During the last decade, the European Union expanded its concentration of power and created the post modern state; where ideals of national sovereignty were laid to rest and in its place arose a new international governing system. The idea of unambiguous Europeans replaced the identity of Germans, French, Italians and Spanish and in the early part of the 21st century many liberal Europeans thought the EU had put an end to national politics. Liberals in Russia had many of the same hopes, that Russia would join such a union. Putin would have none of it, the Kremlin held strong to the ideals of sovereign democracy, that Russia would have sole authority of its domestic and foreign affairs. Now as the EU teeters on the brink of collapse, Putin’s re-election is the further defiance of post-nationalism.
The other issue that Putin has single handedly reversed for Russia is that of a demographic winter.
When Vladmir Putin first became President of Russia back in 2000, Russia had been on demographic decline since the fall of the Soviet Union. In 2000, Russia experienced 2.22 million deaths and only 1.26 million births. Russia was losing over 900,000 citizens annually and the depleting of people showed no signs of stopping. Putin was well aware of the demographic crisis facing Russia, and made it clear in his 2006 State of the Union. Putin put forward a plan to raise Russia’s birthrate including monetary incentives to large families.
Ulyanovsk, a region 550 miles east of Moscow declared September 12, National Conception Day and gave prizes on average of $10,000 to couples who bore children on that day. The holiday became the butt of many comedians jokes, nevertheless, the region recorded an increase of births by 4.5% over a two year period.
Since 2006,, when Putin made a national campaign of Russia’s demographic plight, Russia’s fertility rate has changed dramatically. In 2000 Russia’s fertility rate was 1.19, nearly a half of the 2.1 needed in order to sustain a population. In 2006 when Putin declared the “War on Infertility” had already risen to 1.296, by 2010 that number had risen to 1.56 and Russia’s annual population decline went from 958,000 in 2000 to 241,000 in 2010.
Russia sees its infertility issue as not just a cultural crisis to retain the Russian culture and pass it to the next generation but also a national defense issue. Russia’s Muslim regions including Chechnya, which has been an area of internal terrorism has been growing faster than the more Orthodox Christian regions. In Russia’s far east, the international consequences of Russia’s demographic time bomb are even worse. Six million Russians live on the eastern most part of Russia, rich in natural resources this area has been a prospective to be annexed by the Chinese. According to the Financial Times, Russia is “paranoid about the thinly populated eastern third of its landmass.” Russia’s loss of its future sons and daughters will be China’s economic gain.
Russia is not alone in the demographic crisis, nearly all European nations save Ireland and Iceland have under replacement fertility levels. Yet it is Putin alone who has the courage to deal with the how a demographic crisis may change Russia and the world.
Putin double down on his efforts, in April of 2011, Putin announced he would invest a stunning $52 billion in Russia’s demographic projects, Putin declared, “we need to save the people of Russia”. Under the plan, women who had two children would be eligible for a one time payment of $12,750, also included in the plan is increased child benefits and more affordable housing for young families.
Putin will never be a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize or be loved by the mainstream west, Russophobia is still widespread amongst many westerners. But Putin is doing more than just trying to kick start a stalled economy or deal with international crisis, Putin is trying to save an identity and a people, his people. For that cause, Putin is showing a bravery no other western leader dares tread. For his nationalism and tribalism, Putin is an enemy of the international progressive elite, however if he is successful there will still be a Russia in a future post-western world.