NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Russia's Catastrophe

September 12, 2000

Russia should no longer be treated as a great power, argues Zbigniew Brzezinski in the quarterly National Interest. In his essay "Living With Russia," former National Security Adviser Brzezinski says "there is no solid foundation" for Russia's claim to global status.

Among the woes cited by Brzezinski:

  • Russia's domestic conditions are "bordering on social catastrophe" -- ruined agriculture, collapsing infrastructure and steady deindustrialization of the imploding economy.
  • It is not attracting needed foreign capital for modernization -- while 1999 direct foreign investment in China was $43 billion and in Poland $8 billion, in Russia it was $2 billion to $3 billion.
  • Sixty percent of recent births in Russia are not fully healthy; 20 percent of first-graders are diagnosed with some mental retardation.
  • Since 1990 male life expectancy has declined five years, to around 60.

Brzezinski contrasts Russia's stagnation after the fall of the moribund Soviet Union with Turkey's rapid modernization after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, which was led by a cadre of intellectuals and military officers --the Young Turks -- eager to westernize.

Turkey quickly adopted the Swiss civil code, the Italian penal code and the German commercial code. Russia's progress, says Brzezinski, will be delayed until "Russia's past imperial and global status will have become a distant memory rather than an entitlement."

Source: George F. Will, "Back in the U.S.S.R.," Washington Post, September 3, 2000.


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