Population over Time (US vs USSR)

Over last decades, the population of major countries like China, India, Soviet Union/ Russia, Japan, Germany and the United States have changed. This has clearly changed the balance of power between them and will continue to as we move forward into the future. For example:

Unite States versus Soviet Union:

                                              Soviet Union/

Year           United States      Russia                    Ratio

1950/51      151.3 (1950)        182.3 (1951)           0.83-to-1

1980/82      226.5 (1980)        270.0 (1982)           0.84-to-1

2018           308.7                    142.9                      2.16-to-1

2050           402                       132                         3.05-to-1


Now, this is certainly the biggest change we will look at. Russia went from almost being a world power to being a pale reflection of its past power and glory (I am willing to argue that the Soviet Union was never really a world power….it just pretended to be one). Added to that is the economic changes over time. I hesitate to even discuss what the GDP of the Soviet Union was, as the ruble was artificially inflated. When it was floated in the 1990s, it went from one ruble per 1.11 dollars (it always was worth more than a dollar in the Soviet era, of course)…to something like 3,000 rubles to a dollar. They then shaved off two the zeros for the new ruble to make it less than 30 rubles to a dollar. The current exchange rate is 65 rubles to a dollar.

The current Russian GDP is 1.5 trillion (IMF 2017). This is compared to the United States GDP of 19.4 trillion (IMF 2017). So, right now, Russia has less than half the population and less than a tenth of the economy of the United States. In 2050 it will have only a third of the population of the U.S. Who knows what the economy will be. The Russia economy might still be pretty dependent on the price of oil.

With its population declining, its work force aging, its economy built upon export of oil and gas, with wide spread corruption, and an entrenched leadership; it is hard to imagine that Russia’s economy will have an extended economic growth that will return it to being a great power. Its economic growth last year (2017) was 1.5%. Russia is currently the 11th or 12th richest country in the world. It is behind Canada. My seat-of-the-pants estimate is that Russia will still not be among the 10 richest countries in 2050.

For Russia to return to its old glory, it really sort of needs to re-constitute the Soviet Union or the old Russian Empire to some degree. Some would argue that this has indeed been part of Putin’s plan. I will examine this in a future post.

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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  1. Well, they need Ukraine and the Baltics and this is exactly what they are aiming for, while also trying to reimplement Georgia and Kazakhstan.
    Note that most calculations or estimates from the Soviet era are nigh to useless, but I would not measure their total potential merely on GDP/GNP, as WW2, Korea and the Vietnam war have taught us. Their military is rich in contrast to per capita income and their secret services are far superior to US institutions. Additionally, they have close ties to Switzerland, which enables them to buy modern military tech on the western market.

    Sadly, Germany is an (indirect) financer of their expansionist ambitions. Their greatest threat of course, is China.

  2. GDP-PPP (2018): China 30% bigger than U.S. Russia 39% bigger than UK, 42% bigger than France while 2% smaller than that of Germany.

    Also, and this is very umportant: in 2014 Chinesese analyzed U.S GDP and found that only 27% of it was real economy while staggering 73% was virtual fake economy making money with money. It’s vital to understand than since 1971 Nixon’s shock, U.S real economy has not grown per capita hardly at all. You hardly haven’t found made in USA consumer products in European markets since late 1960’s and only a fool in Europe will buy American car. USA hardly produce aluminium and steel at all. Its main industry seems to be now entertainment, media talking head nonsense. When petrodollar finally collapses we will see something similar in Washington than we saw in late 1980s Moscow.

    Make no mistakes: 21st century US is more and more looking like mature moderate banana republic with nukes and petrodollar military as its last defending line.

  3. China will over take the U.S. quicker than the latest generations laziest spoiled citizens of america know it

      • Edward would have quite a task on his hand. He would have to define what he means by “over take” (obtain more income? obtain more income per person? . . .). He would need to define “quicker than . . . know it” (operationally defined as a number of years that is less than the mean/median/mode number of years revealed by a survey asking for mystical knowledge from a random sample of the study population about the future overtaking?). He would need to define “latest generation” (assuming that an apostrophe was intended to go between the “n” and the “s”) so that we would know from which age range the “laziest spoiled citizens” are being drawn. Then he would have to define spoiled citizens (those who got what they wanted from their caregiver at a rate of greater than N % of the number of times that they asked for the specified thing or action that they wanted?). Then “laziest” would need to be defined (spoiled citizens in lower quartile as measured by number of days working or looking for work per year when capable of working or looking?). Seems like a difficult task, and not as useful for strategic planning/policy purposes as would be an econometric forecasting task aimed at predicting relative military wherewithal and the likely effects of such relative situations on deterrence and compellence results (a comparison that would be relevant for a blog on quantitative historical analysis hosted by The Dupuy Institute, even if the blog is titled as Mystics & Statistics : – )

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