After the collapse of the USSR, the future of the large mass of it called Russia was up in the air. Eighteen years later, the initial hope that many shared has slowly swept away for a few reasons. Though Obama affirmed that Russia is still a great nation, many factors are currently working against it for the world’s largest state to regain its superpower title. Due to demographic, geographic and political or legal problems, the world might not shift its attention away from China and India to the North anytime soon.
Russia lost many people as well as a lot of territory when the USSR broke up. However, it still has a population of over 140 million over its vast territory. This is expected to go down in the next few years as the birth rate and immigration there remain low figures and the life expectancy at birth for a man is now below 60 years of age. Studies reveal that many Russians also suffer from alcoholism and as many as 30, 000 are being killed due to alcohol each year. Though almost all are literate, investments in education are lagging behind, especially if the country wants to return to superpower status in a knowledge-based battle. To be a superpower, the people must be able to work for it and right now and in the near to mid future, this does not look likely for Russia.
The sheer size of the country is astounding, the problem is that most of this land is difficult to use either for peaceful purposes or otherwise. Much of Siberia is permafrost and though rail and air connect many regions they are still difficult to reach. Rich in oil, Russia may need to diversify in cases when the price of oil goes down or in case the EU is able to increase its pressure thus reducing Russia’s ability to use its pipelines as a bargaining tool. With the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Russia and China have been able to see a bit more eye to eye and have been able to ease pressures of their borders. Where Russia might find success is in its pressure on the high North which is likely to open up during the coming years and with Russia’s recent announcement that it will discuss more with Canada regarding this space and its affirmation that it will respect the ruling based on the Law of the Sea, there is hope in this field.
This leads to another issue with modern Russia. Though every country will always protect its interests first, the mystery surrounding transparency and the respect of the rule of law in Russia leads to suspicion amongst many with regards to its actions in the international sphere. Multilateral successes aside, the Georgia incident reminded everyone that Russia is willing to act unilaterally with little regards to others intentions. Compounded by the actions taken to cut off Ukraine and others from natural gas and oil in general, a stronger Russia does not mean a better friend. Within the country, the mafia seems to have control on much of the money to be made and the legitimacy of recent elections can be doubted. Foreign investments are therefore quite risky.
An expert analysis may point out different strong and weak points regarding Russia in the near to mid future but a return to superpower status is unlikely and eyes are rightfully pointed elsewhere.