2008: Russia is reversing its population decline, which began before the Cold
War ended, and accelerated after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Births were up 14 percent last year (to 1.6 million), over 2006. At its worst,
a few years ago, the Russian population was declining 750,000 a year. A growing
economy, more health consciousness and more pro-family laws have all
contributed to this. Still, it will be another decade or two before the decline
will halt. By then, the Russian population will be under 140 million. It went
down 200,000 last year, to 142 million. At this rate, it would be under 100 million by 2050. That, however, is
will not go to war if Georgia or Ukraine join NATO, but will be unhappy with
such a move. This could lead to more troops on the borders. Russia doesn't get
it, that neighbors want to join NATO for protection from Russia. Historically, being
a neighbor of Russia has not been a good thing.
oil production is declining, after peaking at 9.86 million barrels a day. This
came about because, during the re-nationalization of the oil industry over the
last decade, there was a sharp drop in money spent on oil exploration. Foreign
banks were reluctant to invest the enormous amounts of money needed (about a
trillion dollars) when Russia was so blatantly violating property rights. Russia
will either have to fund the exploration itself (which will mean less money for
other economic expansion projects) or allow foreign investors more control of
their Russian investments.
2008: Georgia released video showing a Russian MiG-29 firing a missile at a
Georgian UAV over Abkhazia. Russia denied it. Russia has troops stationed in Abkhazia,
a breakaway region of Georgia. Relations between Russia and Georgia have not
been good since the Cold War ended, and Georgia (which is just south of
Chechnya) became independent.
2008: The U.S. sponsored ballistic missile defense system in Eastern Europe is
a done deal. Russia is not happy, but has agreed to tolerate it. The system is
mainly to protect Europe from Iranian missiles.
2008: In Belarus, pro-democracy demonstrations resulted in police raids on
independent media that reported it. Some 30 journalists were arrested, and the
independent media got the message. Russia is a little more subtle in this
department, but not by much.