Sunday, April 12, 2009

Russian Scenario for Collapse of the U.S.

In view of the scenario below, coming from a dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's school for future diplomats, one may wonder how important perceptions are. Holding reality constant, how much difference would it make if Russian and Chinese decisionmakers reached the conclusion that Panarin's scenario of an American collapse were accurate? In any case, here's his scenario:

Panarin argued that Americans are in moral decline, saying their great psychological stress is evident from school shootings, the size of the prison population and the number of gay men.

Turning to economic woes, he cited the slide in major stock indexes, the decline in U.S. gross domestic product and Washington's bailout of banking giant Citigroup as evidence that American dominance of global markets has collapsed.

"I was there recently and things are far from good," he said. "What's happened is the collapse of the American dream."

Panarin insisted he didn't wish for a U.S. collapse, but he predicted Russia and China would emerge from the economic turmoil stronger and said the two nations should work together, even to create a new currency to replace the U.S. dollar.

Given recent economic news, it is not easy to dismiss Panarin's scenario. And as for creating a new currency, Russia and China have, judging from recent public remarks by their officials, already begun working together toward that goal.

Scenarios are not predictions. While the report leaves the distinction vague and gives the impression that Panarin himself does not really understand the difference, the real message is that such a scenario would even be considered worth publicizing. American decisionmakers should take seriously any international attention to such scenarios: true or not, the perception of its validity will impact behavior. The current focus on "socialism for the rich" rather than fixing fundamentals certainly suggests that they still do not, which only makes an American Collapse Scenario more believable. And the more it is believed, the more confident others become, the more willing they become to oppose Washington.

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