Putting Aside Apocalyptic Scenarios after the Coronavirus


The novel coronavirus is testing not only the world’s economy, which has already suffered significantly, but also state-to-state relations as well as entire alliances and unions.

Autocratic states are using the pandemic to boast their success based on the heightened security measures the introduced, while many democratic states have largely failed to produce tangible results in fighting the coronavirus. Another dimension is that many leaders around the world have tried to use the pandemic as a sign of how near autocratic or tightly controlled states respond more effectively to the problem through imposing stringent measures on daily life than does a democratic state.

In an age of increased global competition among the major world and regional powers, the US, EU, China, India, Turkey, Iran and Russia, to either keep the existing global order intact or pursue exclusive spheres of influence, the pandemic poses a strong geopolitical problem.

The pandemic also complicates the relations between neighboring states. European states have yet to develop a viable strategy to help the most affected EU states. Further east, Russia and Belarus too, despite being legally bound by supra-national alliances, experience troubles in bilateral relations as the common border between the states was closed down, angering Minsk. In Iran, despite a number of drastic measures to contain the virus, the death toll continues to rise and it is not clear at present how far the epidemic is going to spread across this Middle Eastern country.

The pandemic also shows that various states, be they democratic or autocratic, small or big, wealthy or relatively poor, could fare differently. Take Georgia, which despite relatively small financial resources, has so far shown arguably one of the best practices for containing the coronavirus. In comparison, other states, bigger and much wealthier (primarily in the EU), unexpectedly proved incapable of responding to the engulfing crisis in a timely manner.

Another example could be China. Though hard hit by the crisis, the country still managed to produce some positive results: according to official statistics, Beijing minimized the death rate and has even partially called off a lockdown in the epicenter, Wuhan province.

Overall, this shows that democracies and non-democracies’ reactions to the crisis vary from case to case and the idea that purely democratic states would necessarily be better prepared for the impending crisis is misplaced. However, in the longer run, western democracies, perhaps along with China, are more likely to come up with long-term solutions to the coronavirus than other states.

At the same time, the crisis is still not guaranteed to be as long-term as it should be to upend the existing political and economic world order. Negative forecasts recently propounded by Eurosceptic analysts on the future of the EU, where states pursue a policy of closing down national borders and limiting other contact with the outside world, are overstretched, as similar measures are being employed in other entities, for example, in the Eurasian Economic Union. If the argument that the EU states’ measure of border protection is a clear sign of a return to the concept of national sovereignty and will in the long term harm the EU, then it should be also applied to the Eurasian Economic Union and other multinational economic cooperation entities.

Thus, putting aside those apocalyptic scenarios, the EU is much likely to continue operating. Moreover, it is also likely that the pre-crisis economic situation will be re-established by the end of the year or early 2021, contingent upon the fact that the virus is put to bed by September.

By Emil Avdaliani

Image source: nytimes.com

26 March 2020 17:33