Endtime prophecy is not the province of the religiously excitable alone. Even the die-hard materialists of the Russian intelligence service FSB (formerly the KGB) dabble in apocalyptic musings – although the scope of this particular prediction is not global, but limited to the imminent demise of that old-and-new archenemy, the United States.
Igor Panarin has been predicting the “moral and economic collapse” of the US for about a decade now; he set the Endtime for the American Empire at the year 2010, and the recent arrival of the credit crunch lends some credence to his outlandish forecast - at least as far as the Russian (state) media is concerned. Panarin, formerly a KGB analyst and now an academic, gets about two interview requests a day.
The break-up predicted by Panarin would be the result of mass immigration, economic decline and moral degradation, all of which would trigger a second American civil war, and the collapse of the dollar. This would then lead to the break-up of the United States, by mid-2010, into half a dozen regional sub-entities. These would be dominated or absorbed outright by foreign powers.
Imagine Chinese overlordship of Utah – another Tibet waiting to happen -, the Maple Leaf flag flying at the Gateway Arch and the European Union and Mexico meeting just south of there, on the Mississippi. As far-fetched as that may sound, Mr Panarin is no fringe looney. He heads the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy for future diplomats (and Russia will need quite a few more of those, if his prediction comes true). Mr Panarin also is one of the talking heads on (Russian state) tv whenever US-Russian relations are at issue.
The popularity of his end-of-America views mirrors the Kremlin’s semi-official anti-Americanism, and it is all the more popular for the pithy sympathy he wraps up his predicitions in: Panarin claims his disintegration scenario has about 50% chance of happening, and if it did, it would not be the best outcome – for Russia, that is. Even though the Russians would again cross the Bering Strait to retake possession of Alyaska, the disintegration of Russia’s main trading partner would spell economic trouble for the resurgent world power.
One can’t help but feel that Mr Panarin’s view is less a realistic scenario based on cold, hard facts (as he claims), and more a kind of payback for America’s and the West’s gleeful spectatorship of the Soviet Union’s collapse. Mr Panarin explicitly refers to political scientist Emmanuel Todd, who in 1976 predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union. “People laughed at him”, Mr Panarin is quoted as saying by this article in the Wall Street Journal, implying that he can relate to the scorn felt by Mr Todd at the time, and is anticipating a similar vindication.
As with religious eschatologists (at least those careless enough to posit a near and definite date for the world’s end), the only way definitely to disprove Mr Panarin’s reverse Schadenfreude is to wait for his prediction to outlive itself. So let’s see exactly what Mr Obama remains president of, if anything, come August 2010…
Many thanks to the dozens of readers who sent in this map.