It’s difficult to get too worked up about Vladimir Putin’s antics, deadly as they are, because in the long run Russia is doomed — and the long run isn’t that long from now. In the short run Moscow can do little things (ahem) like blow up NATO, but as things stand now there’s not much future for a once-great people.
The problem is that Russia is running out of Russians, and has been for two or three decades. One little-acknowledged justification for Putin to do things like annex Crimea is to bring ethnic Russians from the Near Abroad back into Russia.
But there’s a catch, as StrategyPage reports:
Since Russia began invading and trying to annex parts of Ukraine in 2014 there has been a substantial shift in population. Since early 2014 nearly two million people have left Russia. More than half these were Westerners (including many from East European countries) working in Russia, providing skills that Russia did not have. The rest were Russians, most of them highly educated and with similar skills to the departing Westerners. What all these migrants had in common was a desire to get away from an increasingly authoritarian, intolerant and economically disastrous Russian government. About half the departing Westerners and skilled Russians were replaced by more (less educated and skilled) migrants from the east (Central Asia, North Korea, China and the Caucasus).
Putin seems damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.