We can always count on Russia for producing news that is both bizarre and entertaining at the same time. With Russian and American interests now in conflict, the semi-delusional revisionists in the Kremlin are trying to sell the idea that Russia’s return to great power status will be accelerated by the concurrent decline of the US. The problem is that much like everything else Russia does, the method is divorced from any logic of proportionality or constraint. Thus enter Igor Panarin, an ex-KGB analyst and the current dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic Academy, who, in that peculiar Russian fashion, takes American declinism beyond all bounds of reality, predicting the disintegration of the United States about 18 months from now. From the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a Civil War next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the US will break into six pieces with Alaska reverting to Russian control…
He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the US. When the going gets tough, he says, wealthier states will withhold funds from the federal government and effectively secede from the union. Social unrest up to and including Civil War will follow. The US will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.
California will form the nucleus of what he calls “The California Republic,” and will be part of China or under Chinese influence. Texas will be the heart of “The Texas Republic,” a cluster of states that will go to Mexico or fall under Mexican influence. Washington DC, and New York will be part of an “Atlantic America” that may join the European Union. Canada will grab a group of northern states Prof. Panarin calls “The Central North American Republic.” Hawaii, he suggests, will be a protectorate of Japan or China, and Alaska will be subsumed into Russia.
Panarin’s little fantasy has certainly made him popular in the fashionable circles of his home country, and probably Europe as well. Envisioning the destruction of America — with or without nuclear fire — has always been a hobby for a certain breed of Russian nationalist. But Panarin’s ideas are notable for their comical lack of any pretense of realism. How exactly would Canada seize control of 15 US states? The EU is going to admit the American East Coast? Utah and Arizona are doomed to fall under Chinese hegemony? Aside from anti-Americanism, which has reached epidemic proportions in Russia, Panarin’s theory, assuming he sincerely believes it, reflects a frightening naïveté about both the United States and international politics in general. Russia may never again be a superpower, but it is certainly not irrelevant; if this is the guy training their future diplomats, our own negotiators are in for a wild ride.
But the great irony of Panarin’s ideas is that they have much relevance for his own country; it is almost as if he examine d the long-term forecasts of Russia’s future and simply mirror-imaged them on to the United States. The dangers of the 1990s have not yet passed. The Russian economy has improved in recent years, but it has evolved into a petrostate that is completely reliant on the oil and natural gas extractive industries. When commodity prices decline, as they inevitably will, growth sputters and recession sets in. Most tragically, Russia is experiencing a demographic crisis that may see their population drop below 100 million bt 2050, which could compromise the territorial integrity of the state itself. Forget retaking Alaska; Russia will barely be able to hold on to the territory it does have, especially with the massive Chinese population eager to exploit the sparsely populated and largely untapped Siberian expanse. Compared to Russia’s long-term prognosis, America’s current troubles look insignificant. Russia may not disintegrate, but it is in store for a very painful reckoning.