Published in 2010, The Next 100 Years by George Friedman predicted the meltdown of the Russian military in the early to middle 2020s. In the following video, Peter Zeihan explains why this is happening now, and why Putin was unable to stop himself from triggering this meltdown.
In the video above, Zeihan discusses how Putin wants to plug all the historical “invasion gaps” leading from the outside into the Russian heartland. He also discusses why Putin felt compelled to start this “gap plugging” now, before Russia’s demographic collapse had gone too far.
Putin was provoked into invading Ukraine by multiple factors. His own advancing age was one major provocation. Ukraine’s slow but steady movement away from Soviet-era corruption and Russian control, was another factor — particularly as Ukraine was moving toward EU membership. Russia’s demographic collapse — and the promise of folding Ukraine’s 50 million people into the “Russian population” was another enticement for Putin. But the strongest provocation moving Putin toward his invasion was the apparent weakness of Ukraine and the apparent weakness of the EU, and the US under Joe Biden. A sense of weakness in the victim will provoke Putin every time, as with any violent rapist.
How Russia Disintegrates — One Republic at a Time
When the USSR disintegrated in 1991, it happened almost all at one time. When the Russian Federation disintegrates, it is likely to be slower but no less dramatic. Russian nuclear forces are scattered across the autonomous republics, but the republics are in no position to take up the responsibility of world nuclear powers. The threat of nuclear proliferation in a hundred different unsavory directions is quite real over the coming years and decades, thanks to Putin’s impulsive compulsion to international violence.
It is not only Russia’s nukes that are dispersed across the vast land mass. Russia’s wealth is based upon natural resources, which are spread across dozens of autonomous republics. Moscow is resource poor, on its own. It must rob and strip the hinterland republics for its ill gotten gains.
If Moscow loses the ability to steal from the republics, the Kremlin will no longer be able to pay for all the mischief it commits around the world. That would be a good thing in the long run for Russia’s people and for the people of the world. But it would be unfortunate if all of Russia’s nuclear, chemical, biological, and other weapons of mass murder were released haphazardly for the highest bidder. By the same token, Russia’s nuclear power reactors and other nuclear reactors, have the potential to do tremendous damage if control over them is lost.
Russia is Now Targeting Ukraine’s Russian Speakers
Meanwhile in the year 2022 back in Ukraine, Russian forces are recoiling from a major setback in the north of Ukraine, and attempting to instigate a complete takeover of the Donbas. Most of the Ukrainians in this region are Russian speakers, and until recently many of them had strong pro-Russian sympathies. But after Putin’s botched Ukraine invasion, almost no one in Ukraine — no matter the primary language spoken — has any positive feelings for Russia or Putin whatsoever.
Who could get away with this level of bloody hypocrisy? Only a dictator on the scale of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or . . . Putin. Killing Russian speaking ethnic Russians to save Russia! Wrap your mind around that pretzel logic.
The people of Russia are in a tight spot, living in the wind-down of the Putin years. Putin cannot survive out of power — there is no one who can guarantee his survival if he leaves the poker table.
Putin does not care about losing specific chips as he has lost so many (Russian soldiers and money) already, but he is terrified of losing his seat at the table (i.e. his life or his position in the Kremlin). In fact, faced with a conventional escalation where Russian forces become overmatched, Putin might conclude he is simply drawing dead—which in poker terms means that there are no possible future communal cards that could help him make a winning hand.
When players fear they might be drawing dead, there are only three ways the hand can end: continue to bluff even though you presume you are losing, hoping the opponent will misread your actual position and fold; give up immediately to avoid further losses; or play the hand to its conclusion, risking yet more chips along the way hoping your opponent’s hand turns out to be weaker than you estimated.FP
Putin believed that his opponent’s hand was unutterably weak. He was surprised when this was not the case. But he has not yet discovered just how weak his own hand is turning out to be. This could be his fatal mistake.
For many years, both George Friedman and Peter Zeihan have predicted the disintegration of Russia some time between 2025 and 2045. This is not guaranteed, and if it happens most of the ways it can happen will be very unpleasant for a lot of people.
Putin clearly does not believe it could happen. Although Russia was at least 30 – 50 years away from any military invasion — most likely from China — Putin impulsively invaded a weak and non-threatening nation with long ethnic and spiritual ties to Russia.
Was it NATO’s fault? Only if you give Putin slave-holder rights over the people of Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Slovakia, etc. Everywhere that Putin calls Russia’s “sphere of influence” has to be ceded to Putin’s total control, under threat of nuclear war. If you can accept Putin’s claim for total control of all of Eastern and Central Europe, then you may be stupid enough to believe it is all NATO’s fault. Perhaps you should move to Russia and open your brain directly to Russian state media for a mainline infusion, 24 hours a day. You may not be up for much else.
But if your brain can handle the reality that nuclear weapons will be around forever — and thanks to Biden are expanding to Iran and other enemies of countries that embrace personal freedoms — then you have to pull yourself together and understand what Europe and the Anglosphere have been confronting ever since the USSR stole nuclear weapons technology in the 1940s. Watch the Stanley Kubrick movie Dr. Strangelove if you still don’t get that this impossible impasse has been all too real for all too long.
Russia has a bad hand in terms of its conventional military, its demographics, and its industrial economy. But it has a lot of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Putin has always believed that he could use these weapons to get whatever he wanted from Europe and the Anglosphere — if push came to shove. If Joe Biden were the only person he had to bluff, he would probably be right. Xi, at least, has Biden wrapped around his little finger.
I’m told that many of the non-Russian republics have sizeable ethnic Russian populations or identity with Russia to some degree, even if they may be dissatisfied with the arrangement. Quebec shows that having a sizeable separatist movement doesn’t always lead to separation.
Russia’s economy may collapse and its military may degrade rapidly—even from its current pre-war dilapidated corruption. But I’m not yet ready to begin expecting a Russian Federation’s dissolution.
Right. But only if they have no other choice, typically. Those populations of ethnic Russians are dying off rapidly, leaving Russia looking like a deflating balloon in many ways. Meanwhile other ethnic groups continue to procreate.
On the flip side, many ethnic Russians in the republics have been demonstrating a remarkable independence from Moscow over the past decades. When the American colonies broke away from Britain it was not because of ethnic differences. Moscow is far away from most of Russia, and shows distant citizens no respect whatsoever.
Good points. But then, even when things are inevitable they often don’t occur on what we think is a likely schedule.
Predicting anything is foolish, especially the future.