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Economy and Hard Power

This piece by Stratfor’s George Friedman, posted over at RealClearWorld, is riddled with flaws, but still interesting to read.  Once again, people are really running away with Biden’s commentary and not reading between the lines.

A strategy that assumes the Russians will once again decouple economic and military power requires a different response than ongoing, subcritical pressure. It requires that the window of opportunity the United States has handed Russia by its wars in the Islamic world be closed, and that the pressure on Russia be dramatically increased before the Russians move toward full repression and rapid rearmament.

Ironically, in the very long run of the next couple of generations, it probably doesn’t matter whether the West heads off Russia at the pass because of another factor Biden mentioned: Russia’s shrinking demographics. Russian demography has been steadily worsening since World War I, particularly because birth rates have fallen. This slow-motion degradation turned into collapse during the 1990s. Russia’s birth rates are now well below starkly higher death rates; Russia already has more citizens in their 50s than in their teens. Russia can be a major power without a solid economy, but no one can be a major power without people. But even with demographics as poor as Russia’s, demographics do not change a country overnight. This is Russia’s moment, and the generation or so it will take demography to grind Russia down can be made very painful for the Americans.

Biden has stated the American strategy: squeeze the Russians and let nature take its course. We suspect the Russians will squeeze back hard before they move off the stage of history.