DECEMBER 29, 2008
As if Things Weren’t Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of
In Moscow, Igor Panarin’s Forecasts Are All the Rage; America
‘Disintegrates’ in 2010
By ANDREW OSBORN
MOSCOW — 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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