George Soros, Hungarian-born American investor and philanthropist.
Fabrice Cofrini | AFP | Getty Images
Liberal billionaire George Soros warned on Tuesday of a global depression and said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be seen as the starting point for World War III.
At his annual dinner at the World Economic Forum, Soros said the course of history has changed dramatically since the last event in Davos, Switzerland.
“Russia invaded Ukraine. It shook Europe to the core,” he told the audience.
“The European Union was created to prevent such a thing from happening. Even when the fighting stops, as it should, the situation will never return to the status quo ante. Indeed, the Russian invasion could turn out to be the beginning of a global crisis. The third war, and our civilization might not survive it.”
Soros said other issues that concern humanity, such as pandemics, climate change and the prevention of nuclear war, had to take a back seat. “That’s why I say our civilization may not survive,” he later added.
Soros, born in Hungary to a Jewish family that survived the Nazi occupation, emigrated to Britain and later to the United States. The financier funds liberal charities and non-governmental organizations around the world through his Open Society Foundations, and bet against sterling in 1992.
Speaking on Tuesday, Soros said the fight against climate change must take a back seat amid the war in Ukraine.
“Yet experts tell us that we are already way behind and that climate change is on the verge of becoming irreversible. This could be the end of our civilization,” he said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is widely seen as putting a planned energy transition at a crossroads. Gas and oil prices soared and global energy markets were severely destabilized. The use of coal has increased as Western countries desperately seek alternatives to Russian hydrocarbons.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the Kremlin’s assault on Ukraine is likely to have major implications for global warming targets. António Guterres described this short-sighted fossil fuel rush as “madness”, before warning that “humanity’s dependence on fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction”.
Soros said he finds the prospect of irreversible climate change “particularly frightening”. “Most of us accept the idea that we must eventually die, but we take it for granted that our civilization will survive,” he said.
“Therefore, we must mobilize all our resources to end the war quickly. The best and perhaps the only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. That’s the main thing,” he added.
China Covid Policy
Soros also took aim at Beijing, which is experiencing its worst Covid-19 outbreak since early 2020. Earlier in May, Chinese President Xi Jinping led a meeting of senior leaders which stressed that the country should stick to its “dynamic zero-Covid” policy and warned that economic consequences would follow if this were not the case. .
Officials called on the country to unite behind the decisions of the Communist Party of China’s central committee and “resolutely fight” against any undermining of virus control policies, state media said.
“The continued shutdowns have had dire consequences, pushing the Chinese economy into a tailspin since March,” Soros said in his speech Tuesday.
Citing a Caixin composite purchasing managers’ index, Soros said China’s “sharply declining economic activity” is bound to have global consequences.
“These negative results will continue to grow until Xi changes course. … In addition to the real estate crisis, the damage will be so extensive that it will affect the global economy. With the disruption of the chains supply, global inflation is likely to turn into a global depression,” he said.
Goldman Sachs last week became the latest bank to cut its forecast for China’s GDP, to 4% from 4.5%, after April data showed weaker growth as the Covid-19 controls commercial activity.
— CNBC’s Sam Meredith and Evelyn Cheng contributed to this article.
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