Traps in the fight against coronavirus
A new and, as they say, especially harmful strain of the coronavirus “Omicron” is sweeping across the planet. The planet, however, is trying no less rapidly to slam the doors in front of him – either completely blocks the entry of foreigners, like Israel, or restricts prohibitive measures to a group of African states. But, as British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin used to say in the first half of the last century, “a bomber will always break through.” The Omicron will also break through. Its appearance within our borders is only a matter of time, and, as the experience of previous strains shows, in the near future. And that poses a brain-blowing question to Russia's leaders. Even before Omicron appeared on the horizon, the country was deeply bogged down in the coronavirus crisis. How should the Kremlin respond to the new additional challenge?
Of course, you first need to understand the essence of this additional challenge. Do current vaccines protect against Omicron, and if so, to what extent? If not protected or insufficiently protected, then the world faces the prospect of returning to the dark times of spring 2020. But even if the current panic is later declared unjustified, it will not greatly diminish the scale of the problem facing the Kremlin. The problem, which is not medical, not informational and propagandistic, but primarily a pronounced political one.
The Russian expert group “European Dialogue” recently published on its website an article by University of Pennsylvania professor Christine Godsey. It is dedicated to the following phenomenon: the zone of particularly low vaccination rates in Europe almost coincides with the outline of the notorious socialist camp that has long since sunk into oblivion. Here are the figures given by the professor. Bulgaria, vaccination rate 26.2%. Romania – 39.6%. Russia – 36.3%. Ukraine – 20.2%. What is our common problem? According to Christine Godsey, in the loss of society's ability to trust anyone else: “The region is full of misinformation. This is a consequence of the collapse of trust in government institutions after the communist era. Crazy conspiracy theories overwhelmed these countries, becoming the shadow of the coronavirus. ”
So, the root of the problem lies in the fact that thirty years ago the artificially maintained “belief in communism” was replaced by the belief in the “charged water” of Kashpirovsky? I think that this is not the only point. I apologize for the tautology. But the other root of the problem is that up to the present moment, mass belief in the conditional “charged water” has not been a problem in the eyes of the political class. The political elite lived according to the principle: “No matter what the child (in this context – the broad strata of the population) doesn’t amuse himself, if only he doesn’t buzz!”
Passion for esotericism was perceived as a useful (or at least harmless) way to drain and sublimate the extra energy of citizens. I don’t know how much a deliberate “pact on the division of spheres of influence” was concluded between society and the government. “Caesar” was given “Caesar's”: a political clearing, questions about power and the distribution of property. And “Caesar” in return pledged not to get too involved in the inner spiritual life of citizens, in their value ideas about the structure of the Universe. This system worked relatively effectively until the moment when, after the appearance of vaccines against coronavirus, it turned into almost the main brake on the country's development.
Power is now between two fires. Continue to adhere to the “pact on the division of spheres of influence”? It is possible, but very destructive. A consistently high mortality rate puts an end to Russia's plans to get out of the demographic hole. To put up with such a situation for the sake of preserving the political status quo is the most real defeatism, moral collapse. For Putin, who is accustomed to meeting challenges at full gallop and with an open visor, a passive line of conduct is strategically completely unacceptable. However, tactics based solely on frontal force pressure will also not be effective. Hard pressure from the authorities can lead to an imbalance in the political system and a decrease in the level of governance.
We need some kind of middle, hybrid version, which the authorities still cannot find. Why doesn't it work? In my opinion, this is because the current Russian government simply does not have experience in solving problems with such specifics and, as a result, there is no understanding of how they should in principle be solved. The Kremlin knows how to organize elections. The Kremlin knows how to confront the West. Finally, the Kremlin knows how to quickly neutralize internal political troublemakers aimed at conquering power and resources. In the current situation with the coronavirus, all this experience is partly useless, and partly even harmful. The situation in which, albeit not structured, but a very powerful and aggressive “opposition party” of the country has become anti-Axis, requires a fundamentally different set of skills and political tools.
What exactly should this “skill and toolbox” look like? It's time to remember the famous saying: “If you are so smart, then why are you not so rich?” Because I don't have a clear answer at the beginning of this paragraph. I have only a twofold firm conviction: such a set of skills and tools, in principle, exists. In trying to grope for this toolkit, the authorities must avoid several very dangerous psychological traps. The first trap is “do at least something.” I am a supporter of firm action in the fight against coronavirus and the promotion of vaccination. But when I, for example, read about plans to make the presence of a quar code a mandatory condition when buying air tickets, something clicked in me. Rigidity should not be an end in itself. Rigidity has a right to exist only if it is well thought out. Measures that can dramatically reduce the competitiveness of the Russian transport industry do not give the impression of being well thought out.
The second dangerous trap. It is not necessary to treat that part of the population that at the moment does not accept vaccines as enemies, as an ignorant and aggressive mass, from which any rational arguments rebound. There are also enemies (in the sense – political and ideological opponents) in this mass. But it is based on people to whom it was simply not possible to find a key. Let's see how this “political equation” will change “Omicron”: will he make the task of power a little easier, catching up with fear, or, conversely, will complicate everything by mixing variables. However, the essence of the authorities' task does not change from this. The Kremlin has so far failed to effectively mobilize Russian society to combat the threat that is undermining the nation's future. A threat of this magnitude cannot be left unanswered.