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Russia: the West’s illusions and the Russians’ self-deception

The West: Russia has embarked on the path of cold war

Through all of last year and especially in the current year 2007 we’ve been engulfed by a wave of articles about the ascension of Putin’s Russia, about its attempts to restore its former great-power status which it used to enjoy during the USSR period. The surge of articles on this topic was caused by the content of the speech that V. Putin, President of Russia, made during his meeting with Romano Prodi, Prime Minister of Italy, in January 2007, and by his two subsequent even more spectacularly wave-making speeches: one was at his press-conference in front of three thousand journalists in Moscow (February 1), the other was at the Conference on security policy issues in Munich (February 10). The articles written in response bear such titles as: “Putin slams his fist on the table: ‘We are a strong power’ (La Stampa, Italy, 24 January 2007); “Decline of America – rise of Russia! (24 Heures, Switzerland); “Putin’s Moment to Seize” (The Washington Post, 14 February 2007).

In the opinion of commentators and journalists, there were two reasons for this lashing out against the West. One of them has to do with energy sources which Moscow has allegedly started using as a weapon to bring pressure first on Kiev, then on Minsk. Considering the sizable shipments of Soviet gas and oil to Western Europe, the mass media of European countries have decided that Moscow is capable of using the “energy weapon” against them as well. Thus a threat to Europe’s security emerges, one to which it is necessary to react. The above-mentioned Swiss newspaper, for example, writes in this key: “Russia … can now with the help of oil and gas make the whole planet dance to its tune with no fears or inhibitions. It defies the Americans by helping Iran’s nuclear program; it causes concern to Europeans by interrupting supply of energy carriers (in order to bring Ukraine and Belarus to their senses); it won’t let the Chinese relax by luring them with promises of incredible volumes of oil sales; and, finally, it delivers slaps to the face of major international oil companies, as it turned Royal Dutch Shell into a minority shareholder of the Sakhalin project and then applied the same tactics to BP in Siberia…”

The second reason is harsher rhetoric from Russia’s leaders who started bragging more often about the successes of their domestic policies (GDP growth, etc.) and manifest a self-confident tone in foreign policy, emphasizing Russia’s own interests in the international arena which are increasingly frequently diverging from the interests of the West, especially those of the USA. In the opinion of the mass media, this rhetoric is evidence of Moscow’s unfounded ambitions of turning back the clock to the times of the Soviet Union – that sole enemy of Western democracy. “So Russia is back – that’s the important thing, - writes the American newspaper. – The country that has teetered on the verge of economic collapse for a long time after the disintegration of the Soviet Union has regained its feet and has regained enough confidence and stability to take a verbal shot at its old rival.”

Of course, this turn in Russia’s behavior does not sit well with the West, and by way of “response” the latter starts deliberating feverishly on how to diversify away its “energy dependency” on Russia. And until such time that options for such diversification are found, it has been decided to keep encircling Russia by moving NATO closer to its borders and placing military objects (anti-missile defense systems and radio-location stations) on Polish and Czech soil. Naturally, Georgia and Ukraine will be added to this encirclement in a short while.

Generally speaking, if Russia were indeed ascending and really capable of restoring its potential to the level of the USSR, then measures to prevent this process could be considered expedient from the perspective of national security and the interests of the West which are known to encompass the whole wide world. For a number of reasons Russia was, is and will be a strategic adversary of the West. It is therefore desirable to keep this foe enfeebled and contained within its national borders.

The matter is, however, that Russia is actually still in that state. Thus, Max Boot wrote an article for The Los Angeles Times (15 February 2007) with a rather boorish title «Putin: the louse that roared», where he says with perfect justification nonetheless: «The once-mighty Red Army has been reduced to a shell of its Cold War self, falling from 5.2 million soldiers in 1988 to 1 million, most of whom have terrible morale and worse equipment. Even with oil prices high, Russia's GDP is just $763 billion, ranking No. 14 in the world, ahead of Australia but behind Mexico, according to the World Bank. Putin has done little to address his country's serious woes. Instead, he has used its oil wealth to expand its influence in a pathetic attempt to maintain the illusion that Russia remains a great power. To paraphrase Dean Acheson, Russia has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.»  This same idea was voiced in more palatable terms by the English magazine The Economist (February 17th 2007): «For all its “petro-arrogance”, Mr Putin’s Russia is not the Soviet Union. It has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council… It has the biggest hydrocarbon reserves in the world, which can be used as “tools of intimidation and blackmail”… It has lots of nuclear arms to underpin its self-esteem. But it does not have the conventional forces, nor the economical and ideological resources to compete with America globally as it did in the cold war.»

I want to draw your attention to the expression «ideological resources». The Economist meant in this case the financing of a propaganda machine working against the USA - which is smaller by several orders of magnitude than the scale of funding for spreading Americanism throughout the world. Still, the magazine did mention involuntarily a truly real weapon – ideology, through which the Soviet Union used to spread its influence throughout the world. And not only that. During the Civil War Lenin wrote that the Soviet republic was economically weak and not yet formed politically; the only thing it was strong in was Communist ideology which helped it smash the internal enemy and all external enemies. Russia’s current ideology is the ideology of capitalism which is no different in any way from Western bourgeois ideology. In this sense Russia is one of the capitalist states of the modern world, and all its quarrels with other capitalist countries are caused by the struggle for spheres of influence – that is, ultimately for the opportunity to rob other countries just as the USA is doing it. It is another matter that Russia lacks the strength to perform such robbery, while other countries have strength in abundance. From this stem, on one hand, irritation and hurts; on the other hand, self-aggrandizing, threats, ambitions that are characteristic of states with a complex of inferiority and humiliation. Ideology is a separate topic, though.

I will have to prove further on with figures that this Max Boot is correct: all this hot air about Russia’s increasing role in the world has no foundation in reality. Myself, as well as many other citizens of NATO member countries, have absolutely no use for this myth since it is us, the taxpayers, who will be forced to hand over funds for the purpose of “containing” Russia. However, this myth is needed by the military-industrial complex (MIC) of NATO member countries, USA in the first place, since it involves increased purchases of armaments for pursuing new objectives and goals.

This is all reminiscent of the policy toward Iraq. Myths about the presence of nuclear weapons in that country caused a war for the purpose of overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein and “democratization” of the country - in which the glorious Pentagon is now stuck ear-deep. Democracy did not work out (and to god with it, that democracy); the Pentagon, however, increased its military budget by more than $150 billion (this figure includes Afghanistan), which means that the MIC team plus all of the Bush and Cheney oil clan has put on a lot of “weight”. Worse off are ourselves, the taxpayers, who are making a handful of fat cats ever richer. With Russia it will be even worse. No one intends to attack Russia, of course, but the taxes we pay will be increased even more, since the program of military encirclement is long-term and will be much grander in scale than the Iraq adventure. In order to justify somehow the planned expenditures, the Pentagon evidently spared no expense to feed the journalists so they would write of Russia’s ascension, of its increasing military might which is a threat to the security of the West. Many journalists, though, write these things simply because of their professional stupidity.

Is the devil really as scary as he is depicted? However, prior to analyzing the so-called ascension of Russia we should first take a look: how do the Russians themselves evaluate their grandeur?

Russians about themselves: yes, we are becoming a great power again

They say it in full seriousness. The leitmotif is this: under Putin we managed to overcome the negative processes characteristic of the preceding period when the alcoholic democrat Yeltsin ruled. What they mean is that the economy started growing, the political situation stabilized, Chechnya has quieted down, the lives of the ordinary folk have improved. All this nonsense is spouted not just by those mass media that are supportive of the regime, but also by the so-called national-patriotic press, in particular the newspaper Zavtra (“Tomorrow”). This publication believes that under Putin the country is beginning to acquire the status of a power, etc. Apparently this newspaper, same as other mass media, does seriously believe the tales told by A. Kudrin, Minister of Finance, and G. Gref, Minister of the Economy, about the country catching up with Italy in 2006 in GDP volume, and passing France in another two years. “In January 2007 Russia turned a historical page: the GDP level of 1990 was surpassed,” – said the Minister of Finance. In his words, “we have arrived at new historical possibilities; while in 2006 the economy of Russia surpassed the economy of Italy, in 2009, according to our plan, our economy will surpass the economy of such a highly developed country as France.”[1] «And by 2037, we shall pass Paris in the level of GDP per capita», – this is that same Kudrin instilling fear into Germans at some moment during his visit to Germany. “As for GDP calculated on the basis of purchasing power parity, the results of 2006 show that we were in ninth place in the world. Our economy is quite capable of advancing to the sixth spot after this criterion in the next two years, passing Italy, France and Great Britain,” – claimed Deputy Prime Minister D. Medvedev (ibid.) That young sage from the Kremlin repeated all these fables in Davos at the economic forum attended by “capitalists of all countries.” Inspired by the figures supplied by his ministers, Putin himself boasted of these same figures at the press-show in front of three thousand journalists. At his meeting with the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, he announced almost threateningly: “We shall define our role ourselves.”

Putin turned out to be a subjective idealist. His thinking is: I shall define everything the way I wish. Should we wish to, we shall assign to ourselves the role of a great power, or even a superpower if needs be. The Russian President is clearly unaware that the terms “role” and “place” in international relations have an objective content, just as Newton’s laws do. They don’t depend on the opinions of this or that politician, no matter which post he occupies and where he is situated – whether in Paris, in Washington or in Beijing. In Moscow they think differently, though. It would have been strange if this were not the case, for irrationality and if-only-ism are characteristic traits of Russian thinking.

Over a very short historical time period the country collapsed not just economically and politically, but – most importantly – intellectually, both “at the top”, amongst the ruling elite, and “at the bottom”, at the level of “the people”, or more exactly the populace. It is well known that this populace has now embraced religious ecstasy. Priests have become their instructors. You can imagine what these priests are like if their top boss, Father Alexei, is a perfectly illiterate man. Fairly recently he said something along these lines: those who want to believe themselves descended from  monkeys’ are welcome to their belief. He thus exhibited tolerance, so to say. Alexei appears to hint: we do know the real origin of man. It says so clearly in the Bible: «And God proceeded to create the man in his image, in God’s image he created him…». It’s all clear about god; what is unclear is, why should anyone believe himself descended from monkeys’? Neither Darwin nor the theory of evolution in general say anywhere that man is descended from monkeys’. Being illiterate, Father Alexei hasn’t read the books of Darwin and Thomas Huxley. He obviously hasn’t read contemporary literature on evolution, either. Otherwise he would have learned that man is not descended from ape, but rather different ape species (for example the chimpanzee and the gorilla), as well as man, are descended from a common ancestor called Homininae. Their paths of development turned out to be extremely different, although a sizable part of humanity did indeed preserve kinship with some ape species, when we consider their mental potential.

In principle, it is not necessary for priests to know science (many of them don’t even know the Bible.) The problem is, these ignoramuses direct the souls of millions of Russians. Where priests are involved, this is all more or less explainable and excusable; however, ignorance cannot be excused in secular rulers who are responsible for the material well-being of the populace, since their actions that are not based on knowledge may lead to – and frequently did lead in history – to the disappearance of nations, states and whole empires.

This is precisely the kind of leaders who seized power in today’s Russia. It suffices to see the servility with which ministers and top officials listen to banalities spoken by the two young sags from the Kremlin. These young men who are not likely to have read anything worthwhile in their young lives are instructing and lecturing the country’s political and economic leadership. This kind of marasmus is not likely to be found in any other state. Even the newspaper Zavtra discusses in full seriousness these guys’ “wise thoughts.”

And what about Putin? He is a professional bureaucrat. He is no thinker, no scholar, he authored no books (not counting the Candidate of Science dissertation that was written for him, and several articles executed by his dumb speechwriters.) He apparently does understand intuitively that the country is headed in the wrong direction. He is trying to change that direction. He has no clear idea what the direction should be, but the objective is this: to make things good for everyone. The mechanism for achieving this is the strengthening of the state’s power, i. e. more control over everything and everyone – a managed capitalism of sorts. His actions and policies resemble the rule of Napoleon III: the dictatorship of the bayonet. Putin heads a dictatorship of force (the enforcement structures of the state.) Nonetheless it is still capitalism. The loyal oligarchs get to keep their fortunes, and their numbers keep growing.

Capitalisms, of course, come in different varieties, including managed ones. Putin, however, fails to understand the most important thing: capitalism doesn’t solve any problems – neither social, nor economic, or national ones. In foreign policy it always means expansion: concealed or open, economic or military, global or local. Under capitalism the majority are necessarily miserable. Capitalism only solves one problem: how to make the rich richer. That is all.

Putin not only lacks strategic thinking; he lacks even the elementary knowledge needed to evaluate the state’s role, weight or place in the world. He doesn’t know the objective criteria used for such evaluations. He doesn’t understand the difference between the terms “pole” and “center of power”, between the “role” and the “place” of a state in the world. He doesn’t even understand that in conditions of multi-polarity there are a lot more wars than in conditions of unipolarity or bi-polarity. He never thought on the level of concepts; he wasn’t taught it, and naturally that was not his fault. He has no time to read now: he always needs to be either skiing down slopes, or traveling in airplanes, or receiving visitors in the Crimea. I don’t mean to say that Putin is dumber than Western politicians; there can be even more illiterate persons among the latter. However, in the West with its firmly established systems the leaders of the state are not as overwhelmingly important as in Russia. Here a leader can be almost a moron – and that fact will not change much. In Russia, however, it is not enough for the man ruling the country to be simply well-educated and knowledgeable, like Churchill or Roosevelt, for example. It is not even enough to be someone like Stalin, who was a genius… of bureaucracy (as Trotsky put it.) In today’s Russia a man is needed on the scale of Lenin or Peter the Great. There are no such figures in sight so far, but they must emerge necessarily. If that doesn’t happen, Russia is destined for the fate of Babylon, Assyria, the Roman Empire, the Inca empire, etc.

In order to understand all the nonsense of the current evaluations of Russia and of Putin’s activity – both those in the West and those in Russia – I will have to address certain aspects of the theory and practice of international relations and foreign policy.

The place and economic might of Russia in the world

And for now, a bit of economic prose. Speaking of Russia’s economic achievements on the macro-level, Messrs. Kudrin, Gref and Putin pointed out three items: a) relatively higher rates of GDP growth; b) on this indicator, Italy was passed in 2006, and it is planned to pass France in 2009; and c) the USSR level of 1990 was surpassed.

Thanks to these achievements, Putin designated 2006 as the year of “transition from the policy of stabilization and accumulation to the policy of development…” In the opinion of left-wing analysts, in actual fact it would have been more correct to call 2006 a year of “continuing degradation”. I would agree wholeheartedly with that evaluation.

So, regarding the first “achievement” – the GDP growth rate that did indeed reach 6-7% during “the Putin years”. So what if it even were 10% or 15%? Isn’t it clear that in capitalist countries this indicator has no direct relation to the people’s level of well-being? Ordinarily its fruits are enjoyed by those who are in power or feeding from government, as well as those whom Marxists call the ruling class. Let me remind you that GDP growth in Indonesia throughout the period of Suharto’s rule varied between 10% and 17% per annum. Despite this Suharto was forced by mass protests to leave his post ignominiously, since under his rule the gap between the upper and the lower strata of the population kept growing. And how is it under Putin? The Russian economist Sergey Batchikov presents these figures: “The relative gap between incomes is expressed in the decile coefficient of funds – the proportion of the summary incomes of the wealthiest 10% to the incomes of the poorest 10%. In the USSR this coefficient was maintained at the level of 3.5. By the mid-1990s it rose to 13, then jumped to 15 after 1999 and fluctuated around that level ever since.” The Academician economist Dmitry Lvov cites “gap” figures of 20-22 times. In Moscow the figure is still more impressive: 60 times.

We should recall Russia’s own history. Prior to the revolutions of 1917 the Tsarist economy grew by almost 10% per annum. Alongside the economies of the USA and Japan it was one of the most dynamic economies in the world, as pointed out by Lenin in his time. This did not rescue the Tsarist regime from revolutions. The impoverishment of the greater part of the population kept increasing. For such states as Indonesia and Russia GDP growth means merely increasing exploitation of “the lower strata”, which is well shown with figures in the Batchikov article. Thus, whenever Kudrin or Gref speak of high GDP growth rates, they actually say that the rich become richer and the poor become poorer.

Now let us talk of Italy and France. The claim that Russia passed Italy in 2006 is nothing but mere fibbing, if only because no figures are yet available for last year; they will only appear in April. In all likelihood, these sorry economists based their claim on the forecast contained in the Appendix for 2006 to the English magazine The Economist, in which GDP is calculated using purchasing-power parity (PPP). That forecast does indeed contain the following figures for Russia and Italy: GDP - $854 bln (on a PPP basis –  $1.68 trln) and $1.78 trln (on a PPP basis – $1.68 trln) respectively.

From the perspective of that forecast everything seems right, and the ministers are correct. But what is this PPP, really? It is the number of units of domestic currency needed to buy a certain standard set of goods and services that can be bought for one currency unit of the reference country (ordinarily that country is the USA, and the currency unit is the US dollar.) Let me make this clearer: I can buy a pack of Marlboro cigarettes for a dollar in Moscow; in Paris that same pack costs me 7 dollars, and in the USA - let’s say, 3 dollars. Thus does the “standard set of goods and services” cost me three times less in Russia – at least that is how Russia’s entire GDP will be calculated. Should that pack of smokes happen to cost 10 cents in some African country, it will still be valued at $3 in accordance with PPP. Thus will that country’s GDP according to PPP be overvalued on an order of 30 times. For instance, that same publication, The Economist, estimates China’s GDP in 2006 at $2.24 trln – and $9.48 trln on a PPP basis. That is, China turns up in second spot in the world behind only the USA – the country whose GDP is the same using current exchange rates and PPP, naturally: it equals $13.18 trln. This is due to the fact that the Chinese “basket” is almost four times cheaper than the American one.

This PPP method was introduced for the purpose of facilitating comparisons of levels and states of the economy between advanced and developing countries, though it is in actual fact more appropriate for comparing social-economic situations in different countries. Moreover, in reality the consumer baskets are inevitably different and frequently simply impossible to compare. Just try comparing the “grocery baskets” of Papua-New Guinea and France. As for comparing the “place” and especially the “role”, the correct indicator is the current exchange rate, since in the sphere of international relations the intra-country differences of consumer-product prices do not matter. What matters in this sphere is the foreign policy potential that is calculated using the current exchange rate. By the way, the more discrepancies there are between PPP and the exchange rate, the worse the economic situation in the country.

However, should we even agree to use the PPP indicator for calculating GDP, Kudrin should have added that even on that indicator Russia is far behind Italy on a per-capita basis. And should we also account for inflation, which, according to the figures from The Economist, was forecast in 2006 at 1.9% for Italy and at 9.5% for Russia (in actual fact, independent economists estimate that inflation in Russia amounted to at least 15%), Russia’s PPP-basis GDP per capita shrinks to something like 60th place in the world. Moreover, Kudrin and Co. forgot to tell that this GDP of Russia grew not due to increase of real economic output, but to a large degree due to increased oil prices. That is, Russia did not put any particular labor into economic growth. That is on one hand; on the other hand, the increase was due to the substantial fall of the US dollar’s exchange rate against the ruble. Should anyone translate Russia’s GDP over the last few years into euros, the figures will turn out to be quite different and not the least bit impressive.

Mr. Medvedev proclaimed in Davos with some pride: “Last year’s results show that Russia has become the tenth country in the world whose nominal GDP is in excess of $1 trillion. On the whole, since 2001 we rose ten spots in the rankings of the world’s largest economies.” Here is the table that Nezavisimaya Gazeta (“The Independent Newspaper”) published in response to all this nonsense:

According to data from the World Bank and the statistics’ services of the represented countries.

* D. Medvedev claims that Russia’s GDP exceeded $1 trillion.

Presented below is my own table for the year 2005 based on a more precise indicator: gross national income (GNI)[2].

Indeed, in 2000 Russia was in 19th place in the world by GNI, and by 2005 it rose to the 14th spot. This would look good unless we remember that this became possible due to inflated prices for oil and for energy carriers in general. The People’s Republic of China is a different matter; in that same time period it nearly doubled its GNI and moved from 7th place to 5th due to precisely labor, i.e. real value-added production.

Now is the time to respond to claim number three – that about the year 1990. First we should ask ourselves the question: even if Russia has indeed reached its level of 1990, was it worth going to all the trouble of destroying the country in order to catch up with the year 1990 17 years later? Obviously it is understood that the Soviet Union would have made progress in those same 17 years. Nonetheless: did Russia indeed catch up?

In my time I used to work with some comparative figures on the GDP of the USSR and the USA, based on American sources, including the CIA. So look: in 1980 the GDP of the USSR equaled $1500 billion, in 1985 - $2118 billion, in 1991 - $2531 billion. In 2006 it is $817 billion - and that is in current prices. Should we translate that latter figure into 1980 or 1985 prices, it would turn out substantially lower, accounting for the inflation over all these years. And they call this “catching up”! The ministers of economy and finance say it!

That, however, is a “vertical” estimate. There also exists the “horizontal” assessment. Until 1991 the Soviet Union was in second place in the world by GDP. Today Russia is in 14th place. Some will say that the comparison is inappropriate: back then it was the USSR, today it is just Russia. Very well; add the GDP of all the former Soviet republics, and you will get something like $1.2 trillion. That is still less than the GDP of the USSR in 1980. So that’s the kind of “development” that was enjoyed.

Finally, it is perhaps time to take a look: was there indeed any growth at all - and if there was, what exactly did grow? Since I did not specially research details of the Russian economy, I will refer to the article by Ruslan Greenberg, Director of the Institute of the Economy of the Academy of Science, in which it is shown very eloquently what did grow and what did become “grown over”. He writes: “In size of GDP per capita Russia is 3-4 times behind the advanced countries of the world. We still haven’t reached the GDP level of 1990, while the countries of the West have added at least 20% in that time. As a result, the “reforms” have only worsened our lag… In 2005 industrial output was above 1991 levels in only three sectors of the economy: production of energy carriers (and then only by 11%); the pulp-and-paper industry and publishing (by 6%). On the whole output volumes in manufacturing are currently at just 45% of the 1991 level. The production of tractors declined by approximately 14 times, metal-cutting machine-tools – by 11 times, spinning machines – by 50 times, looms – by 127 times! Only two complex automatic lines for machine-building were made – even in the dismal year 1995 57 of these were manufactured. Judging by the available data, almost nothing changed in 2006. The government of Russia proclaims its intention to build an innovative-type economy. That’s fine. But did they give any thought in the government to this: what is the use of innovations if only 32 airplanes and 95 helicopters were manufactured in 2004, for example, while 20 years ago the output was 500 and 300 respectively?»[3]

Thus does the economic picture of Russia turn out to be entirely different from the one painted by the ministers. I repeat, however: this picture only just shows the country’s economic place in the world, which is precisely conjugated with the term “pole”, if only the country does indeed merit the title. Let us now examine the interconnections between the terms: place, economic potential, might and pole.

The Geo-economic Structure of the World and Russia

In Munich Putin declared: «The unipolar world that had been proposed after the Cold War did not take place either.» How does he mean – it did not take place? It did not take place because, as mentioned already, the Russian President simply doesn’t know what a “pole” is. It makes sense to clarify:

The geo-economic structure of the world is defined by the different states’ economic weights that reflect their economic potential; the latter is customarily estimated on the aggregate level through the GNP/GDP/GNI indicator. A comparative analysis of these potentials enables us to determine a state’s economic might that can be assessed as a “pole.” This is how I formulate my law of “poles”: In geo-economic space, a global or regional pole is a subject whose economic might exceeds the economic potential of the next-mightiest state by a factor of at least two. Therefore, economic potential is not synonymous with might. It is precisely the phenomenon of might that gives birth to the phenomenon of a pole.

GNI figures for the year 2005 indicate that in Latin America there are no poles, as Mexico’s GNI of $753 billion is close to that of Brazil (the next-biggest economy at $644 billion). The same situation exists in Western Europe, since Germany, with its GNI of $2.9 trillion, is insufficiently ahead of second-place United Kingdom ($2.3 trillion). In Africa, the South African Republic is a pole with a GNI of $224 billion, followed by Nigeria ($74 billion). In the Near and Middle East, Turkey claims to be a pole ($342 billion), even though it does not quite reach full-fledged status, since second-place Iran has more than half of Turkey’s GNI ($187 billion).  In East Asia, Japan is a pole (about $5.0 trillion); it is followed by the People’s Republic of China (about $2.3 trillion).

 The gross national income (GNI) of the world's principal states

Source: World Development Indicators 2006. The World Bank, 2006.

Note: The USA is absent from this graph because it would take up too much space.

As for Russia, in principle the temptation does exist to place it a regional pole in Eastern Europe, as its GNI of $639 billion is more than double that of second-place Poland ($271 billion). The problem is, the term “Eastern Europe” lost not only political (after the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact), but also economical meaning after almost all countries of that sub-region joined the European Union. The only geographic space where Russia can aspire to the place of a pole is the zone of the CIS, especially since it has no rivals in that department: the country that is second in economic potential – Ukraine – had a GNI of only $71 billion in 2005.

With its GNI of about $13 trillion (more than double that of second-place Japan), the USA is the world pole. Note that the proportions stay practically the same when we recalculate the GNI figures at Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) prices, with the exception of China. Thus, some regions have their own “pole,” but on the global level, there is currently only one pole, the USA.

 Staying on the topic of unipolarity, Putin added this in Munich: «I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilization.»

Putin turns out to be wrong. Firstly, the figures show that a unipolar world is possible and actually does exist. The pole at the head of this world is the USA, whether we want it or not. Secondly, the “pole” has nothing to do with morals – it is a purely economic category. Thirdly, the unipolar world does not necessarily mean individual leadership. Although leadership is fed by the economic potential, it is tied to other foreign-police categories.

The Geo-strategic Structure of International Relations

Economic might, through which a pole is determined, says nothing about the international role of this or that country. That role is determined not by idle talk on any international topics, but by real actions that change the structure of international relations. This requires adequate financial resources that support such actions. In order to understand how this resource works, another explanation is in order.

The geo-strategic structure of international relations is determined not through poles, but through the concept of a “center of power.” A center of power is capable of subjugating the activities of other subjects or actors of international relations to its own national interests. Depending on the sphere over which this control is exercised, a center of power can be local, regional, or global. Hegemony is power directed toward subjugating all actors of international politics for the purpose of realizing the hegemon’s interests.

What is the difference between a pole and a center of power? A pole is not necessarily engaged in the system of international relations. For example, Japan during the Tokugawa Shogunate period (the period of self-isolation) was comparable in its economic parameters to the great powers of Europe, but it was not a center of power since it had no foreign policy; that is, it was not a subject of international relations. The same is true of China prior to the 19th century; it surpassed every European country in economic mass, but did not conduct an active foreign policy, i.e., did not try to impose its control in the system of international relations. In other words, a pole becomes a center of power when it conducts an active and aggressive (assertive) foreign policy directed toward subjugating other actors to its external and internal interests. On the basis of such reasoning, we can formulate the law of the “center of power”: The transformation of a subject that is a pole into a center of power presupposes the presence of a foreign policy potential (FPP), the volume of which exceeds the competitor’s foreign policy potential by a factor of at least two on the regional level and four on the global level. This proportion defines the law of the “center of power.”

FPP itself is formed through the sum of outlays on foreign policy.  In other words, a state's foreign policy potential (FPP) is the aggregate of resources expended on the implementation of foreign policy. Being an aggregate of targeted uses of resources, FPP is realized through the foreign policy apparatus that consists of agencies operating in areas as diverse as foreign economic relations, military, diplomacy, propaganda and ideology, secret services, immigration and border control, etc.

The FPP is not only part of the state’s economic might, but also a derivative of this might. Its size defines the financial aspect of the state’s role in the world i.e., the geo-strategic structure of the world depends on the size of states’ FPP in accordance with the law of centers of power.

The FPP is calculated on the basis of the funding specified in the state budget for all kinds of state activities.  Also, keep in mind that three spending items account for most of the FPP: (1) national defense; (2) international activities (diplomacy); and (3) foreign economic activities. These three components usually account for 85 to 90 percent of the FPP total. I have to limit my analysis to the first two components of the FPP, since the third component, foreign economic cooperation, is not clearly stated in Russia’s budgets. For the purposes of this article, though, it is more than enough, since it is primarily “defense” and “international activities” that define the power segment of the geo-strategic field.

Usually the lion’s share of the foreign policy potential is included in the item “National Defense.” This item determines the country’s military potential that can theoretically be used in the event of aggression. Currently, because direct attacks between nuclear powers are practically out of the question, this potential actually determines the function of containment, while also influencing the type of the state’s conduct in the world arena. At the same time, non-nuclear components of the military potential can be used against non-nuclear powers in the defense of “national interests.”

In the system of international relations, the item most actively used for financing activities is called “international affairs.” It is precisely this “dynamic” item that defines the scope and depth of the country’s activities in the international arena.

I repeat: While the economic potential turns into a might-pole when it is at least double the next largest potential, FPP turns a pole into a global center when it is at least four times the size of the next largest potential. This is due to the fact that FPP must cover the four main regions of the world: Europe, East Asia, Latin America and Africa together with the Near and Middle East.

Foreign Policy Potential of the leading states of the world and Russia

(FY  2005, US$ billion)

Note: France and Russia – for FY 2006, China – for FY 2004.


the USA: The Budget of the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2008, Historical Tables; Japan: Japan Statistical Yearbook. Tokyo, 2007; the UK: Budget 2006. London, Stationery Office. March 2006; Germany: Gesetz uber die Feststellung des Bundeshaushaltsplans fur das Haushaltsjahr 2005. Vom 8. Marz 2005; France: Projet de loi de finances pour 2006; Italy : Budget Dello Stato Per l’Anno 2005. Febbraio 2005; Russia: On the Federal Budget for FY 2006 (Goskomstat); China: China Yearbook 2005.

The table above shows that the USA has an FPP of about $540 billion; Japan, over $53 billion, the UK, about $42 billion; Germany - $26 billion; France – about $40 billion, Italy - $20 billion, China – about $29 billion, and Russia, about $14 billion. These figures tell better than words exactly who is who in the world arena. From the perspective of foreign political activities, the “international activities” item is the most important one, since it is funding for ongoing activities in the international arena; it stands for kinetic energy, so to speak. The item “national defense” is not exactly “idle” (especially in the policies of the USA and the UK), but in the sphere of international relations it works only in exceptional cases. This item can be said to mean potential energy, though the defense potential forms part of the state’s image.

Calculations show that Western Europe does not have a center of power, since the total foreign policy potential of each of the main powers in this sub-region (Germany, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy) is in the range of $42-20 billion (in 2005). So, Western Europe has no centers of power of any kind because of the approximate equality of the main states’ foreign policy potentials. Japan could be viewed as a regional center of power on the strength of FPP only five years ago (in 2000 its FPP exceeded that of China by almost 4 times); however, that status was practically lost by 2005 as its FPP is no longer even double that of China. However, Japan is the center of economic power in East Asia. The temptation to classify China as a center of military power in that same region should be resisted, since China’s potential is neutralized by the USA.

The FPP of the United States in fiscal year 2005 (excluding the budget item “International Economic Cooperation”) was approximately $540 billion, or almost ten times the FPP of second-place Japan. Therefore, we currently have only one center of power on the global level - the USA.

And now let us regard the FPP of Russia one more time.

It is noteworthy that the FPP of both the UK and Japan substantially exceed the FPP of Russia, though both these countries do not pursue the objective of becoming a “great power,” at least not on the official level. Meanwhile, Russia lays claims to great power status, as evidenced by the last events connected by the behavior of that country’s leaders in the international arena.  Russia evidently intends to realize this objective based on just $14 billion. 

It is perfectly obvious that with this kind of funding Russia will not acquire the desired status, no matter how much its leaders try to convince themselves and others that Russia is a great power. I am not addressing here the proportion between expenditures on foreign policy and on domestic policy. There exist certain optimal proportions, the violation of which may lead to the collapse of the whole state. The Soviet Union was a most telling example of such violations.

I also skip here the topic of profitability of expenditures on foreign policy. I saw articles whose authors calculated admiringly how many states Putin visited, how many meetings of all kinds he had on the summit and non-summit levels (that is, more than 40 foreign visits annually.) Those journalists would have done better to calculate what real benefits all these voyages delivered to Russia. They should report how he reports on his “achievements” in the international arena to the Duma, as is the custom in Western democracies.

However, it makes sense to address here a different topic. Articles started appearing in the Russian press saying that “energy diplomacy” can be used to bring pressure on countries which import a large part of their energy sources from Russia. This is precisely what all patriots of the country speak of with unconcealed pride. Evidently they have forgotten the abbreviation MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction). This term was in use during the Cold War; it meant that no nuclear power could make a preventive nuclear strike against the enemy without suffering an unacceptable strike in retaliation. The situation is similar in integrated economies: when damage is inflicted on an economic adversary, damage is inflicted at the same time on self. The more integrated the economies, the greater the damage to the attacking country. This is exactly why the trade-economic wars of the 1960s-1980s among advanced capitalist countries practically petered out by the end of the century. It is the same thing with Russia’s gas and oil with respect to Western Europe. Russia cannot use the energy weapon against the supposed adversary, for it will suffer no lesser damage than the adversary. In this aspect, the West is not unilaterally dependent on Russia; rather, a close mutual dependency has formed. The West was spooked by Russia’s conduct toward Ukraine and Belarus, since they could readily see Russians prepared in principle to use these resources as a pressure weapon – due either to incompetence in calculating own interests, or to elementary stubbornness and ambitions - when Russians don’t count their losses because all they care about is to show the enemy “the mother of Kuzka”. In actual fact the “energy weapon” is a boomerang, and its hypothetical use will hurt the Russians themselves to a greater degree.

Perhaps they do understand this at the top after all. For all the words said, Moscow is quite cautious when it comes to deeds – cautious to the degree of shamefulness, one might say. Even tiny Estonia which conducts itself very boorishly toward Russia receives no rebuff – to say nothing of a “proper” rebuff which is called for by certain Russian politicians.

However, even with a FPP as small as Russia’s much can be achieved if one manages to identify clearly the most cost-effective directions of foreign policy and concentrate on those states from which real benefits can be obtained. Russians don’t count, though.

An attentive observer of Moscow’s foreign-policy actions will notice easily that not one of Russia’s word-actions prevented the course of actions by the really strong actors in the world arena – the USA first of all. There was so much talk about Moscow’s intermediary activity in the Near East; its results are nil, however, since it is still the USA that determines the situation there. There were so many warnings directed at NATO and the USA not to “expand” in the direction of Russia; nonetheless “the enemy is at the gate” already. And what about all the talk by Ye. Primakov about creating a three-party alliance: China-India-Russia? There were so many ecstatic articles written on this account. So where is it, that alliance? By the way, in general do recall that same Primakov’s forecasts and initiatives concerning the Middle East. Was even one of them implemented? Same thing with the initiatives of S. Lavrov, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, who likewise travels abroad no fewer than 40 times per year. The initiatives of Putin himself have a similar fate. Their assertions that top priority in foreign policy is accorded – or should be accorded – to CIS countries likewise prove to be idle talk. Just ask the chief accountant of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the funds allocated for policies toward those countries, and compare those sums to the amounts expended on, say, France, Germany or China. It will become clear at once just how “important” to Russia are Armenia, Azerbaijan, or the countries of Central Asia.

What kind of favorable image can Russia count on in the world if nothing it says comes true? Which is only natural, since there are no deeds behind the words, and there are no deeds because Russia’s FPP is “a spit in a bucket”.

When the strategists in Moscow present policy initiatives, they not only fail to consider funding for their implementation – they fail to understand to this day who is their friend and who is their foe in the international arena. The USA identifies its actual and potential foes very clearly, and prepares in advance the financial base for containing them – or even for destroying them entirely in some cases.

The Russians believe that since they too are civilized now - that is, capitalist - it means that all capitalist countries are their friends. They don’t understand to this day that the West is only your friend for as long as it is possible to rob you. But as soon as you start pushing back at the West and complicating the process of robbery, you cease to be a friend. You become their enemy; thank god that you don’t understand this. Alexei Bogaturov, one of your experts, proposes in an article published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (06.02.2007) to conduct negotiations with the USA in order to resolve through diplomacy the problems of mutual misunderstanding. He writes: “Perhaps it is time for the two Presidents to meet and talk?” Haven’t they talked before? Bogaturov, who is negatively disposed toward China, is clearly unfamiliar with Deng Xiaoping’s famous pronouncement about the Sino-Soviet treaty of 1950. Long before the treaty expired, the Chinese leader recommended using it for lavatory purposes. What he meant was this: all these treaties and negotiations aren’t worth a broken dime; they merely fix a certain status quo existing at a certain moment. As soon as there are changes in the proportions of powers, these treaties turn into toilet paper, as evidenced by the fate of the Yalta agreements or, for instance, the Soviet-American treaty on AMD. All these useless papers involve nonetheless certain financial outlays in connection with negotiations and the salaries of numerous foreign-affairs bureaucrats. This Bogaturov, same as other specialists and experts, fails to understand that no kind of agreements between the USA and Russia will make them allies or even merely mutually loyal partners – because they are in different weight categories. Putin may go on as much as he wants on the topic of the unipolar system being unjust, etc., but it exists, and there are objective causes behind its existence. That is how FORCE works in the international arena. USA – together with all of the West – and Russia will remain strategic adversaries for a long time, even while Russia is capitalist. This is due not only to the West’s superiority in power, but also to the «values gap», as The Economist pointed out justifiably.

I repeat: the only thing that will mollify the West against you is the creation of conditions by Moscow for favorable penetration into Russian territory, which Western countries will then be able to control - preferably without you. The West hopes that some “sound forces” will emerge among you that will accommodate it. Thank goodness there is no longer a Soviet Union – there is a kind of democracy, albeit authoritarian, but most importantly – with markets. Putin, too, is in favor of markets and oligarchs (under his rule, their number keeps growing. For example, another 11 people in Russia became billionaires in 2006.) He loves Abramovich, for example, and refuses to accept his resignation from the post of Governor of Chukotka, even though Abramovich is in London all the time. Russian oligarchs all work in this fashion, though: some from London, some from Washington, some from Paris.

Talking about components of FPP, I haven’t addressed so far foreign economic activity – the main dynamic component in Russia’s case. The mass media keep reminding us that foreign trade, in particular, increased explosively under Putin. Indeed, commerce is an important indicator of a country’s influence and visibility in the international arena. Myself, for instance, living in England or in France, I may have never had any idea in my life about Japan or China. However, I drive a Japanese car, and nearly all consumer goods I buy are made in China. Let us check, then, what mark do Russians make in commerce.

I noted above that the financial resources of Russia’s foreign trade apparatus are not available for comparisons, since Russia’s budgetary statistics don’t state for some reason the expenditures in this area, unlike all other countries. Nonetheless efficiency in this area can be checked by way of the results of Russia’s foreign trade compared to other countries.

So: in 2000 Russia’s exports amounted to $105.6 bln, imports - $44.7 bln. By 2005 these figures increased substantially: exports – to $244 bln, imports – to $125 bln. This dynamic appears impressive. However, let’s not forget that trade volumes grew in other countries as well as in Russia. In order to evaluate objectively Russia’s place in world trade, it is important to determine its share of the world trade. This is how it looks: in 2000 Russia’s share of world trade was 1.2% -- 1.7% in exports (17th place in the world) and 0.7% in imports (28th place). In 2005 these shares were, respectively: 1.75%, 2.3% (13th place) and 1.2% (20th place)[4]. So there was indeed growth, albeit less impressive that the growth of trade volumes. Countries such as South Korea or even Austria are ahead of Russia in foreign trade. And it is necessary to remember in this discussion that in 1913 Russia’s share of world trade was 4%, which put it in 6th place in the world. During the USSR years (in 1985) its share was likewise just above 4% in exports and in imports. By 1990, though, it dropped to 1.7% in exports and 1.9% in imports; Gorbachev’s perestroika has done its black deed. This state of affairs hasn’t been rectified to this day. Russia’s share of world trade under Putin is even lower than under Gorbachev in 1990.

It should also be kept in mind that the structure of foreign trade practically hasn’t changed. In 2000 and in 2005 raw materials and metals accounted for almost 70% of exports; foodstuffs and machinery comprised more than half of imports. It is no accident that not only the nationalist-patriots, but also the national-bourgeoisie keep talking about Russia being a raw-materials appendage to the economy of the West. They are correct, generally speaking.

The XXI century: the world is still without Russia

From the perspective of its place and role in the international arena, Russia is not a subject that is capable of exerting real influence on the structure of world relations. Unless the country has great-power ambitions, this trifle shouldn’t bother the country’s ordinary folk. The Swiss, the Dutch and other such Scandinavians, same as the residents of many other countries, don’t waste any time pondering how great they are and what influence they can exert in the international arena. The Russians, however, have the great-power attitude in their blood, which is why they exhibit today the syndrome of humiliation. Nonetheless: it is possible to have no “strategic” weight in the world yet prosper very nicely, like those same Dutch or Swiss. The Russians, however, not only are not prospering: they are degrading at a pace unprecedented in world history. One can debate without end the topic of what is in general the meaning of the words “prosperity”, “development” or “progress”. I have no room for such a debate in this article. Let me therefore give right away the definition of progress; I intend to finish this year a book on that topic. The definition itself and the preliminary sketches, though, have already been presented in my books The Dialectics of Force: Óntobia and On Love, Family and the State. Here it is:

Progress is the “increment” of life, i.e. the difference between the years allotted to man by nature (the laws of the inorganic and the organic worlds) and the years he really (actually) does live thanks to his knowledge. I call this difference the life delta, or progress. For obviousness’ sake, it can be expressed thus: L­­­­Δ = LA – LN, where L is lifespan; A is the actual, or real, average lifespan; N is the natural, or biological, lifespan allotted by nature. Hence the meaning of life is the effort to attain progress, i.e. to increase the life delta. Let me remind here just in case that the humanoid’s initial average lifespan for over 99% of the time of his existence on the planet was 18 years.[5] Today it has been pushed in advanced countries to nearly 80 years, and this leap has been achieved in the last two centuries. This means that man has “bypassed” nature thanks to his knowledge, having increased his life delta by a factor of four.

Proceeding from this definition, let us examine how today’s Russia is making progress.

It is perfectly obvious that the increase in question depends primarily on the state of science, and only then, as a consequence, on the state of education and health care. In this connection I can present a wealth of statistical data testifying to the catastrophic decline of science, education and health care in contemporary Russia. I could present hundreds of quotes such as this: «While around the world about 15% of all people require psychiatric help, in Russia their number reaches 25%. Experts note that compared to the 1990s, the number of clients in Russia’s psychiatric clinics nearly doubled. There are statistical data showing that 70–80% of all babies in Russia are born with psychic illnesses of various nature.»[6]

It would have been very easy for me to debunk the idle talk by the Minister of Education about the rosy prospects for higher and middle education in Russia. It suffices to mention the infamous Unified State Examination (USE) which is apparently deliberately introduced for the purpose of finally exterminating any quality from the knowledge received by children. I will, however, limit myself to just one quote regarding education: “The Deputies believe that the quality of education is affected by the indicator of expenditures as a percentage of GDP. France and Germany today expend 8% of their GDP on development of education. The United States of America spend 9%, Japan – 11%. Finland – a country that used to be a Russian colony and part of the Russian Empire – today spends 16.4% of its GDP on education. Russia spends 4% on these purposes.”[7]

All these topics are deserving of separate analysis. I want to switch right away to a certain index which defines the face of a state in aggregated form. It is the Human Development IndexHDI. This indicator is an aggregate of average life expectancy, the average education level of the adult population plus aggregate indicators of  schooling, and per capita income in U.S. dollars, corrected to account for PPP.

By this index Russia ranked 65th [8] in 2005, 60th in 2000 among 174 states; it was behind not only all the developed states, but even behind a number of Latin American, Asian and African countries. In 1995, Russia ranked 57th. It is noteworthy that in 1999, the year when Putin was Prime Minister, Russia was in 55th place, and during the years of his presidency its rank dropped by 10 spots. I repeat that this indicator includes practically all components of a country’s development: the economy, the politics, the social situation of the population, etc. It is precisely by this indicator that Putin’s presidency should be evaluated.

One needs to take into account that in 1990, the Soviet Union (in its worst year) ranked 33rd by this same indicator. Thus, in just 15 years, almost 32 states managed to overtake post-reform Russia. And this is what they call development? Those who think so are apparently included in those 25% who require psychiatric treatment.

Imbedded in this indicator is the chief indicator of progress: average life expectancy (ALE). However, prior to discussing lifespan, a few words are in order about the population itself, or, more precisely, about its shrinking. After all, without a population there is no point in talking about ALE.

So what is happening to Russia in the years of the Putin prosperity? For starters let me refer once again to Sergey Batchikov. He writes:

Finally V. V. Putin has touched on the sorest question (during the above-mentioned press-conference – A.B.) Having said that the government’s chief task is increasing the quality of life, he mentioned the 2006 achievement in demographics: “We state with satisfaction that the natural decline of the population is decreasing – by 17.3%. The death rate is declining, and the birth rate increased a little bit.”

Of course, we too are glad about it. Yes, the death rate did decline by 5% in 2006, while the birth rate grew by 2%. However, these fluctuations do not yet indicate a stable trend. People adapt to living in the most difficult conditions, and the death rate declines. For example, between 1994 and 1998 the death rate declined by 13.6%, and after Putin’s rise to power during 1999-2003 it increased by 21.3%. Now it is declining again – by a little bit.

However, between January and November of 2006, that is, over 11 months of the reporting period, the natural decline of Russia’s population amounted to 637,000 thousand people! During the Soviet era, in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a natural growth of about 900,000 people per year. Now these are stable characteristics of the two types of social being. The question is this: whether it is possible within the present system to break in principle the trend toward dying out – or whether we shall be “satisfied” with minor fluctuations in the decline of the population. There was no answer given to this question; no one even asked the question – it was a politically correct bunch of journalists gathered there.

As for the quality of life, it is defined in the first place by the sense of security, reliability and peaceful conscience. This all collapsed as a result of the reforms. What state are the people living in when every year 70 to 100 thousand people go missing, almost 350,000 die of injuries an poisonings, not to mention banditry and robberies. Where achievements in the quality of life are concerned, there is no big difference between the governments of Gaidar, Chernomyrdin, Kirienko, Kasyanov and Fradkov. The year 2006 brought no cardinal shifts for the better[9].

I will leave the quality of life for a separate analysis. Let us now take a look at statistics. In 1950 the population of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was 102.7 million people (178.5 million people in the USSR) – good for 4th place in the world. In 1989 it reached 147 million. In 2000 - the year Putin was appointed President - it was down to 145.6 million (6th place); in 2006 it was down to 142 million (8th place). From here, according to the reference case of the UN forecast, it will decline to 130 million in 2025 (115-120 million in other forecasts) and to 101.5 million in 2050 (18th place).

The dying out of the population means that it finds itself in such circumstances in which it is unable to reproduce itself. Some may point out in response that the populations of advanced countries are likewise declining. That is not exactly true. It is the “white” population of those countries (Germany, France, England, etc.) that is declining. On the whole the population the Europe and North America is growing, albeit insignificantly – mainly because of immigrants. The matter is this, though: while birth rates are indeed at approximately the same level in Russia and in the white populations of, say, European countries, the death rates are cardinally different. As one expert put it correctly, Russia has “a European birth rate, but an African death rate”. These rates are reflected in the average life expectancy (ALE) indicator – that main criterion of progress. By this indicator, in 2005 Russia with its ALE of 67.1 years was in 118th place in the world (in 150th place, if one takes into consideration the non-state enclaves.)[10] In 2006 the ALE was already down to 65 years. Let us now look at the table below:

 Life expectancy at birth

Notes: * - 50 provinces of Europian Russia; ** - Europian part of RSFSR.

Sources: Russia Statistical Yearbook. 2004; Russia in Figures. 2004. For 2006 - 2006 World Populatiom Data Sheet.

The lines in red are highlighted for comparison. In 2006 the values for the single most important indicator were worse that 16 years ago – and practically unchanged under Putin.

By the way, one can see from this table that under Soviet power average life expectancy nearly doubled compared to Tsarist Russia over a very brief historical period: from 30.5 years in 1913 to almost 69 in the mid-1960s. Capitalism needed over 200 years to achieve such a doubling of the ALE. Interestingly, socialist China and socialist Vietnam likewise managed to increase ALE from 40 years in the 1950s to 70 years by 2000. That is how socialism – of not even a very developed kind – affects the life delta – that main indicator of progress. And this is how capitalism works in Russia (the information is from Moskovsky Komsomolets of 27.07.2006):

•Every minute in Russia three people are born and four die. In China the respective figures are 38 and 16, in the USA - 8 and 4.

•Between 1992 and 2005 the “natural” decrease of population in Russia amounted to 11.2 million people.

•46.2% of all men and 14% of all women die while still in working age.

•For every 100 births, there are 122 abortions. 2.5 million of Russian women are infertile.

•The proportion of fully healthy girls in the last 10 years declined from 28% to 6%. 27% of first grade schoolgirls have chronic illnesses. In the senior grades already 63% of all girls are chronically ill, with most of them having 2-3 diseases.

I think that this table that I borrowed from Anatoly Vishnevsky, a demographics specialist, will also be of interest (I only added the data for 2006):

Russia’s lag in average life expectancy

at the start of the 20th and 21st centuries, in years

I wrote in many of my works that today’s capitalist Russia has been thrown a hundred years back, to the Tsarist period. The table above is yet another confirmation of my conclusion about the country’s degradation. By the start of the 21st century Russia’s lag behind over developed countries in the indicator of average life expectancy - especially for men - has became approximately the same, or even greater, than it was at the start of the 20th century when Russia was a backward agrarian country.

It wasn’t my objective here to examine the causes of Russia’s decline. My task was to show several things:

Firstly: everything said by Russia’s ruling elite, including ministers and top Kremlin officials, about the situation in the country or about its place and role in the world is either lies or elementary incompetence, or possibly both.

Secondly: Russia’s place and role in the international arena remain marginal. The contemporary Russian state is not a subject capable of influencing change of the structure of international relations, i.e. it does not possess the status of a Great Power, much less a Superpower. In this sense the title of one of my preceding books – The 21st Century: the World Without Russia – remains correct, to my regret.

Thirdly: Russia continues to regress – not only from socialism to capitalism, but already from capitalism to feudalism. This is pointed out by two indicators of paramount importance: decline of the population and of the average lifespan. Both these indicators are moving toward values characteristic of feudal societies.

Can this degradation be stopped? That depends on whether the society’s socially active forces recognize the presence of such degradation. Should they fail to understand this and pin their hopes on either Putin or Lord God, Russia is doomed. Should these forces find the courage to admit candidly the situation that really does exist, the chance will appear for finding a way out of the strategic trap. Anything is possible in Russia.

[1] Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 29.01.2007.

[2] Gross national income (GNI) - formerly referred to as gross national product (GNP) - measures the total domestic and foreign value added claimed by residents. GNI comprises GDP plus net receipts of primary income (compensation of employees and property income) from non-resident sources. The World Bank began to use this indicator in 2002.

[3] Argumenty I Fakty, 24 January 2007.

[4] International trade statistics 2001, 2006. WTO, 2001, 2006.

[5] Kaku, Michio. Visions, р. 204. For more detail see: Bobrov. Let us talk of demographics, p.72.

[6] Novyie Izvestiya, 30.01. 2007.

[7] Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 12.01. 2007.

[8] UN DP (2005), Human Development Report 2005: Human Rights and Human Development.

[9] Zavtra. 14 February 2007.