The future of Russia is in the balance right now. huh. Pretty grandiose statement, isn't it? Pretty bombastic. Very cocky. Unfortunately, I think its true. The balancing points are the whole demographic situation and the political tight rope that Russia is trying to walk.
I've talked quite a bit about the demographic situation in Russia here and on Usenet. The current TFR of 1.27 children born/woman has actually gone down since the Yeltsin years by .13. That's not encouraging. What's worse is the HIV prevalancy has grown to 1.1% (and possibly much more) and the rampancy of very nasty variants of TB and others ( due to the fact that the (pre and ante) Soviet Union medical system prescribed antibiotics for EVERYTHING according to my wife [she's been annoyed that they don't here]). There's a possibility
that Russia will have something on the order of 85 million people living in it in 25 years.
That's just one hiccup.
Russia is facing a pretty big illegal immigration problem in Siberia from China. Between 2001 and 2004, they had over 300k immigrants come across the border...permamently. Some officials, perhaps, even probably, with agendas say that its much, much higher. Given the expansive size of Siberia and the problematic censuses, it could every well be much, much higher.
In fact, Russia and China just conducted a bit of military exercises
. One should note that they took place in eastern Siberia. They had 1800 Russian soldiers and over 8k Chinese soldiers. In peace time, the Russians could get less than 2k soldiers to participate on their own . Ouch. The decay of the Russian military is no secret. It might be on the upswing under Putin, but that's only a maybe. At best. There's so much for it to repair and get caught up on that it'll be decades before its one of teh foremost militaries in the world at best. With the other demographic problems, the military recovery may simply not happen.
Russia and China are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
was founded initially as an antiterrorist and regional cooperative with a number of central asian xUSSR republics. However, it seems to have grown into a counterbalance for the USA. The military exercises that the Russians and Chinese conducting are under the auspices of the SCO. It ahs been strongly suggested as of recent that the SCO should become a free trade block as well as a military alliance. It would be interesting to see if the SCO becomes the 'next' EU.
On alt.history.future, I suggested
that Russia with its shrinking population and great resources would become a sock puppet of China with its resource needs and growing population. If the population dip takes place as much as has been suggested, that Russia will have a hard time saying 'no' to China in its much weakened state.
It would seem that Russia's future, based on all of this, despite the Great Russian mentality, would be Chinese. Yet, Putin might be pulling yet another fast one. With the announcement of joint development with the Europeans of the Kliper
, it might be that the Russians are trying to walk that tight rope of balancing with Europe and China. It might be too little too late or it might be a case where they're gambling that having access to space in the future is key to keeping their virtual independence. The problem is that Russia really doesn't need access to space in the future for any sort of resource requirements. While its possible that the US, EU, India, and China might - if the environmental regulations/necessities and trade barriers make it a necessity - Russia has a vast untapped resource base in Siberia and certainly little respect for said environment.
Russia in the EU has been tossed around a few times before. Yet that Great Russian attitude causes them serious issues. Russians have the belief their greater than their neighbors. That they are the greatest of the Slavs and that they are still the Third Rome
. They have teh strong belief that they haven't, despite evidence to the contrary fallen from the position of strength that the Soviet Union had. Joining the EU while still at least as strong - large population, growing economy - as they are now would probably the best bet, but then that Velikorossiya
So, we'll see. Russia's facing a strange future. Shrinking population, large amounts of illegal immigration, decaying military, cozying up to China, and yet keeping Europe at least moderately in play.
So what will it be? China...or Europe? Obviously not the US.