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With a failing birth rate and HIV epidemic, what is Russia doing to stay in control on the world stage?

The Not-So-Great Bear

Firstly, why is Russia invading Ukraine? The answer is that their borders are indefensible. They have 12,000 miles of land that is completely flat and barren, with nothing to separate itself from its neighbours. This makes it very easy to invade with tanks and troops. In recent history, Russia has given many countries a reason to do just that. As a result, Russia must spend millions on a huge land army to protect itself.

However, Russia’s problems don’t end here. Since the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, the Federation’s birth rate has dropped dramatically. It currently stands at 1.75 children per couple. The birth rate needed to sustain a population is 2.33, so Russia’s demography may never be the same again. Combined with the third-worst HIV epidemic and the most common heroin usage in the world, Russia’s future looks nothing short of apocalyptic.

Survival of the Fittest

So where does Ukraine come into this? As we’ve already established, Russia’s borders require a huge army to be defended. However, Russia’s birth rate is drastically low, and it’s riddled with drugs and disease. This combination means that very soon, Russia won’t have a military age large enough to maintain itself. As you can imagine, this is a calamity.

But Russia hasn’t always been like this. From 1917-1991, Russia wasn’t Russia — it was the Soviet Union. And it was huge. Russia is still the biggest country in the world, but the USSR stretched all the way to the Baltic Sea, the Balkan Mountains, the Lesser Caucasus, the Karakum desert, and East Germany. All these places were natural defences that protected the Kremlin from attack. It would be long, strenuous, and almost impossible to march from Berlin to Moscow. This meant that Russia had to defend 600 miles of vulnerable borders compared to the 3,000 miles they currently have. If Russia could regain at least some of these footholds, it would survive a little longer. This seems to be exactly what it’s doing in Ukraine. Read more

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