We are entering the zone of turbulence
Could you please tell us something about the measures the Russian government has taken to control the spread of the coronavirus? What is the situation in Russia like right now?
Russia has been hit by the pandemic in a relatively mild form. I can not say that the measures the government has undertaken were (or are) exceptionally good but the situation is nevertheless not as dramatic as elsewhere. From the end of March, Russia began to close its borders with the countries most affected by coronavirus. Putin then mildly suggested citizens stay home for one week in the end of March without explaining what the legal status of this voluntary measure actually was. A full lockdown followed in the region most affected by pandemic. At the first glance the measures of the government looked a bit confused: it seemed that Putin and others were not totally aware of the real danger of the coronavirus, perhaps suspecting that Western countries had some hidden agenda (political or economic). Nonetheless, reluctantly, the government has accepted the challenge and now most regions are in total lockdown.
The authorities combine mild methods of persuasion with a harder approach including serious fines on those who violate the lockdown. Sometimes this method works, sometimes it doesn’t. The Moscow authorities made a number of grave errors: despite prohibiting the mass gatherings, they organized checkpoints in the metro creating huge crowds and dangerously increasing the number of infected.
It seems that Russian government has no idea how to handle the economic situation. The Russian economy is based on the selling of natural resources, which has meant that the closure of international trade and decrease of the oil prices have caused serious damage to the Russian economy.
In domestic politics, an emergency state has not yet been declared and people suppose that the reason for such hesitation is the reluctance of authorities to accept the responsibility. However, in the meantime, small and middle-sized businesses have been almost totally destroyed. Only state workers have any level of guarantee during lockdown.
So, in spite of relatively small losses in terms of human lives, the damage inflicted by the coronavirus on Russia is massive and unprecedented. The management of this extraordinary situation by the government is far from perfect but such a situation has been common in almost all countries. China is one rare exception where the reaction of power from the very beginning of the epidemic was much more decisive, effective and convincing.
The western media and the politicians have long been blaming China for this pandemic for ridiculous reasons, claiming that “China produced the virus”, “China put out a fake death number to mislead the world” or even “China should pay compensation for their failure to deal with the virus.” We know there are also some criticisms from the West which say that “Russia has used the virus to expand its political influence.” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected all of these claims on April 14.
What do you think of such strategic motives to invoke blame worldwide? Given the situation, how do our two countries support each other and work around rumors and slander?
The pandemic has led to a number of rather strange outcomes. There are many unanswered questions, and clearly different powers around the world are trying to use the huge event changing drastically the face of the world system for their own benefit while claiming their enemies.
On one hand, many experts claim that the disease has artificial origin and was leaked (accidently or on purpose) as an act of biological warfare. Precisely in Wuhan there is allegedly one of the top biological laboratories in China. In the US, many people, including President Trump, pursue this hypothesis or suggest this is all part of the plan of a select group of globalists (like Bill Gates, Zuckerberger, George Soros and so on) to expand the deadly virus in order to impose the vaccination and eventually introduce microchips into human beings around the world. The surveillance methods already introduced to control and monitor infected people and even those who are still healthy seem to confirm such fears. There is a conspiracy theory which suggests that China has been set up as a scapegoat. We might laugh at the inconsistency of such myths and their lack of proof, but belief in such theories – especially during moments of deep crises – are easily accepted and become the basis for real actions, and could even lead to war.
The second reason to blame China is the general agreement that the epidemic started in Wuhan in Hubei province which has given rise to racist instincts deep rooted in Western societies despite all their pretensions to liberalism and human rights. The situation has fueled anti-Chinese sentiments all of which will certainly be felt in future.
In these conditions it is obvious that everybody is trying to use dramatic situations for their own profit and seeks to inscribe the pandemic in its geopolitical and ideological world vision.
Russia, however, is against blaming China, and agrees (although not officially) with the accusations that the virus originated in the US as a biological warfare experiment. Officially, Russia recognizes the natural character of infection and bat/pangolin theory, but in Russian media, many experts close to the Kremlin have faulted the Americans. Many of them are citing controversial statements of Chinese authorities accusing the US for the spread of the coronavirus.
The true damage of the pandemic is so massive that we are unlikely to fully comprehend it, especially given the widespread manipulation, fake news and conspiracy theories circulating in the media. Everything linked to the coronavirus has become increasingly biased. We have to accept this fact and try to establish our own version that corresponds to our own multipolar anti globalist and anti hegemonic strategy. In that sense, the support of Lavrov for China and the accusations against America obtain their full meaning. This is a matter of realism and the sign of geopolitical solidarity between Russia and China, both main pillars of the emerging multipolar post-globalist world.
The latest news shows that the US is going to suspend its funding to the WHO, threatening the international organization which is now playing an important role in the fight against the pandemic. This is a response to the organizations positive comments on China. Does it not seem that the series of announcements made and measures taken during the pandemic have not already revealed the fact that the so-called “responsible superpower” and “leader of the international society” the US claims to be actually no longer exists? Why exactly have they chosen China as a scapegoat?
I have explained that to some degree already in my previous answers. Here I can add only that the unipolar world is all but gone and US global domination is a thing of the past. Trump is trying to find a place for his country in a new context where China is regarded as the US’ main competitor. Furthermore, in Trump’s conspiracy theory, the WHO is a tool of globalists such as Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, George Soros and so on who represent the last traces of the previous – globalist – world order. In Trump’s mind China is accomplice in the promotion of the globalization agenda. He considers all his ideological and geopolitical enemies to be united, despite evidence to the contrary.
The US is no longer considered the “responsible superpower” by anyone. The US is now trying to impose itself as a nationalist egoistic hegemony acting in its own interest, no longer an example for the world to follow. We didn’t pay enough attention to Trump and his supporters' world vision, projecting on them an obsolete picture of the traditional unipolar system of 1900-2020. The Americans voting for Trump have decided earlier than anybody else that the US’ role as the“the leader of international society” is over: “America first” in some sense means “nobody else matters.” The pandemic has revealed with uttermost clarity and transparency how huge transformations of the world over the last fews years passed unperceived by majority.
China is certainly a scapegoat and was a scapegoat for American strategists long before the coronavirus… now, however, they have just found the perfect excuse to push this notion even further.
Many experts on international issues believe the 2020 coronavirus pandemic will become a watershed moment for world politics. What do you think of that? Does this mean that the structural problems of European countries and America disclosed during the pandemic have become a death sentence for unipolarity?
I strongly believe that coronavirus is a real “event,” or Ereignisin Heideggerian sense. This means that it is a turning point in modern history. I am sure that we are now witnessing the irreversible end of globalization and the dominance of the Western-centric liberal hegemonic ideology. The experience of spending time in fully closed societies has already changed global politics forever. It has proven the capability of Eastern societies with more or less experience in having a closed society, and proven fatal to the West. When the real (or imagined but taken for real) danger hit, almost all countries immediately and instinctively chose closure. If the world were really global, the reaction should have been the opposite. After the end of the pandemic, there will no longer be any place for open societies. We have already entered the epoch of the closed society. That doesn’t necessarily mean a return to classical nationalism and the closed trade State as was conceptualized by Fichte, but in many cases it will likely be just so. Trump’s position seems to be moving in exactly this direction. We can imagine the continuation of regional cooperation but only within a radically new frame. The main form from now on will be self-reliance, autarchy and self-sufficiency.
Structural problems will be solved in a totally new context, and the changes required are going to be so huge that it will likely provoke something close to full scale civil wars, particularly in Europe.
We are living at the end of the world we knew. It is not the end of the world as such, but certainly the end of the unipolar West-led global capitalist world system. We in Russia have experienced something like this during the fall of the USSR. But this moment included a ready made “solution”: to destroy the socialist system (judged to be inefficient) and impose a capitalist one. That was also the end of the world – of the Soviet world. Now, it is the second pole's turn to fall – the global capitalist one. In this situation, we are facing a void. Perhaps China is better prepared for this on an ideological level – conserving elements of socialist system and anti-capitalist ideology as well as the leading role of Communist party, but the changes will be so huge that will likely demand new ideological efforts from China as well. I fear that many strategic orientations scrupulously elaborated by China in recent years will need to be radically revised.
Unipolarity is certainly dead. Now is the moment of multipolarity. But nobody knows for sure what that means concretely – not even me, a person who literally wrote the book “The theory of multipolar world.” When the future comes it is still always different from all the prognoses – even those which prove to have been most correct.
Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the world after the pandemic? Do you think losing power and influence will make America choose a more aggressive method to sustain its hegemony?
I am neither optimist, nor pessimist, but rather a realist. The end of globalization and of unipolarity is good because it gives a chance to establish a much more balanced world order where different civilizations can assure their independence from the World hegemony of the West. So the end of unipolarity is the end of colonialism. This is good news. However, there is also bad news. The West is in a desperate situation as the Empire falls apart, that means that it will certainly try to save its global power – military, ideological, political and economic – by any means possible. We can not exclude the possibility of war. When the US and EU understands that they can not exploit humanity in their favor anymore, they will almost certainly fight back.
We are entering the zone of turbulence. Nothing should be regarded as taken for granted. Russia and China can gain much in the course of these changes and establish solid and effective balanced multipolarity, around the Greater Eurasia project for example. But the stakes are too high… Because everybody is at risk. The fall of unipolarity that is taking place before our eyes is comparable to the fall of Babel. It can easily lead to chaos, fall into savagery and all kinds of turmoil and conflict. We should stay strong, defending our identity and our civilizational sovereignty, looking the problematic future straight in the face.
Last but not least, China and Russia should now go their own way. We are now subjects of the world, not objects playing only minor roles in plays written by others. Many things in the future will depend on how Russia and China act in this completely new and unprecedented situation. We should fully realize: China and Russia are two pillars of the new world system and the destiny of humanity depends on our mutual understanding, support and cooperation.