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Observations of an Expat: Nation v the World

Africa, with its poor health conditions and poorer health facilities, was likely to produce a highly transmissible mutant virus.

The Omicron mutant may not have developed if the developed world had made more vaccines available to the developing world.

By Tom Arms

I told you so. In all humility, I was not alone. The WHO issued a veritable flood of dire warnings. Dozens of NGOs did the same. So did an army of globalists who argued that common sense dictated that Covid is a global problem that requires global cooperation to save lives and a world economy of which we are all a part.

We argued that Africa, with its poor health conditions and poorer health facilities, was likely to produce a highly transmissible mutant virus that would find its way north and bite a Europe and America that ignored Africa firmly in the bum.

I may be overstating the case. Scientists are waiting for more data before a judgement on the seriousness of the Omicron variant. So far there appears to be good news and bad news in initial reports from Africa and the 29 non-African countries to which it has spread in a matter of days.

But there is good reason to believe that the Omicron mutant may not have developed, or we would be able to control it better,  if the developed world had made more vaccines available to the developing world through the WHO’s Covax scheme. Their support was Scrooge-like at best. They made noises and then dispatched a few million here and another million there to a continent which required ten billion of doses.

The result is that an estimated 60 percent of Europeans have been vaccinated and only seven percent of Africans. One billion doses in Europe were destroyed because they were not distributed before their sell-by date.

At the root of this problem is the conflict between the needs of the nation state versus the needs of the world as a whole and the inability of the national politician and their public to comprehend that the two complement more than they compete. Unfortunately that view fails to win votes.

It is an instinct that when faced with fear based on problems such as disease, immigration or economic disaster,  to withdraw behind borders; pull up the drawbridge; lock the doors and shutter the windows. But it is wrong. The virus ignores all those barriers.

Covid is not the only example of the need for counter intuitive international cooperation and statesmanship. Climate change is an even bigger and arguably more important challenge. The pandemic will hopefully become endemic and cease to rule our daily lives. But if nothing is done about global warming the waters will continue to rise and rise and….

And yet China and India managed to scupper the COP26 climate change conference with their last minute spanner to protect their national interest by allowing fossil fuel production, especially coal, at indeterminate levels. It should be clear that they were not the only villains of the piece. Cheering them from the sidelines were Australia, America’s Republican Party, The OPEC countries and Russia.

Even Norway—which is usually associated with the environmental lobby—argued that they should maintain their profitable offshore oil operations. A government spokesman explained: “We use very little the oil. So it is not our responsibility to reduce production. It is the responsibility of the consumers.”

Then there is migration. There were 47.5 million displaced people in the world in 2020, and that was before Western withdrawal from another estimated 3 million. They are victims of climate change, war, and acute poverty. In many instances their problems are the direct consequence of developed world policies.

And yet they are vilified by many in Europe and America when they seek to cross vast land masses or seas to improve their lives or, in many cases, to simply pursue the survival instinct. Governments respond by erecting walls, razor wire fences, and, in some cases (Britain) actually cut overseas aid that helped people stay in the countries of their origin.

They argue amongst themselves about responsibility for the refugees. Sometimes the refugees are used as political pawns (Belarus and to a lesser extent Turkey) to extract money and concessions. In other countries (Britain and France) they are exploited for votes from the large and loud xenophobic minority.

The migration problem, like the pandemic and climate change, can only be solved through international cooperation. In this case involving investment, trade, security guarantees, overseas aid and internationally agreed rules and methods for migration. But this is unlikely to happen because the perceived the needs of the nation state v the refugees.

In modern history there are probably only one and a half attempts to solve world problems with international cooperation. The half was the creation of the League of Nations whose failure was one of the main causes of World War Two. It took the tragedy of an estimated 80 million deaths in the Second Great War to persuade politicians that an international body—the United Nations and its constituent organizations—was needed. It does much good work, but unfortunately it has been perennially hamstrung by the national interests of its membership.

So far the coronavirus pandemic has claimed 5,215,414 lives as of 0900 GMT 3 December 2021. This is still far short of the wartime figures. But the WHO has predicted another 700,000 deaths in Europe alone by the end of February. This was before Omicron made its entrance. What lethal figure has to be reached for the developed nations to accept that Covid in their countries and others can only be defeated through international cooperation?

World View - Observations of an ExpatWorld Review

  • The French Presidential elections are hotting up. Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour announced his candidacy this week. He is Euro-sceptic, virulently anti-immigrant and possibly the most anti-Semitic Jew in European politics. The 63-year-old journalist claims that he will save France from decadence and minorities that “oppress the majority.” Zemmour is neck and neck with seasoned extreme right campaigner Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally Party – Which means that the extreme-right vote is split. The left-wing parties are in disarray and have been effectively written off by the French media in the April presidential elections. On Sunday, primary elections for the Gaullist-oriented Les Republicains ends – There are five candidates: Michel Barnier, Xavier Bertrand, Eric Ciotti, Philippe Juvin and Valerie Pecresse. In the past Les Republicains were described as centre right. But no longer. Emmanuel Macron has stolen those clothes, especially the economic threads. In response, all five Les Republicains candidates have moved to the right with anti-immigration and Eurosceptic policies. All of the above is good news for Macron, who is staunchly pro-European and staying aloof from the immigration debate.  Not that he is popular. His approval ratings have slipped from a high of 48 percent in 2017 to under 20 percent. But he stands alone in the winning circle of the center/center right. At this moment the betting is on Macron to win as the last man standing.
  • Another former colony—Barbados—has ditched the British monarch as its head of state. Queen Elizabeth II is out. There are good reasons for the change. It is a natural progression from colony, to self-governing colony, to independent former colony with links to the imperial power and finally the severing of those mainly symbolic ties to a past based largely on the British-imposed slave trade for which Barbadians are seeking reparations. But British and American intelligence think there is more to the story—mainly China. They believe that Beijing is using its economic muscle to move into the Western-dominated Caribbean lake (with the exception of Cuba). Since the turn of the century, China’s investment in Barbados has increased 20-fold. Barbados is now part of China’s belt-road initiative. Chinese construction companies are active on the island as is its Confucius Institute. Barbadian students are being sent to China and Chinese tourists are a regular sight in Chinese-built Barbadian hotels. China is now Barbados’s third largest trading partner after the US and Trinidad and Tobago. The Barbadian government wants to please the country that butters its bread and China is pleased at the departure of the Queen.
  • Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov this week floated the idea of a new European Security Pact to “protect Russia from NATO expansion.” How ironic when you consider that NATO was created in 1949 to protect Western Europe from Russian expansion after it had absorbed all of Eastern Europe and a third of Germany. Lavrov’s speech before the influential Organisation of Security and Cooperation (which was the 1975 child of Détente) was long on rhetoric and short on details. Is Moscow proposing a Mark Two Warsaw Pact and a carve-up similar to the Yalta Agreement? If so, Putin could easily have his eye on the following: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia and possibly the Black Sea coastline of Romania in an effort to turn the Black Sea into a Russian lake. He is also keen to keep Finland and Ukraine out of NATO. Both countries are “enhanced partners” and have participated in NATO exercises. But any such pacts are beset with problems. Self-determination is now the political buzzword in Eastern Europe and that means the decision about with whom a country is allied lies with the people of that country rather with a diplomatic coven in Moscow, Washington and Brussels. Central and Eastern Europe have unhappy memories of their membership of the Soviet Empire.
  • Britain’s MI6 chief (that is James Bond’s boss) emerged from the shadows this week to give a public warning about China, Russia, Iran and international terrorism. Richard Moore told the International Institute for Strategic Studies that those four areas were, in descending order, the major threats to Britain and the wider Western world. Russia represented the most acute short and mid-term military threat. China was more subtle, invidious and long term. It has, said Mr. Moore, weaponized its economic power to push countries into a “debt trap” and uses its investments to steal security data. The MI6 chief made two other interesting points: He would be making more appearances to gain public support and he wanted to work more closely with data engineers in the private sector to protect British data and counter cyber-attacks. Both could be construed as disturbing trends. One reason a spy chief would want to go public is because he fears that the public may disapprove of his agency’s actions. And secondly, seeking technical support from the private sector blurs the lines between government and the already questionable actions of the social media companies.
  • It is not looking good for abortion rights in America. This week the Supreme Court heard the Mississippi case that would ban nearly all abortions after 15 weeks. Currently federal law, as a result of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, allows abortions in all states up until the time the foetus is “viable”, which doctors say is 24 weeks. Except for one case in 1993, the Supreme Court has refused to even consider discussing abortion. At least four, and possibly five, voted to consider Mississippi’s case. So the fact that the Justices listened to arguments was a victory in itself for the anti-abortion lobby. Next was the fact that the tone of several of the Justice’s questions during the hearings was decidedly anti-abortion, especially those from the Trump appointees Amy Comey Barrett and Brett Kavanagh. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Mississippi then 24 other states have anti-abortion laws ready to be placed on the statute books. But that does not mean the end of abortion in America. There are likely to be 26 states (mainly Democratic-controlled) where abortion is expected to still be easily available. This means abortion tourism. But three-quarters of the 630,000 US annual abortions are among low income women. They would have difficulty in finding travel money. They are also the ones least able to support a child. The Supreme Court’s final ruling on the issue is expected in June.

Tom Arms

Tom Arms is Foreign Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of the recently published “America Made in Britain.” He also regularly lectures on international relations.

 

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