COVID-19 - the pandemic and its impact on security policy
from the German Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies, I didn't know of it till now, it has an English name, but publishes only in German and this paper was made up by one author only... and has no earth shattering new insights, but for discussion I translated a few pieces about preparation on a state level and international security issues...
(The GIDS examines problems and phenomena that are decisive for Germany's security policy strategy and thus creates the basis for advising decision-makers in the Bundeswehr and the Federal Government.
The GIDS is a cooperation project between the Bundeswehr Command and Staff College and the Helmut Schmidt University / University of the Bundeswehr Hamburg. The GIDS research and advisory work thus combines scientific excellence with military expertise.)
Matthias Rogg, COVID-19 – die Pandemie und ihre Auswirkungen auf die Sicherheitspolitik, #GIDSstatement 1/2020, Hamburg.
German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr Manteuffelstraße 20 · 22587 Hamburg
Tel.: +49 (0)40 8667 6801
firstname.lastname@example.org · www.gids-hamburg.de
COVID-19 - the pandemic and its impact on security policy
Autor: Oberst [Colonel] i.G. [on General Staff duty ] Prof. Matthias Rogg
(He is Professor of Modern and "Modernest" History at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Hamburg since 2013, making him the first active Bundeswehr soldier to receive a professorship outside of the medical service.
His dissertation was "on the image of the soldier in the 16th century" - I have to look into this...)
Germany's strategic strength in the crisis
Without wanting to talk down the challenges of general government action, the corona crisis affects Germany under comparatively favorable conditions. Germany is facing only one crisis at the moment: we have no extreme weather conditions, no floods, no government crisis - on the contrary: we have a stable, experienced and, above all, capable government that is enjoying great trust right now. In addition, Germany can rely on a functioning administration, an excellent health system and, last but not least, excellent social systems. The worldwide unique instrument of short-time work alone helps the economy enormously. Unlike in many countries, including the western world, the public sector coffers are full. With good reason, our country enjoys the highest credit rating on the international financial markets and therefore has financial opportunities that now enable quick and effective action. Germany is strategically well positioned here.
COVID-19 reveals Germany's strategic deficits
Regardless of these favorable general conditions, the crisis increasingly reveals the lack of substantial, actually legally prescribed resources at the level of local authorities and the federal states as well as the lack of strategic reserves in terms of personnel, materials and infrastructure at the federal level (Bayer 2020). For generations, people have not felt so vulnerable. The shortages of vital goods in the healthcare sector (medication, protective equipment, etc.) suddenly show us how dependent we are on global supply chains, even for products that should not be an issue for an industrialized nation that is admired worldwide. The question of what, and not least, who is systemically important in a crisis, is becoming the first thing that many people are aware of. Government regulation and resilience building are suddenly in demand again in the health care system, although last year there were discussions about the closure of half of all German clinics for efficiency reasons (Böcken 2019). In order to regain strategic autonomy, in future more attention must be paid to the diversity of the suppliers, to stocks and the avoidance of redundancies. The management of certain resources, the importance of which often only becomes clear in the course of a crisis, must be recognized earlier and managed centrally. The German Bundestag military commissioner, Hans-Peter Bartels, summed up the dilemma: “Having is better than needing” (Varwick 2020: 5).
Since the end of compulsory military service, the Bundeswehr has had very little strategic personnel. The commitment of our reservists is showing itself again in these days, but in the end the support services provided by the Bundeswehr are limited due to its focus on foreign missions as well as national and alliance defense. The resulting effects on health systems and civilian aid organizations, which have benefited from community service for decades, can be seen more than clearly - we urgently need these highly committed young people in the armed forces and especially in the social and health systems! In addition, the gradual reductions in the armed forces over the past 30 years and the not always understandable decisions with different deployment concepts have led to the dissolution of numerous properties. We now lack this infrastructure in the area, which, due to its design, would be ideal for setting up emergency shelters or for isolation. We already experienced these deficits painfully while coping with the refugees in 2015 and we are now faced with similar problems again. In the end, the fixed costs for maintaining a strategic reserve, be it in terms of personnel or material, could turn out to be far lower than the immediate costs and, above all, the resulting costs that arise in a crisis. Germany urgently needs to improve here!
COVID-19 opens new windows in security policy
How the European Union, which is already badly hit, will get out of this crisis is a question that is not (yet) on the agenda. When Germany takes over the presidency of the EU Council Presidency in the second half of the year, COVID-19 will probably continue to be the dominant issue - and expectations, especially for Germany, are likely to be immense. This is particularly true for the member states Italy and Spain that look into the abyss. The fact that these (and not only these), after EU members had rejected calls for help, security competitors - if not opponents to our western system - such as China and Russia, had to be requested for material help in the crisis and received it immediately, shows not only how desperate the situation is . Italy, which only recently wanted to demonstrate a substantial contribution to the NATO major maneuver “Defender Europe 2020”, is now grateful for material and personal help against the virus from Moscow (Ivits 2020). With this coup, Russia is not only relying on demonstrating its political strength and ability to act to the world. The Kremlin is also hoping to ease the tense relationship with NATO and perhaps even build a bridge that could ease sanctions.
Further examples show that the corona virus has another (security policy) force that is not destructive, but does the opposite. All over the world, security policy has started to move and things that were not believed to be possible suddenly, seem doable now. Under the conditions of natural disasters, it has been shown time and again that parties in a conflict are looking for ways of working together, agreeing to ceasefires or offering their societies opportunities to breathe (Kreutz 2012). The tsunami in December 2004, for example, opened a dialogue between the Aceh rebels and the Indonesian government that was not previously thought possible (Garrigues 2020). In the Corona crisis, Venezuela and Colombia, the United States' closest ally in the region, are beginning to explore ways of working together to fight the pandemic through the Pan American Health Organization. In Libya, international actors have started negotiations on a "corona ceasefire" (Garrigues 2020). Qatar and Kuwait followed shortly after the United Arab Emirates began to support their “arch enemy” Iran in the fight against COVID-19 with medical aid. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered a one-month ceasefire in the fight against the communist rebels so that the armed forces (sic!) can concentrate more on fighting the virus (International Crisis Group 2020: 13). And even the United States has sent first aid to the breakaway region of Abkhazia, despite the longstanding conflict with Russia. Without euphoria and with the necessary sobriety, one can say that there is currently movement in some conflicts that seemed to be cemented. The scope that opens up here should be carefully observed and used by German foreign and security policy.
COVID-19 as a fire accelerator in crises and conflicts
Despite these encouraging signals for positive changes, the view in this country remains focused on the western world. However, the unforeseeable consequences of an expansion of the pandemic in regions that are volatile in terms of security policy (Barakat 2020) could hardly be more dramatic and exacerbate the crisis in Germany in a way that was previously unimaginable. Despite the scarce resources already mentioned, responsible strategic and political thinking and acting also requires this aspect to be taken into account (N. Müller 2020). Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, has once again urged Germany's responsibility and interest in Africa, especially now in the COVID 19 pandemic. The current crisis teaches: “We have to check our supply chains thoroughly so that our supplies are not only crisis-proof but also pathogen-free.” (G. Müller 2020). The situation in many countries is much more explosive. None other than the President of the International Red Cross Committee, Peter Maurer, warned that the lack of basic medical care in the many conflict zones around the world is a frighteningly open gateway for COVID-19 (Maurer 2020).
It is obvious that the previously low number of registrations from Africa and the Middle East can be attributed to completely inadequate tests because most countries only have a rudimentary medical infrastructure. The African countries should not be underestimated - not least because they have far more experience with pandemics. Nonetheless, the urban centers are particularly threatened here, since an outbreak of the virus would very likely cause an unstoppable catastrophe there. Soberly, the question is not whether, but when it happens and where it starts. The course of the Ebola epidemic has clearly shown that fragile states with little trust in the population in government action are additionally undermining countermeasures of any kind.
Experts from the “International Crisis Group” rate the threat to northwestern Syria with the Idlib region and Yemen as particularly high (International Crisis Group 2020: 2–3). The world's refugee camps are a hotspot: not only Moria in Lesbos, which has almost been forgotten, but also the camps in the Gaza Strip or a million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Where the borders were closed to people fleeing, such as Brazil and Colombia vis-à-vis Venezuela, the potential for violence increases. The ongoing travel restrictions, which often apply indiscriminately to humanitarian workers, make it all the more difficult to organize aid on the ground and gain a reliable picture of the situation. If the humanitarian catastrophe of an outbreak of a virus in a crowded refugee camp were not big enough, it would be hard to imagine how the local security forces would react and what this would mean for political stability in regions that were already unstable.
After all, the corona virus acts like a toxic accelerator for authoritarian states. The recent measures taken by the Hungarian government, pseudo-legitimized by the corona crisis, to call out an emergency right indefinitely, are particularly reminiscent of the “Empowerment Act” in Germany and thus the darkest chapter in our history (Löwenstein 2020). Further examples from China, Algeria and Russia show that with reference to COVID-19 the rights of the opposition there are restricted even more (International Crisis Group 2020: 7). It is also possible, as the International Crisis Group convincingly notes, that COVID-19 could encourage governments to venture into foreign policy adventures in the shadow of the crisis and in anticipation of the inability of the international community to act (International Crisis Group 2020: 10 ).
No matter how the economically weak countries in the Middle East and Africa, shaken by crises, orient themselves politically: they are particularly at risk from the pandemic, have little chance of effective crisis management and are likely to be politically much more difficult after a pandemic , economically and socially consolidate. It takes little imagination to imagine that COVID-19 can act like a polyvalent fire accelerator.
Seven theses and recommendations for action on COVID-19 from a security perspective
The world is in an existential struggle that feels like war to many - even if so far the weapons are silent. We are still primarily concerned with the medical challenges, the questions of when a life that we remember as normal is possible again and how the economic consequences can be mastered. All of this is important and the view of the closer private, possibly national circle is understandable, but should not obscure the view of international developments. But the pandemic also has a security dimension, the importance of which will only grow.
1. The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to open up opportunities for foreign and security policy because there is scope for action between the actors that was previously unthinkable. Here Germany should closely monitor and examine where it is helpful and also in its interest to weigh its international weight.
2. Learning with and from the crisis means “Global Health and Security” to pay more strategic attention in the future. The topic needs to be brought into the center of our attention from the margins: the focus of foreign and security policy and thus also of the armed forces.
3. Precisely because politicians in Germany repeatedly emphasize the importance of scientific expertise in a crisis, its causes and forms have to be examined using scientific methods - thoroughly and now. The Bundeswehr is challenged here with all the resources of its universities and scientific institutes. This includes, always in line with the requirements of a networked approach, the implementation of wargaming with decision-makers as well as the development and maintenance of scientifically based models under the conditions of a pandemic.
4. The emerging fields of tension in the complex network of health, economy and security show that new ethical answers must also be found for this problems.
5. An honest, empirical-critical analysis of the performance and scope of medical early warning systems, social resilience and the use of the Bundeswehr in the crisis is hardly less important.
6. We need an honest discussion about Germany's strategic reserves. The discussion must not end with purely material aspects such as supply chains, procurement processes and stockpiling. The subject of a mandatory year of service, which has been buried several times politically, is back on the agenda: if not now, when?
7. COVID-19 is a global challenge that can only be mastered globally and in a network. Germany, with its international reputation, is particularly challenged here in the area of foreign, security and development policy. Now it has to be seen whether the actors in our country are willing and able to think and act in a networked way. It is only a matter of time before the virus spreads to the world's miserable regions. Now there is still time to consider the consequences and possible reactions. We underestimated this virus in all respects when it broke out and should, no, not make the same mistake again!
The used sources are mainly German so if interested look them up in the original paper, her only a few that were in English and may be of general interest....
Barakat, Mahmoud (2020), Conflict Region Vulnerable to COVID-19 Catastrophe, in: Anadolu Agency vom 28.03.2020, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/africa/conflict-re- gions-vulnerable-to-covid-19-catastrophe/1782833
Gannon, Megan (2018), An Unknown ‘Disease X’ Could Become an Epidemic. Can
We Find It Before It’s Too Late?, in: Livescience vom 18.10.2018, https://www. livescience.com/63862-disease-x-animal-source.html
Garrigues, Juan (2020), Conflict and Peace Scenarios in Time of COVID-19 (CIDOB Opini- on 618), https://www.cidob.org/en/publi...n_series/opinion/se- guridad_y_ politica_mundial/conflict_and_ peace_scenarios_in_times_of_covid_19
International Crisis Group (2020), Covid-19 and Conflict: Seven Trends to Watch (Crisis Group Special Briefing 4), New York/Brüssel, https://d2071andvip0wj.cloud- front.net/B004-covid-19-seven-trends.pdf
Kreutz, Joakim (2012), From Tremors to Talks: Do Natural Desasters Produce Ripe Moments for Resolving Separatist Conflicts?, in: International Interactions 38:4, S. 482–502.
Maurer, Peter (2020), COVID-19 Poses a Dramatic Threat to Life in Conflict Zones, in: World Economic Forum vom 27.03.20, https://www.weforum.org/agen- da/2020/03/covid-19-poses-a-dramatic-threat-to-life-in-conflict-zones/
In Berlin the domestic violence is up 10 % according to the police reports, a help-phone line for this said 20% up.
Export bans and restrictions could have an impact on global food trade.
"Bread, milk, cereals and meat should always be on Kazakh dining tables," says Baqyt Sultanow. The 48-year-old is Minister of Trade and Integration in Kazakhstan and sees the Corona crisis as a threat to his compatriots' food supplies. So he acted last week: Kazakhstan will no longer export agricultural products. Import duties have been suspended and the value added tax for food has been reduced.
Kazakhstan may not seem particularly important to us, but the Central Asian empire is important in international grain trade: According to data from the US Department of Agriculture, only twelve countries produced more grain last year. So the announcement is as important as if Norway announced it would stop exporting oil.
Vietnam, Serbia and Russia follow Kazakhstan's example
Especially since Kazakhstan is by no means an isolated case: many other countries have imposed similar restrictions. Vietnam issued an export ban on rice last week. The country wants to check whether it has enough reserves for its own population. Vietnam is the third largest rice exporter in the world, so even a week-long trade freeze is noticeable here. The test has not yet been completed, but the agricultural association announced in a statement that the reserves would be sufficient.
The trend is not limited to Asia. In Europe, for example, Serbia stopped exporting sunflower oil and other types of oil, while Russia wants to reassess the situation every week. In Africa, most recently, Morocco, Algeria and Turkey ordered grain abroad in large quantities to ensure supplies in the country. All three are among the largest importers of agricultural products in the world.
When states hoard, food is lacking elsewhere
And even major powers are affected: China, for example, is increasingly buying up grain and wheat from its own farmers this year. However, this is due to the fact that there was almost an undersupply in some parts of the country during the wedding of the Corona crisis in February. In addition, China bought tons of wheat and soybeans from the United States last week. However, the deal is still part of agreements that both countries reached in the trade dispute before the outbreak of the Corona crisis.
When some countries start hoarding food, other places are lacking: In the Philippines, for example, there are growing concerns that rice otherwise imported from Vietnam could become scarce. The stocks would currently last for two months. Time that Secretary of Agriculture William Dar plans to use to tap new sources from Southeast Asia. The rice could become scarce by July at the latest, feared Raul Montemayor, head of the farmers' association: "During this time, our own harvests are usually too low."
Analysts fear price spiral for food
The national solo efforts of some states are causing concern for global analysts: "It is already beginning and the quarantine regulations will certainly become even stricter," says Tim Benton of the London think tank Chatham House. His fear: If the corona circles worsened, more countries would hamper food - similar to the supermarket, there would be a global shortage on a larger scale.
In addition, the pandemic is disrupting food production and, above all, transportation. "In the worst case, governments have to start rationing food," says Ann Berg, a former trader in agricultural products and now a management consultant. It will most likely not be that bad, but the artificial shortage of supply could increase the prices of grain, meat and crops. This would incentivize states to hoard more of it for their poorer fellow citizens, which drives prices up further.
Governments are afraid of unrest
How sensitive people react to high food prices is repeatedly shown. They were one of the reasons for the Arab Spring after the financial crisis, they have brought down several governments in India since 1980 - another reason why states now prefer to hoard instead of risking unrest in the country when supplies are no longer optimal .
There is currently no need to worry: Food production is in good shape globally. No country would have to fear serious shortcomings. Earlier crises on the grain market, for example, were mostly triggered by capricious weather and natural disasters. "This is not the case now," says Maximo Torero, chief economist of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, "now would be the time for states to work together and coordinate."
But what is about the huge locusts swarm in Africa? Are the locusts suddenly eaten by the corona virus, or just out of sight of the MSM and their "experts" even one by the FAO?
From a German news source on 3/26/2020I
... In East Africa, huge swarms of locusts threaten the livelihoods of millions of people. Particularly dramatic: The food supply is already critical in the affected countries - the World Food Organization FAO warns of starvation from the locust plague.... up to 25 Million people to starve... There was also predicted a "second wave, later this year" So what? Double Think at its finest? Or was the former locust plague just a little fear mongering to get more donations / funds?
From all the coming economic trouble coming IMHO we see only the tip of the iceberg, in Germany with our relatively full coffer of money and credit worthiness and the instrument of short-time work, we are ahead of the coming tsunamy wave.
if we can really outrun it I have doubts.
Lots of people are in debt or living from paycheck to paycheck, and 60% of normal may just - or even not - cover the usual fix costs, so more debt or hunger or both and for most of cause more frugal living. No new phone every year, no new car now (the newest models are way too expensive with all the electronic gizmos installed, but small engines, so nobody wanted them really anyhow!) No travel for vacation in the foreseeable future with all the consume associated with it. The latest clothes trend? No money for that, have to buy food. Cruises anyone, really? Put 2 to 3.000 high risk (older)people in a petry dish and warm it up - see what will happen again!
So life and society (as communal life) will change, with less free money available for lots of regular people. The proverbial one % does not count, even if they each buy one more mega yacht more or acquire a surplus Boing jet. The influx of economy will be still near zero.
The younger generation is not used to frugal living, people who were kids during WW2 are 80 now, the last (few) drafted conscripts in Germany are reaching 30 soon. The 1.5 million or more "refugees" only 50 % of them in a (mostly less good paid) job, what will they do if there is no, or at least less money to flow in their direction?
Something what the Colonel Rogg did not mention -for reasons of "political correctness" I presume - because his paper is for getting more money for the Bundeswehr in the future, not being ostracised or even stripped from his position for being "politically unreliable".
At least some fodder to think about - and prepare for...