Why George Soros’ Speech at Davos Is an Overly Apocalyptic View Rooted in Eurocentrism

The invasion of Ukraine “may have been the beginning” of the Third World War and “civilization may not survive it”, according to philanthropist and financier Mr George Soros, speaking at the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.

The prevailing idea that there haven’t been significant big wars ever since the Second World War and the war in Ukraine is some kind of civilizational test or milestone that has the potential to reverse or delete civilizations is not true.

Many wars of the 21st century have gone and passed bringing about much more destruction and suffering measured in sheer numbers, in comparison to the war in Ukraine. The war in Yemen led to the worst humanitarian crisis of our time and the biggest famine in the world. Saudi Arabia supported by the United States almost flattened and shut down Yemen as a country.

Before that, the war in Syria where all major powers got involved caused much worse suffering in comparison to the crisis in Ukraine.

The wars in Afghanistan and especially in Iraq convinced us that war in the 21st century has never really stopped. Russia unleashed a war on Georgia as recently as 2008.

The war statistics are for those that pay attention to things even when they happen outside the West. War has never really stopped throughout the past decades – the only difference is that Europe has been shielded from war in the 21st century – apart from the usual concern with refugees from the Middle East.

The reason that the war in Ukraine causes such apocalyptic prognoses among the bright, rich and influential at Davos is the fact that this time the war concerns Europe and European leaders directly. This time it’s a question of political leaders’ own survival. European electorates and the democratic process will weed out those statesmen that get the Ukraine crisis wrong. The rest will survive and will be reelected. The war in Ukraine will decide the political map in Europe over at least the next one year. European politicians will come and go dependent on their Ukraine crisis management.

To respond to Soros’ speech about the risk to the survival of the whole Western civilization, it has to be said that the war in Ukraine is not something exceptional, let alone something that can end Western civilization.

The war will end with a truce and here we have to recall Henry Kissinger’s views at Davos that Ukraine will have to cede some territory to Russian President Putin if a peace negotiation is to be successful.

Soros’ estimate about the end of civilization is exaggerated and inconsistent with war history. I must agree with Kissinger – the grandfather of Realpolitik – who is right that wars don’t end by simply going back to the status quo and back to things as they were before a war starts. Ukraine will have to cede some and keep some territory.

The only way to preserve our civilization is to “defeat Putin”, Soros said. Soros doesn’t get Putin right. The war won’t bring about tectonic shifts, nor surprises against the backdrop of how war goes historically.

A second way in which Soros doesn’t really understand Putin is in Soros’ claim that President Putin has “recognized” that he has made a terrible mistake by invading Ukraine. That is not true. Putin is not giving up. He is a rational player pushing several goals right now, as I have argued for the New York Times previously. Putin knows that he will keep some gained territory and will give back to Ukraine some newly gained territories. The whole process of peace negotiations works that way.

And finally, let’s take a look at the numbers to counter the Ukraine war exceptionalism pushed forward by Soros. The war in Ukraine has resulted in only 4000 dead, according to numbers by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In comparison, the Watson Institute at Brown University has counted and presented the statistics of hundreds of thousands killed by war around the world in the wars of the 21st century. The war in Iraq is the bloodiest war of the 21st century with close to 300,000 dead. The number is followed by the wars in Syria and Afghanistan with over 100,000 people killed, or nowhere close to the war in Ukraine.

These wars are all the fruit of Western civilization and American militarism, which miraculously has been able to go hand and hand and in parallel with the lie of the goodness of Western civilization and the superiority of liberal societies.

The gravity of the Ukraine war is smaller also when we look at the numbers of refugees. The UN has counted over 6mln Ukrainian refugees. The war in Syria resulted in over 13mln displaced refugees, internally and externally. Many countries in Africa and South America host millions of refugees according to the UN, easily surpassing the Ukraine refugee number.

The numbers are incomparable and they tell a tale of Euro-centric disproportionate outrage. The difference is that Ukraine is in Europe. It’s overly apocalyptic to argue that the Western civilization may not survive. Eventually, Ukraine will be listed in the long list of the 21st century wars.

[Photo by Niccolò Caranti, via Wikimedia Commons]

*Iveta Cherneva is an author and political commentator, and a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum (2014-2017). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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