Last week, I wondered about the reality of the rivalry between the United States and China. Perhaps the “Thucydides trap” is just a smokescreen that masks the impending disintegration of the “American empire”. In this article, I summarize his career that Westerners have not understood, and I invite you to think about what may happen when he disappears.
The USSR collapsed on itself, not from the war in Afghanistan (1979-89), but from the Chernobyl disaster (April 26, 1986). The Soviets suddenly realized that the state no longer controlled anything. Members of the Warsaw Pact, which Leonid Brezhnev had made vassals, revolted. Churches, Communist Youth and Gays in East Germany brought down the Berlin Wall [ 1 ]. Not only did the USSR not react, but it abandoned its allies outside Europe, notably Cuba. Party First Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev transformed himself from reformer to liquidator. The USSR broke up, creating many new independent states. Then it was the descent into hell. A few “New Russians” appropriated public property and waged machine-gun warfare in the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Production collapsed. It became difficult to find food in many Russian regions. Life expectancy fell sharply by fifteen years. The fall was so brutal that no one would have thought that the country would recover quickly.
Simultaneously, the United States imagines what it could do without a rival. President George H. Bush Sr., speaking before the assembled Congress on September 11, 1990, launched the idea of a “New World Order”. He just staged a war in the Gulf that almost every state in the world is joining. Even before the dissolution of the USSR, the United States became the superpower that no one disputes [ 2 ]. The Straussian Paul Wolfowitz develops a doctrine aimed at preventing the emergence of a new competitor, which would take the place of the Soviet Union. He points without hesitation to the political project of François Mitterrand and Helmut Köhl, the European Union, as the enemy to be defeated. This was flawed from the outset with the obligation to have all the States of the Warsaw Pact and the former USSR adhere to it until its institutions became impracticable and the inclusion in the Maastricht Treaty of defense of the EU by Washington.
The Pentagon is so sure of no longer having an adversary equal to it that it demobilizes 1 million men once Iraq has been crushed. The research and development units of the armies are dissolved. President Bush Senior believes that this war is the last and that an era of prosperity is beginning.
Although no one threatens the supremacy of the USA, they nevertheless feel that their internal balance is fragile. Their jobs are outsourced and their economy is based more on the internationalization of their currency, the dollar, than on the wealth they produce.
In 2001, the Straussians organized the September 11 attacks [ 3 ] and adopted the Rusmfeld/Cebrowski doctrine [ 4 ] . They suspend fundamental freedoms at home with the USA Patriot Act and wage an “endless war” that ravages the “greater Middle East”.
However, Russia does not see it that way. In a speech delivered on February 11, 2007 at the Munich Security Conference [ 5 ] , President Vladimir Putin denounced the Bush New World Order, which he described as “unipolar”. According to him, it would be more accurate to describe it as “monopolar”. He finds that far from bringing peace, he sows misfortune.
During the subprime crisis, the Russian intellectual Igor Panarin, then working for the secret services, studied the hypothesis according to which the dollar would collapse and the American population would divide on an ethnic basis so that eventually the country will break up [ 6 ] . Wrongly, his work is then interpreted as a replica of the hypothesis of the Frenchwoman Helene Carrère d’Encausse who envisaged a break-up of the Soviet Union, also on an ethnic basis [ 7 ] . None of this happened, nor was my hypothesis that the “American empire” would not outlive the “Soviet empire” verified.
So what happened?
In the 15 years since the Munich speech, Russia’s priority has been to rebuild its power. In 2012, she promised Syria to protect it from jihadists supported by the Anglo-Saxons (the so-called “Arab Spring”), but waited two years before intervening. When she emerges from the shadows, she has a number of new weapons. On the battlefield, she learns to use it and trains her staff, which she renews every six months. If Vladimir Putin had designated, during his speech in Munich, Brazil, India and China as his privileged partners for the construction of a multipolar world, he waited a long time before sealing a privileged relationship with Beijing. China, which is still partially developing, exerts strong demographic pressure on Russian Siberia, but it has understood that, to emerge from the “monopolar dictatorship”, it must be Russia’s ally. Both countries have suffered from Westerners and experienced their lies. They have no future without each other.
The Western defeat in Ukraine should open the eyes of Americans. The tensions examined by Igor Panarin resurface. The attacks of September 11 and the “endless war” will have been only derivatives. They will have granted a reprieve to the “American empire”, but nothing more.
In the 35 years since the collapse of the USSR, the United States has mistakenly convinced itself that it has defeated its rival. In reality it was the Soviets themselves who overthrew him. They convinced themselves that the Russians would need a century to recover from their mistakes. In fact, they have become the first military power in the world. Admittedly, the United States managed to vassalize Western and Central Europe, but today they must face all the States that they mistreated, led by Russia and China.
During this period, the Republicans and Democrats gave way to two new currents of thought: the Jacksonians around Donald Trump and the Wokists, puritans without God. We are currently witnessing an intensification of population movements in the USA. Election scholars find that many Americans are leaving the Woke regions and joining the Jacksonians [ 8 ]. According to moving companies, their clients move from big cities to smaller ones where life is cheaper and more pleasant. However, they all note that their clients are increasingly citing a new motive: they are traveling to join part of their family. This explanation matches what Colin Woodard observed a decade ago [ 9 ] : Americans are grouped by community of origin. Real estate developers are observing the proliferation of secure neighborhoods (Gated Communities). Their clients gather with people like them, having inherited the same culture and belonging to the same social class. Often, they are worried about the rise in insecurity and evoke a possible civil war.
Let’s not be blind. All empires are mortal. The “American empire” too.
[ 6 ] The crash of the dollar and the disintegration of the USA (only in Russian), Igor Panarin (2008).
[ 7 ] The shattered Empire , Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, Flammarion (1978).
[ 8 ] “On the move”, Jennifer Harper, The Washington Times , April 14, 2023.
[ 9 ] American nations: a history of the eleven rival regional cultures of North America , Colin Woodard, Penguin Group (2011).