MOSCOW - YOU think of the United States as the world's leading superpower? Well think again, says Igor Panarin, a professor at the Russian foreign ministry's diplomatic academy.
For Prof Panarin, who has built an academic reputation in Russia for apocalyptic predictions of the imminent US demise, Moscow's ex-Cold War rival is on the brink of economic, political and social cataclysm.
'The probability that the United States will cease to exist in July 2010 is greater than 50 per cent,' he declared at a news conference on Monday. 'The results of the current financial year will shock investors.'
Prof Panarin did not share the hopes of US president Barack Obama's supporters that he would lead the world into a new era of change.
'Obama has the mentality of a social worker: He talks well but he has never managed anything. He will lead the United States towards a crash,' said the academic.
For Prof Panarin, the United States was on the verge of none other than a 'psychological catastrophe'. And the reasons? It all started with Hurricane Katrina. The United States is overwhelmed by single parent families. Its prisons are full. Young people are violent. And oh yes, it has too many homosexuals.
He compared the current situation of the United States under Obama to that of the Soviet Union under its last leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
'The US debt has multiplied seven times in 11 years. Under Gorbachev the Soviet debt increased by a factor of five.'
Vladimir Mamontov, the editor-in-chief of the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia where the news conference was held, moved to distance himself from the remarks. He publishes Prof Panarin's opinions since 'irreverent versions of events help readers to surf through all the more montonous information.'
Feodor Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in global politics and one of the country's top foreign policy experts, said such forecasts were of no value for specialists.
'People with an artistic spirit have a rich imagination,' he commented.
While Prof Panarin's views are highly marginal, there are plenty of more mainstream pro-Kremlin analysts in Moscow happy to point out the weaknesses of the United States and the strengths of Russia as a great post-Soviet power. -- AFP