Billionaire George Soros has painted a grim picture of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, warning the conflict could lead to a Third World War and end civilisation as we know it. He said the West should “defeat (Vladimir) Putin as soon as possible” to end a war that has “shaken Europe to its core”.
The 91-year-old Hungarian-American was giving his traditional dinner speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the Mirror reported. He praised Ukraine’s efforts and urged support for the invaded nation – but was critical of Europe’s “excessive” reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
Soros, who is said to be worth around $8.6 billion, said: “The invasion may have been the beginning of the Third World War and our civilisation may not survive it. We must mobilise all our resources to bring the war to an early end. The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilisation is to defeat Putin as soon as possible.
“Even when the fighting stops, as it eventually must, the situation will never revert to where it was before. Other issues that concern all of humanity – fighting pandemics and climate change, avoiding nuclear war, maintaining global institutions – have had to take a back seat to that struggle and that’s why I say civilisation may not survive.”
Praising Ukraine, he said: “I think Ukraine today is rendering a tremendous service to Europe and to the western world and to open society and our survival, because they are fighting our fight. They have a really good chance of winning and we must give them all the support that they ask for.”
But Soros criticised Germany – in particular former Chancellor Angela Merkel – for its “special deals” with Moscow for Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.
He said: “Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels remains excessive, due largely to the mercantilist policies pursued by former Chancellor Angela Merkel. She had made special deals with Russia for the supply of gas and made China Germany’s largest export market. That made Germany the best performing economy in Europe, but now there is a heavy price to pay.”
He praised Merkel’s successor Olaf Scholz saying that although he was elected to continue Merkel’s policies, he “always seemed to do the right thing in the end”.
Soros, who launched founder the Open Society Foundations network, which financially supports groups around the world, said Russia and China pose a threat to open societies, warning: “Repressive regimes are not in the ascendance and China and Russia present the greatest threat to open society.
“In an open society, the rule of the state is to protect the freedom of the individual – in a closed state, the role of the individual is to serve the rulers of the state. They rule by intimidation and as a consequence they make mind-boggling mistakes.”
Meanwhile, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned Europe’s heavy reliance on Russian fossil fuels was “wrong” and “dangerous”.
He told the audience: “Freedom is more important than free trade. The protection of our values is more important than profit. International trade has undoubtedly brought great prosperity, but we must recognise that our economic choices have consequences for our security.”
For stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.