One side effect of the SARS Coronavirus-2 appears to be a diminished appetite among Americans for war with Russia. Given the overreaction by my fellow Americans, thanks to whom I may have to go back to Soviet toilet paper (newspaper) — and am once again getting into any line I see — one would hate to see how they’d react in a real crisis.
Such as the war they want with Russia. One can only hope that this outbreak leaves us all with a bitter taste in our mouths from crises, most of all unnecessary ones.
Since we’re likely to regain our strength soon and conjure some wrongdoing by Vladimir Putin in all this, there is but a small window of peacemaking opportunity here for us to summarily squander.
After all, this is the sort of thing over which countries — even “adversaries” — traditionally come together and cooperate in the search for relief and a cure, while hostile non-state actors who get more of a pass from the West — such as our jihadi friends — watch our panic and think, “You see how the infidel crumbles over a flu? We must get our hands on a biological weapon — an actually lethal one.”
I wrote here in January that 2020 is Year of the Rat according to the Chinese calendar, and the rat signifies chaos. But I was thinking in terms of a Russo-American war, jihad, natural disasters or a Democrat taking the White House. Not a virus. A virus that, let’s be honest, is far from a plague. Considering that the flu kills 60,000 every year in America alone, including young children, should we be closing the world every flu season?
The public’s hysteria — hoarding everything except Corona beer and calling 911 to report coughing neighbors, open businesses and running out of toilet paper — was started and fed by media, which also pushed our politicians to “do something.” The politicians then goaded one another with “Here’s what I’m doing about it — what are YOU doing?!” It’s a cycle that’s destroyed countries before, spurring us to act on incomplete and faulty information. Hopefully, we don’t destroy the whole world this time. Because there are also figurative viruses — opportunistic ones — that wait for you to be in a weakened state, to gain entry.
And our state is weakened right now. So while we are not yet in the full throes of the portended chaos, our panic over a non-plague opens the door to something more virulent. One can only hope that while our enemies use this time and turmoil to plot against us, we are not in turn using it to sharpen our talons against non-enemy Russia.
Aside from a recent article in this paper reporting, “The lies [that the U.S. Army brought the virus to China] began with Russian officials and were promoted in a coordinated effort via Russian state-sponsored social media accounts and Russian government-owned global media” (gee, we would never disseminate anything like that about Russia, would we), all indicators suggest we are not sharpening those talons. In fact, one is heartened that the chest-thumping normally reserved for Russia seems to have transferred to the virus, tough posturing against which carries even less political risk than it does against Russia, and almost as many political points:
“The enemy is the virus,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen proclaimed last Tuesday, “and now we have to do our utmost to protect our people and our economies … We are ready to do everything that is required.” To that end, reported Sky News, “Leaders in the European Union have agreed to close the bloc’s external borders to most non-EU citizens for 30 days to prevent the spread of coronavirus.” (Now if only the EU would do the same with its internal borders and disband itself, we could have some socialism distancing.)
Indeed, everyone seems more or less on board with shutting things down — businesses and borders — until we can figure out what we’re dealing with, though recall the scorn heaped on Mr. Trump when he said as much regarding immigration from seven high-terror-risk Muslim countries for 60-90 days. The world is just more comfortable with an apolitical, non-human target, such as zombies, monsters, machines, warlocks, bugs and Slavs.
Shifting the West’s crosshairs from the bear to the bug brings with it another collateral benefit that’s otherwise been politically impossible: “The Trump Administration has just announced that they will be sending back all undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers to Mexico due to the China Virus,” Ryan Fournier, founder of @TrumpStudents, tweeted last Tuesday.
And still more benefits of the corona scare: In times of crisis, people tend to cling to the familiar, increasing the chances of keeping Mr. Trump in place. If Mr. Trump stays in, that’s less chance of a Russo-American war. Could this second coming of corona have been preordained, to save us from World War III? Already there’s been a “dramatic scaling back of the upcoming U.S.-led ‘Defender 2020’ NATO military drills in Europe,” Reuters reported on March 16 (though it was sure to cite an EU report singling out RT for apocalyptic narratives, while Daily Express fantastically printed, “Russia plots to boost coronavirus death toll in Europe with fake news.”)
Ironically, while keeping us physically more separated, this virus has the potential to bring us closer together, the way alien invasions do in movies. Even though on one hand “Partisan Politics [is] Shaping how America Views Response to Coronavirus, (National Review, March 18), on the other, Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “[Trump’s] team is on it. They have been responsive late at night, early in the morning. And thus far, they have been doing everything that they can do, and I want to say, “Thank you.’” Meanwhile, New York-based journalist Heather Robinson tweeted her observation that “This is a remarkable, and admirable, coming together of science, government, and private sector in service of preserving life.”
One is certainly moved witnessing this genuine concern, if that’s what it is, by government for the lives of the public, contradicting the utter disregard for life they otherwise exhibit with their cavalier attitude toward nuclear war, the logical conclusion of baiting Russia for 20 years. If only they could seize the opportunity that this non-crisis presents for reducing the chances of actualizing a true crisis in the making.
Instead, Mr. Trump — with election-year pressures in mind — has gone in the other direction with his rejection of Mr. Putin’s Victory Day invitation. We’re talking about the 75th anniversary of the Allied Victory in Eastern Europe. While in previous years, the only heads of state to show up have been Czech, Israeli, Serbian, Greek and Kazakh, French President Emmanuel Macron has stated his intention to attend this “75th Diamond Jubilee.” Even a mainstream outfit like the AP has printed that “Western leaders’ presence at the Kremlin parade could provide momentum for mending ties.”
Snubbing this one as we did previous ones could make relations irreparable, bringing our two countries to the point of no return. As journalist Nebojsa Malic put it in 2015 after the 70th anniversary parade, “The West deliberately snubbed the last major celebration of Victory Day that any veterans may still be alive for. Some insults one just cannot forgive.”
Having timed the end of our national hiatus to Hitler’s birthday on April 20th, we should balance it out by honoring the April 25th “anniversary of the momentous occasion when U.S. and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River in the city of Torgau, Germany, successfully cutting the German army in two,” as reads my colleague Ed Lozansky’s World Russia Forum program, emphasizing, “The upcoming anniversary may be the last for many of the remaining veterans and witnesses of that tremendous event.”
To use language the president would appreciate, reversing himself on the May 9th Moscow invite would be tremendous. And très mending of us.
Julia Gorin was a Soviet Refusenik who came to the U.S. in 1976. She is editor of “Hillarisms: The Unmaking of the First Female President.”