“What’s Putin’s game?” – Simon explains (simply).

I think looking at Russian demographic data can help to better understand Putin’s game. A thread🧵 
Putin was born in 1952, meaning he will turn 70 this year. As president for life he can hope for maybe 10 to 20 years in power. Lets focus on the coming 10 to 20 years when looking at the upcoming charts. 
Russia has the 9th largest population and the 12th largest economy in the world. GDP is US$1.6 trillion GDP per year. Australia (which has six times fewer residents) creates just as much GDP. Russia’s economy still suffers from economic sanctions from the 2014 Crimea annexation.Image
The previous chart showed that Putin can claim that after he came into power in 1999 things improved in Russia. His liberal reforms might’ve mostly benefitted oligarchs but it’s a success story that many Russians would attribute to him nonetheless. 
Problem is that GDP per capita didn’t manage to come anywhere near that of developed capitalist countries like Australia. Also the last decade saw economic stagnation. Time to impress your citizens with some sort of foreign excursion?Image
Of the relatively small GDP that Russia produces, a massive 4.3 per cent goes into military spending. Australia lands at 2.1, Germany 1.4, and even the mighty US spends only 3.7. Military appears to be important to Putin’s Russia. 
The Kremlin amped up the birth rate from an incredibly low 1.157 kids per woman in 1999 to a rather impressive 1.777 in 2015. Such a turnaround is very impressive and helped to slow demographic shrinkage.Image
The reason Russia isn’t aging as fast as one might expect is super sad though. Russian men literally drank themselves to death. In 1994 male life expectancy was 57. A crazy low figure! Things improved heaps since then but Russians still die a decade before people in the West.Image
Male life expectancy was in large part improved by switching drinking preferences from dangerous home-distilled vodka to cheap beer. Men might still be alcoholics but booze doesn’t kill them anymore… But I digress… 
The previously super low life expectancy means Russia doesn’t have an aging population – for now! There is a big bulge of 60-somethings that will form a huge elderly population soon. The next decade or so is free of such concerns though.Image
1999 saw max population decline. Putin oversaw a demographic turnaround. 2008 to 2019 even saw a mini population boom but the next decades will see strong declines. From that perspective now would be a great time for a geopolitical stunt of sorts.Image
One Russian population cohort that is going to grow over the coming two decades are males aged 18-27. It just happens that in 2021 Putin made 18-27 the official military conscription age. Every Russian man of that age group must serve at least one year in the military.Image
Today 7 million Russian men are of fighting age whereas by 2039 over 9.6 million Russians will fall into this age group. Manpower shouldn’t be a problem for the remaining 10 to 20 years that Putin might have plans for. 
To sum up: Russia just came out of a mini population boom, is 15 years away from an ageing population, and the male population of conscription age is going to increase over the next two decades, providing him with the manpower for prolonged military engagements. 
It’s a bit scary to look at demographic through Putin-coloured glasses but I found it an helpful exercise in putting current events into a larger context. Share this around if you found it helpful too. Thank you! 

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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