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Nation-States Are Better Able to React to a Crisis Like the Coronavirus, says Hoover Institution Fellow

Elijah Labby

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Photo of Dr. Russell Berman courtesy Stanford University

May 12, 2020 — The global response to the coronavirus shows that individual nation-states have greater response power than multi-nation organizations, Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Russell Berman said in a Stanford University virtual policy briefing Monday.

The lecture, moderated by Director Tom Gilligan, centered around the global coronavirus response and its implications for global cooperation on a variety of issues.

Berman said that the individual countries’ response to the coronavirus prove that when it comes to global events, it is not organizations like the United Nations that will take the lead but individual governments.

“A lesson from this pandemic is that international organizations generally failed,” Berman said. “The United Nations and its main bodies … have really been absent without leave. They’ve really done nothing.”

The individual reactions to the virus have had varying levels of effectiveness, said Berman, which can be challenging to compare.

“You know you can compare the effectiveness in different ways, but to say that the United States has the most infected cases doesn’t really mean much because the United States is a really big country,” he said. “Of course, we’re going to have more than Canada.”

Gilligan and Berman also discussed the impact of the Chinese government downplaying the threat of the coronavirus earlier this year. When asked if the West could unify in its approach to repercussions for China, Berman expressed doubt.

“I wish,” he said. “I would argue for a U.S. foreign policy that would try to persuade the European Union to get on board with us on the range of issues that faces China.”

Berman concluded his briefing by stressing the renewed importance of individual countries.

“Nation states have always been important, and their importance in responding to the crisis is evidence for their continued vitality … I don’t want to say that [multinational corporations] have no role to play, but people should ratchet down their expectations,” he said.

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