The “Normalization” of Russia’s Demographics

This is the first of my promised Last Three Posts on DR. It’s been a bit more than a year since my last update on Russia’s demographic turnaround, and believe it or not, the cause of this was more than just laziness and lack of time on my part. A different question started bugging me:

Is there really a point to it?

Nobody concerns himself overmuch with the United Kingdom’s birth rate, and its portents for the economic and geopolitical destiny of that land. Well, some actually do, but said concern is of the Eurabia, not the Children of Men, variety. In contrast, the image of Russia formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union was one of a desolate wasteland where women voted with their wombs against its continued existence. This might have once had some elements of truth to it, but surely this view is increasingly fantastic now that Russia’s crude birth rate, at 13.2/1,000 in 2013 – and slated to rise even higher this year – is the highest bar none in Europe. It is also, as of 2012, higher than that of the US. The only developed countries where birth rates remain higher than Russia’s are Australia, New Zealand, and Iceland.

A major cause of this is that Russia still has a relatively high number of women in their childbearing years, even though this indicator began to drop precipitously from around 2010, when the effects of the post-Soviet fertility collapse started making themselves felt. This is an inescapable structural legacy that will be making itself felt in the form of downwards pressure on crude birth rates until well into the 2030s. This is where a concept known as the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) comes in. The TFR measures the expected number of children a woman will bear in her lifetime, and is calculated by summing up age-specific fertility rates in a single year. Its advantage is that it is independent of the population’s age structure. After plunging to a low of 1.16 children per woman in 1999 – a “lowest-low” fertility rate that was once theorized by some demographers to be irreversible – it has since climbed to 1.71 in 2013, and on the trends observed this year until August, will rise further to the mid-to-high 1.7s in 2014.

(And before you ask, no, it’s not all down to Muslims. Or even significantly so.)

fertility-rates-in-europe-2013

 

This map shows European TFRs as of 2013 (or 2012 in a few cases). In the late Soviet years, Russia was deep green, but plunged into the red and deep orange during the dislocations of the transition years. But it has now regained a greenish hue. A normal country, quite similar in its TFR to Finland or the Netherlands – countries not particularly known for being in a deep demographic abyss. And considerably better than the Christian Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Baltics, the Germanic lands, and East-Central Europe. It is, in fact, remarkable that the two countries considered to be Europe’s most politically “regressive” by the Brussels-Atlanticist elites – that is, Russia and Belarus – have come to possess Eastern Europe’s best TFR indicators, while star reformers such as Poland and the Balts wallow in the demographic doldrums. This must be a bitter pill to swallow for the ideologues who claimed demographic decline is a natural consequence of Putinism. Or it would be, if they ever bothered descending from their pulpits to look at actual statistics, but they don’t.

Russia performs much more poorly on measures of mortality and life expectancy. This has its roots not in Putin’s age, nor even in the Soviet collapse, but in the alcoholism epidemic that began to spread throughout the Soviet Union from the 1960s. This is when life expectancy, previously rising fast, hit a plateau at close to 70 years and then stagnated indefinitely with the occasional peak (e.g. Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign) and trough (the mid-1990s).

In the early 2000s, it was estimated that excessive drinking – which in Russia takes the form of concentrated vodka (if not moonshine or other substitutes) binges, as opposed to the moderate daily wine drinking characteristic of Mediterranean countries that on paper drink abou as much as Russia – accounted for 32% of aggregate mortality (including 23% of CVDs, 42% of suicides, and 72% of homicides). In comparison, this figure was just 4% in Finland, by far the most “alcoholized”of the old EU countries. But thanks to increasing wealth, changing cultural mores, increasing state taxes on alcohol, and advertising restrictions, the prevalence of bingeing has been going down for the past decade. This trend is directly reflected in the mortality rate from alcohol poisoning, which peaked around 2003 and has since plummeted to levels significantly lower than even in 1990, when Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign was still active. Suicide rates and homicide rates are also vastly down, in the process making a mockery of a large part of Michael McFaul’s academic career (he wrote a huge and hugely influential Foreign Policy article arguing that public health declined in Putin relative to Yeltsin’s time).

russia-deaths-from-external-causes-1990-2014

Overall mortality too has declined significantly, from a peak of 16.4/1,000 in 2003 to 13.0 in 2013, despite the continued ageing of the population. This resulted in very considerable growth in the life expectancy. After hovering around 65 years from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s, it started rising quickly and broke the symbolic 70 year barrier for the first time in Russian history. This positive trend continued, with the 71 year mark likely to be passed this year.

life-expectancy-in-russia-1950-2013

There is still a long way to go, of course. The Baltic states and Hungary, where alcoholism was also somewhat of an epidemic during the Communist period, have a life expectancy of 75 years (though it was more like 70 years, i.e. Russia’s today, some 5-10 years ago). In traditionally more sober – at least as regards vodka bingeing at any rate – Poland and the Czech Republic, it is 77-78 years. In Finland, a country that shares Russia’s traditional drinking culture, but avoided its Communist experience and from the 1970s acquired access to high-end healthcare, it is 81 years. But the progress that has been made in the past decade has been very considerable and is in considerable part attributable to the policies of the Russian government under Putin.

 

russia-cross-and-russian-hegaxon

One consequence of the big improvements in fertility and mortality indicators is that had by the 2000s, what had become pessimistically known as “the Russian Cross” – the sharp crossover between the number of births and deaths observed in Russia as the Soviet Union fell apart – has since transformed into the Russian Hexagon, my term for the return of demographic “normality.”

Perhaps the one concerning recent trend is in the migration sphere. Are Russians, or at least the Echo of Moscow liberal types – after the “sixth wave of emigration” loudly trumpeted three years back, and ruthlessly exposed on this blog – finally making good on their promise of “pora valit” (“it’s time to leave”)?

 

russia-migration-2012-2014

Upon a closer examination of the migration stats, it’s clear that the answer to that question is in the negative. By far the biggest portion of the recent increase in emigration accrued to member states of the CIS; rest assured that people are not going from Russia to Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, or Kyrgyzstan in search of a better life. Moreover, the emigration increase was largely matched with an increase in immigration from those countries. This suggests a bureacratic as opposed to a “real” change, e.g. better border surveillance, or a change in the reporting procedures. While there was a significant increase in emigration to the Far Abroad, its overall scale remains virtually insignificant both relative to population flows between Russia and its Near Abroad, and to Russian emigration to to the West in the 1990s.

None of the cataclysms predicted for Russia in the days when a “dying bear” article was getting published every other week have come to pass. There is no sub-Saharan African level AIDS epidemic. The Chinese have yet to take over Siberia, and the Muslims have yet to take over the Russian Army. The population hasn’t plumetted to 130-135 million, as many demographic models were predicting for 2015 just a few years ago; to the contrary, even discounting Crimea’s return to the fold, Russia’s population has decisively broken its post-Soviet pattern of decline, and is now back to 144 million and is slowly but steadily growing. Russia’s demographic trajectory in the years since I started this blog and created my own demographic models has exceeded even my most optimistic predictions.

There is no more point in talking about Russia’s (non-existent) demographic crisis or really in paying undue attention to it, except perhaps insofar as it could provide lessons to other countries on how to escape from a demographic rut (in particular, a strong argument can be made that maternal capital can have real efficacy, in contrast to the conventional demographic wisdom of ten years’ yore).

In short: The bear is not dead. Long live the bear!

The real puzzle now, if anything, is explaining how a negative Russia trope could sustain itself so long in the Western press – a Washington Post op-ed from this very month is still, risibly, talking about Russia’s “demographic decline” – long after whatever factual underpinnings it might have once had have crumbled away. It’s amazing how pundits get away with elementary mistakes like this in a press environment that at least pretends to be free, professional, and adversarial (unlike those lying goons at RT).

Comments

  1. Anatoly,
    I have been a reader of this blog for almost five years. You were and still are among the best demographers on Russia. It can be proved very easily and especially your post Faces of the Future confirms it. In this post you predicted what seemed to be almost impossible at that time. But time proved you right. I was sad when I read in your post a few weeks ago that you will end on this blog. It was always a refreshing reading, but I do understand your reasons why you end with blogging here. I wish you all the best and hope that you will continue with writing on akarlin or anywhere else, although the last post on akarlin is one year old.

    Greetings from Slovakia

    • Thanks Enkidu, really appreciated. I’ll be resuming blogging at my akarlin.com blog from the start of next January at the latest. There’ll still be some Russia stuff there from time to time.

  2. Discounting Spain and Moldova, Poland has the worst birthrate in Europe?

    How accurate is this data and how do you know Russian figures that have a notorious legacy for state corruption which regions get state payments to implement Putins birthrate program that the local authorities are simply not fudging the numbers to get more state funding?

    • Not the worst birthrate, but fertility rate. It has to do with quite high number of women in childbearing age born in communist Poland in late 70s, in 80s and in early 90s and when you calculate the number of births to the number of women in childbearing age you get the fertility rate. Poland is not in the lowest four European states in birth rate but in fertility rate. The same goes for Slovakia, birth rate in comparison with other countries is maybe not so bad, but then you take in consideration strong years of 1970s, 1980s and the first years after the revolution, and thus calculate the fertility rate then you realize it is not so rosy.

    • Poor John, grasping at straws, trying desperately to deny that Putin has re-established conditions suitable for the having and raising of children in Russia after the ‘FreeMarketDemocraticReformers’ wrecked the place.

      • @rkka

        It would be pretty easy to find faults with Putins rule that vastly outweigh any good he has done.

        • Yes, people who care not how, or even whether, Russians live would find that easy to do.

          Others who actually care about the well-being of Russians would have a tad more trouble ignoring the fact that while births exceeded deaths by about a million per year when ‘FreeMarketDemocraticReformers’ were running the place, births in Russia now exceed deaths.

          • @rkka

            “Yes, people who care not how, or even whether, Russians live would find that easy to do.”

            The exact opposition. Where do you even start with the situation in Russia and Putin’s regime and his misrule that is actually creating new problems that either did not exist or where not a major issue like his colonial war in Ukraine and I would argue he hasn’t actually dealt with long term issues like security that was a large part of his platform launching the war in Chechnya during his first presidential term.

            “Others who actually care about the well-being of Russians would have a tad more trouble ignoring the fact that while births exceeded deaths by about a million per year when ‘FreeMarketDemocraticReformers’ were running the place, births in Russia now exceed deaths.”

            This comparing things to the 90’s is an easy cop out that no matter who was president and came to power would achieve any success that Putin has accomplished with a handful of exceptions like the jailing of Khoderkovsky that was heavily criticised in the west especially when you consider the advantages he has had like the rise of oil prices due to US lead war in Iraq that Russia opposed. During his 14 year rule he hasn’t achieved that if you compare Russia to another emerging market/power Turkey has performed much better although Erdogan is fact becoming like Putin with some of the actions he is taking.

            • “Where do you even start with the situation in Russia and Putin’s regime”

              Government, you mean. A ‘regime’ is what Yeltsin & the ‘Seven Bankers” ran. And you start where Russia was when Putin took it over.

              “and his misrule that is actually creating new problems that either did not exist or where not a major issue”

              Bald assertion backed by no facts whatsoever. As usual.

              “like his colonial war in Ukraine”

              Oh, so preventing Donetsk & Lugansk getting the “Odessa” treatment is “colonial”

              “and I would argue he hasn’t actually dealt with long term issues like security that was a large part of his platform launching the war in Chechnya during his first presidential term.”

              Russia is far more secure now than when Putin first took office. A population no longer dying is a significant advance in security.
              The end of slave-taking raids from ‘independent’ Chechnya is another.

              “This comparing things to the 90’s is an easy cop out that no matter who was president and came to power would achieve any success that Putin has accomplished”

              Unadulterated horsesh*t. And his predecessor shows why.

              “with a handful of exceptions like the jailing of Khoderkovsky that was heavily criticised in the west”

              Yes, we endured eight years of the Times, the Economist, Financial Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and I could go on, uncritically publishing Khodorkovsky press releases as fact. But you know John, when Khodorkovsky presented these claims to an actual court with actual standards of evidence, they all turned out to be unsubstantiated.

              http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-104983#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-104983%22]}

              Khodorkovsky went to Strasbourg claiming that he had been singled out for prosecution because of his ‘fierce’ criticism of Putin, and that Yukos had done nothing that all the other Russian oil majors weren’t doing, and he was looking for $98 billion in compensation.

              The ECHR rejected both claims as utterly unsubstantiated.

              “especially when you consider the advantages he has had like the rise of oil prices”

              Hilarious! If the likes of Khodorkovsky had retained their power, they would have taken the energy price windfall, offshored it, leveraged it 30-1 on global business empire-building, and lost all in The Crash. Mother Russia would have been financially naked in the Force-12 financial storm of 2009, and tens of millions of Russians would have been rendered destitute, just as in 1999.

              Instead, Mother Russia faced that storm wrapped in half a trillion $ of central bank foreign currency reserves.

              Because Putin.

              “During his 14 year rule he hasn’t achieved that if you compare Russia to another emerging market/power Turkey has performed much better”

              Hilarious!! Has Turkey’s GDP sextupled in dollar terms since Erdogan first took office??

              • “Government, you mean. A ‘regime’ is what Yeltsin & the ‘Seven Bankers” ran. And you start where Russia was when Putin took it over.”

                Yeltsin was a terrible president. So what? It doesn’t change the fact that anybody after him could have done a better job. So the argument that Putin is better than Yeltsin is hardly a compliment. If a monkey was assigned president of Russia after Yeltsin he would have done a better job.

                “Bald assertion backed by no facts whatsoever. As usual.”

                There was no war with Ukraine when Putin took power.

                “Oh, so preventing Donetsk & Lugansk getting the “Odessa” treatment is “colonial””

                Russia instigated the conflict in Ukraine when there crony president was deposed.

                http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2014/11/25/should-putin-fear-the-man-who-pulled-the-trigger-of-war-in-ukraine/

                “Russia is far more secure now than when Putin first took office. A population no longer dying is a significant advance in security.
                The end of slave-taking raids from ‘independent’ Chechnya is another.”

                a) And how long did that take into his rule to see some improvements in population
                b) Again you are comparing it to statistic of misrule by Yeltsin.
                c) Security situation in Chechnya has improved by backing the strong armed rule of Kadyrov spending billions of dollars, huge loss of life both civilian and military and resulting terrorists attacks but the situation in the neighbouring regions especially Dagestan and Central Asia where most of Russia’s work migrants come from are either as bad or worse.
                Large part of the improved security is a result of US lead war on terror and the crackdown in terrorist financing and a base to operate in Afghanistan that directly affected the jihad in Chechnya.

                “Unadulterated horsesh*t. And his predecessor shows why.”

                How so?

                “Hilarious! If the likes of Khodorkovsky had retained their power, they would have taken the energy price windfall, offshored it, leveraged it 30-1 on global business empire-building, and lost all in The Crash. Mother Russia would have been financially naked in the Force-12 financial storm of 2009, and tens of millions of Russians would have been rendered destitute, just as in 1999.

                Instead, Mother Russia faced that storm wrapped in half a trillion $ of central bank foreign currency reserves.

                Because Putin.”

                Yes that I highlighted was one of the positive moves he did during his rule despite being criticized by the west.

                “Hilarious!! Has Turkey’s GDP sextupled in dollar terms since Erdogan first took office”

                The GDP under Erdogan quadrupled with no serious accusation of vote rigging compared to Putin who doubled the GDP largely due to high oil prices and has a virtual monopoly on the political process.

                http://youtu.be/2AvuwJ6B82E

              • “Yeltsin was a terrible president. So what? It doesn’t change the fact that anybody after him could have done a better job. ”

                Indeed, and Berezovsky et al thought they had found one they could control the way they controlled Yeltsin. And it took no small courage and no small skill on Putin’s part to beat these murderous oligarchs at their little game.

                And you know, I can’t think of a Western leader that has shown the degree of courage and skill that Putin demonstrated while dealing with the likes of Berezovsky and Khodorkovsky, especially considering that these scum had for years the media resources of the Anglosphere at their disposal. So it was not only entirely possible, but rather likely, that a successor to Yeltsin could have been as bad as Yeltsin, or worse.

                “So the argument that Putin is better than Yeltsin is hardly a compliment. If a monkey was assigned president of Russia after Yeltsin he would have done a better job.”

                More unadulterated horsesh*t, as I show above.

                “There was no war with Ukraine when Putin took power.”

                There was no war in Ukraine until the Ukrainian armed forces commenced offensive operations against Doneytsk/Lugansk.

                “Russia instigated the conflict in Ukraine when there crony president was deposed.”

                False, and of a piece with loony Saaak the tie-eater’s claim that the 2008 war in Georgia was instigated by Russia.

                “a) And how long did that take into his rule to see some improvements in population”

                Well the death rate began declining in 2004, the year after Putin had sorted out Khodorkovsky.

                “b) Again you are comparing it to statistic of misrule by Yeltsin.”

                Considering the power of Yeltsin’s backers, continued misrule by his successor was not an unlikely prospect, which Putin did not allow to materialize. You really underestimate this. For instance, Ukraine has had an unending series of crooks, at best, and lunatic crooks at worst, since independence.

                “c) Security situation in Chechnya has improved by backing the strong armed rule of Kadyrov spending billions of dollars, huge loss of life both civilian and military and resulting terrorists attacks but the situation in the neighbouring regions especially Dagestan and Central Asia where most of Russia’s work migrants come from are either as bad or worse.

                Um, no. There are no floggings, amputations, slave-taking raids, or slave markets in Dagestan.

                “The GDP under Erdogan quadrupled with no serious accusation of vote rigging compared to Putin who doubled the GDP largely due to high oil prices and has a virtual monopoly on the political process. ”

                Since 2000, turkey’s GNP has increased from $240b to $820b.

                http://www.tradingeconomics.com/turkey/gdp

                Since 2000, Russia’s GNP has increased from $250b to $2,100b.

                http://www.tradingeconomics.com/russia/gdp

                And as I have argued above, it was not inevitable that the energy price windfall would have accrued to the benefit of Russia. That was Putin’s doing, against strong, bitter, and deadly opposition.

                And the vote-rigging accusations are interesting, considering that in both the 2011 Duma elections and the 2012 presidential elections, the party supporting Putin, and Putin himself, got a lower percentage of the vote than was indicated by the pre-election polling by Levada Center, one of the NGOs which had the benefit of Western funding and which is no advocate for Putin to say the least.

                So the degree of ‘seriousness’ behind the vote-rigging accusations is not clear, considering that the most vocal accusers were the Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite & Punditocracy (AFPE&P) whose record of reckless lying over Iraq’s WMD, Berezovsky/Khodorkovsky as a human rights advocates, and Saakashvili as the victim of, rather than the instigator of, the 2008 Caucasus war.

                And its hardly the fault of Putin that his opposition are potty-mouthed in churches or nail their own scrotum to Red Square.

                Frankly, you’d have to be insane to vote for such opponents as Putin has.

  3. Not the worst birthrate, but fertility rate. It has to do with quite high number of women in childbearing age born in communist Poland in late 70s, in 80s and in early 90s and when you calculate the number of births to the number of women in childbearing age is fertility rate. Poland is not in the lowest four European states in birth rate but in fertility rate. The same goes for Slovakia, birth rate in comparison with other countries is maybe not so bad, but then you take in consideration strong years of 1970s, 1980s and the first years after the revolution, and thus calculate the fertility rate then you realize it is not so rosy.

    • Both fertility rate and birth rate are important. The current Russian cohort has a higher fertility rate but because they represent the coming-of-age of the “lost generation” of the 1990s the birth rate is still not so great. The smaller number of women reduces the impact of fertility rate on birth rate. So, the Polish women coming of age have fewer children but there are still a lot of them relative to the overall population. And so, Poland has a much lower fertility rate than Russia but only a mildly lower birth rate.

      Also, the ethnic differences are greatly exaggerated by Western Russophobes, but they are not nothing (people like Tatars have similar TVR as do Russians, but those from the Caucuses and the Eastern Buddhist peoples have very high TFR). If Russia’s overall TFR is about 1.74, its Slavic TFR may be more like 1.64 or so, which is still below replacement level and lower than, for example, the white non-Hispanic American TFR around 1.8.

      As for the Baltic states, Balts claim that their TFR and birth rate stats are skewed by ethnic differences: the ethnic Russians have much lower TFR than do, say, ethnic Latvians whose demographics are not dire. From an old post on Karlin’s blog:

      “Statistics also indicate that ethnic Latvians have a significantly higher birth rate than ethnic Russians. In 2010 ethnic Latvians were 59.5% of total population, but about 68% of all children born were ethnic Latvians. Russians make 28% of Latvian population, but only 23% of all children born were ethnic Russians.”

      The fact that Latvia’s demographics are the worst of the Baltic states may reflect that it has the highest % of ethnic Russians of the Baltic states.

      • “The fact that Latvia’s demographics are the worst of the Baltic states may reflect that it has the highest % of ethnic Russians of the Baltic states.”

        Alas, AP, Latvia’s path to being a delightfully Russenfrei paradise is marred by the fact that the number of ethnic Latvians there has declined since Latvia gained independence.

        It seems that yearly parades by elderly SS veterans is an insufficient stimulus to fertility…

        • “It seems that yearly parades by elderly SS veterans is an insufficient stimulus to fertility…”

          Here’s an idea! Maybe the Latvian government should invite the Azov Battalion to parade the symbol of
          2nd SS Panzer Division ‘Das Reich’

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2nd_SS_Panzer_Division_Das_Reich

          If that fails to get the women of Latvia in a mood to procreate, I don’t know what will!

        • Yes, but is the decline of ethnic Latvians due to emigration or negative population growth?

          (I don’t know the answer to this, and haven’t found it through a quick googlesearch)

          • “Yes, but is the decline of ethnic Latvians due to emigration or negative population growth?”

            Yes.

            The emigrants are mostly young adults, with no job prospects in Latvia whatsoever.

            These happen to be the most fertile people in Latvia too, the ones who find they cannot afford to start a family there, or find they must leave to feed, clothe, and house small children.

  4. Is Israel’s TFR the highest of any developed country?:

    http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2014/israel-demography.aspx

    The Muslim total fertility rate (TFR) was 3.5 in 2011, compared to the Jewish TFR of 3.0, the Christian TFR of 2.2, the Druze TFR of 2.3, and the unclassified religion TFR of 1.8.

  5. “…the alcoholism epidemic that began to spread throughout the Soviet Union from the 1960s. This is when life expectancy, previously rising fast, hit a plateau at close to 70 years and then stagnated indefinitely…”

    Is there data showing that alcoholism in the USSR went up in the 60s? If so, did it go up in the early 60s or the late 60s? Any guesses about the causes? Did alcohol prices go down then or was it something else?

    • In the graph in the post you can see that the life expectancy reached its first peak in mid 60s, exactly in 1964. That was the last year of Khruschev rule. And then you can see stagnation in female LE and rapid decrease in male LE and slow decrease in overall LE as well.
      http://whqlibdoc.who.int/whf/1990/vol11-no3/WHF_1990_11(3)_p246-252.pdf
      In this article about the anti-alcohol policy in USSR in late 1980s you have tables 1, 2 and 3 about the production, consumption and sales of alcohol in USSR since 1960 so you can see that there was really a rise of alcohol consumption accompanied by the decrease in life expectancy. And I would say that the life expectancy basically followed the trend of alcohol consumption rise. But I do not know about the prices but I think that they decreased, if not in nominal value, in real value at least.

    • Enkidu is correct here. Also see this old post.

      Life expectancy in the USSR and the West had come close to converging (2-3 years) by the mid-1960s. What happened then is that Russia experienced an alcohol epidemic, while the West really cleaned up its habits (binge drinking has since almost vanished, smoking massively down, etc) and made great gains in medical science/availability. Hence the sharp divergence from then on that only began to be reversed in the mid-2000s.

      In particular Nemtsov’s (not the politician of course) research on this is really good/comprehensive.

      If you’re particularly interested in Russia’s alcohol history and its interrelatonship with demographics, Mark Schrad’s Vodka Politics is the go-to book for that.

  6. Would be good if you did a post comparing Erdogan’s rule in Turkey to Putin rule in Russia during the same time period.

    http://www.network54.com/Forum/84302/thread/1408306771/last-1408306771/Who+is+better+President+Erdogan+or+Putin-

    The text underneath the Young Turks video description is not mine but a YouTube comment and although I disagree with some of the points he raised like how Putin handled Russia’s terrorism problems and intervention in Georgia the other points he/she raised are interesting and worth discussing.

    • Are you serious?
      They are blaming Putin for the Second Chechen War and the South Ossetia War, while completely ignoring that Erdogan’s attempts to get rid of Assad helped IS and the Syrian al-Qaida to conquer most of northern Syria.

      • Goods point but the other point raised like GDP growth and opposition access to mass media and government positions are worth discussing.