Rumors of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated…

The Wall Street Journal reports on a Russian foreign policy analyst that predicts the end of the United States sometime in 2010.

Funny thing is, he’s been predicting this for some 10 years.

Further he predicts that the nation will split up into 6 “regional nations”.

Igor Panarin isn’t considered a crackpot in Russia. In fact, he’s the Dean of the Foreign Ministry Academy that trains future diplomats, and a former KGB agent, which is just one of the areas where his theory (aside from the general crackpottiness as a whole) falls apart.

For some reason, the career foreign analyst is looking at the US through a lens skewed by the disintegration of the former USSR. Panarin’s analysis ignores our national identity as a whole. Unlike Russia, the states that make up the US were never nations with hundreds of years of history and unique cultural identities, unlike many of the states that once made up the USSR. As such, most Americans view themselves as Americans first, and natives of their states second. Few people, with the possible exception of Texans, view themselves as Tennessean-Americans, or Illinois-Americans. In fact, state identity rarely comes up when Americans talk about their American-ness. Strike 1.

Strike 2 comes from the “economic and moral collapse” that Panarin describes. Certainly, the current financial crisis is a blow to the nation, but it still hasn’t proven to be anywhere as deep or wide as the “Great Depression” of the 1930’s. Unemployment is nowhere near 25%. Vast wealth has been lost, but by and large, the wealthy are still wealthy, and even though the working class is suffering the bulk of the hurt, there is little chance that enough of them are willing to take up arms and fight a government that they generally identify with. Nationalism in the US is still high, though far lower than in the initial post-911 environment. If no one shows up for the 4th of July, I’ll worry. Until then, not so much.

As for the moral collapse, well, that ends on 1/20/09 when we replace our despotic President through a peaceful Presidential transition. Russia, on the other hand, can’t even seem to get rid of their despot (Putin).

Strike 3 comes when the actual purpose of the whole theory is revealed. From the article:

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.

Does any of this sound familiar? Sounds an awful lot like US characterizations of the USSR throughout my childhood.

During the Cold War the US used characterizations similar to this (long bread lines, etc.) to instill a level of national pride as a hedge against anyone who would seek to nationalize anything, and as a propaganda tactic for those living behind the “Iron Curtain” that had access to western media. I was too young to know if any of these reports were true at the time, or if the scope of the food shortages in the USSR were as widespread as they were reported to be, but it doesn’t really matter. This was a tool in the execution of the Cold War, just as it is a tool in the execution of Russian nationalism right now.

Since the ascension of Putin, the Russian Federation has sought to reclaim the “glory” of its former incarnation. Once the oligarchs in Russia had divvied up all they could for themselves, leaving many ordinary Russians in the lurch, they faced a great deal of internal challenges. Building nationalism is one way to distract a population that has largely been poorly served from the problems they face. That is all this theory is about.

Enjoy your fame Mr. Panarin. I imagine in 18 months, when your theory doesn’t come to pass, that the crow you eat will be might tasty. Hopefully by then you’ll be relegated to the sidelines like all those apocalypse predictors from times past.

2 thoughts

  1. So, basically what you’re saying is that the risen zombie Mother Russia will be more fearsome and terrifying than the old-timey black and white Soviet Frankenstein monster. I think I can go along with that.

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