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Beyond the Pandemic: Life After COVID-19

Beyond the Pandemic: Life After COVID-19

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Coronavirus has affected every facet of day-to-day life. Millions of Americans are without work and are struggling to make ends meet. The virus has affected military readiness, the oil market, and even the operations of terrorist organizations. Coronavirus has defined a generation and its impacts will continue to ripple throughout the world. As countries begin to pursue strategies to reopen their borders and restart the economy, we have to take a serious look forward at this new, post-pandemic life. In order to better understand what may lie ahead, ASP asked its fellows and staff members for their expertise and predictions.

This post will be continually updated in the upcoming weeks as developments occur.

Climate Security

I’m pessimistic that countries will prioritize the fight against climate change, in the aftermath of coronavirus. The pandemic has already exacted a devastating toll on the global economy. When economies reopen, governments around the globe will be under pressure to prioritize economic growth over everything else. However, it’s impossible to predict the psychological impact of the pandemic. Perhaps the power, and implacable force, of nature will sink in. Perhaps governments will stimulate growth by investing in green technology. Perhaps our collective experience fighting coronavirus will ignite a collective response to climate change.

Alex Hackbarth, Director of Climate and Energy Security

COVID-19 related restrictions are beginning to lift, but without a vaccine or other treatments the virus will continue to be a major risk for the foreseeable future. To make matters worse, there are early forecasts predicting an active upcoming hurricane season. This is concerning because we know that climate change brings more frequent and severe storms each year. The possibility of these threats interacting presents an enormous risk for the U.S. Thankfully the crisis has not yet been exacerbated by a separate major disaster, but preparations should be made in case a worst case scenario does occur.

Jordan Burns, Junior Fellow

A New World Order

The Coronavirus has changed everyday life throughout America and the world. Most geopolitical events have little impact on individual Americans – even 9/11 and the ensuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had little impact on most people outside of New York, Washington, and the military communities.

That is not the case with the Coronavirus. It went from a faraway corner on the ragged edge of the frontier between civilization and nature along the well-traveled pathways of globalization into everyone’s life in only four months. In a democracy, such an event will have dire consequences. I worry this will result in a retreat from globalization and interconnectedness – even though that will make us all poorer and more insecure.

Andrew Holland, COO

When lockdowns end and economies re-open around the world, we’ll not return to the pre-COVID-19 period. Instead, we’ll begin the “post-liberal world order” with globalization under assault like never before. This pandemic, which threatens food security in many “developing” countries, has left many people angry and scared about how public health issues in a city on the other side of the planet can so quickly turn their lives upside down. As a consequence of this global crisis, governments across the world will become more nationalist, authoritarian, and protectionist. Additionally, the Beijing-Washington geopolitical rivalry will continue heating up.

Giorgio Cafiero, CEO & founder of Gulf State Analytics

There will be a rush to return to the status quo ante. Battles, kinetic and political, will resume upon their same old lines. Trump and Xi will each declare that they singlehandedly solved the health and economic crises. Knock-on effects such as declining aid and migration limits will devastate recipient countries. More positively, nonessential travel, and therefore emissions, will return slowly and cautiously. Some countries may rethink China’s position in their supply chains. And maybe – just maybe – we’ll all have a better understanding of why international cooperation and transparency are essential for preserving civilization during crises.

Jed Willard, Director of Global Engagement, FDR Foundation, Harvard College

Pre-existing geopolitical competitions will be amplified by the severe economic effects of COVID-19. These competitions will most likely be intensified in the diplomatic, informational, and economic rather than the military elements of national power. Even if military budgets are not significantly reduced, money will have to be diverted from existing priorities to cover expenses and disruptions to the training, procurement, operations, and maintenance cycles. A critical question is:  With reduced funding, will the US Government be able to succeed by using all its elements of national power in a unified way while still maintaining credibility against potential adversaries?

Mark KustraAdjunct Fellow

U.S. – Russia Relations

Previously, Putin declared that the COVID-19 crisis was “entirely under control” in Russia. Now, it’s clear that this statement was a vast exaggeration, and there’s reason to believe that the virus will hit Russia particularly hard, due to pre-existing demographic and public health issues. But it’s not clear whether these vulnerabilities with a) be accurately reported due to continued crack-downs on independent media and b) make an impact on politics, as a referendum for constitutional changes still looming. What’s of particular concern for US national security is how well Russia is already capitalizing on COVID-19 to undermine the US’ global image via disinformation and interference campaigns. This context of increased fear and mistrust of media provides the perfect fuel for Russia’s attacks on our democracy, institutions, and societal cohesion. Post-pandemic, we should expect to see these attacks continue, strengthened by the chaos wrought by COVID-19.

Rossella Cerulli, Junior Fellow

The Future of Africa

The Africa we see emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic may well be one we don’t want to see. Many African countries are especially dependent on primary commodity exports – like oil and minerals – and the virus has taken a major toll on demand for Africa’s prized exports. This downturn severely hurts economic development across an already fragile and increasingly strategically important continent. Coupled with a surge in massive amounts of external debt – a lot of which comes from China – over the years, Africa could be headed down a path that will be difficult to correct post-COVID-19.

John Madeira, Junior Fellow

Military Training and Readiness

The outbreak on the USS Roosevelt revealed a large issue, how is the DoD going to maintain readiness in a COVID-19 world? At a minimum, the Navy will need to sterilize all its vessels and then do rigorous testing BEFORE crew members board and eliminate all non-essential port calls. The Army and Marines will have to look at the close quarters living both in garrison and in field exercises. Finally, they will have to weigh the national security benefits of overseas deployments with the expected costs of service members exposed to COVID-19. This could have serious implications for our national security.

Ken Robbins, Senior Fellow

Public Diplomacy

In terms of public diplomacy, America’s post-COVID-19 international image will depend largely on its performance during and recovery after the pandemic. Does the United States live up to the premise that its system is better than the Russian or Chinese models? Does the U.S. come off as a purveyor of facts or misinformation amidst the pandemic? Post-coronavirus, the U.S. will need to double down on efforts to rebuild the “people-to-people” relationships that are so critical for American credibility in the age of disinformation. Social distancing makes this hard, but these networks are valuable in countless ways, including cross cultural scientific and medical innovation.

Matthew Wallin, Fellow for Public Diplomacy

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