Russia and America’s shared crisis
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is an enigma to many in the lands formerly known as the “free West.” However, it would behoove us to take note of his opening remarks in his Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly (comparable to the U.S. State of the Union) on February 15, 2021. He began thus:
Russia’s future and historical perspective depend on how many of us there are (I would like to start the main part of my Address with demography), how many children are born in Russian families in one, five or ten years, on these children’s upbringing, on what kind of people they become and what they will do for the country, as well as on the values they choose as their mainstay in life.
There are nearly 147 million of us now. But we have entered a difficult, a very difficult demographic period.
However, new families are being created now by the small generation of the 1990s. And the birth rate is falling again. This is the main problem of the current demographic period in Russia.
The aggregate birth rate, which is the key index showing the number of births per woman, was only 1.5 in 2019, according to tentative estimates. Is this few or many? It is not enough for our country. It is approximately equal to the figure reported in many European countries. But it is not enough for Russia.
I can tell you by way of comparison that the figure was 1.3 in 1943, during the Great Patriotic War. It was only lower in the 1990s: 1.16 in 1999, lower even than during the Great Patriotic War. There were very few families with two children, and some couples had to put off starting a family.
I want to say once again that we are alarmed by the negative demographic forecasts. It is our historic duty to respond to this challenge. We must not only get out of this demographic trap but ensure a sustainable natural population growth by 2025. The aggregate birth rate must be 1.7 in 2024.
Demography is a sector where universal or parochial solutions cannot be effective. Each step we take and each new law or government programme we adopt must be scrutinised from the viewpoint of our top national priority -- the preservation and increase of Russia’s population.
In his remarks, President Putin scolded officials for not tackling the problem with sufficient alacrity and went on to outline a government plan of economic incentives and child care initiatives that he intends to implement. He thus has put the future of the Russian people front and centre. He not only fully understands that his country faces an existential demographic crisis; he has courageously raised the issue for all to see.
Russia is rich in resources and huge, straddling the Eurasian land mass from Poland to the Pacific and the Black Sea to the Arctic. Yet recent history has been a violent and miserable period for Russians, beginning with the advent of draconian Communist tyranny. Then came the Second World War, for which -- among the Allies -- Russia bore the brunt.
Next up was the implosion of the Soviet Empire, followed by the emergence of oligarchs and the wholesale looting of state assets. Russian fertility rates crashed, poverty exploded and social pathologies skyrocketed. These are the conditions under which Vladimir Putin was elected President in 1999. He has been at the helm ever since (briefly as Vice President), and however autocratic or confrontational he may be thought of in the West, he can be credited with righting the ship of state to a significant extent and facing the future of his people with a clear vision.
What he sees is that Russia’s fertility rate, at 1.5, has collapsed. And Russia is not alone. America’s fertility rate is at 1.71. Both are well below the replacement level of 2.1. These figures do not bode well for the future of either country, as they are clear signs of an unfolding vanishing act -- i.e., extinction.
In Democracy in America (1835) Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of Russia and America:
… Their starting-point is different, and their courses are not the same; yet each of them seems marked out by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.
By “half the globe” de Tocqueville meant the West. Old Cold War rhetoric about the “Eastern Bloc” aside, Russia is a Western power. While fertility decline is a critical global issue, the West has been especially hard hit, with decades of below-replacement fertility. Geopolitically (and culturally), Russia and America are stewards of the West. We are in this together.
But Russia (1.5 fertility) and the U.S. (1.71) not only suffer from falling fertility. Given the changing composition of their respective populations, the day is coming when both countries will be considerably less Western in character.
Demographers project that the European-descended element of the American population will become a minority by 2030-2035. This is due to 1) below-replacement fertility of the native population for more than five decades, and 2) mass immigration from the Third World, which began in the 1960s.
Almost all of America’s recent population growth is from immigration and the differential (higher) birthrates of recent immigrants. While that differential has now disappeared, the demographic transformation to a non-White majority is all but complete. Whites are already a minority of American children from one to ten years of age.
The tsunami of cheap-labour immigration that has changed the face of America is fully supported by self-interested elites and a government fully committed to globalist ideology. The American way of dealing with low fertility is simply to continue with mass immigration to ensure an increasing population for continued economic growth. The consequent loss of social cohesion and mounting public debt does not concern the regime. That is not a sustainable course.
President Putin has a different approach. A Russian nationalist, he has demonstrated keen foresight in trying to prevent the demographic transformation of his country. Currently the populations with the highest fertility in Russia are Muslim, especially in the North Caucasus and along the southern periphery. Leading the pack are Tuva (2.72), the Chechen Republic (2.58) and the Altai Republic (2.11). The Muslim percentage of Russia was 6.5% in 2012, 10% in 2017; it is currently estimated to be approaching 15%. Some have projected that by 2035, Russia’s Muslim population will increase to 30%.
Putin is well aware of the danger. Previous efforts to bolster Russian births have had some positive results, but the decrease to a 1.5 fertility rate last year is a result of, as President Putin said in his 2020 Presidential Address, “new families… being created now by the small generation of the 1990s. And the birth rate is falling again.”
Nevertheless, Putin continues his relentless efforts to urge his fellow Russians to produce more children. His renewed push to reinvigorate Russian family life has brought concerned Russians together as never before. An inveterate Russophile, he is enlisting patriotism and the Russian Orthodox Church in this effort. This approach is a nationalist, socially conservative remedy as opposed to America’s globalist, purely economic solution.
It is President Putin who has demonstrated leadership on the existential issue of whether the nation and species will continue. We can only hope that the day will come when an American leader will sound the alarm about this crisis as Putin has done. Perhaps then we can change our priorities, abandon our fixation on equity, diversity and political correctness, and join the Russian leader in his crusade to stop the coming extinction.
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