“Our fragile world rocked like bridge before him marched the soldiers entered, the virus COVID-19”. This simile virus with creatures I found in the recently released in the “Bulletin of the Institute of Europe” article of Russian historian and political scientist, Director of the Institute of Europe RAS, corresponding member of RAS Alexey GROMYKO. That was preceded by a pandemic? What is the virus as a phenomenon, from the perspective of political science? Don’t pay whether we are fighting with him, desperate isolation, a higher price due to multiple “side effects”? We discussed with the author.
— Alexey, can you briefly describe the state of the “perfect storm”, which already was our world before the coming of the COVID-19?
— The situation in the beginning of 2020, even before the pandemic was a disturbing picture. Already expected slowdown in the global economy and all the major “national” engines, collapsed agreement, “OPEC”, the European Union has left Britain, reached its climax impeachment of Donald trump… against this background, many countries and even whole regions continued military action. And suddenly — pandemic… Which, like a curtain, like closed from all of us a diverse palette of international life. “Under the guise” of a pandemic, different States can solve their problems, not related to health care. At the same time, virus displays many world problems.
— Really smart people who rule the countries, did not see the approaching global crisis?
— The world has gone through many crises. And almost always they occurred, not because someone wanted to do worse and others, and yourself. Hitler didn’t started the Second world war, to poison in his bunker in April 1945. Just certain players trying to achieve their goals, regardless of others. Policy, despite the experience, not always able to calculate the negativity of their actions. When in 2019, the tramp came out of a nuclear deal with Iran, he believed that the US is the right decision. And Russia, the EU and China considered such a step is wrong. And how to decide what is right? You need to carefully listen to experts, scientists, and analysts who really understands a particular issue. Then, against the same Iran it will become clear that Washington made a big mistake, complicating the lives of not only Iran and Europe, but also yourself.
— Tell us what it’s like pandemic coronavirus? It is still a natural phenomenon or is it more reminiscent of the deliberate, man-made? And how do we treat it?
While we can only speculate where it came from COVID-19. Have more chances of natural version. But this does not mean that there can be other, without having to fall into conspiracy theories. In theory, we can talk about the unintended “escape” of the virus outside of the laboratory, wherever it was located.
To guess where it came from COVID-19, of course, possible, but it seems to me, is more important to focus on the other — to raise the level of science, medicine and economy of human society to such a height that it is resilient to such kind of tests. To infection need to be treated as fires, floods, other natural and man-made disasters, in advance thinking through prevention and rescue.
— It is strange that such a strong global players like the US, Italy and France, were almost powerless before the virus, and the number of Asian and Latin American countries showed an example of a successful fight against the epidemic. So, something is amiss in the Danish Kingdom, i.e. the leading powers?
In the case of China we do see an example of how to fight the epidemic in the hearth of her fire. As for the other countries where the pandemic has not resulted in a large number of victims, then the question is ambiguous. Due to different factors. The impact of the infection where it is weak, because she hasn’t gotten there in all its “glory”. In other cases, played the role that it has put barriers in her way.
— Russia do you belong to the first or second group?
— Then you can start from the opinion of the professional virologists who believe that our country made the right emphasis on those units in the health system that can cope with mass illness. If we consider medicine in Italy, Spain, I’m not talking about the United States, where tens of millions have no medical insurance, they, of course, was the weak link in this situation. But also properly structured system of insurance medicine, we felt good legacy in the field of epidemiology and Virology, which we inherited from the Soviet Union. In Virology, our country is included into two-three the most advanced.
— But if we do not significantly reduced in the previous year, the staff of doctors and infectious disease ward, the situation could be even better. Maybe the isolation would not have to enter.
— Agree with the negative impact of reforms “optimization” of our health. At the time many reputable doctors convincingly argued against downsizing, mergers, consolidation, etc. Indeed, if not optimized, the results we had would probably be even better. By the same logic “optimization” engaged in science and education.
— China was ahead of the rest due to adopted the Soviet model of health care?
— And this, too. But in the West believe that China probably played the role of authoritarianism government, and actively promote anti-Chinese sentiments. In Beijing, I hope that demonstrated how viable and effective was their control system, and that it is not in opposition to those or other values.
They coped, and their winners, and even judge?
— If we accept the postulate that it is the authoritarian model of management saved the country from the spread of infection, we risk a distorted view of the situation. It is correct to emphasize the solidarity and unity of the Chinese people in the face of danger that really took place and led to victory over the virus. After all, South Korea was the same.
Some have compared risks of a pandemic with the consequences of war.
— If we use this analogy, only in the sense that during the wars of the country and the people unite against the common enemy. And now we have to unite against coronavirus, as once United against a common enemy during the Second world war.
Aren’t we panic before the pandemic? It will not work if we struggle with it more than the consequences of the coronavirus? After all, the collapse of the economy, and other diseases suddenly everyone seems to have forgotten.
— This is an important question. I hope that we will not repeat the scenario of Italy or Spain. In those countries where a day of coronavirus dies not for a few people, but hundreds and thousands, your question would not understand.
Of course, in other areas of life, on the economy it is necessary to look, but you can not go on unjustified risks. As for the features of the pandemic in our country, it is different, the number of cases in regions. There are areas where cases can be counted on the fingers. And in this respect the decision of the President to give governors the authority themselves to set the desired mode of self-isolation, I think is right.
Sometimes, looking at the actions of the authorities, it seems that no virus exists at all. For the people — strict-isolation, shutdown of companies and the penalties for going outside, others — complete freedom of action. Double standards are obtained.
— In any country of the world extreme situation shows how the system of public administration is established, to what extent it is corrupt and inefficient. The difficult situation immediately highlights who enjoys a challenging situation for their own benefit, and who works for the society. We have a lot of positive and negative examples, as well as in other countries. But we have something more important that is happening in Russia. And our system of governance is far from effective — often, government officials come to your post to bypass the principles of meritocracy, that is, regardless of their professional qualities.
— For many people was a shock, in fact, home confinement under pain of heavy fines. The mode of isolation will agree, it is a little like. So we are not so free and clear? Individual freedom, as advocated in the liberal world, was an illusion? What do we expect next?
— I do not believe that freedom is the exclusive principle of liberalism. On the principle of freedom in one or another of its interpretation based all major political philosophy, be it liberalism, conservatism or collectivism. The Marxist school, for example, also based on the principle of the liberation of the individual from the “shackles” imposed by the state on the person.
Individual freedom is not an illusion, and there are different threats to that freedom. What is really the illusion is that freedom supposedly automatically guaranteed to everyone from birth. This is not so. Freedom is a right which should achieve each new generation of people. Excessive complacency is misplaced. Moreover, there is no such thing as absolute freedom of the individual from society, state, traditions, culture. Still more absurd opinion, that your idea of freedom can be forced on another. Individual freedom also is very different — political, social, economic. For example, such a fundamental value for mankind, as the value of life. She’s more expensive than, for example, freedom of movement. But many forget that for this value it is necessary to fight in the first place. Several generations that grew up after world war II, taking the world for granted, forgetting old lessons. And what we see as a result? Again, the growing militarization of thinking, the military-industrial complexes from year to year is gaining momentum. People believe that to live in the world — this goes without saying, and if we’re going to play the pistols, that we do not lose anything. Alas, it is precisely an illusion. Inexcusable US position, to demolish all international agreements on arms control and simultaneously pumped up the military budget. Maybe even a pandemic with all its drama will lead many to life, demonstrating what threats are real and which are fictional.
Yes, in Russia we found that freedom of movement is not absolute and may be sharply limited. We must understand that limiting freedom is sometimes required. But circumstances are temporary. If you remember, in the beginning 2000-ies in connection with the explosive growth of international terrorism the U.S. intelligence services, and other countries, dramatically “tighten the screws” regarding the freedom of private life. How many scandals have been since then associated with point and mass listenings of telephone conversations, e-mail, social networks, etc., I’m not talking about kidnapping, secret prisons and Guantanamo. But today, global terrorism seems to be largely overcome. Means shall be rescinded and the additional prerogatives of the state apparatus. However, this never happens. So it may be pandemic. We handle it, and I hope this year everything will return to normal. But the question of absolute freedom of movement remains open. It is unlikely that she will return to us in full.
— To what extent can “tighten the screws” from us?
— I think it will happen not only here, but around the world, as happened, for example, after threats of terrorist attacks. The last 20 years before boarding the plane we have to remove jackets, belts, boots. We “Shine” x-ray installations. We are used to it, as something commonplace. But in my time around that, how many disputes, even protests. I think, and now, after the pandemic, some rules and restrictions will firmly enter into our life. Will be mandatory or temperature measurement or rapid testing for viruses before entering the plane or something. There will again be protests against the invasion of privacy.
— Many fear that introduced qr codes will be included in our lives as a redundant means of manipulation, will allow people to control in excess of the required measures.
— Border introduction of new technologies in life is always vague. On the one hand, they are, for example, can faster calculate the location of the criminal, malicious alimony, to call him to account, and with another — to strengthen the system of coercion by the state apparatus. The same social networks, despite their apparent harmlessness, are two sides of the coin: we appreciate the opportunity to chat with people around the world to Express their views, and for special services they offer the ability to go to criminals who also use social networks is wonderful.
The coronavirus has significantly brought down the economies of most countries. In what situation will be after all this, Russia?
— This year the world economy will be in the red. That’s just how strong will this “minus” in different countries? Someone will be minus 1 percent, and someone — minus 10 or even more disastrous options. Those who came in and out of the pandemic among the first, for example China, unable to even finish in the black.
But not everything depends on the domestic economy. Countries such as Germany or China are more export-oriented. This means that if all around them will be bad, and they will suffer, despite the fact that quickly coped with the pandemic.
We are a country that is heavily dependent on exports of oil, gas, grains. If they collapse in demand, albeit temporarily, in the us it will hit, but that is already happening.
Though there is such a thing as pent-up demand. You need something to buy, but in April you don’t buy, but, say, in June, as soon as you open the border, you buy, and maybe even twice, because waited so long. And then the country will have something to offer, can move forward strongly, ahead of competitors.
— Policies of countries can change? Heard the views of some political analysts that the pandemic can start a serious redistribution of the world.
— International scholars for many years have concluded evolving multi-polar world. Pandemic only encourages this process.
— US losing its power?
— The United States long before trump took the course on departure from the Imperial pretensions and positioning itself as a national state, which primarily observes its own interests and does not seek to remake the world for themselves. Unipolarity dreamed of them in the 90-ies, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and China has not become the man he is today.
— What happened now?
— The United States largely themselves squandered the potential of the sole superpower, for example, invaded Iraq under false pretenses. But also accumulated a lot of objective problems. So, if in the middle of the twentieth century, the U.S. share accounted for about half of global GDP, now it has decreased in purchasing power parity to 15%. There is a difference? In China, the figure is 19% of world GDP. Next with 8% — India, 4 — Japan, with 2-3% — Germany, Russia, Britain, France, Italy, etc.
Now reduce dependence on the dollar, more or less, but diversifitsirovat the national economy. This is the right way. But it should be followed so that our “independence” did not become a stumbling block for cooperation with the economies of other countries for profitable trade. Self-isolation for the duration of the pandemic is possible, and self-isolation from the world in principle — a dangerous delusion.