How the coronavirus epidemic will change global society and world politics


The COVID-19 pandemic divided people into two camps. Some paint a “wonderful new world” with improved ecology and an enlightened society, while others are afraid of new outbreaks of coronavirus and the extension of “house arrest”.

Meanwhile, fear is not so much of the epidemic itself, but its consequences in the form of a global economic crisis, said Ivan Timofeev, program director of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs.

The economic shock of widespread quarantine is inevitable. The expert told what could be the reaction of the international community to the upcoming changes, and what else to expect from the quarantine world.

- How will the coronavirus epidemic change the current socio-economic structure?

- Much will depend on how long the epidemic itself and the quarantine measures taken by the authorities last. The longer all this lasts, the, of course, there will be more incentives to actively introduce management and communication technologies that allow people to work remotely.

In principle, we are already observing this. Moreover, these technologies are not new in themselves, but the current epidemic is stimulating us to use them more actively. I do not exclude that we will come to a wider distribution of work on a remote site. Moreover, the epidemic will be accompanied by a serious economic crisis. The business will suffer, and, for sure, the remote form of work will be one of the means to reduce costs.

-And in Russia too?

In Russia, business is already quite widely using such technologies, especially in the private sector, and is quickly moving to a new form of work. The public sector too. See how quickly universities switched to distance learning. Moreover, the processes are taking place not only in metropolitan universities, but also in regional ones, the educational process continues everywhere. It is clear that the university is one thing, but, for example, a defense enterprise or coal mining is another, because it is impossible to remotely mine coal or smel metal. But in these areas there are a number of departments that can be transferred to remote work.

- How will society perceive such changes? Will it become more adaptive?

- Depends on society - someone quickly adapts to new realities, someone slower. But if circumstances make you change, you have to change. The question is how business and individual sectors of the economy will adapt. In the end, how states will help their economies during a crisis is the main question. We are faced with the task of adapting not only to the epidemic, but also to the economic crisis, including a possible credit crisis. He will be serious and adapt to it will be much more difficult.

- Will there be an increase in the role of religion in public life against the backdrop of future difficulties?

- Of course, any critical situation increases the demand for the institution of the church, but I do not think that strengthening the role of religion will be fundamental. Now the situation is not so acute as to radically change the position of the church in public preferences.

- Is xenophobia possible due to the spread of coronavirus?

- Bursts of xenophobic sentiment, of course, are possible. Unfortunately, similar episodic moments are already taking place. Nevertheless, serious xenophobia arises where there is a direct conflict between ethnic groups for one reason or another. And in the case of Covid, the cause of the problem is different. I do not think that it will become a powerful trigger for the growth of xenophobic sentiments in society.

- What about the isolationism of states?

- Isolationism is now determined by quite objective reasons, but I think there will be a counter-trend. Look at the statements by US President Donald Trump that America cannot remain closed for long. Still, the global economy is based on openness, and the sooner this openness is established, the faster the economy will recover. Meanwhile, much will depend on the duration of the epidemic. It is one thing for several months, and quite another thing for a year or longer.

- Could there be a strengthening of nation states?

- This has already happened, this is already a trend. The epidemic once again confirms that there is simply no alternative to the national state in solving existing problems such as this. Neither transnational corporations, nor international organizations, nor even military-political unions can replace national states.

Moreover, the interaction in the logic of “state-state” is now more effective than the interaction of countries through international organizations. The fact is that states adapt to the new environment faster than international organizations. For example, Russia promptly provided assistance to Italy through the Ministry of Defense, although NATO could also provide similar assistance. But the North Atlantic Alliance did not, and Russia did.

- Could it be so that all international organizations are unable to cope with the crisis?

- At the moment, the World Health Organization has turned out to be the most suitable among organizations. And even then, not in terms of any specific measures, WHO simply does not have the authority to force anyone to do anything. But in terms of information, the organization had a good effect on curbing the spread of the epidemic. Although, I repeat, in the implementation of measures to counter the threat of WHO can not replace any state, even the weakest.

- Will the threat of coronavirus lead to an increase in populism? For example, in Europe.

- Populism, propaganda - all this, in my opinion, will remain. Coronavirus will be just another reason to update some theses. On the one hand, populism will appear associated with the epidemic itself. On the other hand, the emphasis will change. For example, in Europe, Euro skeptics may become more active criticizing the European Union. Now the EU does not show itself as an institution capable of helping countries overcome a new crisis. In the future, much will depend on how European authorities respond to the new challenge, because now this reaction is weak. But the growth of populism in Europe itself will directly depend on how successfully existing cabinets operate in European capitals. If these governments fail, then of course populists will have more chances to increase their electorate.

- About the future of election campaigns. Can coronavirus contribute to the widespread adoption of electronic voting?

“I don't think so.” Election companies and elections will most likely simply be delayed. We will not live forever with Kovid, I hope. Therefore, now the option is rather to postpone the vote than to introduce something so expensive and incomprehensible. Although e-voting itself is already gaining in popularity, the future lies with it. This trend is already underway. I don’t think that Kovid will accelerate it sharply, but he will raise the question.