The reports of our ‘disintegration’ have been greatly exaggerated

THE REPORTS OF OUR ‘DISINTEGRATION’ HAVE BEEN GREATLY EXAGGERATED…. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting front-page item this morning, on the popularity in Russia of a scholar predicting the collapse of the United States.

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.

Panarin believes there’s “a 55-45% chance” that the United States will experience “disintegration” in the coming years. He’s been making the same predictions since 1998, but given anti-American sentiment in Russia, Panarin’s ideas have apparently made him something of a cause celebre.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind, though: Igor Panarin’s understanding of the modern United States appears to be rather limited.

Slate‘s Ryan Grim noted a recent report outlining Panarin’s vision for the future of the U.S.: “He predicted that the U.S. will break up into six parts — the Pacific coast, with its growing Chinese population; the South, with its Hispanics; Texas, where independence movements are on the rise; the Atlantic coast, with its distinct and separate mentality; five of the poorer central states with their large Native American populations; and the northern states, where the influence from Canada is strong.”

If this reflects Panarin’s knowledge of the country, I have a hunch we’ll be fine.