We heard this phrase before: “The world will not be the same again.” No one has denied the veracity of this sentence when used after an exceptional event. But we were sensing some exaggeration, especially as the world has shown strong resistance, sticking to its scales, habits, and ways of life.
We heard this expression when Al-Qaeda chose on September 11, 2001 to move the war to American soil itself and target the symbols of strength and success. The event was extremely dangerous, as wounded America went out in a retaliatory campaign that comprised Afghanistan and Iraq. The latter’s war led to changing the balance of power in the Middle East.
However, despite the magnitude of what happened, we did not feel that we were residing in another world and that we had to change our way of life. New York got up from the rubble of the two towers. The city expressed its anger and then resumed life after doubling security measures.
We also heard the statement when we stood near the collapsing Berlin Wall. The world held its breath when it felt that the fall of the wall was a harbinger of the disintegration of a model and the suicide of an empire. The world woke up one day in astonishment, as the Soviet Union, which had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the Earth several times, no longer existed.
We read books and articles on the new order, the “unipolar world” and “the end of history”. Readings mixed with desires, especially since it was usual for empires to plunge the world into blood before going into oblivion.
Although the event was colossal, it was possible for states and peoples to declare their immunity to its repercussions and consequences and refuse to make changes to their budgets and lifestyle.
In the case of the coronavirus, the phrase appears more accurate than it was in previous events that stole the world’s attention and raised its questions and fears.
Experts assert that when we will be finally able to return to the world from which we escaped like terrified birds into their nests, we will discover that we are on another planet.
The distribution of seats in offices will be different and on the basis of safe distancing. Caution will be necessary. Frequent hand-washing, masks, gloves, disinfection, and sterilization will become an obsession.
The habits of hugging and handshaking will belong to an ancient era.
Restaurants will be different. Fear of aging will haunt cinemas and libraries.
A person will feel the magnitude of this change when he goes to school to bring his children. He would definitely feel it on the plane, if his profession forced him to savor the complexity of traveling in the “corona” era.
This time the phrase appears to be very accurate. Vladimir Putin has the right to feel this degree of anger and anxiety. The man was happy with what he had achieved since he took over the Russian fate at the beginning of the century.
He tamed a democratic regime. He goes to elections and returns as a victor. The Parliament twists constitutional texts to allow the savior to extend his stay in Stalin’s office. He has a brilliant team that creates and revamps the image. They are masters of social media recruitment, as well as pirates, who are adept at harassing the world’s stability, elections, and discoveries.
The Red Army returned amid fears. Russia has become again a disturbing country. Suddenly everything changed. The “Chinese virus” has ravaged the world. The Kremlin master is frustrated with recent talks about the intensifying US-Chinese rivalry over the world’s top position.
Just decades ago, America was courting the country of Mao to improve conditions for convergence with Lenin’s nation. It is clear that the world has redistributed the roles, leaving Russia with a seat in the second row, while Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are exchanging strikes in the first line.
Putin is aware that the coronavirus has almost achieved what experts and generals have failed to do: striking a coup against the existing international balance.
The major powers fell into the grasps of COVID-19. What happened in Britain and France, as well as in Italy, raises a difficult question. Did Europe abandon the battle of the roles and became a mere arena for the Chinese-US rivalry?
The Russian president also understands that America has missed the opportunity to lead the world in the battle against the pandemic. The US role was not commensurate with the size of its image nor of its potential.
The country seemed confused by the virus that attacked its cities, health institutions, and aircraft carriers. The public disagreement between the White House master and the state rulers was not reassuring.
The dispute with the World Health Organization did not happen at the best time. America did not rush to the rescue of Europe, as it used to do in world wars.
As if the helm is swaying away from the US hand, towards the lurking Chinese influence. What is the purpose of positioning in Syria and engaging in regional wars, at a time when China is preparing to occupy the leadership position in the world?
Putin is almost sure that the Chinese era will practically be more difficult for Russia than the American apogee. China is a tremendous human sea and a huge technological dragon of commodities and supply chains.
It is a nation that is based on the most coherent systems, the colossal Chinese Communist Party.
He also knows that America’s huge economic and humanitarian losses may push it to retreat to heal its own wounds, allowing the corona Road to achieve what the Silk Road has long dreamed of accomplishing.
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper*