When the coronavirus crisis erupted, the U.S. stayed on the sidelines, and has so far refrained from taking a leading role. Even if it eventually tries to assume leadership, trust in the current U.S. administration has been eroded to such an extent, that few countries would be willing to follow it. Would you follow a leader whose motto is “Me First”?
The void left by the U.S. has not been filled by anyone else. Just the opposite. Xenophobia, isolationism and distrust now characterize most of the international system. Without trust and global solidarity we will not be able to stop the coronavirus epidemic, and we are likely to see more such epidemics in future. But every crisis is also an opportunity. Hopefully the current epidemic will help humankind realize the acute danger posed by global disunity.
To take one prominent example, the epidemic could be a golden opportunity for the E.U. to regain the popular support it has lost in recent years. If the more fortunate members of the E.U. swiftly and generously send money, equipment and medical personnel to help their hardest-hit colleagues, this would prove the worth of the European ideal better than any number of speeches. If, on the other hand, each country is left to fend for itself, then the epidemic might sound the death-knell of the union.