Russia’s salivating for the savory morsel of southeastern Ukraine known as the Crimea has been likened to Hitler’s annexing of the so-called Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia just before the start of World War II. In both cases the justification for paternal interest in the respective regions has been that a large number of the areas’ occupants were of the same language or ethnic extraction as the annexers. Like Hitler, Russian President Vladimir Putin portrays himself as a liberator, not a colonizer.
But Russia’s conduct today is also best compared to her own conduct toward the end of World War II, where she gobbled up parts of Europe newly freed from German occupation—Eastern Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, a bite of Finland, and eastern Romania.
The explanation for Russia’s appetite, apart from the usual culprit of lust for power, may lie in its demographic crisis. In America Alone, Mark Steyn wrote in 2006:
“Russia … is in an accelerating vortex and, for Washington and other interested parties, the question is what Moscow will try to grab on to in order to slow the descent.
“From a population peak in 1992 of 148 million, Russia will be down below 130 million by 2015, thereafter dropping to perhaps 50 or 60 million by the end of the century, a third of what it was at the fall of the Soviet Union. … The longer a country goes without arresting the death spiral, the harder it is to pull out of it. Russia has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world—1.2 children per woman—and one of the highest abortion rates. When it comes to the future, most Russian women are voting with their fetus: 70 percent of pregnancies are terminated.”
That’s bad for Russia. But, according to Steyn, here is what’s bad for the rest of the world:
“According to the Toronto Star (which is an impeccably liberal progressive paper, not in the least bit right-wing), by 2015—i.e., the day after tomorrow—the majority of the Russian army will be Muslim, which should add a whole new wrinkle to the Chechen war. If you thought Russia was fun when it was Communist, wait till it’s semi-Islamist.”
If it makes you feel better, America’s demographics are healthier than Russia’s as we speak. What’s needed to sustain a population is a 2.1 fertility rate, and that’s we have. If we become extinct as a nation, it does not appear that it will be from not having kids.