It is easy to be distracted by the comfortable, shiny now - while not looking far enough around the corner.
No one on our side has enjoyed watching Russia step in to the opening we gave them and spent this year giving the USA wedgies from Syria to China. Russia can make things difficult still for the short-term. Russia is not, in the medium-term, really a concern as many think it is. They are in a larger sense still living off what is left of the cache of the defunct Soviet Union and the wealth of their commodity driven extraction economy. Where we may think we have problems here - our issues are child's play.
Russia is dying. The once-mighty Russian state is undergoing a catastrophic post-Soviet societal decline. Health standards are abysmal, and life expectancy in Russia is nothing like it is in the West — just age 60 for men (less than in Botswana and Madagascar) and 73 for women, roughly the same as in Saudi Arabia. Alcoholism — the scourge of Soviet society — continues to ravage the country, with a death rate among Russia’s youth that is 35 times higher than among their counterparts in Europe. So does drug addiction. According to United Nations statistics, more than a fifth of all heroin consumed globally every year occurs in Russia. Prevalent, too, is a corrosive culture of abortion, with unofficial estimates placing the number of annual abortions at 2 million to 2.5 million — close to 2 percent of the Russian Federation’s potential population.Yes, Russia will soon have enough internal problems to keep itself busy - things that will make the Syrian government forces' TTP look like a game of freeze-tag.
In all, the country is contracting by close to half-a-million souls every year owing to both death and the emigration of its citizens (to Europe and beyond). At this rate, according to the Kremlin’s own estimates, Russia could lose a quarter of its population by the middle of this century. It’s a phenomenon that demographers have described as “the emptying of Russia” — a wholesale implosion of Russia’s human capital, and a collapse of its prospects as a viable modern state.
Russia is also transforming. The country is experiencing a radical change in its ethnic and religious composition. Today, Russia’s roughly 21 million Muslims are still a distinct minority. Comparatively robust birthrates have put Muslims on track to account for a fifth of the country’s population by the end of this decade, and possibly a majority by midcentury.
While we have spent a fair bit of time picking our navel over the AFPAK border region - we should probably think about what is happening on the Mexican side of the El Norte border.
Those worried about tens of thousands of innocent civilian deaths in Syria might better focus their time, energy and resources on helping a nation where tens of thousands have also died, but whose fate directly and immediately affects U.S. and Canadian security.Though we have a habit of wanting to bump heads with the Russians - which nation is the medium-term, 2020-2050, is really going to have the greatest impact on the USA?
That nation is Mexico.
Since 2008, the seven main drug cartels have emerged as an existential threat to Mexico’s future. Cartels like Los Zetas, which recruit members from Mexico’s Special Forces and federal police, behave like organized paramilitaries, not ordinary criminals. They generate perhaps $30 to $40 billion a year in illicit profits. And the price has been horrendous. Between 2007 and 2012, around 47,000 Mexicans were killed in the drug war. Some estimate that the true toll is over 60,000.