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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to be the “start of World War III” that could spell the end of civilization, veteran philanthropist and former financier George Soros has warned.

In a ferocious attack on Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Soros warned that autocratic regimes were on the rise and the global economy was heading for a depression.

Soros, who has become a hate figure for the hard right in the United States, also strongly criticized former German Chancellor Angela Merkel for siding with Moscow and Beijing.

With the mood in Davos already depressed due to the war in Ukraine, Soros took the dark rhetoric to new heights.

“The invasion may have been the start of World War III and our civilization may not survive it,” he said.

“The invasion of Ukraine did not come out of nowhere. The world is increasingly engaged in a struggle between two diametrically opposed systems of governance: the open society and the closed society.

The 91-year-old former hedge fund owner said the tide had started to turn against public companies following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001. “Repressive regimes are now in rise and open societies are under siege.. Today, China and Russia pose the greatest threat to an open society.

Soros, who led the speculative financial attack that knocked the pound out of the European exchange rate mechanism 30 years ago, said Europe had responded well to the crisis triggered by the Russian invasion.

“It will take a long time to sort out the details, but Europe seems to be moving in the right direction. It responded to the invasion of Ukraine with more speed, unity and vigor than ever before in its history.

He added: “But Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels remains excessive, largely because of the mercantilist policies pursued by former Chancellor Angela Merkel. It had made special agreements with Russia for gas supplies and made China Germany’s biggest export market. This made Germany the best performing economy in Europe, but now there is a heavy price to pay. The German economy must be reoriented. And it will take a long time. »

Soros said Putin got Xi’s okay for the Russian invasion when the Winter Olympics opened in Beijing in early February. But he insisted the Chinese leader was not as strong as he believed.

“Xi harbors a guilty secret. He never told the Chinese people that he was inoculated with a vaccine designed for the original Wuhan variant that offers very little protection against newer variants.

Soros said Xi was unable to “clean up” because he was at a tricky point in his career. “His second term expires in the fall of 2022 and he wants to be nominated for an unprecedented third term, ultimately making him ruler for life.”

China’s lockdowns to fight Covid-19 sent the economy into freefall, but Xi was unable to admit he had made a mistake, he said.

“In addition to the real estate crisis, the damage will be so great that it will affect the global economy. With the disruption of supply chains, global inflation is likely to turn into a global depression.

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Contrary to popular expectations, Xi Jinping may not get his coveted third term because of the mistakes he has made, Soros predicted.

“As the war rages, the fight against climate change must take a back seat. Yet experts tell us that we have already fallen far behind and that climate change is on the verge of becoming irreversible. It could be the end of our civilization.

“Therefore, we must mobilize all our resources to end the war quickly. The best and perhaps the only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible. This is the bottom line.

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