Drink less and multiply more: Putin to Russians
President-elect Vladimir Putin yesterday called on Russians to have more children and warned against rampant smoking, drugs and alcohol, as he seeks to battle the country’s acute demographic crisis during his third term in the Kremlin.
“For Russia every person counts today,” Putin said. “A strong, happy family with several children is what the state, society, religious, educational and cultural organizations should unite their efforts around.”
Speaking to the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, in one of his last major speeches as Prime Minister before his return to the Kremlin on May 7, he also said rampant smoking and drug and alcohol abuse claimed 500,000 lives a year. “Smoking, alcohol and drug abuse without any wars or calamities claim 500,000 lives of our countrymen every year,” Putin told the Duma. “This is simply a horrific figure.”
“We should realize that we will come face to face with a serious challenge, the demographic echo of the 1990s when Russia experienced its severest drop in birth rates. We need new decisive steps when it comes to saving and caring for people.”
During his presidential campaign earlier this year, Putin vowed to reverse Russia’s demographic crisis exacerbated by unhealthy lifestyles, blatant disregard for safety protocols and traffic accidents, in order to boost its population to 154 million. The country’s latest census showed that the country’s population had shrunk by 2.2 million people since 2002 and now stands at 142.9 million. Putin said he had already made progress on this as Prime Minister, with the number of second-time mothers having grown by 45 percent over the past five years, and the number of women choosing to have three or more children having increased by 62 percent. “It was quite unexpected for me,” he said. “More and more Russian families are deciding to have two or even three children.”
‘NATO: Cold War relic’
Putin also called NATO a “relic of the Cold War era.” However, while Russia sees the alliance as a Cold War relic and has been critical of some of its actions, it views NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan as crucial for its own security interests, helping prevent instability from spreading into ex-Soviet Central Asia. “We are interested in the situation there remaining under control, and we don’t want our troops to fight on Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan,” Putin said. “We need to help them stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, or we will have to do it ourselves.” He said a new logistics facility would not be a military base, simply offering NATO a stopover for air transit.
Relations between Russia, the United States and NATO have soured over U.S.-led NATO missile defense plan that Washington says is aimed at deflecting a potential Iranian threat. Moscow fears it will eventually become powerful enough to undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.