Think Tank project: Valdai Discussion Club & Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI). Programme: Global Democracy and International Governance

The world that we will see as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will be the same, and the scale of changes in the military-political field will be significantly less significant than it seems to many now, writes Andrey Sushentsov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club. The article is published as part of the Valdai Club’s Think Tank project in partnership with Argentine Council for International Relations (CARI)

Many commentators and experts have shared their observations on how the novel coronavirus pandemic will profoundly and radically change world politics and the international economy. However, there is growing evidence that the crisis will not change the foundations of the world order. Rather, it will have the effect of a new, superficial external shock that will be felt for a limited period of time. Even now, we can say that the most developed regions of the world turned out to be the most vulnerable to the crisis, while the less prosperous and more restive parts of the planet live at their usual pace and mode.

The closest analogue to the coronavirus pandemic was the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918. This was one of the deadliest mass diseases of recent centuries, which in a short period of time took the lives of several tens of millions of people. The total number of deaths from influenza was comparable to the number of deaths from all hostilities during the First World War. And although world literature has documented the “Spanish flu” pandemic — for example, in Thomas Wolfe’s autobiographical novel, Look Homeward, Angel, or in Veniamin Kaverin’s novel Two Captains, it remained a relatively small episode in the memories of contemporaries who viewed it in the shadow of the events of World War I. The world war, collapse of the monarchies, civil wars and mass migration on the continent continued as usual, without looking back at the raging pandemic.

A century later, the world, thank God, does not experience anything comparable in scale to the catastrophes of the beginning of the 20th century. Tens of millions of people do not die premature deaths every year. The world is stable, safe and well fed. The limit of danger for most is a temporary change in lifestyle that does not threaten survival. In many respects, those who call what is happening “a crisis of well-fed times” are right. In most countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the mortality curve in 2020 is almost the same as it was amid a calmer 2019. The main damage for the majority is not the risk of loss of life, but the inability to visit your favourite resorts in the summer or the need to endure the household, not being able to walk freely or go to work. Some even complain that due to the increased Internet bandwidth traffic, it is not possible to watch movies in 4K quality – and people are forced to watch movies in HD. Truly a disaster.

In this situation, it is especially obvious how spoiled our society and citizens are, and how demanding they are to the state, how keenly they want their usual lives to return as soon as possible – even if this leads to the risk of infecting more people.

But essentially the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic does not fundamentally change the parameters of our lives. It acts only as a catalyst, an accelerator of current processes. Those that showed a tendency to acceleration, increase it, as well as those that testified to the crisis. Obviously, the pandemic did not lead to changes in the dynamics of military and political conflicts.

Clashes between government forces and armed opposition groups and terrorists continue in Syria. In Karabakh, the shootings that kill people do not stop. Amid the Ukrainian crisis, changes influenced by the pandemic are also almost not noticeable, and the episodic shelling of the warring parties’ positions continues. US military and political pressure on Venezuela and Cuba is not weakening, even during the pandemic. Western countries have no intention of loosening or lifting sanctions, although such an appeal was made by UN Secretary General António Guterres. There is still a deep crisis in US-Iranian relations, threatening to escalate. The US has threatened to increase military-political pressure on the leadership in Tehran.

In these and other situations, where the military-political dynamics are especially relevant, the pandemic has no effect and does not matter much. The military budgets of most countries will be the last to be sequestered. The world will continue to be preparing for a worse turn of events that those seen in WWI.

The observations of many analysts are connected with the fact that the key consequence of the coronavirus pandemic will be the strategic rise of China. The supposedly quick and effective response of the Chinese leadership to the spread of the disease makes China a world leader. However, in parallel with this, a wave of criticism and threats of sanctions coming from the West for concealing information about the development of the disease is coming. There are even attempts to accuse China of spreading the pandemic, and some overzealous authorities have even lodged charges alleging the unintentional killing of their citizens or political leaders. In this situation, we see an increase in the trend that was observed on the eve of the pandemic – an increase of strategic pressure from the United States and individual Western countries on the leadership of China.

The development of the situation surrounding Russia won’t be new either. The hope that sanctions against our country will be lifted or eased by the West is unlikely to be justified. The world that we will see as a result of the coronavirus pandemic will be the same, and the scale of changes in the military-political field will be significantly less significant than it seems to many now.

De libre uso con mención de la fuente