Post-coronavirus normalization is the subject of heated debate around the world, right now. There are only a small number of scientific studies to back up such moves at the moment, however. Some experts argue that humanity can start inching toward normalization in late May. Although the virus will remain a problem until a vaccine is available, there are strong signs that the pandemic will be brought under control.
Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has certain repercussions for international politics. It remains unclear how the definition of statehood will change, to what extent failed states will destabilize the world and what the world's economic future looks like – not to mention the credibility of international organizations and – of course –the showdown between the United States and China.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry’s Center for Strategic Research (SAM) has just published an important study in which leading experts explained how the coronavirus pandemic could reshape the future. Here’s what some of them argued in that report:
According to SAM Chairman Ufuk Ulutaş, we will encounter the idea of "strong states" more frequently than in the past. That trend, however, does not necessarily entail authoritarianism, as in China. The success of countries like Turkey, Germany and South Korea against the coronavirus offers insights into the relationship between strong states and democracy. Noting that failed states will be the subject of public debate more often in light of the pandemic, Ulutaş argues that the failure of international organizations in combatting the coronavirus may at least fuel a degree of revisionism.
Sabancı University’s Meltem Müftüler-Baç maintains that nation-states are likely to renounce some aspects of globalization to protect their citizens. Şükrü Hanioğlu, meanwhile, a professor of history at Princeton University, believes that global integration and cooperation, which gained traction in the late 20th century, stands to be reversed.
Political scientist Burhanettin Duran stresses that the pandemic will not reshape history so much as accelerate ongoing developments – as I argued in my previous columns. When the virus is gone for good, the international community will encounter something akin to the uncertainty of the interwar period, he says, rather than post-1945 cooperation. In Duran’s view, the United States, whose foreign policy is informed by the idea of "America First," will continue to witness a weakening of its international leadership. As global cooperation weakens, great power competition will deepen, fueling turbulence in the process.
In light of that debate, it is possible to conclude that China and Russia are gaining the upper hand against the United States and the West. In response, the United States and the European Union act like they do not have a plan. In the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, where they have been experiencing a strategic withdrawal, they are confused, for lack of a better word.
The situation in Libya is a case in point. The country’s legitimate, U.N.-recognized government faces constant attack from the warlord Khalifa Haftar’s forces. The Libyan government last week launched an important counteroffensive to take back Tripoli’s outskirts. At the same time, Libyans hope to control their country’s land border with Tunisia. Meanwhile, Russian paramilitaries are fighting alongside Haftar’s militants in an attempt to topple Libya’s U.N.-backed government.
Russia’s current involvement represents a historic turning point. Having attempted to control warm-water ports for centuries, the Russians today have a stronger presence in Syria and a growing influence in the Eastern Mediterranean. By getting involved in the Libyan civil war, Moscow attempts to control the Mediterranean and exert influence over southern Europe.
If Haftar wins in Libya, his victory will undermine American and European influence across the Mediterranean. Thus, in terms of leadership post-pandemic, how the situation in Libya pans out will provide valuable insight.