Vladimir Putin’s latest narrative to justify the war is that Russia is defending its own existence in Ukraine. In fact, the country is threatened with ruin. But the Kremlin is actually responsible for the degradation of Russia.

It’s a recurring phrase in Putin’s speeches: the aggressive West wants to destroy Russia, yes, everything Russian. Russia must defend itself against this. The country is now at war with the “collective West” because NATO is using Ukraine as a means of destroying Russia, its civilization and its very existence.

The intention of this interpretation is obvious: the aggressor Russia wants to stylize itself as a victim and from this victim role to become the leader of the downtrodden. At the same time, the goals of denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, which can no longer be implemented militarily, are defensively reinterpreted, so that the first narrative used to justify the attack on Ukraine turns into a second: Russia is defending itss in Ukraine Existence.

Anyone who does not ignore the facts of the war knows that this is wrong and does not stand up to a serious examination of the developments. Nevertheless, the formula is significant in two directions. On the one hand, it acts as a tried and tested propaganda formula to be used when the quest to erase everything Ukrainian that Russia has set itself as a goal needs to be cloaked. As such, it has an impact on Russian society.

And secondly, as a camouflage for the actual degradation of Russia. It’s just that it’s not being done by the West, but by the one who thought he had to reestablish Russia as an imperialist state: Putin.

Putin is acting to the detriment of the Russian Federation. This is evident in many areas. For example, for the Russian economy: Russia’s gross domestic product was 2.29 trillion US dollars in 2013 – i.e. before the start of the war against Ukraine – but by 2021 it had fallen to 1.77 trillion. U.S. dollar. This year it will be 1.6 trillion. US dollar decline and continue to fall in the next year.

Because all economic data – from industrial production to wholesale trade – show negative development trends. Further packages of sanctions will trigger additional negative effects and Russia’s customers, to whom it wants to sell its energy sources, will take advantage of the situation to negotiate significant discounts. It is possible that the rebates will be even higher than this year, because Russian energy companies are under pressure to sell. Russia’s economic output will then be less than a tenth of that of China, the country with which Putin wants to be an equal partner.

On the other hand, armaments production must be increased and paid for at the same time in order to be able to provide sufficient military vehicles, ammunition, rockets and other weapons. The mobilization will continue next year and, as things currently stand, will lead up to half a million men into the war. The labor market is already short of up to a million men who have either been drafted or have fled.

Mobilization amplifies falling production and restricted distribution. Economic rationality has long been considered less important in the political decisions of the Russian leadership. However, if the income is no longer sufficient to maintain skills that are considered urgently needed, the political order comes under pressure.

Prof. Dr. Thomas Jäger has held the Chair for International Politics and Foreign Policy at the University of Cologne since 1999. His research focuses on international relations and American and German foreign policy.

These are short-term effects that have already been seen this year and will continue next year should the war continue. However, the war also has medium-term effects. They obviously affect the country’s demographic situation, which the state leadership has recognized as a problem for years.

Before the war, Russia had 143 million inhabitants, which is extremely small for the area of ​​the country. Russia has a tenth of China’s population, a ratio that is already visible in the east of the country when Chinese companies lease land for agricultural production and cultivate it themselves.

The prognosis for the demographic development of Russia is negative. By 2050, the population is expected to shrink to 133 million. The figure is now outdated as hundreds of thousands have fled the country and, if Russia continues the war, more than a hundred thousand will have died. If you add the injured and consider that a large number of those who died and emigrated are young people, the effect is amplified.

This has an impact on the social situation of the elderly, whose care has already been a challenge. Because Russia is an old country, the average age will rise from the current 38 to 44 in 2040. Of course, it is even higher in other European countries. There, however, this asymmetry can be compensated for more through automation and increased productivity.

This is the second medium-term effect on Russian society, that it is increasingly cut off from technological development and in just a few years it will close the gap to the advanced, high-productivity centers of the USA and China (and hopefully also the EU, but that is another topic). can no longer bridge.

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Russia is following the path of the Soviet Union, which was a military colossus with feet of clay. Except that Russia’s internationally relevant capabilities are focused on nuclear weapons. In the other areas of armaments production, it will take the country years to recoup the losses and then it will have an army on a completely outdated level of technology. The relative superiority of Western weapons technology is already evident in combat. Russia will not be fully capable of global military power projection.

Politically, the question arose as to how the unity of the Russian Federation could be maintained under these circumstances, when the power center could no longer provide services and the legitimate monopoly on the use of force showed deep cracks. Or whether another post-imperialist disintegration will result from the imperialist war, analogous to the Soviet Union this time the Russian Federation. Putin wanted to destroy Ukraine with the war of aggression. In the end, he could do more harm to Russia.

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