The new year was always going to begin under the shadow of the pandemic. But with the Omicron variant spreading far and wide at a rapid pace, it won’t be easy to tame the virus in the next 12 months. Covid-19 has already left behind a trail of death, pain and shattered dreams for nearly two years.
Of course, the coronavirus is not the only source of our problems today. The year 2021 has left behind a laundry list of crises – economic, political and geopolitical – that we need to tackle on an urgent basis in 2022.
Apart from the pandemic, the biggest crises afflicting the world are geopolitical in nature.
Tensions continue in Eastern Europe, where Nato and Russia are jockeying for influence. Ukraine’s interest in joining Nato and the western security alliance’s gradual expansion into what Russia believes to be its sphere of influence has greatly worried Moscow. Talks scheduled for January 10 in Geneva between Russia and Nato member states could well avert an all-out conflict, but doubts remain over whether Nato will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand for something that resembles a treaty with written guarantees.
Balance of power requires strong leadership on all sides, something that is currently lacking in the West.
This is particularly a problem in Europe after Angela Merkel’s resignation as the German chancellor late last year. French President Emmanuel Macron is considered to be Mrs Merkel’s natural successor as Europe’s de-facto leader, but he is up for re-election this year. Meanwhile, Olaf Scholz, the new German chancellor, is currently focused on domestic challenges.
The US is also facing a crisis of leadership under Joe Biden’s presidency. The world is accustomed to seeing proactive and decisive American leadership but the Biden administration has come up short in this regard. It could be further hackneyed if the opposition Republican Party secures a majority of seats in the US House of Representatives and Senate – as is expected after this year’s midterm election.
There will be no crisis of leadership in China, however. The 20th Congress of the ruling Communist Party is expected to re-elect Xi Jinping president this year. One can…