Back in 2009, George Friedman wrote:
Between their geopolitical, economic, and demographic problems, the Russians have to make a fundamental shift. For a hundred years the Russians sought to modernize their country through industrialization, trying to catch up to the rest of Europe. They never managed to pull it off. Around 2000 Russia shifted its strategy. Instead of focusing on industrial development as they had in the past century, the Russians reinvented themselves as exporters of natural resources, particularly energy, but also minerals, agricultural products, lumber, and precious metals. By de-emphasizing industrial development, and emphasizing raw materials, the Russians took a very different path, one more common to countries in the developing world. But given the unexpected rise of energy and commodity prices, this move not only saved the Russian economy but also strengthened it to the point where Russia could afford to drive its own selective reindustrialization. Most important, since natural resource production is less manpower-intensive than industrial production, it gave Russia an economic base that could be sustained with a declining population. … A low-grade global confrontation will be under way by 2015 and will intensify by 2020. Neither side will risk war, but both sides will be maneuvering. By 2020 this confrontation will be the dominant global issue— and everyone will think of it as a permanent problem. The confrontation will not be as comprehensive as the first cold war. The Russians will lack the power to seize all of Eurasia, and they will not be a true global threat. They will, however, be a regional threat, and that is the context in which the United States will respond. There will be tension all along the Russian frontier, but the United States will not be able to (or need to) impose a complete cordon around Russia as it did around the Soviet Union. Given the confrontation, the European dependence on hydrocarbons, much of it derived from Russia, will become a strategic issue. The American strategy will be to de-emphasize the focus on hydrocarbon energy sources. This will kick into high gear the American interest in developing alternative sources of energy. Russia, as before, will focus on its existing industries rather than on the development of new ones. That will mean increased oil and natural gas production rather than new energy sources. As a result, Russia is not going to be in the forefront of the technological developments that will dominate the later portions of the century. … By the middle of the 2010s, the United States will again be obsessed with Russia. … The causes that ignited this confrontation— and the Cold War before it— will impose the same outcome as the Cold War, this time with less effort for the United States. The last confrontation occurred in Central Europe. This one will take place much farther to the east. In the last confrontation China was an ally of Russia, at least in the beginning. In this case China will be out of the game. Last time, Russia was in complete control of the Caucasus, but now it will not be, and it will be facing American and Turkish pressure northward. In the last confrontation Russia had a large population, but this time around it has a smaller and declining population. Internal pressure, particularly in the south, will divert Russian attention from the west and eventually, without war, it will break. Russia broke in 1917, and again in 1991. And the country’s military will collapse once more shortly after 2020. … The second collapse of Russia will appear to open the door to a golden age for the United States. But a massive internal economic crisis caused by a shortage of labor will emerge just as the confrontation with Russia is ending. … The collapse of Russia in the early 2020s will leave Eurasia as a whole in chaos. The Russian Federation itself will crack open as Moscow’s grip shatters. Regions, perhaps even the thinly populated Pacific region, will break away, its interests in the Pacific Basin far outweighing its interest in or connection to Russia proper. Chechnya and the other Muslim regions will break off. Karelia, with close ties to Scandinavia, will secede. Such disintegration will not be confined to Russia. Other countries of the former Soviet Union will fragment as well. The burdens imposed by Moscow will be entirely unsustainable. Where previously the collapse of the Soviet Union led to oligarchs controlling the Russian economy, the collapse of the 2020s will lead to regional leaders going their own way. This disintegration will take place during a period of Chinese regionalism. China’s economic crisis will kick off a regional phase in Chinese history that, during the 2020s, will intensify. The Eurasian landmass east of the Carpathians will become disorganized and chaotic as regions struggle for local political and economic advantage, with uncertain borders and shifting alliances. In fact, fragmentation on both sides of the Chinese border, from Kazakhstan to the Pacific, will start to render the boundaries meaningless. From the United States’ point of view, this will represent a superb outcome. … First, Japan will be in a position to exploit opportunities in the Russian maritime region and in eastern China. Second, Turkey will be in a position to press northward into the Caucasus and potentially beyond. Finally, an alliance of Eastern European countries, led by Poland, and including the Baltic states, Hungary, and Romania, together will regard this as an opportunity not only to return to older borders but also to protect themselves against any future Russian state. … Therefore, with Russia fragmenting, it would seem to make a great deal of sense for the Japanese to seek, at the very least, economic control over Pacific Russia. Japan will respond whenever its access to raw materials is threatened. ...
By the 2020s, Japan will be facing energy problems and a continued dependence on the Persian Gulf, which in turn would mean being entangled with the United States. Given American hubris after the second fall of Russia, Japan, like the rest of the world, will be increasingly uneasy about America’s next move. Therefore, with Russia fragmenting, it would seem to make a great deal of sense for the Japanese to seek, at the very least, economic control over Pacific Russia. Japan will respond whenever its access to raw materials is threatened.
Friedman, George. The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (pp. 104-105, 117-121, 136- 140). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.