The other pandemic

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the planet is investing considerable resources in finding a cure. Can we continue to act as if other pandemics are not waiting for us? The absence of preventive measures to limit the arms race simmers a planetary danger that requires global awareness.

It is true that compared to the Spanish flu pandemic, today we have vaccines and technological countermeasures to fight against COVID-19. The search for a licensed vaccine that took advantage of artificial intelligence has yielded results in record time. Statisticians have developed models that help make decisions about containment measures in schools, workplaces or travel.

The notion of flattening the curve of the evolution of the number of cases over time under protective measures has been generally accepted by the general public. Current concern is the effect of the highly transmissible pathogenic mutations Delta and Omicron, which are responsible for outbreaks worldwide.

The attitude of countries towards the pandemic has not been uniform. The countries of Southeast Asia, which have experienced the ravages of the virulent pathogen of SARS, have acted firmly and expeditiously. In China, automated tracing of everyone’s contacts has been imposed, while in Western societies, human rights defenders have opposed it, seeing it as an intrusion on privacy.

In addition, there have been movements that have prompted the population to refuse to be vaccinated under all kinds of pretexts, ranging from objection to the genetic content of vaccines to the alleged conspiracy to reduce the earth’s population … The countries of the third world are insufficiently vaccinated and do not have vaccines. However, international collaboration on vaccine distribution is progressing.

The pandemic that awaits us

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military spending increased 2.6% in 2020, reaching $ 1981 billion. Military spending as a percentage of gross domestic product is growing on all continents.

Between 2018 and 2019, sales of the top 25 arms production companies increased 8.5%, reaching 361 billion. More than 13,000 nuclear warheads are deployed, including 6,550 in the United States and 6,375 in Russia. China, which has 350 nuclear warheads, wants to achieve parity with these superpowers and refuses to participate in strategic arms reduction treaties.

While the doctrine of mutually assured destruction had neutralized the superpowers during the Cold War, the development of hypersonic weapons dramatically changes the balance of power globally. Hypersonic weapons, which are capable of following near-erratic low-altitude trajectories at speeds in excess of six times the speed of sound, are particularly difficult to detect and intercept.

The hypersonic arms race has started in many countries. The extraordinary speeds reached increase the risk of false perception and leave very little time to make the decision to react. Will we be inclined to entrust the reaction to an artificial intelligence algorithm? The chain reaction of attacks and counterattacks could then have an epidemic effect that would raze the planet.


The growing destructive power of armaments brings into play thermonuclear energies that are beyond all control. If an accident or a military engagement occurs with the atomic weapon, are we able to react adequately? The intrusion of a hypersonic missile in the DNA of the defense would trigger an avalanche of antibodies which increase the level of alert and seek to attack the weak points of the adversary’s immunity …

Will we have to wait for a catastrophe to worry about preventive measures and neutralize the sword of Damocles which floats above our heads? Are we only concerned with modeling the number of victims, the effects of radiation and the number of hospitalizations that would follow? Would such an eventuality be manageable?

Just as the fight against COVID-19 has prompted the collaboration of biologists, epidemiologists, statisticians and computer scientists, it is high time for international collaboration to involve different segments of society to alert the world. the danger represented by the proliferation of armaments and invite the simplest common sense to the concertation table. Otherwise, carelessness in the matter amounts to putting the future of the planet in the hands of arms dealers.

The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of life on Earth and the miracle of survival in the biosphere. Should we further weaken the chances of survival?

In the face of the unknown dimensions of the COVID crisis, politicians and scientists have proposed measures that, to the general public, have been perceived as an unbroken sequence of steps forward and backward. This procrastination could be fatal in the era of hypersonic devices. In the current arms race 7.8 billion souls are caught in a destructive cycle. The leadership that can show them the light at the end of the tunnel is missing.

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