October 2, 2023


The philanthropist argues that the West must “mobilize all our resources” to defeat Putin – as the war is setting back urgent action against climate change.

The invasion of Ukraine “may have been the beginning” of the Third World War, according to the philanthropist and financier George Soros. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he argues that even if this is outcome averted, the war has relegated the fight against climate change to second place – and we have “already fallen far behind”.  This damage is on the verge of being irreversible – meaning that our civilization “may not survive”.

Such high stakes demand that we “mobilize all our resources” as the “best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization” is to “defeat Putin”.  Putin “knows how weak his position is”, “seems to have recognized” his “terrible mistake” when he invaded Ukraine and is now “preparing the ground for negotiating a cease-fire”, according to Mr. Soros.  However,  “the ceasefire is unattainable because he cannot be trusted.  Putin would have to start peace negotiations, which he will never do because it would be the equivalent to resigning”.  Putin allowed a military expert opposed to the invasion to “go on Russian television to inform the public how bad the situation is”.

Soros argues that Europe seems to be “moving in the right direction” – acting with greater “speed, unity and vigor” than ever before in its history. “After a hesitant start”, Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, also “has found a strong pro-European voice”. Though we “can’t predict the outcome, Ukraine certainly has a fighting chance” of winning the war, he claims, though they “must fight on open terrain where the numerical superiority of the Russian army is more difficult to overcome”.

However “the weaker Putin gets the more unpredictable he becomes”. European leaders “feel the pressure” as they realise “Putin may not wait until they develop alternative sources of energy” but could “turn off the taps on gas while it really hurts”.  Europe’s cohesion “faces a severe test,  but  if it  continues to maintain its unity, it could strengthen Europe’s energy security and leadership on climate”.
Soros backs measures, following the invasion of Ukraine, to promote greater European integration.  He endorsed the leader of the Italian Partito Democratico Enrico Letta’s plan for a partially federated Europe, in which core countries give up their veto power in key policy areas. He also backs President Macron’s calls for Ukraine, Moldova, and the Western Balkans to qualify for EU membership.

Soros believes Germany will pay a “heavy price” for Chancellor Merkel’s “mercantilist” policies in which special deals with Russia to supply gas were combined with allowing China to become Germany’s largest export market. Such policies “made Germany the best performing economy in Europe”, a position Mr. Soros believes it will lose as it goes through the long process of reorientating its economy.  

However, he praises German Chancellor Olaf Scholz because he “always seems to do the right thing in the end” – from breaking the traditions of Social Democrats to abandoning Nordstream 2, to committing 100 billion euros to defense and providing arms for Ukraine. Mr Soros. singles out the Italian Prime Minister as “more courageous” for taking a strong line against Putin “although Italy’s gas dependency is almost as high as Germany’s.”

Turning to China, Soros argues Xi Jinping is “bound to fail” because he gave Putin permission to launch an unsuccessful attack against Ukraine against China’s best interests. China ought to be the senior partner in the alliance with Russia but Xi Jinping’s lack of assertiveness allowed Putin to usurp that position”, he says.  Xi Jin Ping “continues to support Putin”,  Mr. Soros argues,  “but no longer without limits”.

President Xi’s Zero Covid policy, which has forced the population into makeshift quarantine centers rather than allowing them to quarantine at home, has “driven Shanghai to the verge of open rebellion” he argues. Xi’s failure to offer the Chinese people a vaccine that offers protection against new variants is his “guilty secret” that he “cannot afford to come clean” about because it could jeopardize his hopes to be appointed to a third term, when his second office expires in the fall of 2022, making him ruler for life.

According to Soros, President Xi’s  “worst mistake” was to “double down on Zero Covid”. The lockdowns had “disastrous consequences” and pushed the Chinese economy into a free fall which, on top of the real estate crisis, and the disruption of supply chains, is liable to turn global inflation into a global depression.

Soros argues that Xi Jinping is in a more constrained position than is often claimed.  He has “many enemies”, though they fear to attack directly “because he has centralized all the instruments of surveillance and repression in his own hands”. If the Politburo are dissatisfied with his performance, they “may not give him a free hand to select members of the next Politburo” – [reducing] his power and influence and make it less likely that he will become ruler for life”.

Soros believes that the invasion of Ukraine “didn’t come out of the blue”: it is a struggle between two diametrically opposed systems of governance – the open society and closed society. Whereas in an open society, the role of the state is to protect the freedom of the individual, “in a closed society the role of the individual is to serve the rulers of the state”

After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the tide turned against open societies, he argues, with repressive regimes in the ascendency – and China and Russia presenting the greatest threat. This is due to the development of digital technology, especially artificial intelligence, that produces instruments of control that help repressive regimes. Mr. Soros argues that China has collected personal data for the surveillance and control of its citizens more aggressively than any country in history. More recently, COVID-19 has helped legitimize instruments of control because they were so useful in dealing with the virus.

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping both make “mind-boggling mistakes” because they rule by intimidation, Soros concludes. “Putin expected to be welcomed to Ukraine as a liberator” while “Xi Jinping is sticking to a Zero Covid policy that can’t possibly be sustained”.

  1. George Soros is the founder of Soros Fund Management and the founder and chair of the Open Society Foundations. He began his philanthropic work in 1979 with scholarships for Black African university students in South Africa and for East European dissidents to study in the West. He has given away more than $32bn to advance rights and justice across the world. 
  2. To watch the speech
  3. The full text


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