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George Soros warns ‘civilization may not survive’ Putin’s war

May 24, 2022, 7:26 PM UTC

Billionaire George Soros warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has rattled Europe and could be the start of another world war.

“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,” Soros, 91, said Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “That’s why I say our civilization may not survive.”

Soros, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor, focused his speech on the rise of the “repressive regimes” of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, calling the two countries the “greatest threat to open society.” His philanthropic organization of that name, Open Society Foundations, funds groups promoting justice, democracy, human rights and progressive politics.

The two leaders have made “mind-boggling mistakes,” Soros said. “Putin expected to be welcomed in Ukraine as a liberator; Xi Jinping is sticking to a Zero COVID policy that can’t possibly be sustained.”

The persistent lockdowns in China will disrupt supply chains, which could keep inflation around the world elevated and create a global depression, he said. He added that Xi’s errors may have cost him a third term.

Previous critiques

Soros has previously used the WEF stage to unleash blistering critiques. At the last meeting, in January 2020, he suggested without evidence that Facebook Inc. might be conspiring to help re-elect Donald Trump, who lost the U.S. presidency later that year.

In 2019, the former hedge fund manager warned of the “mortal danger” of China’s use of artificial intelligence to repress its citizens, a theme he hit again in his speech Tuesday. 

“AI is particularly good at producing instruments of control that help repressive regimes and endanger open societies,” Soros said. “COVID-19 also helped legitimize instruments of control because they are really useful in dealing with the virus.”

He also commented on the state of European politics. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the country the best-performing economy in the region in part thanks to deals with Russia for gas and China for automobile exports, but now “there is a heavy price to pay,” he said.

“Germany’s economy needs to be reoriented,” Soros said. “And that will take a long time.”

The European Union’s REPowerEU package of measures unveiled last week will make Chancellor Olaf Scholz “particularly anxious” because of Merkel’s previous agreements, Soros said. By contrast, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi is “more courageous,” even though the country is just about as dependent on Russia gas.

Soros closed his hedge fund in 2011 and converted the firm into a family office, investing solely on behalf of himself, his family members and his network of philanthropies. He has a personal fortune of $8.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

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