One funny thing about American Team Russia fanatics and Zerohedge types is that they get really angry when you start to point out how horribly their predictions have failed throughout history. On the rare occasions they have been right, it’s either because they’re prediction happened to sync up with those of other, less-delusional individuals, or it was a busted clock scenario, e.g. people predicting doom and gloom forever were “vindicated” by the crisis of 2008. Aside from those precious few examples, they are hilariously wrong almost every time. Every year the collapse of the dollar is just around the corner. Every year we’re just a few months away from seeing the BRICS alliance conquer the EU and the US. Russia will lead them to victory! You’ll see! You’ll all see!
Of course that’s not what happens. At no time in the past twenty-five years has Russia managed to seriously rival the US, Western Europe, or other leading industrial countries in terms of living standards or economic success. They say the dollar will collapse and yet now that poor dollar buys around 60 rubles. Russia’s supposed to become this economic powerhouse and yet most former Soviet republics now do most of their trading with either the European Union or China in the case of the Central Asian states. What I’m saying is that you can pile up all the negative trends and indicators for the American or EU economy to your heart’s content, but in nearly every single case, Russia is worse off, sometimes much more so. This isn’t “anti-Russian,” it’s just simple concrete fact. Many of these geopolitical “analysts” even admit this from time to time, but they always assure us that Putin’s got some ace up his sleeve that will turn the tables any day now.
I’ve noticed that when you point out Russia’s deficiencies in comparison to the hated “West”, you’re suddenly accused of believing that the US and EU are eternal, without blame or blemish, and that the dollar will forever be the world’s reserve currency. This is simply absurd. There is a difference from pointing out that someone’s doom and gloom predictions aren’t born out by material reality and claiming that this current situation is permanent. No, the United States will probably not last forever, and it certainly won’t be on top of the world forever either. In fact there’s a strong argument that it’s not on top today, because the world isn’t as polar as it used to be. That being the case, however, the bottom line is that the US is doing much better than Russia, and Russia’s “allies” like China benefit very much from their relationship with the US. Their leadership doesn’t suffer from delusions about some “historical mission” or nostalgia for the Cold War. China has turned its relationship with the US into concrete results. Putin’s Russia allowed a small coterie of oligarchs to rob their country blind and leave it utterly dependent on natural resources, much like Zaire.
The point to take away here is that what Russia is doing simply isn’t working, and Russia cannot live vicariously through BRICS countries which are successful like India and China. As I’ve said before, the very term BRICS is obsolete. Russia’s economy is shrinking, not rapidly growing, and capital has nearly deserted it. Rapid growth and massive foreign investment were part of the criteria for the BRICS. Russia’s not meeting either of those means that it’s really BICS. If we look at the US and Russia and decide which one is more likely to collapse in the next decade or so, all indicators point to Russia. I’m terribly sorry, but that’s not a matter for “debate.”
One should also remember that while the US will probably further decline in power one day, there’s no reason to make assumptions about Balkan-style civil war or a Mad Max-style apocalypse. In Russia and corrupt countries like Ukraine, change is apocalyptic because those in power are incredibly corrupt, there’s no concept of public good, no rule of law, and few if any mechanisms for people to influence political change in a non-violent manner. Disagree? Guess what- we actually have a case of an industrial country experiencing a major economic collapse. The results are interesting. Even a collapse of the Russian regime, which is inevitable sooner or later, will most likely not lead to post-apocalyptic chaos, even though much of the country already looks post-apocalyptic. As chaotic as the 90’s were, the country held together and many people got through it successfully. There are still many countries where the experiences Russia had in the 90’s are daily norms.
Predicting America’s collapse has become an entertaining fantasy for some people. For Americans, it’s a great way to avoid actually going out and doing something to change the status quo. For those who espouse more radical views, it’s a great way to explain why they aren’t willing to engage in any real activities to further their goals. “People are too fat and happy right now,” they say. “Wait until there’s chaos in the streets and the government can’t protect them, then we’ll come out and make a revolution!” Sure you will. Sure you will. The guy who spends all his time on internet forums posting economic theory he learned on other internet forums is going to take to the hills and become the libertarian version of Mao Zedong just as soon as the power grid is down, the police forces disband, and the streets are filled with angry mobs searching for food and anything of value. I totally believe that.