When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly formed Russian Federation’s demography essentially walked off a cliff.
Peter Suciu has written previously in National Interest about the Russian Finance Ministry’s proposed ten percent reduction in military personnel as a cost-cutting measure and about the pushback the proposal has received from the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD). Budgetary pressure associated with the Covid-19 pandemic makes the need for cutbacks like this understandable, but it is not the only challenge that threatens the size of Russia’s armed forces; the other is demographic, and it has been a long time coming.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the newly formed Russian Federation’s demography essentially walked off a cliff. Fertility rates fell far below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman—reaching an anemic 1.2 from 1997 to 2001—and death rates skyrocketed. Unsurprisingly, one generation after this demographic disaster, the Russian military is facing difficulties maintaining a military with roughly 900,000 personnel. However, whatever challenges the Russian military has faced thus far pale in comparison with demographic constraints it will face in the next decade.