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The XXI century will be a сentury either of total all-embracing crisis or of moral and spiritual healing that will reinvigorate humankind. It is my conviction that all of us - all reasonable political leaders, all spiritual and ideological movements, all  faiths - must help in this transition to a triumph of humanism and justice, in making the XXI century a century of a new human renaissance.

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22 June 2020

The Gorbachev Foundation: The Pandemic as a Challenge and the New Thinking in the 21st Century

The paper has been prepared as part of the Expertise Round Table, a standing project of The Gorbachev Foundation. The team of contributors led by Mikhail Gorbachev includes Pavel Palazhchenko, Vasily Zharkov, Olga Zdravomyslova, Karen Karageziyan, Vladimir Polyakov and Andrey Ryabov


The pandemic that has infected and killed hundreds of thousands of people is a new challenge threatening modern civilization. It exacerbates existing problems between states while at the same time being a product of them.

The coronavirus crisis is international, cross-border, and universal. All countries turned out to be equal in terms of their limited ability to counteract the new global threat.

The crisis has demonstrated that civilization has reached the point where the interrelation and interconnection of all its parts mean that it requires a new global policy to address the problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and require immediate action.

The current model of globalization has demonstrated its vulnerability by laying bare the depths of global inequality in the face of the challenge posed by the pandemic. The gap between the richest and poorest states and the increasing economic inequality have created a range of problems that no national government can resolve. Thus far, the United States and Western Europe have borne the brunt of the pandemic, but scientists warn that the spread of the disease in Latin America and Africa may cause many more deaths.

The breakdown of trust in domestic governmental institutions and the increased distrust at the international level have become a global problem. The only way to solve the trust crisis domestically is through democracy (or democratization). Internationally, the only way is to build up a dialogue.

The pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated the trend towards a new bipolar confrontation that could stem from the growing tensions between the United States and China. None of the possible scenarios of a bipolar confrontation appears to be favourable for the prospects of global politics. Russia would be wise to make preventing the emergence of a confrontational bipolar global system an objective of its foreign policy. Today, when a new world order is emerging, there is a greater need for a non-opportunistic, substantive policy buttressed by a vision of global perspective.

Now more than ever, we need to revise the concept of security and demilitarize politics and thinking. The global community should take particular heed of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for an immediate cessation of all armed conflicts and Mikhail Gorbachev’s proposal that states cut their military budgets by 10–15%.

As a   first step, the leading military powers could make a statement pledging to base the development of their militaries on the principles of reasonable defence sufficiency and transparency.

Of immediate urgency is the issue of tackling the biosecurity problem both in its military (the need to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention) and medical aspects (international cooperation in preventing and combating pandemics).

The response to these challenges must be comprehensive and all-encompassing. Humanity must develop this response together in order to move to a new level of international cooperation and advance the creation of a more reliable global security system. “New political thinking” updated for the rapidly changing world can serve as the philosophical foundation for this policy. The concept of new thinking developed in the second half of the 1980s proposed a project to reshaping the world in accordance with universal human values, above all human life, freedom, and security for each and every person.

Three decades ago, new political thinking marked a new hope for the progress of democratization and for a more equitable system of international relations. The policy of new thinking made it possible to put an end to the Cold War.


The concept of the new political thinking proceeds from the premise that states and peoples, while respecting each other’s independence and refraining from interference in each other’s affairs, at the same time recognize their common responsibility for the survival of humankind. This realization makes it possible to transition from confrontation to partnership.


The crisis caused by the 2020 pandemic puts this objective back on the agenda. The ideas of the new thinking must be brought back to global politics.

Read the Paper «The Pandemic as a Challenge and the New Thinking in the 21st Century»