IN OTHER WORDS
The United Nations Population Fund projected last week that Russia’s population will drop from 142 million today to 100 million in the next 40 to 50 years. The agency’s report praised recent government efforts to increase birth rates and extend lives. But not enough is being done to counter stark demographic forces: an impending decrease in the number of women of child-bearing age, poor healthcare, rampant vehicular and industrial accidents, widespread alcoholism, and social conditions that discourage family formation. These trends have disturbing implications, not just for Russia and its political leadership, but for the US. A Russia anxious about its vulnerabilities, its diminishing human capital, and its borders is likely to be a prickly partner for the West.
The need to improve US-Russian relations has barely figured in the current presidential campaign. But it should. The next president will have to undo the damage that was done to this crucial relationship by the last two presidents. It means reducing nuclear stockpiles, taking nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert, avoiding a new arms race with Moscow, securing nuclear materials, working out mutually beneficial arrangements for natural gas pipelines, and treating Russia as a proud nation with legitimate security interests. — The Boston Globe