. Perhaps this engenders fearfulness for their respective futures which the peoples project toward more powerful neighbors?
- All four of these ‘great powers’ possess nuclear weapons. Who should be afraid of whom?
Let’s discuss this…