Mark Falcoff: On Panarin’s projections

Mark Falcoff is resident scholar emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, most recently, of Cuba the Morning After: Confronting Castro’s Legacy. He writes:

Monday’s Wall St. Journal has an interesting article about a Russian geopolitician by the name of Igor Panarin, who predicts the early demise of the United States — say, in about 2010. According to the article he thinks there is at least a fifty percent chance that “mass immigration, economic decline and moral degradation” will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar (I’m paraphrasing the article’s summary). Sometime in the summer of 2010 he expects the the United States to break into six pieces, with Alaska reverting to Russian control. Other countries will grab the remnants.

The article is accompanied by a map of the US showing what these new principalities would look like. “Atlantic America” (basically the East Coast and part of the South and Border States) would join the European Unon; The Central North-American Republic (consisting virtually of the entire Mid-West) would become part of Canada, the Californian Republic (which would include all of the West Coast plus Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Idaho) would be part of China (!) or “under Chinese influence” (whatever that means). Hawaii will go either to Japan or China. And the entire American South plus Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico would emerge as the Texas republic, part of Mexico (or under Mexican influence).

When I was a graduate student of international relations at Princeton decades ago I remember one of my professors, the late Harold Sprout, explaining that one way to analyze a foreign country’s behavior was to appreciate its own historical perspective. Given what has happened to Russia in the past two decades, its idea that the U.S. is a fragile empire of disparate entities (while wrong) is at least understandable. In many ways indeed it is a projection onto its supposed rival its own experiences.

Consider the humiliation that Russia has faced over the centuries. No country on its periphery has ever wanted to be part of it. Poland wanted out, the Baltics wanted out, the Ukraine, Georgia, hell — even Kazakstan — preferred to be no part of it. Russians are considered drunken losers by everybody who”s every had anything to do with them. The only country in the world that ever wanted to be part of the Soviet Commonwealth of Nations (to use a generous term) was Cuba, which by no stretch of the imagination could be regarded as on Russia’s periphery. The unfortunate outcome of Cuba’s choice is plain to see.

Professor Panarin’s projections are thus fueled more by Russia’s long-standing crisis of national self-esteem than anything else.

Now for a moment, let’s consider the map. It reveals a lot about Russian ignorance, not just of the United States, but of other countries as well.

Atlantic America is supposed to join the European Union. It’s easy to imagine Vermont or Massachusetts or even New York and New Jersey jumping at the chance–high taxes, socialized medicine, and elegant fashion and food–what an irresistible combination! But the same country is supposed to include Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and both Carolinas.

Not much Europhilia in them thar hills, if I may say so. The gun laws alone in the last few states would render them ineligible to join the European Union. (I am not certain which of these have capital punishment, but that too would be an obstacle.)

The Texas Republic (either Mexican or “under Mexican influence”) will apparently include not merely areas with large Spanish speaking populations such as Texas and Florida, but Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. These last five states are in no way oriented toward Mexico, and most of them, but particularly the last four, have strong cultural traditions of their own. While the Texas and Mexican economies are strongly linked, that is hardly the case with the rest.

Anyway, who can be sure Mexico would WANT to annex these places? Mexico would surely prefer to keep the United States solid and prosperous, so it could continue to export people to it by either legal or illegal means.

It’s true that some of the states of the Upper Midwest (called the Central North-American Republic) have a political culture roughly coherent with that of Canada (particularly Minnesota and Dakotas) but surely this is not the case with Illinois, Indiana,Ohio, Colorado, much less Wyoming or Montana. Nor would Canada particularly want to absorb parts of the mountain west where the culture is strongly individualist rather than collectivist. In fact, Canada’s greatest fear for some time has been that its western provinces might secede and apply for admission to the American union.

Finally we come to the California Republic, which is supposed to become part of China. California is a world unto itself; it has little in common culturally or economically with neighboring states. Their only commonality with Oregon and Washington State is the fact that all border the Pacific Ocean. Utah, Navada and Arizona have strong Mormon populations, as does Idaho. Except for Chinese restaurants and some shipping and outsourced manufacturing, none of the states bordering the Pacific have a particularly intimate relationship with China, certainly nothing strong enough to suggest a political union or association.

Just how Alaska is supposed to go back to Russia is not clear; nor is it explained how Hawaii will be ceded to Japan or China.

Professor Panarin is in the business of providing his fellow countrymen with consolation for their country’s reduced international status. Russia is already headed for a deep demographic decline. Now that oil prices have headed south, it is in more trouble than ever. If anyone has reason to fear the future, it is the Russians, not us.

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