It is too early to talk about the establishment of a new international order, because the crisis, despite the suffering it has brought to humanity, is not so terrible that a new building could be built on its ruins, writes Mehdi Sanaei, senior lecturer of the Tehran University’s Department of International Relations, Head of the Centre for Iranian and Eurasian Studies, Senior Advisor to the Foreign Minister of Iran and former Iranian ambassador in Russia.
As the international medical community can’t predict how long the coronavirus infection will be the uninvited guest of different countries, and what impact it will have on human health in general, the observers and scholars of the international relations are also facing ambiguity regarding the consequences that will face world politics after this pandemic.
But this issue, to some extent, is clear in the economic sphere. It is predicted that the size of the world’s national economies, especially the countries which are most affected by the coronavirus will decrease. The level of production and consumption except for some hygiene products would be declined. Many small and large industries and businesses would go bankrupt inevitably and the world’s unemployed rate would be skyrocketed.
A large number of big companies will also revise the methods of production and distribution of their products. After this crisis, governments will also attempt to include the principle of resilience along with the principle of profitability in the economic and industry arenas during the critical situations.
In the meantime, the online technology and industry are considered as a top winner of the coronavirus crisis. The online industry and technology have managed to expand its legitimacy, compatibility, and efficiency and also have created some changes in the lifestyle of the world community in different areas.
In the coronavirus crisis, we are encountering three parallel realities including governments, nations, and the emotions of elites’ public consciousness, who have portrayed different manifestations.
In dealing with the coronavirus crisis, the most states at first became shocked and perused the isolation approach and then in an aim to overcome the crisis, quickly chose the approach of competition, conflict and sometimes accusing other countries.
In a surprising and unprecedented way, this has led to widespread theft of masks and other medical products in airports, maritime lines, etc.
The emergence of coronavirus highlighted the necessity of a coherent, formidable and efficient government and paved the way for powerful and centralised governments that enjoy high capabilities in decision making and settling the crisis.
People who found themselves in a stressful situation at the beginning of the crisis, caused by the governments’ decision to impose quarantine, with few exceptions, decided to choose the path of peace and cooperation. The proof of this is the sense of unity among people, as well as their benevolence towards each other, which we observed from balconies in Rome and also in Tehran, while maintaining an isolation regime.
In different countries, we have witnessed amazing scenes of giving spirits to medical teams, altruism, and self-sacrifice of the medical staff and nurses.
The coronavirus also created a mental storm among the world’s elites and highlighted the necessity of “global government,” an “efficient international organisation” or an “effective crisis resolution mechanism” in the global arena.
One of the most important attainments of this condition was the self-awareness regarding the fact that, despite all the advances which have been made in technology, human beings could still become surprised and confused in the face of unknown crises.
On the other hand, the fact that the current crisis is global, but its solutions are national and territorial, has increased the ambiguities and created a paradoxical paradigm for the observers. The necessity of fostering international cooperation also acknowledged the fact that at present there is not an effective structure or mechanism in the global arena.
The inability of the United Nations to make any decision to settle the crisis, due to differences over the name of the virus and its failure to approve the suspension of sanctions during the coronavirus crisis at the United Nations Security Council also underlined this reality and necessity.
The question of what would happen after the post-coronavirus has been raised by the international relations thinkers, and it has been answered in different ways depending on their theoretical approaches.
It seems that everyone has their own vision of the situation, which seems to transform depending on what angle to look at it like the story of “Elephant in the Dark House” in the Persian poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din Rumi’s masterpiece Masnavi-ye Manavi.
This difference of opinion is not only due to differences in the way they look at human nature and the nature of society and their approach to international politics, but the issue is also a bit more ambiguous, and the specifics of the current situation and its paradoxical nature provide evidence for both realist groups and internationalists.
Researchers believe that according to the realistic approach, the spread of coronavirus indicated that however the crisis is a global issue, it should be settled via national solutions.
They reiterated that the recent developments have shown that powerful countries are not helping the weak ones and only the institutionalised and strong governments that enjoy sufficient power can deal with the crisis and control it more quickly.
This opinion concluded as saying that the current crisis is the result of a broken global economic backwardness, in other words, this crisis will strengthen nationalism and weaken the globalisation. This issue would also foster the importance of the strong governments as it is hailed by “Jean Bodin” and his followers.
But in contrast to internationalists, the world is being called to the fact that the “nation-state” and the principle of national sovereignty are unable to solve global problems.
The crises cannot be confined to national borders, and at present, a single cough on one side of the world can bring about catastrophic results on the other side.
In an aim to prove their claims, these thinkers also indicate that no country is capable to settle its problems alone.
Trumpism was doomed to failure at the beginning of the way. The economic and commercial neoliberalism, which has caused catastrophic dangers to the environment and the planet, showed that it does not have any remedy for curing the pain and solving the problems of human beings.
In the face of an invisible demon named coronavirus, nuclear weapons and long-range missiles also have no effective power.
This view hopes that multilateralism in the global arena will eventually overcome unilateralism, cooperation and coexistence will bound extremist nationalism, and ultimately lead to the application of patriarchal methods in governance rather than authoritarianism.
It is also unknown what will happen in the future due to a lack of transparency and growing ambiguity about the dimensions and timing of the crisis. However, I can point out some statements that seem more definite as follows:
It is too early to talk about the establishment of a new international order, because the crisis, despite the suffering it has brought to humanity, is not so terrible that a new building could be built on its ruins. Governments will overcome this crisis with all of its difficulties, and soon the competition will start among the companies that are manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccines and the medicine for treating this virus.
The current trends would be continued, the United Nations would become weaker, and the United States and, to some extent the European confrontation with China will be increased.
After the collapse of the bipolar order and the subsequent collapse of the American dream, the emergence of numerous and brutal wars by the American coalition in the Middle East that claimed hundreds of thousands of innocent lives and made millions homeless, undermining the democracy and human rights for waging a new war and dropping bombs on the oppressed people, the world order has been out of the rail for years, and the current crisis will only exacerbate this situation.
Compared to similar events that have happened over the past 100 years, this crisis represents an increase in the self-awareness of human beings. This is mainly due to the extraordinary impact and speed of information networks in the world. So, unlike the previous crises, the world is facing two realities at the same time: one is the crisis itself and the other is the type and level of perception from it!
In this situation, the role and position of the “structuralist approach” and attention to cultural identities and signs should be highlighted in examining and analysing the current state of the world, as well as predicting future international developments.
It seems that the coronavirus crisis will make the various schools of thought closer in international relations.
The “influence and power of sovereignty” and the “self-help” and self-reliance of governments, in the way that the realists desire, will be considered all countries and governments. It will also convince the internationalists regarding the coronavirus crisis that establishing a government or a full-fledged global mechanism which is considered as a necessity, is an early expectation, and still, the nation-states are the main focus of global politics.
But on the other hand, everyone will agree that the principle of full-fledged action and behaviour of governments on “conflict of interest” and “competition and conflict” does not meet the needs of nations and the current state of the world.
As a result, one must wait for a new and updated version of “modern realism” or a form of internationalism “pragmatism.”
Undoubtedly, in the post-coronavirus period, national sovereignty and the role of the state institution will be strengthened, and the basic economy and investment in healthcare will be highlighted.
In the meantime, despite the failure of globalisation processes, countries will seek to find a global mechanism to deal with crises and common threats in the international arena.
Multilateralism will also be strengthened in global politics, and countries will move further away from American globalisation.
Due to the serious damage that this crisis is inflicting on the credit and economy of the United States and Europe and the European Union failure in helping its member states, the image of the East will become more highlighted and prominent in the eyes of the world.
Under these circumstances, countries such as China, Russia, India, as well as Iran will be able to be more active.
His recent stances should be considered as a reaction to the fact that the United States is losing more credibility not only at the global leadership level but also in managing a crisis as a national state. At the same time, he has made some recommendations to prevent further US decline.
The main loser in this crisis is the economy in different areas such as energy, the aviation industry, and tourism, and the winner is virtual technology and various areas of the cyber industry.
At the same time, we could also hope that the combination of these two areas including economy and cyberspace, as well as the consolidation of some habits that were shaped during the coronavirus crisis, the tendency to a new lifestyle and the emergence of new consumption patterns, pave the way for the creation of new areas of economic activity, new actions and initiatives in the field of production, distribution, consumption, and as a result, lead to the creation of a new wave of economic prosperity in the post-coronavirus world.
Naturally, the share of each country will depend on its capacity and talent.
Iran was one of the first countries to face the coronavirus phenomenon, and despite the problems and damages caused by the epidemic, Tehran tried to control and manage the crisis. The Islamic Republic of Iran also declared its protest against the unfair, immoral and inhuman sanctions against this country in the international community.
Relying on the approach of regional cooperation, foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran in recent months has tried to play a role in resolving the regional conflicts and helping its neighbouring countries to settle their internal conflicts.
With the relative easing of this crisis, the diplomacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, by emphasising on its permanent approach to multilateralism, can enjoy its capacities and potentials to form an international partnership and coalition to deter unilateralism and expand cooperation in Eurasia and West Asian region.