Blast From The Past: What Andrew Miller Predicted About Russia In 2000

This guy Andrew Miller used to be The Economist’s Moscow correspondent. This is his prediction from 2000. I also imagine he’d get on splendidly with K.F./Keif. No further comment is necessary. (h/t Patrick Armstrong)

JRL 4331
From: “andrew miller”
Subject: The Gathering Storm
Date: Sun, 28 May 2000

Topic: The Gathering Storm

Title: The Oblast of Russia?

… New predictions: Vladimir Putin will not leave power in 2004 or 2008 no matter the results of any election. He will die in office like Brezhnev unless he is ousted like Krushchev in favor of someone like Brezhnev. Within five years, there will be no independent media in Russia (as if there is any now, but according to a recent New York Times editorial in the JRL, there is, so I guess there must be; just wish The Times had told me which kiosk to look in…) Within five years, Russia will absorb Belarus and Georgia (a revised constitution will eliminate the two-term limit for presidents; even if this is not done, Russians will reelect, as that term will come to be defined, Putin as many times as he likes notwithstanding the constitution). Russia will not allow Ukraine to join NATO or the EU and may, within 10 years, forcibly reincorporate Ukraine into the Russia fold if it can substantially improve its military during that time, which it will be able to do only should Western or Asian nations resume lending it piles of cash. In any case, it will do anything it can to prevent such a thing.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a ptitsa! It’s a MiG! No, it’s supergubernator! Within five years, the new supergovernors will have consolidated their power and obliterated the existing concept of federalsim. Within ten years, the supergovernors will have themselves been consolidated into a single new oblast, called Russia. Putin, of course, had been planning to implement his super-governor regime for quite some time (or at least one hopes it was not spontaneous). Yet, he did not mention it during his campaign for president. Conveniently, nobody asked him about it then, and nobody is saying anything now.

According to what passes for logic in the Kremlin now, telling the people what you plan for the future, debates, political advertising, these are all dirty aspects of what might be called capitalist propaganda in politics, aspects which from which Putin has bravely managed to free a grateful nation.

Within twenty years, Russia will make Yugoslavia today look like paradise lost…

Andrew Miller
St. Petersburg, Russia

Well, I guess he’s still marginally better than our other star from The Economist, our good friend Edward Lucas, who in 1998 predicted that “Russian rouble would collapse to 10,000/$, the economy would contract by at least 25%,the Communist hordes would sweep through Moscow taking the Kremlin, as the RussianFederation – held together with string and sticky-tape – broke up into four nuclear-armed, mutually antagonistic sovereign mini-states.” When that didn’t pan out he started writing fantasy short stories about the Dark Lord Putin and Mordor-Russia.

Now I may not have been the best Russia forecaster in the past 5 years, notching up failures (Putin 2012) as well as successes (everything on demography). Nonetheless I have yet to be as wildly, maniacally wrong as The Economist’s two star Russia journalists and would like to think that if I ever am I will at least have the integrity to give up on this whole Russia watching thing.

Then again unlike most Western journalists I don’t live by the motto, “Russia is a country that no matter what you say about it, it is true.”


  1. Scowspi says:

    Funny stuff. Also worth a look in this genre is Jeffrey Tayler’s 2001 Atlantic article, “Russia Is Finished,” which said the Russia of the future would be “Zaire with permafrost.”

    • Was it 2001 or 2003? I remember some masterpiece of demented wishful thinking in the Atlantic around that time. It was as if the article was written in 1998 during the worst point of the GKO meltdown and only printed years later. It was bizarre in its utter detachment from reality. Russia’s industrial growth in 1999 was 11% and in 2000 it was 10% which was also the GDP growth figure. There was no indication of progressive collapse in Russia whatsoever. After 1998 there was a massive rebound.

  2. Typical western media infantile “create reality by wishing for it” tripe. They can’t write anything positive about Russia. At the same time that the claim it is a 3rd world country with no economy to speak of, they actually treat it like a serious threat. Why give this “Zaire” so much attention? Does Zaire get any attention? I haven’t seen Zaire mentioned in any stories in years.

    • What positive they could write about Russia? Stop whining and do it yourself. It is hard I tell you. In a way this blog proves it: Karlin is not writing so many positive things about Russia. Rather he is reacting to western news and trying to prove that Russia really really really doesn’t suck so much.

      Zaire doesn’t get much publicity these days because she doesn’t exsist anymore.

  3. Prestigious shitheads, prestigious shitheads everywhere. No wonder this kind of thing made Matt Taibbi start hurling horse semen-filled pies at people.

  4. In my real life I work for an investment consultant company. It would be a professional suicide to produce predictions that have non-computable probability from historical data. I know one day I will be wrong, a black swan catches me Когда закончится нефть (not as a resource but as a fuel for putinism), and I have to find my paycheck somewhere else.

    So no, although I’m sure I would get on splendidly with Mr. Miller, his predictions are not mine. On the hindsight his predictions were actually not that bad: Putin has not left power, there is no independent media to speak of, Russia did try to absorb Georgia but failed partially, Russia is a federation only on paper.

    Was it in the year 2000 when Putin predicted (promised) that Russia would reach the standard of living of Portugal within a decade? Oops, didn’t happen. If the standard of living is based on HDI, historical data tells me it is never going to happen. If it is based on average GDP growth, it is not going to happen during my career.

    • (1) Independent media – already covered. If you do not consider the likes of Echo or REN to be independent, then I don’t know what would satisfy you. Maybe the terrorist Kavkaz Center? It isn’t blocked in Russia. I recall there being beheading videos so you’ll probably want to add it to your porn bookmarks.

      (2) Re-Georgia. Why on earth whould Russia try to absorb that dump?Though had it actually wanted to in 2008 it could have, easily.

      (3) Based on GDP. And in fact a look at the data will show that since GDP (PPP) per capita in 2000 was $6.8k in Russia and $17.4k in Portugal, Russia needed to have gained on Portugal at a rate of 10% a year to match it which isn’t realistic. In this sense “catching up” with Portugal appears in a decade to have been in the style of a 5 Year Plan target (overambitious and unachievable) but without the planning. However as of 2010 these figures were 15.7k and $23.3k, respectively, which is a respectable gain. In other words Russia went from 40% of Portugal’s level in 2000 to 70% in 2010 (or more like 80% if going by OECD or WB statistics). These figures seem to be in line with consumption indicators like car purchases and Internet penetration.

      • Scowspi says:

        The “Portugal trope” is an interesting example of how things get garbled in the media. Putin made his statement about “catching up with Portugal” around 2000. For some reason, this was taken by some people to mean that Russia’s economy was the size of Portugal’s, and I began to see this stated in various articles. As late as 2008, I read an article claiming that Russia shouldn’t be taken seriously because its economy was only the size of Portugal’s. By that time, the Russian economy was something like 4-5x the size of Portugal’s.

      • (1) Press freedom is on the March in Russia:

        (2) If Georgia is a dump, and (i) dumbness is defined like you define it in your posting and (ii) beeing non-dump is reason for exclusion from the paradise that is Russia, then why Russia is not excreting North Caucasus Federal District?

        Russia wanted to hang Saakashvili by the balls. Dared not. Chickens.

        (3) If GDP per capita is the measure of the quality of life, then why UN bothers with HDI? Because GDP per capita is a bad measure. If it is not, then I can conclude that Equatorial Guinea from Africa has a better quality of life than Russia.

        • (1) Agreed. Russia is far too lenient to its Muslim radicals, though Europe still takes the cake in that regard.

          (3) So now that you’ve been forced to confront facts on the GDP thing, you switch tack and say it is unimportant now. How typical.

          • GDP per capita is a bad measure for quality of life. But a great measure for gross domestic product at purchasing power parity per capita. HDI is a good attempt to measure quality of life as is Legatum’s prosperity index. Like I said in GDP per capita Russia loses to Equatorial Guinea, in HDI to Panama (and Mexico), in PI to Jamaica (and Mexico). I don’t need a tack change, but you seem to need alternative measurements and contrarian analysis.

            • Dear lord, you know not what you blabber about.

              Please illustrate what could have stopped Russia from taking out Saakasvhilli if it so wanted to? The illustrious Georgian armed forces, who ran in disorganized retreat?

              I am sorry to ruin your expatacations, but Russia is not the US, and does not occupy entire nations and kill their leaders, in this century. Nothing to do with capability.

              • What could have stopped Russia? That is a hypothetical question in a parallel universe.

                Russia was stopped taking out Saakasvhilli by the international community. If that wouldn’t have happened, Russian elite would have been deprived from their mansions in French Riviera, shopping trips to New York, football clubs in England, skiing lodges in the Alps*. That is what stopped Russia.

                (*) You do know that unlike you Russian elite does not holiday in Turkey or in Egypt, don’t you?

              • Correction: The rich holiday in the French Riviera, London, and the Alps, regardless of political ideology. For reasons that should be obvious any blanket ban on “Russian elites” would hurt the likes of Prokhorov more than the likes of Sechin.

                In fact, from my own experience, I’d say the vast majority of Londongraders are dirty liberals. An observation which is in fact confirmed by their voting patterns.

              • lol, predictable attack with no proof.
                I vacation in Paris, somewhere you and your entire family probably couldn’t afford to go to, but hey, that’s another story.

                Russia stopped its attack on Georgia when its objectives were accomplished. Why don’t you bring some proof that the international community did ANYTHING to change the Russian military maneuvers?
                Since, you know, the Russian army ended major combat maneuvers well before anyone could do anything about it.

                Your delusions about Russian elite and the 8-8-8 war are about as accurate as the rest of your blabbering.

  5. The single thing I find most remarkable about the sort of prophetic insights made about Russia of the sort we see in this article is that nothing is ever learnt from their failure. I don’t remember a time in recent years when anything predicted by the western liberal consensus about Russia has actually come to pass. Thus is in the late 1970s the possibility of serious reform was entirely discounted with predictions the USSR would instead try to “muddle through. The changes of the Gorbachev era of the 1980s were then discounted as mere window dressing that were changing nothing. The policies of the Yeltsin era of the early 1990s by contrast were going to transform Russia into a western style neo capitalist liberal paradise. The failure of those policies in the late 1990s was then going to cause the apocalypse. The stabilisation and recovery of the 2000s was going to lead to dictatorship. And so and so forth.

    The event that first got me blogging was a ludicrous lecture I attended last summer by the former BBC Moscow journalist Martin Sixsmith in which he said that Russia was once more an autocracy. That lecture was given a few months before a parliamentary election in which the government party suffered a significant loss of support. Some autocracy! This was followed by a series of demonstrations which the western commentariat excitedly predicted would lead to a political crisis leading to the eventual fall of the government. Right on cue that failed to happen.

    Along the way there have been more specific predictions that have turned out to be equally wrong sometimes bizarrely so. Thus at the end of the 1970s the CIA predicted that the USSR would by the mid 1980s become a net energy importer (!). I remember reading predictions throughout the 1970s and 1980s that the country would run out of food and would soon face famine conditions. It is now a food exporter. There was going to be an AIDS epidemic of African dimensions. We are still waiting for it. Most recently we have had the predictions (brilliantly discussed and refuted by Anatoly in his blog) that the country would become depopulated as its population died out.

    Given this consistent failure on the part of the majority of the west’s Russia watchers to get Russia even slightly right one might have supposed that there would by now be serious doubts about their competence and about the basic assumptions about the country that they make. Nothing of the sort it seems.

    • What about (how come that phrase sound so familiar?) Igor Panarin and the father of all mispredictions? The dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s academy (!) for future diplomats, Doctor of Political Sciences, KGB/FSB analyst and a regular Kremlin visitor was prophesying for a decade that the Unitied States will fall apart by 2010, dollar as His prediction was a regular feature all over the state media and also Russia Today.

      Panarin is not just any “US watcher” or “expert in a thinktank ivory tower” but a respected and influental policy maker. Though obviously only in Russia. One might have supposed that there would by now be serious doubts about the competence and about the basic assumptions about the country that this man and all institutions his represents make. Nothing of the sort it seems.

      • But there are plenty of people in Russia who write articles and make commentaries that take a completely different view of the US from Panarin. There is a substantial and very noisy pro American constituency in Russia. There are academic insitutions such as the Higher School of Economics where the prevailing assumptions are also pro American. There is no such pro Russian constituency and no such institutions in the US or the UK for that matter. The field instead is dominated by analysts and media pundits who are as antagonistic to Russia as they are consistently wrong about it.

        • There are academic insitutions such as the Higher School of Economics where the prevailing assumptions are also pro American.

          Could you amplify a bit? An example or two of those evil “prevailing assumptions” will do, thank you in advance.

        • Why oh why the world is so unfair! But seriously, why should there be a pro Russian constituency? Putinism simply is not a very attractive system of government. Would you really like your own country to governed like Russia?

          • What I took from Alexander’s post is that it isn’t about it being unfair, but oddly unbalanced. One can easily find pro- and anti-American personalities (and those who aren’t bothered one way or the other) in many countries. Their degree of pro- or anti-Americanism will vary (and sometimes persons can swing between both), but you can generally find them. So it shouldn’t be unexpected that someone like Igor Panarin is around. But in the West, or more specifically in the United States and Britain it is like you have Igor Panarin-lite figures basically running the show as opposed to visiting Washington. After all Obama’s opponent in 2008 was McCain, the same one who (if he had his way) would probably have lead the world into World War III over some limited conflict in a tiny country in the Caucasus and who sings ditties about bombing Iran.

          • Putinism, whatever that is, did not create the system that before he came to power was the worst kleptocracy in history that he inherited he just stopped Russia’s engineered collapse and the most obnoxious of the Oligarchs Berezovsky, Guisinky and Berezovsky who controlled all the mass media in Russia and fled with there ill gotten loot to Britain, Israel and Europe. .

          • Sure. Putinism was a rather inevitable (in retrospect) development after 1998; even Nemtsov was talking of the necessity of recentralization and reinstating state authority back then. Now that the old Putinist model has run its course, it is now morphing into something more technocratic and pluralist.

            This shows a consistent ability to get things done as well as flexibility. Overall by almost any objective measure “Putinism” has been a roaring success.

            There are several major reasons why there is no pro-Russian constituency. First, Russia is a truly sovereign nation, that doesn’t kowtow to Washington, which is anathema to Western elites. (Back in the 60’s the West had the same issue with De Gaulle). Hence the propaganda campaign against it. Second, Russia’s lobbying efforts are truly miserable, in comparison with the Israelis (who perfected the art, granted, helped immeasurably by a politicized diaspora), the Armenians and Georgians, arguably even the Chinese. Now that is a valid failing of Russia and something that needs more work on.

    • “The failure of those policies in the late 1990s was then going to cause the apocalypse”

      Just very recently I saw a “documentary” in Russian TV which argued that failure of pro Western policies in the late 1990s was going to cause the apocalypse, but then Vladimir Vladimirovich was sent to Russia by God to help it deal with it and Russia was saved and rose from her knees*. So who, in your opinion, is wrong here?

      *) I think nowadays Russia is doing pretty much the same thing as in the 90s but this time she is just bending over.

  6. In which publication did Andrew Miller make that prediction back in 2000? Was it the Economist or some other publication before he joined the Economist?

    • He send it to Johnson’s Russia List, which is a resource for Russia watchers. You can read their newsletter here or sign up for them.

  7. … would like to think that if I ever am I will at least have the integrity to give up on this whole Russia watching thing.

    That’s ironic coming from the author of this pitiful abortion of an article.

    • Whatever. It was a trifling semantic issue, not a conceptual error. Certainly nowhere near on the same scale as this codswallop by Stephen Sestanovich, who is a professor at Columbia… who in his turn is infinitely better than Luke “You’re A Kremlin Troll” Harding, Ed “Russia Is Mordor” Lucas, Miriam “I Lost My Drycleaning Ticket So Blame Putin” Elder, and 90%+ of other Western Russia journalists.

      • It was a trifling semantic issue…

        Oh no, not again. If you haven’t got it by now, you never will.

        • No, why don’t you carry on from here?

          • You cannot be this obtuse, can you? I pointed out right there in the follow-up comment that you forgot to take into account the likely market exchange rate change and never got a reply.

  8. Overall by almost any objective measure “Putinism” has been a roaring success.

    In terms of your favorite metric (GDP per capita, PPP, constant 2005 international $, World Bank) Putin’s Russia has spent a decade trying to shake off Turkey and catch up with Poland — but hasn’t quite succeeded despite a sizable boost from oil prices. How’s that “a roaring success”?

    • According to the WB/OECD figures for 2010, in current international dollars, Poland and Russia have about the same GDP/c, PPP (after revisions in 2011).

      But regardless, Russia did overtake Latvia, Brazil, Turkey, Mexico, Chile, Malaysia, and drew level with Argentina.

    • Poland may not have oil prices boost but receives EU subsidies (she’s the biggest recipient) since 2004… Poland also has people working in EU snending money home. Not sure about the number now but around two million immigrated. But true that Polish productivity is much better than Russian – someting at 40-45% of US productivity whereas Russian is 20-25%. But then Poland has higher unemployment… Also Poland deson’t have many problems specific to Russia (size, war is Caucasus etc). and is ideally geographically placed to be a trade hub – Russia is periphery…

  9. Boy oh boy this K.F. user is a sure treat, the Russia I have been working in for the past 5 years is a lot different to the one he speaks of and I am not even Russian.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      Agree! And so is the Russia I have been living in for almost 20 years. Also, the Russia I have lived in since 2000 is a lot different from the one I lived in from 1993 to 1999. And I’m not Russian as well, but Luke Harding thinks I receive an FSB pay check.

  10. “The event that first got me blogging was a ludicrous lecture I attended last summer by the former BBC Moscow journalist Martin Sixsmith in which he said that Russia was once more an autocracy. That lecture was given a few months before a parliamentary election in which the government party suffered a significant loss of support. Some autocracy! This was followed by a series of demonstrations which the western commentariat excitedly predicted would lead to a political crisis leading to the eventual fall of the government. Right on cue that failed to happen.”

    For a second I thought Alexander was referring to Martin Cruz Smith, author of the Gorkiy Park series of novels that somehow got stuck in a weird combo of the Brezhev era and the early 1990s even though they make plain references to Putin as President. I watched a 2010 YouTube video interview of him with his German book publisher Bertelsmann, with an entirely English speaking crowd (not sure which German city the event was in) and he talked about packs and packs of homeless children roaming downtown Moscow and ethnic Russian gangs fighting ethnic Caucasian gangs in downtown underpasses. Now he wasn’t precise as to his dates but even in the 1990s (maybe early 1990s) I don’t think that was going on after talking to many Muscovites. And there certainly wasn’t any of that in downtown Moscow in the past six years that I’ve been going, despite the fact that homeless children do exist in other major Russian cities.

    The sad part is that Cruz Smith maybe got some details right back in the Soviet era but got stuck sometime in 1978-79 or at least pre-Perestroika in his characterization of all Russians.

    I agree with Anatoly, KF is quite useful to have around. He draws a very noticeable contrast between Anatoly’s sarcastic tolerance and how certain liberast blogs (Streetwise Professor, cough cough) deal with disagreeable commenters (I’ve quit Twitter in disgust over getting pinged by these people, replying, and then getting banned on the basis of ‘aggressive following’ while these twits spam the likes of Henry Blodget all day long with impunity — if I were Henry or any of the other innumerable folks spammed by LibertyLynx’s 45,000 tweets and counting, I would’ve referred them to Twitter’s ban hammer a long time ago). And bloody ironic as hell too how they love to joke about FEMA camps and California enviro cops snooping on them while denouncing tin-foil hatters as Kremlin tools and useful idiots. For people who seem so antagonistic towards conspiracy theorists they sure do seem up to speed on the latest from brother Alex Jones or Coast to Coast AM, as if it were their job to debunk such people…hmmm….they also denounce the leading euroskeptics, or at least the ones who appear on RT, despite them being about eight to twelve years ahead of them on the doom of the common European currency. Oh well, liberast hypocrisy is a bottomless pit.

    • It’s a conspiracy theory if it offends one’s sensibilities but it’s God’s Holy Truth (TM) if it bolsters one’s views. I see this systematically in the media when it comes to coverage of the west vs. everyone else.

    • Moscow Exile says:

      The noticeable presence of homeless children in Moscow took place when darling of the West Boris the Drunk had most of the state-run childrens’ homes closed in the ’90s. I presume that because state run orphanages are non-profit organizations, then they were anaethema to Yeltsin’s “advisors”. According to police reports at the time, most of the kids, who could be seen hanging around the metro stations, were from the provinces. The police faced a problem with these homeless children because they were not committing an offence and could not be arrested or told to move on. The police could and did, however, send the out-of-towners home.

      As regards the packs of wild dogs in Moscow, their presence has noticeably diminished in recent years. In my district of Moscow there was one particularly
      aggressive pack that vanished a few years ago as a result of the implementation
      of Moscow city plicy as regards controlling these feral dogs. Likewise at the mainline railway station that I use to get the electric train into the country: until a few years ago there used to be a very large pack of wild dogs there.

      I blame the babushki! They are always feeding feral dogs and cats with pies and sausage.

  11. “Poland may not have oil prices boost but receives EU subsidies (she’s the biggest recipient) since 2004… Poland also has people working in EU snending money home. Not sure about the number now but around two million immigrated.” Mexico also gets subsidized not only by massive drug profits laundered through U.S. banks but also tens of billions in wire transfers sent home by Mexicans working in the U.S. whether legally or illegally and sharing households with those eligible for taxpayer benefits (not to mention all the free health care at overburdened ERs all over the U.S.)

  12. Seems Andrew Miller predicted power vertical, Putin not leaving power, allience with Belarus – but he went wild with “forcibly re-incorporte Ukraine into Russia.” As usually when people make “scenarios” for Russia, Russia manages not to follow any clear cut scenario but rather incorporate bits and pieces from every one of them.

  13. Leon Lentz says:

    US educational system and the media promote idiocracy, i.e. anti intellectualism, continued lowering standards and stigmatizing intelligence. Even intelligent people in US, as if there were any left, do not understand even relatively sophisticated arguments because they do not expect to hear them on TV or radio. That’s why, for example, the idea FSB used Polonium to poison Litvinenko could fly in US and UK (US lapdogs are no better than the master). FSB apparently chose the most idiotic method of killing somebody, the only one which is traceable back to them by a simple Geiger counter.

    This also explains why the CIA World Book of Facts lists Russian population barely at 138mln but calculates its per capita GDP as $16,700 based on roughly 143 mln population figure. Indeed, if you divide two figures given by the CIA, the $2.38 trillion as the total GDP by $16,700- as the per capita GDP, you will get 142.514 mln for the Russian population, a whooping 4.5 mln more than the 138 mln listed in the same CIA article. Actually, If one multiplies $16,700 by 143 mln, one would get $2.388 trillion which is very slightly less than the CIA listed $2.38 trillion number. I suspect, that the spy agency just cut the corners, rounding the correct figure off to $2.38 trillion.
    The conclusion is CIA calculates Russian GDP per capita based on roughly 143mln population or (142.514mln to be precise) which gives a conveniently lower figure for the GDP per capita, but lists that population at 138mln nevertheless. In other words, CIA doesn’t believe its own lies, but expects you to.

    On June 9, 2012 Huffington Post has reported that according to a Gallup/Harris poll, a full 37 percent of American citizens are incapable of identifying their home country on a map of the United States. What a fertile ground for a primitive propaganda!