After eight weeks of fighting in Ukraine, the notion that Russia is a near-peer of the U.S. is beginning to look doubtful. It seems more likely that Putin’s Russia is shadow of its former, Soviet self. That raises the possibility that the Ukraine campaign isn’t just the next chapter in Putin’s reign, but perhaps the last chapter. There is plenty of evidence. First, its military performance is abysmal, suggesting the armed forces have been afflicted with the same corruption that pervades the rest of Russan society. Second, the Russian economy was struggling even before it faced the mother of all sanction regimes. Third, demographic trends in Russia are among the worst in the industrial world. Fourth, Russia’s youth are alienated and increasingly willing to emigrate. Fifth, Russia’s client states are a drag on the nation’s resources. Even without all the rumors of Putin’s ill health, his rule may be entering a terminal phase. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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