USA Breaks Up?

For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. For most of that time, he admits, few took his argument — that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S. — very seriously. Now he’s found an eager audience: Russian state media.

In recent weeks, he’s been interviewed as much as twice a day about his predictions. “It’s a record,” says Prof. Panarin. “But I think the attention is going to grow even stronger.”

Prof. Panarin, 50 years old, is not a fringe figure. A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations.

But it’s his bleak forecast for the U.S. that is music to the ears of the Kremlin, which in recent years has blamed Washington for everything from instability in the Middle East to the global financial crisis. Mr. Panarin’s views also fit neatly with the Kremlin’s narrative that Russia is returning to its rightful place on the world stage after the weakness of the 1990s, when many feared that the country would go economically and politically bankrupt and break into separate territories.

A polite and cheerful man with a buzz cut, Mr. Panarin insists he does not dislike Americans. But he warns that the outlook for them is dire.

“There’s a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur,” he says. “One could rejoice in that process,” he adds, poker-faced. “But if we’re talking reasonably, it’s not the best scenario — for Russia.” Though Russia would become more powerful on the global stage, he says, its economy would suffer because it currently depends heavily on the dollar and on trade with the U.S.

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 U.S. will break into six pieces — with Alaska reverting to Russian control.

In addition to increasing coverage in state media, which are tightly controlled by the Kremlin, Mr. Panarin’s ideas are now being widely discussed among local experts. He presented his theory at a recent roundtable discussion at the Foreign Ministry. The country’s top international relations school has hosted him as a keynote speaker. During an appearance on the state TV channel Rossiya, the station cut between his comments and TV footage of lines at soup kitchens and crowds of homeless people in the U.S. The professor has also been featured on the Kremlin’s English-language propaganda channel, Russia Today.

Mr. Panarin’s apocalyptic vision “reflects a very pronounced degree of anti-Americanism in Russia today,” says Vladimir Pozner, a prominent TV journalist in Russia. “It’s much stronger than it was in the Soviet Union.”

Mr. Pozner and other Russian commentators and experts on the U.S. dismiss Mr. Panarin’s predictions. “Crazy ideas are not usually discussed by serious people,” says Sergei Rogov, director of the government-run Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, who thinks Mr. Panarin’s theories don’t hold water.

Mr. Panarin’s résumé includes many years in the Soviet KGB, an experience shared by other top Russian officials. His office, in downtown Moscow, shows his national pride, with pennants on the wall bearing the emblem of the FSB, the KGB’s successor agency. It is also full of statuettes of eagles; a double-headed eagle was the symbol of czarist Russia.

The professor says he began his career in the KGB in 1976. In post-Soviet Russia, he got a doctorate in political science, studied U.S. economics, and worked for FAPSI, then the Russian equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency. He says he did strategy forecasts for then-President Boris Yeltsin, adding that the details are “classified.”

In September 1998, he attended a conference in Linz, Austria, devoted to information warfare, the use of data to get an edge over a rival. It was there, in front of 400 fellow delegates, that he first presented his theory about the collapse of the U.S. in 2010.

“When I pushed the button on my computer and the map of the United States disintegrated, hundreds of people cried out in surprise,” he remembers. He says most in the audience were skeptical. “They didn’t believe me.”

At the end of the presentation, he says many delegates asked him to autograph copies of the map showing a dismembered U.S.

He based the forecast on classified data supplied to him by FAPSI analysts, he says. He predicts that economic, financial and demographic trends will provoke a political and social crisis in the U.S. 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 a civil war will follow. The U.S. will then split along ethnic lines, and foreign powers will move in.

California will form the nucleus of what he calls “The Californian 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, D.C., 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.

“It would be reasonable for Russia to lay claim to Alaska; it was part of the Russian Empire for a long time.” A framed satellite image of the Bering Strait that separates Alaska from Russia like a thread hangs from his office wall. “It’s not there for no reason,” he says with a sly grin.

Interest in his forecast revived this fall when he published an article in Izvestia, one of Russia’s biggest national dailies. In it, he reiterated his theory, called U.S. foreign debt “a pyramid scheme,” and predicted China and Russia would usurp Washington’s role as a global financial regulator.

Americans hope President-elect Barack Obama “can work miracles,” he wrote. “But when spring comes, it will be clear that there are no miracles.”

The article prompted a question about the White House’s reaction to Prof. Panarin’s forecast at a December news conference. “I’ll have to decline to comment,” spokeswoman Dana Perino said amid much laughter.

For Prof. Panarin, Ms. Perino’s response was significant. “The way the answer was phrased was an indication that my views are being listened to very carefully,” he says.

The professor says he’s convinced that people are taking his theory more seriously. People like him have forecast similar cataclysms before, he says, and been right. He cites French political scientist Emmanuel Todd. Mr. Todd is famous for having rightly forecast the demise of the Soviet Union — 15 years beforehand. “When he forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1976, people laughed at him,” says Prof. Panarin.

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4 thoughts on “USA Breaks Up?

  1. @ D As someone who has done a lot of research into geopolitics and international relations, I find this entire theory of Prof. Panarin’s completely laughable. The U.S. has a whole host of problems that it needs to work out, but if there is one thing that history as repeatedly proven time and again, it’s that those predicting some epic collapse for the U.S. is foolish. The U.S., almost unique among nations, has the ability to reinvent itself time and again – to bend without breaking.

    I’m under no illusion that the U.S. will be the world’s #1 power indefinitely. All great empires must end eventually, as will the American version – but I think that the 21st century largely belongs to us. In real terms, we’re still in the very infancy of our run in power. In fact, I’m not the only one that thinks this – George Friedman, a prominent world affairs analyst who started Stratfor echoes this in his book The Next 100 Years: http://www.stratfor.com/next100years/the_book.

    I’m not going to say that everything that Mr. Friedman asserts will happen, but I suspect he might be closer to the actual events of the coming years. Prof. Panarin’s critics are correct to lampoon him. It comes off as nothing more than an anti-American Russian pipe-dream. His assertions on how the United States will break up are ludicrous. It shows little to no understanding of the American cultural make-up. If it were to break up, I highly doubt that it would do so in any way that resembles what he posits.

    It was an interesting read, but for me it represents nothing more than clumsy geopolitical logistical analysis.

  2. @ AJ, tsk tsk. Naivety or denial. I of course stand in opposition of your rebuttal and here is why:

    1. The US was “founded” on church/Christianity. The US is moving further and further from its religious foundation and into a place of man made judicial fallacy.

    2. The US was founded by white men with a deep root in Eurocentric ideology. That ideology never included diversity, ethnicity, and culture. The colors of the world are at the brink of putting everything back into perspective.

    3. The economy is failing and will continue to do so. Cyclically, we have another 3-4 years before anything looks halfway decent. As of Sunday, unemployment was terminated for millions of Americans. From there crime will rise, anarchy will ensue etc. People have no idea what civil restlessness looks like. When humans are dictated by the laws of survival, laws, rules, and morals go out the window.

    4. Geologically, the US is a ticking timebomb. With an 3.3 earthquake in Missouri just yesterday, one on the Madrid fault line in 08 and the September quake of 2010 that will shake Cali off the map; coupled with a bullshit economy – the US start to disintegrate and its “citizens” will have to do what they can.

    5. The US and its entire theme was founded on the moment of now, not tomorrow. Our transportation infrastructure, our water infrastructure, our electricity grid, all of was built in the moment of now to the point were if you sneeze wrong, it would all crumble. Did you know that if you bombed Chicago and part of LA the entire internet as we know it would go offline? Over 74% of al US bridges are not safe per DOT standards, and that even stupid Richmond Indiana has about 30-40 brown outs a year b/c of the electricity demand? A few bad storms, a quake or two and the eruption of Yellowstone will take the US off the grid. Welcome back to the 1900’s!

    All in all, you can only continue doing shit the wrong way for so long. Everything that gives the US its power was stolen. Money, land, and natural resources. With mother nature on her cycle, and mans unruly mind, it will fall and when it does there will be a great division.

  3. @ D – Naivety or denial? I’m not sure where to start on what’s wrong with everything you’ve written in your rebuttal… but I’ll give it a go:

    1.) ‘Founded’ on church/Christianity? That’s a pretty sweeping generalization. If by that you mean that a certain protestant work ethic informed many of the early settlers, I’d agree. If, however, you’re asserting that our founding principles where based on faith/ the church, you’re sorely mistaken. Many of our founding fathers were in no way religious, in fact, many were quite secular or anti-religious (even if they didn’t ouwardly express this sentiment, which could have been damaging to them at the time). The church provided a strong framework or mold in which to shape early America, but it was never intended to be the sole basis of our republic. Judicial fallacy is a problem, but is it the reason the U.S. is going to be breaking apart in the near future, I highly doubt it.

    2.) I’ll not refute your point about the Euro-centric viewpoints of our founders? Why wouldn’t they have that viewpoint – that’s all they knew? However, I think it is wrong to claim that the U.S. is incapable moving beyond this. There are bigots and I suspect there always will be, but by the same token, there are more and more people who have grown up in an America that is ever more ethnically and culturally diverse. It is not perfect, but every country has their own prejudices. The Chinese have deep dislike for those on it’s Western periphery, such as the Tibetans. Are we to assume that is some sort of signal that China will be breaking up. Or how about the Russian turmoil that surrounds it (the Georgians, Ukrainians, Chechyans, et al)? As more children grow up in an America that is as diverse as America is quickly becoming, it will reset to a new norm, even if there are years of rough patches in between.

    3.) Firstly, get your facts straight about unemployment benefits disappearing. They did expire, but they were just recently extended after that useless excuse for a politician Jim Bunning gave in to bargains (they were expired for all of a few days). Secondly, where do you get your assumptions that the U.S. will be in an indefinite spiral of economic downward turmoil? The very nature of our economic system dictates that we will experience boom and bust periods. Sadly people have grown so accustomed to unhampered growth that panic sets in as soon as the hint of a bust occurs. An economy needs bust periods of ‘constructive deconstruction’ to rid itself of the excess or unneeded. It allows for new, more innovative companies to emerge. Without this, it’s likely that some of our biggest companies wouldn’t be what they are today (e.g. Apple, Microsoft, Google, Intel). This particular downturn is rather potent, but that shouldn’t suggest that we’re doomed. Myopia never achieves progress.

    4.) There is no doubting the fact that a huge Earthquake will someday strike somewhere at the heart of America. Will it happen this year? Maybe. Maybe not. Will that tear America at the seams? Hardly… if anything, I think it will make us stronger, if only because so many Americans are so easily molded. Any smart government uses a natural disaster to shore up it’s hold on power and tighten up control. They would sound the rally cry that America should unite in a time of great hardship, it would happen, and they government would walk away with a stronger position and America would likely be more united. Is this what should happen? That’s debatable – but the fact is that politicians are smart enough to use any chance, however terrible, to their advantage.

    5.) Out of all of your crackpot theories, this is your strongest point. America does have an issue with it’s focus. It sometimes does seem incapable of planning for the future with infrastructure, education, etc. China has an opposite problem – it sacrifices it’s dynamism for belt tightening and infrastructure. I’d also agree that there could be real trouble in our future if we don’t start taking a longer view.

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. America is not bullet-proof. It will not hold it’s current position indefinitely, but I do think that for the foreseeable future, we have much more in our favor than any other country. Don’t become myopic and assume that current economic hardship is indicative of a complete collapse. Isn’t that what was predicted during the great depression, that the U.S. wouldn’t make it? We all have seen how that played out.

    Think logically for a moment. Who else in the world is in a real position to overtake us? Geographically we are in the perfect position (isolated on both sides by an ocean and our only neighbors are friendly and much weaker). China and Russia both have many neighbors to contend with. China and Russia also have an enormous demographics problem. They have aging populations and are not replacing the workers they lose to old age. America, on the other hand, is still capable to replenish it’s work force and has a good birth-rate to maintain this.

    I don’t want this to come across as entirely pro-American and anti-world. I think the rest of the world and America will continue to come closer together in standards over the coming years, but if you look at it logically, there isn’t much there on which to base a theory of America’s demise in 2010 (or anytime soon). Sorry, but Prof. Panarin is living in a dream world – don’t join him there.

  4. 1. I am curious how you can provide this rebuttal when its clearly evident our entire judicial system is its branching legal arms are upheld and underscored by God and the principles of Christianity it. If not, we’d swear the president on the Koran.

    2. Gotcha, my only point was that the country was initially founded on a perspective that doesn’t align with its current populous and THIS is why a lot of our fathered policies don’t work or fit.

    3. Interesting. My facts aren’t the question but more what you really think our economy is. Did you know that the US is one of the ONLY countries that uses credit? In otter countries to use credit denotes being poor. For that reason the US economy is based on “fake” money. For example, if everyone tomorrow morning went to the US banks and with drew all of their money from their accounts, there wouldn’t be enough physical dollars to support the quantity of money. This is one of the many proofs that the US works on and enumeration scheme that only works with transaction of funds and not the funds themselves. This is why we have the stupid number of “trillion dollar” debt.

    4. Well I hope your patriotism and those alike is enough to pull this country tis of thee through!

    5. LMAO – pocket theories? Ouch. I do agree that not country at this point is stronger than the US (except China – another rant) however, I state that once/when the US has its taste of geo-diaster, it is then the US will be most vulnerable.

    I agree, America will defeat its self before another country, but the inner defeat will come within our lifetime and sting a lot!

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous :)

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