A prominent Russian scholar is making a bold prediction:

If you’re inclined to believe Igor Panarin, and the Kremlin wouldn’t mind if you did, then President Barack Obama will order martial law this year, the U.S. will split into six rump-states before 2011, and Russia and China will become the backbones of a new world order.

Panarin might be easy to ignore but for the fact that he is a dean at the Foreign Ministry’s school for future diplomats and a regular on Russia’s state-guided TV channels. And his predictions fit into the anti-American story line of the Kremlin leadership.

“There is a high probability that the collapse of the United States will occur by 2010,” Panarin told dozens of students, professors and diplomats Tuesday at the Diplomatic Academy — a lecture the ministry pointedly invited The Associated Press and other foreign media to attend.

The prediction from Panarin, a former spokesman for Russia’s Federal Space Agency and reportedly an ex-KGB analyst, meshes with the negative view of the U.S. that has been flowing from the Kremlin in recent years, in particular from Vladimir Putin. Putin, the former president who is now prime minister, has likened the United States to Nazi Germany’s Third Reich and blames Washington for the global financial crisis that has pounded the Russian economy.

Is it any wonder that the Russians are loathe to make any concessions if that’s what Putin’s betting on?

Let me go on record here with my prediction that the Obama administration will leave office with the United States fully intact, an economy that’s still on par with all of the European Union combined, China continuing to rise, and Russia remaining no more than a regional player.

Others blogging on this topic, aggregated at memeorandum, are similarly skeptical.  Doug Mataconis dismisses this as “little more than some Putin-inspired science fiction posing as scholarship.”

Jules Crittenden notes that Panarin’s specialty is “infowar” and believes this is an attempt at applying his expertise.  Dave Schuler, reacting to a previous report of Panarin’s rantings in WSJ, agrees but goes further:

He’s an information war specialist and I can see that the Soviet Union’s grand tradition of disinformation is alive and well and living in Mother Russia. More than anything else Panarin’s theories demonstrate that Russians who aren’t America specialists’ ideas about America aren’t any better than most Americans who aren’t Russia specialists’ notions about Russia. There is one important kernel in the article, however, that bears considering: Russia is even more anti-American, if anything, than the old Soviet Union was.

That’s quite possible.  The Soviet Union at least offered the comforting notion of being a citizen of a superpower. 

James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council.

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