The world’s security threats have been facing changes, since challenges, world order and warfare principles are changing. COVID-19 is no exception. The pandemic poses a serious threat to the health care system’s integrity. It also affects a country’s security in general. The pandemic makes countries vulnerable to other threats, as any country in the world can be easily attacked while closed or kept in quarantine when governments mainly focus on combating COVID-19.
Future threats may be no less serious for countries (their economy, population, etc). And the virus becomes a factor that will make countries, including the EU and Americas, think about how to prevent a similar “lockdown” in the future.
Moreover, countries will be looking for ways to protect themselves and their allies from the potential use of biological and chemical weapons, which is likely to substitute the nuclear one soon just because of its “PR impact.” Indeed, together with natural pandemics, an aggressor country can also use some new types of weapons, which can replace traditional warfare methods. After all, its use is much easier and can be cheaper. In addition, when using nuclear weapons, any terrorist understands that it will destroy them as well. With the use of biological or chemical weapons it is much easier to attack any enemy and at the same time remain intact and utilise the surviving infrastructure.
So when the post-COVID world comes, it may be the world of biological threats. Under COVID-19, many countries have been able to master basic principles of biological warfare and protection from it. In addition, some countries probably will continue laboratory research and virus creation. Thus, it is no surprise that the current pandemic is also taking place against a backdrop of mutual accusations about the virus’s potential origin.
Russia has already taken the opportunity to test warfare in European countries through the delivery of so-called “humanitarian aid” with the participation of military doctors in these countries, such as a cargo plane with “employees” and a lot of unnecessary things sent to Italy by Russia.
In turn, COVID-19 has become an important paradigm of today. And it is associated with a large-scale threat to all mankind, as evidenced when the whole world was closed without a real understanding of the threat level. And today, despite the economic losses, countries are very reluctant to open their borders. In particular, Italy and Spain, which highly depend on tourism, are still not ready to invite tourists from outside the EU. This means that the world will react even more radically to potential threats and close borders in the future, even if there is no weapons activation, but only a potential threat of their use.
In fact, a new “cold war,” most likely, expects the post-COVID world, which henceforth won’t be based on deterrence with nuclear weapons aid but will depend on the presence or potential presence of biological weapons or chemical threat.
On top of that, we are likely to face the change of international security organizations, which often do not fulfil their role today (e.g. the UN, the OSCE). It first hit when there was a conflict between the US and WHO for poorly informing the world about the pandemic threat and the suspension of its funding by the United States. That means that the pandemic has brought to the surface some contradictions that everyone has been silent about for a long time, but that has been on the agenda and needed a solution. Namely, this includes revision of rules, basic documents and approaches to international organizations’ performance to make them efficient under modern realities.
Even before the pandemic, we all saw how Russia blocked many decisions on Ukraine in the UN Security Council due to the veto power. At the same time, Ukraine, as a member of the UN, should have had the right for more solid UN protection because of Russia’s aggression in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea annexation. But this requires a change in the approach to the UN performance and a revision of key international instruments for their adaptation to new security threats and a response mechanism development when an aggressor can veto a decision unilaterally.
Finally, the post-COVID world is a world of new, unconventional challenges. As the pandemic has shown, they go far beyond the nuclear proliferation threat. In particular, it is unconventional warfare, the biological terrorism usage for biological weapons delivery to other countries, more intensive use of chemical weapons and developing a new weapon with a smaller radius of destruction, and higher efficiency in an attack of a specific enemy.
That is why to provide security in the post-COVID world one should focus on preventing the emergence of similar situations. It can be done through effective monitoring and analysis of potential threats, diversity of preventive measures and effective implementation of the deterrent and preventive mechanisms for the new threats. If countries’ borders with China had been closed at the right time, it would have been possible to prevent such a large-scale spread of the pandemic. That means that the post-COVID world should be more sensitive to a new type of threat, more flexible and fast to react to possible security threats, thereby ensuring the safety of its citizens.
Mariia Heletiy, Candidate of Political Science, Yednannia Initiative Centre