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Russia faces similar pressure in Siberia and its Far East regions, which cover more than 4 million square miles. The population of less than 26 million, some six inhabitants per square mile (less than Wyoming) is dropping. As Russians seek opportunities in warmer, wealthier climes, the region is increasingly a backwater. This decline is ruinous to Russia’s economic prosperity, because the Far East is an area with vast, largely untapped, hydrocarbon wealth . As the Russian state recedes in the Far East, it is being replaced there by a rising and energy-hungry China. Moscow and Beijing have tussled over the sovereignty of the Far East for centuries, and demarcated their common border only a few years ago. But that agreement is temporary (expiring in 2021) and, with population trends working in its favor, China is working to speed up Russia’s decline, and its own advance. It is doing so through legal and illegal migration into the region, as well as sustained investments on a scale that has eclipsed those of the Kremlin. As a result, the future of the Far East is in flux, with Russia’s position as a global energy player and a major international power at stake. Increasing belligerence These trends are already exerting an inexorable pull on Russia’s political direction. They are reinforcing its aggressive, neo-imperial approach toward the bordering countries of the “post-Soviet space,” whose political independence the Kremlin doesn’t respect and whose sovereignty it actively tries to subvert. The trends also set the stage for a widening civil war between the Russian state and a radicalizing Muslim underclass. And in Russia’s east, where Chinese dominance is fast becoming an inevitability, the stage is increasingly set for growing competition if not outright conflict between Moscow and Beijing. All of which, in turn, will threaten America and the West in new and grave ways in the years ahead. Because, if much of the last century was defined by the rise of Russia (in the form of the Soviet Union), a great deal of this one is destined to be shaped by its failure, with all of the global instability that portends.

Vladimir Putin

Rather than aligning itself with the worlds largest free-trade zone and some of the worlds most sophisticated democracies, Armenia decided to stick with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and opted to join the Eurasian Customs Union . Anne Applebaum Obama on the path to success No one pretends that Armenia was attracted by Russias soft power. By way of explanation, President Serzh Sargsyan has said that Armenia depends on Russia for its security and that Armenia has a large diaspora living in Russia . This sounds odd: Most security alliances, NATO included, do not require their members to join a customs union, and the presence of immigrants in one country doesnt usually affect trade policy in another. But Armenia has been made anxious in recent weeks by Russian diplomatic overtures to Azerbaijan , Armenias main rival, as well as by anti-immigrant rhetoric from Russian officials . The Armenians took the hint: If they signed the trade deal with Europe, Russia might sell more arms to their rival and expel the Armenians who live in Russia. The Armenians were no doubt watching Russian moves elsewhere in their immediate neighborhood, where a distinct pattern is emerging. On Sept. 11, Russia banned the import of Moldovan wine on the grounds that it is a health hazard. Ukrainian chocolates have suffered the same fate . Another old tactic, the use of gas pricing and supply as a tool of political influence , is being resurrected in Ukraine. In essence and Im summarizing here the Russians have let the Ukrainians understand that if they drop their own negotiations with Europe and join the Eurasian Customs Union, the price of gas they import from Russia could drop by more than half. Its an excellent offer, so much so that examined objectively it seems extraordinary that the Ukrainians have not accepted it already .

Russia wields hard power over Armenia

A link has been sent to your friend’s email address. 32 To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs Putin says no discrimination of gays in Russia AP 1:36 p.m. EDT September 19, 2013 Russias President Vladimir Putin gestures during a press conference at the end of the G-20 summit in September. (Photo: Alexander Nemenov, AFP/Getty Images) Story Highlights Putin says he could run for a fourth presidential term in 2018 Putin insisted the law bans only “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” He argues the law is “no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities.” SHARE 189 CONNECT 44 TWEET 32 COMMENTEMAILMORE VALDAI, Russia (AP) President Vladimir Putin has denied gays face discrimination in Russia, saying that a new law that has drawn protests worldwide does not infringe on their rights. Putin on Thursday insisted the law bans only “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors.” He argues that it is “no infringement on the rights of sexual minorities.” The law has prompted calls for boycotts of the 2014 Winter Olympics hosted by Russia in Sochi. Putin says while some European nations have allowed gay marriages, “the Europeans are dying out and gay marriages don’t produce children.” He added that heterosexual couples should have more children to reverse a population decline, saying “let us make our own choice, as we see it for our country.” Putin also said Thursday, that he could run for a fourth presidential term in 2018. If he serves four terms, that would keep him in power for about a quarter century and make him the nation’s longest-serving leader since Josef Stalin. Putin, who served two consecutive four-year terms starting in 2000, became prime minister in 2008 to observe a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms. Putin continued calling the shots as premier with his longtime ally, Dmitry Medvedev, serving as a placeholder. Medvedev initiated a law that extended the presidential term to six years, and Putin won a third term in 2012 despite major public protests in Moscow against his rule. SHARE 189 CONNECT 44 TWEET 32 COMMENTEMAILMORE Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.