The annual World Economic Forum at Davos provided heads of state and government, businesspeople, academics and members of “civil society” with the opportunity to tackle the world’s most pressing issues at this critical time. We all know that our common home is burning, and that although there are many theories as to what must be done, right now it appears that things will get worse, that the immediate future is uncertain.
The pandemic interrupted the meetings of the global elite at the Swiss resort; for the same reason, this year’s Forum was held in May instead of January. The Russian invasion of Ukraine compounded the problems that were caused or exacerbated by the pandemic. The sudden restart of economies after extensive lockdowns sparked an energy crisis, as the turn toward the “green transition” had prompted a suspension of exploration for new sources of natural gas and oil. The war, and sanctions against Russia, tightened supplies even further, leading to higher prices and inflation. The same results followed disruption in exports of cereals and fertilizers from Russia and Ukraine, even as the climate crisis was causing problems to crops in other parts of the world.
With all these developments, we may be witnessing “deglobalization,” as countries rush to protect their own production and stocks, supply chains are disrupted, and the weaponization of the dollar in sanctions prompts discussions on whether it might lose its dominance.
The first step toward putting out the multidimensional, global fire would be to end the war in Ukraine. No one seems to know how to do this.
Speaking at the Forum’s closing Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared, “We cannot allow Putin to win this war.” But the most effective way to stop Putin, and to keep him from resorting to nuclear weapons, would be for China to join in, isolating him completely. Yet neither Beijing nor Washington seems ready to adopt a spirit of collaboration.
Through all that was said, and not said, at Davos, it appears that the protagonists of international politics are unable to cooperate to keep things from getting worse very quickly.