27.12.2021 Author: Vladimir Odintsov

Will 2022 be Better Than the Outgoing Year?

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As 2021 is approaching its end, efforts are being made to assess it and gain insight into what the New Year, 2022, holds in store for us.

In 2021, the world has still been reeling under the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic, but it has turned out to be more hectic: the old conflicts have flared up again and the new ones have kept emerging while the rift between Russia and the West has only deepened.

2021 was the year when US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin had their first face-to-face meeting that laid the groundwork for resolving the crisis in bilateral relations. Russia and the US have managed to build a constructive strategic stability dialogue. In January, prior to the summit itself, the sides extended the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five years that sets thresholds for their nuclear arsenals. After the talks the US and Russia held two rounds of consultations on strategic stability and agreed to create working groups.

At the same time, Russophobic and Sinophobic frenzy propagated by certain elements within the US political and military establishment, continued as it evolved into saber-rattling to showcase that the West would not shy away from an armed conflict with Russia and China in the proximity to their borders. In this regard, a December article by Bonnie Kristian, a deputy editor at The Week Magazine, seems remarkable. The article says that Americans have been spared the horrors of war since Vietnam, and that is why they are dangerously casual about a potential stand off with Russia. The author refers to th|e American scientist and writer Freddie deBoer, who noted that a huge number of netizens is dreaming of war. “We’ve gotten to a point where so many people feel comfortable getting cavalier about war with Russia.” According to the article, the young people’s belligerent mindset hinges, to a great extent, on the unipolar world that has emerged after the end of the Cold War.

That is why Russia’s official offer to start talks with the US on the issue of security guarantees could be eyed as an important development in 2021. The draft treaty with the US and a draft agreement with NATO were handed over to Washington on December 15. In its draft agreement with NATO Russia proposed the following: the alliance shall commit itself to refrain from any further enlargement of NATO to the East, including the accession of Ukraine to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Moscow urged the alliance to back down from any military activities outside its territory, namely in Ukraine and other Eastern European states, in the South Caucasus and in Central Asia. Russia also suggested that NATO should not deploy additional military forces and weaponry outside the territories where they had already been stationed as of May 1997 (i.e. before Eastern European states joined NATO).

In the meantime, Russia is ready to commit itself not to deploy intermediate- and short-range missiles in areas allowing them to reach the NATO territory, while the alliance should reciprocate. NATO leadership was also asked to reaffirm that Russia and the alliance do not consider each other as adversaries, formalize their intent to settle disputes by peaceful means and refrain from the use of force and do not create conditions that could be perceived as a threat to each other.

Given the lack of a straight answer to this peace overture by Russia, The Washington Post’s readers have recently disapproved the critical tone that the newspaper used to describe Russian draft treaties with NATO and the US on security guarantees. The commentators stressed, in particular, that Russia’s desire to “be surrounded by countries that are not part of NATO” is “quite reasonable.” They also pointed out that the US “is creating a very dangerous situation” since Washington and other NATO members “may be drawn into any regional conflict.” In this case the conflict “will quickly escalate into a full-scale war and nuclear holocaust.”

In general, given that in 2021 several parts of the world faced dangerous developments, many around the globe are critical in their assessment of the outgoing year. In a recent poll, about 70% of US citizens say that 2021 has been a sad year both for the country and for them personally. Moreover, 54% say they are no longer hopeful about the nation’s prosperous future, The Washington Times reports. According to a recent survey sponsored by Fox Business, speaking of the factors that have had a negative impact on their assessment of the situation, Americans cited rising prices, escalating crime rates and the heavy toll that COVID-19 pandemic has had on many families. “The promise of 2021 was that we would get off the roller coaster, but instead it felt like the ride was just as intense with little hope of returning to normalcy,” said Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducted polls with Democrat Chris Anderson.

No wonder that projections regarding the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the nations’ well-being loom large in the global media. Prominent virologists, astrologers and researchers around the world predict that 2022 will be marked with unexpected turns of events. Their takes, however, are often totally at odds with one another. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said, nonetheless, that 2022 may be the year when the COVID-19 pandemic would end. Meanwhile, Mike Ryan, the WHO Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Program, said that the world is not even close to the end of this pandemic but has the means allowing to prevail over it.

US billionaire Bill Gates also came up with a projection for when the pandemic will end. The emerging new coronavirus strain, Omicron, will result in the waves becoming shorter while the pandemic itself may end as early as in 2022, he said in his Twitter post.

Scientists make projections based on analytical data and mathematical models. Norwegian company Rystad Energy predicts that global economy will grow in 2022 due to increased oil and gas production. Despite the new anticipated coronavirus restrictions, they will not reduce business activity. Inflation spike will coincide with the increase in salaries since the unemployment rate will go down. Countries will allocate more and more funds for social policies.

New antiviral pills, improved antibody treatments and more vaccines are coming, the British magazine The Economist says. For vaccinated population in the developed world, the virus will no longer be life-threatening. But it will still pose a deadly danger in the developing world. Unless vaccinations can be stepped up, COVID-19 will have become just another of the many endemic diseases that afflict the poor but not the rich.

Amidst all this, projections are made that the future will be “hybrid”, and that more people will spend more days working from home. But there is some scope for disagreement on the details: how many days, and which ones. Surveys show that women are less keen to return to the office, so they may risk being passed over for promotions. And, finally, debates also loom over tax rules and monitoring of remote workers.

It is acknowledged that given the economy is picking up, people are becoming more active. But countries that pursued a zero-covid suppression strategy, such as Australia and New Zealand, have faced some difficulties regarding transition to a world in which the virus is endemic. In these circumstances it is stated that almost half of business travel is gone for good. That is good for the planet, but bad for tourists and tourist industry.

The Winter Olympics in Beijing (slated for 2022) and the football World Cup in Qatar, as the majority of the planet’s inhabitants expect, will be reminders of how sport can bring the world together. However, further escalation of political football spearheaded by the US and its Western allies is to be expected with the latter instigating information campaigns and initiating boycott of these sports events. At the same time, boycotts by national teams seem unlikely.

As you know, according to the Chinese calendar, the symbol of 2022 is a blue water tiger. A tiger is a capricious and obstinate animal, and one should watch out for it. Meanwhile, water somewhat offsets these qualities; it damps down aggression and pacifies. Hence, forecasts are made that the year under such a sign will be colorful, abundant with events and sudden turns. In the Eastern culture the blue color is considered to be one of the most versatile, which means that we need to be ready for changes. At the same time, it is common knowledge that Tiger represents energy. That is why the year under its sign may become bright, dynamic and enabling breakthroughs in important areas of social life and politics. Against such a backdrop the author is hopeful that it will contribute to breakthrough proposals to strengthen global security, promote hunger reduction and scientific research and to fight climate change.

The key point is to be ready for this high-stakes push!

Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 


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