Research and Opinion

Jasna Plevnik with Jeffrey Sachs

on the U.S. elections and the challenges the pandemic poses to international cooperation and the world economy for Croatia’s Daily Newspaper Večernji List, Obzor.


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Published on May 25, 2020, 17:36


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Jeffrey Sachs: If China, Russia, the EU, the African Union, ASEAN and others can find a common ground for peace and sustainable development and work together the United States cannot stop them. 


Please Read the Conversation in Croatian Here 

 I have met Jeffrey Sachs at several international conferences where he persistently advocated for sustainable development and the green economy. I admire his courage to fight for the values of American democracy, the preservation of the Earth, and the multilateralism of global institutions despite the atmosphere of intimidation that has spread strongly online in the U.S. especially after 2017. He and his wife Sonia Erlich Sachs, a pediatrician, endocrinologist and public health specialist, have produced many academic achievements and poverty reduction projects (Millennium Villages Project) that have made the world a better place. There are many people in the U.S. who think they will be the ideal presidential couple for 21st century America.

Jeffrey Sachs is the world’s most influential economist and a United Nations adviser on poverty reduction and sustainable development. He is currently a professor at Columbia University, where from 2002 to 2016 was director of the Earth Institute at that University. In the early 1990s, he advised the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia on their transformation into a free market economy. His new book on global problems is called The Age of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions.

Since 2018, he has been one of the most visible critics of US President Donald Trump in the United States. He most often warns of the dangers posed to America by Trump and his administration that have lost the “real meaning of democracy” and the notion of decency.

Deeply concerned about the current state of his country at the beginning of the year, he supported Bernie Sanders for president and advised him from time to time. After Bernie Sanders gave up the presidential race, he will support the winning Democratic candidate.

"I will support the Democratic Party candidate, probably former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump is the worst president in American history and is a serious threat to the United States and the world. "

He does not think that the strong health and economic crisis in America caused by Covid-19 can stop voters from giving Donald Trump a second term.

"It is not necessary. Trump has a very powerful propaganda hand in Fox News. Elections can go either way. This is a dangerous time. "

Trump's hard unilateralism in international relations became the dominant theme after 2017, when the period of American "multilateral unilateralism" ended. American soft power and its democratic values look weaker than ever. The stability of the world and the state of economic interdependence are threatened, but global powers such as the European Union, China and Russia have not yet devised a joint strategy to combat Trump's toxic international behaviour.

Jeffrey Sachs thinks it’s hard to fight Trump’s dangerous fantasies about the world.

"The United States remains financially powerful through the global role of the dollar, in military form through NATO and weapons technology, and economically through an economy of $ 20 trillion. Many countries are afraid to break with the United States even when they disagree because they fear sanctions or other retaliation. "

The behaviour of the US administration towards the World Health Organization (WHO) after the outbreak of the virus seems geopolitical and unfair, although a shift towards community was made at the recent annual video assembly of the WHO. French President Emmanuel Macron said the only priority worth discussing was stopping the disease and rejecting unfounded accusations, alluding to the United States.

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It would have been natural for other WHO's members to immediately suspend America’s membership of the WHO but instead, Trump humiliated the WHO in the way it did before with the WTO, NATO, the nuclear deal with Iran and the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Global governance institutions despite their long tradition and all kinds of capacities seem to have helped Trump to degrade them.

"The world is waking up because of Trump's narcissism and psychopathy. He is mentally disturbed. Many of his followers in the United States do not see this or have some other reason to ignore it. But for most of the world, it's getting clearer. "

Professor Sachs was among the first who rejected the approach that China deliberately spread the virus in the West and supported China as a victim of the virus.

"There will be a lot of independent studies. I believe it will show overwhelming evidence of a zoonotic event that was not related to the laboratory release. This is almost unanimously believed by scientists around the world. Our Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was incredible evidence of a laboratory release, but he never put forward such evidence. I doubt Pompeo is lying. If he's telling the truth, he should show the evidence. "

 Is it fair to say that Trump’s re-election could mean that there will be no effective global strategies by governments and institutions to control the return of Covid-19?

 "The question is whether China, Japan, Korea, the EU, the African Union, ASEAN, and others can cooperate. I hope they can. The world needs it. The US has become a destabilizing force under Trump. This administration is trying to start a new Cold War with China that would be dangerous for the whole world. "

I cautiously suggest that after the pandemic and eventual defeat of Trump, the world needs a new order and a new economic globalization as a model of international connectivity that can close the deep gap between rich and poor countries.

"The deep crisis can now go either in the direction of a new sustainable path or a bigger conflict. Both results are possible. Some will depend on the US election. If Trump is re-elected, the world will be far more dangerous. But much will depend on whether China, Russia, the EU, the African Union, ASEAN and others can find a common ground for peace and sustainable development. It is in the interest of the world. If these regions work together, the United States cannot stop them. "