Putin speaks at Economic Forum in Davos for the first time since 2009 and says about the end of civilisation
“The situation can develop unpredictably and uncontrollably”
Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos for the first time since 2009, when he was prime minister. The main topic of the discussion was the “new global situation” related to the coronavirus pandemic, in connection with which the Russian leader spoke about the changes in the world over this time. In particular, he warned about the risk of the end of civilisation and called getting out of poverty as the main task.
“Indeed, it is difficult not to notice the fundamental transformations in the global economy, politics, social life, and technology. The coronavirus pandemic that Klaus (Schwab, founder and permanent president of the World Economic Forum — ediztor's note) has just mentioned, which has become a serious challenge to all of humanity, has only spurred, accelerated structural changes, the prerequisites for which have already been formed for a long time. The pandemic has exacerbated the problems and imbalances that previously accumulated in the world. There is every reason to believe that there are risks of further escalation of contradictions. And such trends can manifest themselves in almost all areas.”
There are no direct parallels in history with the current situation with coronavirus, Putin noted, but some experts compare the current situation with the 1930s: “You can agree with this situation, you can disagree. But in many respects, in terms of the scale and complex, systemic nature of the challenges and potential threats, certain analogies still suggest themselves.”
However, according to Putin, a global “hot” conflict (or simply a world war) is still impossible.
“It would mean the end of civilization. But again, the situation can develop unpredictably and uncontrollably. If, of course, nothing is done to prevent this from happening. There is a chance to face a real disruption in world development, fraught with a struggle of all against all, with attempts to resolve the overdue contradictions through the search for internal and external enemies, with the destruction not only of such traditional values (we value this in Russia) as the family, but also of basic freedoms, including the right to choose and privacy.”
“The post-crisis recovery is not easy”
Now, as the president of Russia said, there is being an increase in social stratification both in the world and in individual countries:
“This, in turn, causes a sharp polarisation of public views, provokes a growth of populism, right-wing and left-wing radicalism, other extremes, aggravation and hardening of domestic political processes, including in leading countries. All this inevitably affects the nature of international relations, does not add to their stability and predictability.”
According to Putin, the social and value crisis is already turning into negative demographic consequences, “because of which humanity risks losing entire civilisational and cultural continents”. Getting out of poverty is the main task, as Putin notes. This leads to the first challenge facing the world community — socio-economic.
“Globalisation and domestic growth have led to a powerful recovery in developing countries, allowing more than a billion people to get out of poverty. For example, if we take an income level of $5,5 per person per day (at purchasing power parity), the World Bank estimates that, for example in China, the number of people with lower incomes has fallen to less than 300 million in recent years. This is certainly a success for China. And in Russia — from 64 million people in 1999 to about 5 million at the present time. And we believe that this is also a movement forward in our country in the most important direction, by the way.”
At the same time, the problems of social stratification in developed countries turned out to be even deeper. According to the World Bank, if 3,6 million people lived with an income of less than $5,5 per day in the United States of America, for example, in 2000, then in 2016 — already 5,6 million people. And this, according to Putin, also applies to Europe.
“Over the past 30 years, in a number of developed countries, the incomes of more than half of citizens in real terms have stagnated, not grown. But the cost of education and health services has increased. And do you know how much? Threefold. That is, millions of people, even in rich countries, no longer see the prospect of adding to their income.”
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated these problems in the last year, a decline of the global economy has been the highest since the Second World War.
“The loss of the labour market in July was equivalent to nearly 500 million jobs. Yes, by the end of the year, half of them had been restored. But still, this is almost 250 million lost jobs. This is a large and very alarming figure. In the first nine months of last year alone, global labour income losses totalled $3,5 trillion. And this indicator continues to grow. This means that social tension in society is also growing," Putin said. “At the same time, the post-crisis recovery is not going easy. If 20-30 years ago the problem could have been solved at the expense of stimulating macroeconomic policies (and they do, by the way, constantly until now), today such mechanisms have exhausted themselves, they do not work. Their resource is almost exhausted. These are not my unsubstantiated claims.”
“A dangerous illusion that problems can be ignored, missed, driven somewhere into a corner”
Another challenge is socio-political. According to Putin, system socio-economic problems are giving rise to social unrest that it requires special attention.
“A dangerous illusion that they can be, as they say, ignored, missed, driven somewhere into a corner, is fraught with serious consequences. In this case, society will still be divided both politically and socially. Because for people, the reasons for being dissatisfied are not really in some speculative things, but in real problems that concern everyone, no matter what views, including political ones, a person actually adheres to. Or how he thinks he sticks to. But real problems generate discontent.”
He also noted that modern technological and, above all, digital giants have begun to play a more significant role in the life of society:
“Now there is a lot of talk about this, especially in relation to the events that took place in the United States during the election campaign. And these are not just some economic giants, they de facto compete with states in certain areas. Their audience is estimated at billions of users who spend a significant part of their lives within these ecosystems.”
“Global security system is also deteriorating”
The third challenge, or, according to the Russian president, the threat that we may face in the coming decade — is the further aggravation of the entire complex of international problems.
“After all, unresolved and growing internal socio-economic problems can push us to find someone to blame everything on, blame all the troubles and redirect the irritation and discontent of your citizens. And we are already seeing this, we feel that the degree of foreign policy, propaganda rhetoric is growing. We can expect that the nature of practical actions will also become more aggressive, including pressure on those countries that do not agree with the role of obedient, controlled satellites, the use of trade barriers, illegitimate sanctions, and restrictions on the financial, technological, and information spheres.”
There are also problems that concern all states without exception, Putin said:
“An example of this is cooperation in the study of coronavirus infection and its control. Several varieties have recently appeared of this dangerous disease as it is known. And the world community should create conditions for scientists and specialists to work together to understand why and how, for example, coronavirus mutation occurs, and how different strains differ from each other.”
In this case, it is necessary to help countries in need, including African countries, to increase testing and vaccination, which is now available to developed countries, the Russian president said:
“In practice, such inequality can mean a common threat, because, as is well known, it has been said many times, the epidemic will continue to drag on, its uncontrolled foci will persist. It has no boundaries. Therefore, we need to draw lessons from the current situation and propose measures aimed at improving the effectiveness of the system for monitoring the occurrence of such diseases in the world and the development of such situations. "
“We all know that the competition, rivalry between countries in the world history has not stopped and will never stop. And contradictions, conflicts of interests are actually also a natural thing for such a complex organism as human civilisation. However, at critical moments, this did not hinder, but rather encouraged us to join forces in the most important, truly fateful areas. And it seems to me that this is being such period," Putin concluded his speech.