US will not lead way out of coronavirus crisis, ex-President tells paper

Former President Tarja Halonen said that the pandemic is final proof of a change in the world order.

President Tarja Halonen. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

The coronavirus pandemic is the first crisis in which there is no expectation that the United States will lead the world out of the dilemma, according to former President Tarja Halonen.

In an interview with daily Helsingin Sanomat, Halonen said that the pandemic has revealed a geopolitical shift.

"This is the first crisis where there is no belief that the United States will lead us out. But of course the enemy -- or challenge -- is different and the pandemic has hit the US hard," Halonen said in the Sunday edition of the paper.

"Several centres forming"

Halonen said that the pandemic is final proof of a shift in the geopolitical power balance in which Cold War era divisions no longer exist. She added that European leaders no longer see the US standing at the centre of the current world order. In this post-American world China is amassing economic and military power in the same way as other authoritarian states such as Turkey and Russia.

"Several centres are forming. This kind of multipolarisation is difficult to manage, especially if autocrats concentrate power. They also want to dominate larger areas. And in time that will also show in global politics," she pointed out.

Halonen, who served two terms as President from 2000 to 2012, described Europe as a shrinking economic zone caught between the United States and China. She said that the virus crisis has given the European Union an external nudge to consider its global status.

"At one time there was talk of military integration but in my view other kinds of crisis readiness and cooperation have actually been more necessary and important."

Halonen has so far been Finland's only female head of state. She was succeeded by Sauli Niinistö, who is currently in his second and final term.