(January 2022)

This special issue of PRISM is about the different perceptions and reactions to COVID-19 as people and governments experienced the disease, and their diverse understanding of its implications for national and international security.

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Image by santoelia for Shutterstock, ID: 1697738131

Welcome to the New Abnormal

By Michael Miklaucic and Amit Gupta

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most globally disruptive event since the terrorist attack against the United States in 2001. Originating in China in late 2019 the disease rapidly spread throughout the international transportation network to every region and every country. Neither its velocity nor its magnitude were initially understood. In 2020 the entire world seemed to come to a standstill. International and even domestic travel came to an abrupt halt. Normally teeming cities were silenced. Streets, markets, and even schools were empty.

Thousands of small American flags honor the 200,000+ COVID-19 deaths to date in the United States. Washington, DC.
(covidmemorialproject, September 23, 2020. Photo by TJ Brown)

Reality Injection: Beyond Masks and Quarantine The True Cost of COVID-19

By Eric D. Achtmann, Raquel Bono, Anita Goel, Margaret A. Hanson-Muse, and Steven M. Jones

COVID-19 has had a profound economic and social impact on America, taking over a half million lives—more than all American deaths in World War I, World War II, and Vietnam, combined.1 This article seeks to examine primary and secondary consequences of the pandemic in practical terms for the average citizen and taxpayer, whose personal exposure exceeds 2.5 years of net income based on predictions of a $16 to $35 trillion cost to the nation by 2025. Further, we offer insight into the pandemic’s collateral effects on our citizens and workforce (including often overlooked key stakeholders such as women, children, and minorities), as well as more overt aspects of our national security.

Master Sgt. Don Rix, 701st Airlift Squadron loadmaster, directs a forklift at Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport, Suriname, July 16, 2021. The portable field hospital, valued at $745,000, was donated by U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) to the Suriname Ministry of Health to augment their overwhelmed medical capacity brought on by COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn White, July 16, 2021)

U.S. SOUTHCOM Fights Through COVID-19

By Michael T. Plehn

COVID-19 is not only a medical and humanitarian emergency that still requires immediate response, but it also remains an operating environment in which we must continue to conduct our missions as effectively and safely as possible. USSOUTHCOM was successful because of early, decisive action and our commitment and ability to work across the broad spectrum of those with whom we partner in DOD, the interagency community, with our country teams in U.S. Embassies throughout the region, and—of course—with our partners and neighbors who are eager to work with us in addressing the many security challenges that confront all the nations in the Western Hemisphere.

So how will globalization impact on the efforts of nations to contain the disease? (Unknown)

COVID-19 and Superpower Competition: An Effective American Response

By Amit Gupta

Before COVID-19 became a global pandemic, the growing consensus among analysts was that we were entering a period of deglobalization. According to the economic analyst Mohammed el-Erian deglobalization was taking place because by the 2000s the adverse economic impact of globalization had become apparent to the Western middle class. Secondly, the U.S.-China trade war saw rising tariffs and a call for rebuilding national manufacturing capabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic was the last nail in the coffin as countries adopted highly individualistic and nationalistic policies that put national interest above any global concerns.

Lehig Defense is a U.S. ammunition manufacturer located in the Lehigh Valley. (Photo by ironwas for shutterstock (1592215681) Quakertown, PA, September 18, 2019)

The Impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. Defense Industrial Base

By Nayantara D. Hensel

The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed a number of challenges on countries and industries, some of which have been partially mitigated by government efforts, medical developments, and corporate strategies. Nevertheless, COVID-19, which, in March 2020, was identified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization and was declared by the U.S. government as a national emergency,1 will likely continue to have after-effects in the coming years.

“COVID-19 spreads through international trade. No country is immune.” (Image by Lightboxx, Shutterstock ID: 1780042934)

Sweden’s Security Policy after Covid-19

By Fredrik Bynander

The pandemic has caused ruptures in how nations view their vulnerabilities and partnerships but also generated new thinking on national and regional security assets. Sweden became the global outlier early in the outbreak—pictured as unconcerned with the spread of the disease, indeed shooting for herd immunity according to some experts and pundits. This image, whether justified or not, came with a cost. Borders with the neighboring Nordics were closed for long periods, its standing in the European Union (EU) arena suffered, and the reputation of this self-proclaimed humanitarian powerhouse took a beating.

“The masked Three Smiths in an almost deserted Helsinki. Finland is defining social media influencers as ‘critical
operators’, along with medics, to get across the message to stay at home.” (Photo by Aija Lehtonen, Helsinki, Finland,
March 31, 2020. Shutterstock: ID 1689010423)

Impact of the Global COVID-19 Pandemic on Finnish Views of Security

By Charly Salonius-Pasternak

When Finnish authorities began meetings focused on the potential spread of COVID-19 in January 2020 they were still hoping that the outbreak would be contained abroad. The first confirmed case in Finland came on January 29, through a Chinese tourist visiting Lapland. In his speech to open Parliament on February 2 Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said the possibility of a global pandemic could not be discounted, and that global cooperation and national preparations were key. He noted that the low threshold for cross-authority cooperation and information sharing among Finnish authorities was a key strength. COVID-19 would ultimately expose this as not being entirely correct. The pandemic also made it clear that Finland’s comprehensive societal security concept is mainly focused on preparations for foreseen events, but has fewer provisions for operative management of dynamic crises, and unless it is a military crisis, no other authorities have the wherewithal or resources to manage a long-running society-wide emergency-crisis situation.

WADDINXVEEN, THE NETHERLANDS: Shopping in Dutch city center during virus outbreak. People wearing surgical face
mask for protection. Chalk text in Dutch means ‘We beat Corona together, this is 1.5 m ‘ )Image by Kiwik at Shutterstock.
ID: 1812478942)

The Dutch Approach to COVID-19: How is it Distinctive?

By Caroline van Dullemen and Jeanne de Bruijn

“A grim milestone: Number of COVID-19 deaths surpasses 10,000 in The Netherlands” the NL Times published on December 12, 2020.1 These figures were reported by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Two days earlier, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s chief COVID-19 advisor, said in a public lecture, “look with envy” at the Netherlands because of its “unambiguous approach to the pandemic.”

Young gondoliers training on an empty Grand Canal just after the reopening after the lockdown for COVID-19. Venice,
Italy (Photo by: Simone Padovani at Shutterstock ID: 1744194650. May 2020)

COVID-19 Pandemic and its Impact on Italy’s Governance and Security

By Francesco Palermo

Italy has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a proportionately high number of infections, and even higher mortality rate, due to the large number of elderly people (22.7 percent of the residents being over 65 years, the highest percentage in Europe). As of 30 April 2021, in a population of 60.35 million, 4,044,762 had been infected, with 121,177 casualties. The impact was extremely uneven among Italy’s regions in the “first wave” (February-June 2020), with the overwhelming majority of cases being concentrated in just a handful of regions in the north. These areas are the more industrialized parts of Italy and hence more exposed to trade with foreign nations. In the “second wave,” that started in October 2020, the distribution of the infection was far more uniform.

“Boris Johnson visits Covid-19 Vaccine Center.” (Image by Number 10, December 8, 2020)

Neither Triumph nor Disaster: United Kingdom Responses to COVID-19 and the Future of National Security

By Nicholas D. Wright

Nations are from time to time subjected to the audit of war: a searching examination that looks beneath the myths, shiny surfaces, and sticking plasters to reveal those areas of society and government that are truly strong, actually weak, or just plain mediocre. What did 1914–1917 or 1941–1945 expose about Russia’s real strengths and weaknesses? How would the United States really stand up to German Panzer forces and the Japanese Navy in 1942? Fortunately, no Western nation has been through such an examination since 1945, but the massive social, political, and economic shock of COVID-19 has provided a searching peacetime test. Twenty months since reports of the first deaths circulated in Wuhan, China, we still have not marked the end of COVID-19. But we have learned a lot. Here we ask: what did the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 experience reveal; how does that relate to UK national security; and what does this mean for the UK moving forward in a post-COVID global order?

Health workers wearing personal protective equipment arrive to take part in a checkup camp at a slum in Malad during the
COVID-19 pandemic. (Shutterstock item: 1743306872. April 28, 2020)

India’s National Security Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Chintamani Mahapatra

Last time the world was so badly affected by a global pandemic—known as the Spanish Flu—was about a hundred years ago. It was an era of colonialism and imperialism, and India at that time was a British colony. About 11 million Indians fell victim to the viral attack and lost their lives but the government of the time was hardly confronted by the people for its failures to contain the impact on their lives. There was no question or any discussion of the role of the government in containing or confronting the virus at that time, as the colonial population had no voice in governance. India was not worried about any foreign invasion or loss of its territorial integrity. There was no powerful country in the neighbourhood that posed a challenge to the jewel of the British Crown and there was no fear of cross-border terrorism.

Disinfection to reopen and receive visitors and tourists at Christ the Redeemer in the fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. (Photo by: Jorge hely veiga on Shutterstock ID: 1795421221. April 28, 2020)

Eurasia Rising: COVID-19 in Latin America

By Ariel González Levaggi and Vicente Ventura Barreiro

Latin America is slowly becoming a venue for the United States’ strategic competition with Russia and China. Despite the regional illusions during the early 21st century, the Brazilian leadership of Latin America has disappeared, regional integration has lost its climax and external state actors have increasing geoeconomic interests throughout the Western Hemisphere from the Rio Grande to Antarctica. To complicate matters further, COVID-19 has impacted Latin America more deeply than other regions, thus expanding the range of health, economic, and security needs in the continent. China and Russia have appeared as alternative providers of medical equipment, humanitarian aid, and vaccines, thus trying to replace the traditional role of Western developed nations, especially the United States, on the continent.

Grand Hotel Taipei lights up rooms to spell ‘zero’ to mark no new COVID-19 cases. Taipei, Taiwan. (Photo by: Ricky kuo at Shutterstock ID: 1718942320, April 29, 2020)

Taiwan Under the Pandemic: A Security Perspective

By Wu Shang-Su

The drastic changes in Taiwan’s COVID-19 situation present an unusual national security case study. Despite its proximity to the initial outbreak in China, Taiwan was in a “parallel universe” from the beginning of the pandemic with a total of only 1199 confirmed cases and 12 deaths as of May 10th 2021.1 While many countries have suffered seriously from the pandemic Taiwan did not experience any lockdown throughout 2020, and its economy even grew.2 When vaccinations began in March 2021, Taiwan looked likely to escape the pandemic without major disruption; an outbreak in May 2021 however removed the laurel of success and plunged Taiwan into uncertainty.3

Royal guards at Deoksugung Palace wearing face masks to protect against infection from the Coronavirus Covid-19. Seoul,
South Korea. (Photo by: bmszealand at Shutterstock ID: 1659561283. January 31, 2020)

Korea’s Exemplary Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Successes and Challenges

By Juliette Schwak

South Korea was early-on considered a model of pandemic management during the COVID-19 crisis. Considering South Korea’s proximity to China, it is no surprise that it was one of the first countries to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 2021, the South Korean government reports that there were 136,467 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country since the outbreak, of which 1,934 patients died. The impact of the crisis on South Korea’s health system had therefore been limited. In comparison, Japan reported 718,864 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 12,312 casualties, as reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is despite the fact that South Korea experienced its first outbreak in February 2020, only one month after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country. South Korean authorities responded very quickly to this first outbreak, taking public safety measures that were comparatively mild compared to China’s swift but repressive response, or Europe or the United States’ successive, and yet much less effective, nation-wide or region-wide lockdowns. South Korea’s effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has combined technical, cultural, and political factors. It can be differentiated from neighboring countries’ approaches, including those that have obtained similarly good results, but there might also be some common policy responses across countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, or New Zealand.

Social Distancing in the Market. (Photo: World Bank / Sambrian Mbaabu, April 22, 2020)

The Geography and Politics of Kenya’s Response to COVID-19

By Donovan C. Chau

On 12 March 2021—the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Kenya—its President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke to the Kenyan people about the past year’s events, discussing the highs, the lows, and everything in between. He recounted the loss of 1,879 Kenyans due to COVID-19 and referred to the struggle with the pandemic as a “fog of war,” an enemy unseen and undefined. He discussed both the political and the economic challenges that Kenya experienced and might continue to face in the future. In a measured address to the Kenyan people, he ended on a realistic note: “I must remind you that Government will do its part to protect Kenyans; but the first line of defence against an invisible enemy like Covid is the people. If we exercise civic responsibility and act as our ‘brother’s keeper,’ we will have won half the battle against this pandemic.”1 As with most, if not all, political speeches, Kenyatta’s words and sentences were filled with both truths as well as partial truths. This article aims to fill in the gaps, adding much needed perspective to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya, its impacts and effects on the political, security, and strategy dimensions of the country.