Celebrate the Facts!
United States President Joe Biden will meet this coming Wednesday, June 16, 2021, with Russian Federation President Putin at a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. This neutral territory location provides the meeting for two leaders who do not want to show any deference to the other. President Joe Biden will use this encounter to substantiate himself as a strong world leader capable of mastering America's favorite punching bag, Vladimir Putin.
Unlike former President Donald Trump, who showed a groveling subservience to Putin at a joint press conference following a similar meeting, President Joe Biden will not appear on the same stage with Putin, so not allowing Putin the opportunity to appear as an equal, a trademark snub for the newly minted President. Biden similarly downgraded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, bypassing him to communicate instead to his doddering father Saudi King Salman, and slighted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, making him wait weeks for his initial telephone call.
Topics on the agenda for the meeting appear to include cybersecurity, election interference, the Ukraine and Crimea situation, and a possible prisoner exchange in return for reforms. The post-meeting press conference will allow Biden to describe his thorough slapping around of Putin. In addition, Biden will inform the audience of his formidable new stance, zero-tolerance, and willingness to negotiate only from a position of superiority.
Despite the propaganda, the Russian Federation poses little in the way of a military threat to the West, especially the United States, and its economy, the 11th largest in the world, is smaller than either Italy or Canada. The real risk is its immense stockpile of nuclear weapons.
The Russian Federation's gross domestic product (GDP) figures are flat, as depicted in the above chart. The comparison to the United States and China GDP values shows its advancing irrelevance as a world power.
Corruption plagues the Russian Federation economy, and political reforms have stalled in recent years. The Russian Federation has a predominantly statist economy with a high concentration of wealth in officials' hands, particularly in the energy, transportation, and banking sectors. As one of the world's leading producers of oil and natural gas, the Russian Federation is vulnerable to boom-and-bust cycles, and its dependence on revenues from fossil fuel sales is a significant weakness.
Aside from the cyclical nature of fossil fuel revenues, future declining world use of fossil fuels will reduce this revenue base, further imperiling an already delicate economic situation.
As depicted in the above chart, the Russian Federation population growth has been flat, posing ominous potential issues, including an almost inevitable decline in world relevancy. In 2021 there will be about 9.71 births/1,000 population and about 13.4 deaths/1,000 population, for a negative population growth rate. Life expectancy at birth is about 72.2 years, the 159th in the world, indicative of complex social and medical delivery problems. The infant mortality rate is about 6.51 deaths/1,000 live births, with a rating of 169th in the world, another indicator of economic and medical issues.
In addition, the Russian Federation faces an aging-out of the working population and will be losing as many as 600,000 workers annually over the next six years. Actuarial calculations predict the Russian Federation is likely to go from around 146 million population today to about 135 million in 2050, a 7.5% decrease.
As depicted in the above chart, the Russian Federation's military spending has been small, although it composes a relatively percentage of its gross domestic product. As detailed in a previous investigation, the Russian Federation's 2018 expenditures were only about 9.5% of the United States and about 3.9% of a relatively small economy (the 11th largest economy in the world).
Russia maintains nuclear forces as artifacts of the former Soviet Union superpower Cold War engagement with the United States. The Russian Federation has about 6,375 nuclear warheads for delivery by air, naval, and ground forces, with more than 1,500 warheads deployed on missiles and bombers capable of reaching the United States.
The Russian Federation's intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) force has 318 missiles with about 860 warheads deployed and available for use. Over half of these missiles are Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicle (MIRV), meaning they carry multiple warheads.
The Russian Navy operates 11 nuclear-powered nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) of three classes which form its primary nuclear deterrent. Russia flies two 50 nuclear-capable heavy bombers - the Tu-160 Blackjack and the Tu-95MS Bear, and both are aged platforms.
The Tu-160, more commonly known as the Backfire Bomber, was designed in the 1970s and delivered in the 1980s, and 16 are in service. The Tu-95, the Bear, first flew in 1952 and is the only propeller-driven bomber still in existence and is an artifact of aviation history. Penetration of United States airspace by either plane is highly doubtful.
The United States has 19 aircraft carriers, including 12 large-deck aircraft carriers and seven smaller carriers. The Russian Federation's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, has lurched from one embarrassing episode to another, and the floating wreck has to be accompanied by tugboats when it takes to the sea.
In many ways, Vladimir Putin is the best solution to the United States Russia problem:
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.