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From the Archive: Drunken Nation

Vladimir Putin has absorbed a good deal of World Affairs’ attention in the last year, as our authors have tried to come to terms with his foreign policy in Europe and the near abroad—at the same time inscrutable and brazenly obvious: his coercive manipulation of energy supplies to Europe, his invasions of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and the slick propaganda wars he wages to romance far-right parties, stir nationalist sentiment among Russian minorities, diminish the United States, and divide the transatlantic partnership to expand the leverage and influence of the Kremlin’s mafia regime. The Russian strongman is protean in his political personality, an adept chess player moving his pieces adroitly on the international board while many Western leaders play checkers. Despite his country’s sinking economy, cash flight, and other deficits, it often appears Putin is winning. As a counterbalance, we are reprinting one of our most acclaimed essays, Nicholas Eberstadt’s “Drunken Nation: Russia's Depopulation Bomb,” which appeared in Spring 2009. Eberstadt’s reality check will serve as a bracer for those who might be too easily seduced by Putin’s triumphalist view of himself. This essay shows that however pugnacious and provocative Putin may be on the world stage, however much he may seem to be setting the agenda, however ferocious his irredentism and his desire for great power status, his country is a bone yard of demographic despair, personal disorganization, and systemic failure. We believe that this piece is worth a second look. 

— The Editors

 

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