Assessing Russia's Decline

Trends and Implications for the United States and the U.S. Air Force

by Olga Oliker, Tanya Charlick-Paley


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Continuing trends toward military, political, economic, and social decline in Russia threaten the interests of the United States and its allies. Moscow's capacity to govern is called into question by increasing crime and corruption (and by political and economic regionalization). Both the military nuclear arsenal and the civilian nuclear power sector present risks of materials theft or diversion, as well as of tragic accident. An increasingly aging and ailing population bodes ill for Russia's future. Reversing the country's economic decline and rebuilding an effective military have proven difficult for the financially strapped government. While improvements, especially in the economic realm, are now evident, their sustainability is far from certain. The future development of these trends is critical to U.S. interests. Nuclear material from Russia could fall into the hands of terrorists-organized crime in Russia is part of a multinational network with links to global and local terror. Russia is a major oil and gas producer and transit state, and the U.S. government has identified energy interests as key to national security. A humanitarian crisis in Russia could threaten U.S. allies with refugee flows, environmental crisis, or conflict spillover. In many scenarios, it seems likely that the United States would respond. If so, the U.S. Air Force is certain to be called upon for transportation and perhaps military missions in a very demanding environment.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction: Strategic Implications of Russia's Decline

  • Chapter Two

    Regional Autonomy or Increased Centralization?

  • Chapter Three

    The Russian Economy

  • Chapter Four

    Russia's Political Future: Whither Democracy and Freedom?

  • Chapter Five

    The People of Russia: Asset or Liability?

  • Chapter Six

    The Russian Military

  • Chapter Seven

    Weak Links: Road, Rail, and Nuclear Power

  • Chapter Eight

    Illustrative Scenarios

  • Chapter Nine

    Next Steps: Planning for and Preventing Contingencies

  • Chapter Ten

    The Air Force Role

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