“First of all, there’s no ideological gap here like between communist states and capitalist states in the Cold War,” he said. The Soviets’ Marxist ideology attracted a following in the Third World and in other communist states.
The Russians today, under Putin, “are basically conservative nationalists who are trying to maintain the status quo.” Without a rival ideology to promote, “they are simply one other nation-state,” he said.
Russian power is also numerically diminished. While the Soviet Union and its satellites had a population of about 400 million from Eastern Europe through Eurasia, today’s Russia has a population of about 143 million, he said.
Russia’s conventional military forces, largely manned by two-year conscripts, isn’t nearly as intimidating as the old Red Army, particularly after its poor performance fighting insurgents in Chechnya. Adelman said he doubts that Putin will try to seize other parts of Ukraine at the risk of a war there “that could be a disgrace for the Russian army.”
Further, Russia has a $2.1 trillion economy compared with the $16.7 trillion U.S. economy and the European Union at $17.3 trillion, according to International Monetary Fund estimates for 2013. Russia’s per capita income, at $14,000, is a little more than a quarter of the U.S.’s $51,700, according to World Bank data for 2012.
Shortly before its dissolution, the Soviet Union had a gross domestic product that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimated was half the size of the U.S. economy. Even the current data showing Russia’s economy is one-eighth the size of the U.S.’s is misleading because it largely reflects Russia’s oil and gas exports, while manufacturing and other parts of its economy lag.
Unlike the Soviet Union, which was largely a closed economy, Putin’s Russia is tied economically to the world economy. Even near the end, in 1990, exports and imports accounted for only about 8 percent of the Soviet economy, and much of that was trade with its de facto empire. Now, trade -- largely oil and gas exports -- accounts for about 40 percent of Russia’s GDP, according to CIA estimates for 2013.
I mostly agree with Terry Atlas but Russia under Putin can still be a difficult adversary. The best long-term outcome between Russia and the West will be achieved by free trade, frequent cultural exchanges and tourism. This is now being jeopardised by Putin and that will not be popular with many of Russia’s oligarchs, business leaders and middle class if the country and its economy regress.
Note: This article above is a good lead in for emails 2 & 3 below.Back to top