Empowering the Freelance Economy

Skills that need nurturing to stave off World War III

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Shadows of conflict are widening across the globe. Headlines scrolling across our news feeds warn of the return to military conscription and war with Russia. While a return to inscription has been rebuffed as baseless by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, these headlines nonetheless are conjuring up genuine concerns for many of us. Even if we keep the ‘what if’ scenarios swimming in our heads to ourselves.

In this volatile world, the question isn’t “What skills will be needed if World War III breaks out?” but rather “What skills can we nurture now to prevent it from happening?”

Here are some critical skills the world needs right now to prevent conflict escalation and how freelancers, often agents of change, could be at the heart of a peaceful new world agenda.

Diffusing threats – perceived or otherwise – is a two-way street

When it comes to geopolitical tensions and ultimately war, the seed of conflict often comes down to political figures feeling threatened. They feel exposed and have no one to come to their rescue. That threat is often felt on a more personal level than a national one where a head of state has been in power for decades, often referred to as a dictatorship or oligarchy.

The person leading the country may start to feel powerless and lack the security or resources to keep in power politically, fiscally or both. They fear a voter backlash and a change in the political regime. That is often the common thread and can be seen in almost all current conflicts. If there is talk of war crimes and arrest warrants, then negotiations get extremely tricky and stealth-like. Can threats be diffused peacefully and legitimately – even with the same politicians in power – so the world can sleep easier at night?

To make that happen, some very clever people including freelancers need to get to work to get to the root causes of these threats and insecurities. To get to the crux of why they are happening at all. If resolutions are to be made, both sides need to listen. Trust needs to be built from both sides. Political speech writers must verge on the side of caution. Their diplomacy is paramount.

For example, US President Ronald Reagan was a big fan of the Russian proverb, “Dovorey no provorey—trust, but verify.” and used this maxim in his speech during the Signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in December 1987 – just over 37 years ago.

Earlier that year, from the pen of a 30-year-old idealist and junior speechwriter for Reagan administration, the world heard the following words spoken by President Reagan at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” That speechwriter was Peter Robinson, now a seasoned scholar at Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

Navigating the nuances of different cultures, belief systems and even the personalities of world leaders is essential for building trust and finding common ground in complex conflicts.

In September 2022, Russia’s President Putin gave a speech outlining his belief that the collective West was robbing Russians and those of Russian descent living in nations formerly part of the USSR of their philosophy and thought. That Russia’s ambitions for development were a threat to the West. However, he said despite this threat, the West doesn’t need Russia. Perhaps that is the core of the threat. All nations and their leaders want to remain relevant and secure. That is only human nature. But at what cost? And for what means?

Therefore, the line of thinking, the message or intentions of the President of Russia in this speech may not appear straightforward. And that may be the intention. He is a politician after all. But he is not the same politician he was just ten years ago, according to this report. His views have reportedly changed, even when it comes to NATO’s expansion closer to his doorstep. This is why in times of heightened political tensions, the world needs mediators, translators, culture specialists and negotiators to realistically get to the true core of the matter to avoid military conflicts or to quell those already in action.

Here is a translated transcript of some of the key points made in President Putin’s speech, which was aired by Reuters in a video.

There will be no Soviet Union. The past will not come back. Today, Russia doesn’t need this, and that is not our aim. There is nothing stronger than the decision of millions of people who, with their beliefs, culture, traditions, and language, count themselves as part of Russia. Our ancestors have lived together in a single state for many centuries, and there is nothing stronger than the will of these people to return to their real historic homeland.

I want to emphasize once again and precisely, in its greed and in the intention to maintain its unlimited power, there are real reasons for the hybrid war that the collective West is waging against Russia. They don’t want freedom for us. They want to see us as a colony. They don’t want equal cooperation, but robbery. They want to see us not as a free society, but as a crowd of soulless slaves.

For them, we are a direct threat to them, our thoughts and philosophy. Therefore, they encroach onto our philosophy. Our culture and art is a danger to them, and therefore they are trying to ban it. Our development and prosperity is also a threat to them. Competition is growing. They don’t need Russia at all. But we need her.

While most headlines in the past week have been centred on Russia, some international affairs experts, namely John J. Mearsheimer, an often controversial political affairs theorist and realist, have more concerns over any conflicts arising with China, which poses a much larger military and economic threat to the world at large. If China were to invade Taiwan, that would very likely according to US President Joe Biden bring on military protection from the US. That would mean China would be going to war and disengaging economically with the US, NATO and most of its biggest trading partners.

Arguably, China, which is an economic superpower, knows what side its bread is buttered on so is keeping its cards close to its chest when expressing any opinions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China wants to trade globally not just with a handful of “political buddies” some of whom have been branded political pariahs.

Of late, some promising news has come out of Washinton this past weekend. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Chinese Communist Party Politburo Member, Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission, and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bangkok. The discussions on global and regional issues were “candid, substantive and constructive,” the White House reported. Those discussions also related to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the Middle East, DPRK, the South China Sea, and Burma. 

The two men discussed cross-Strait issues, and Mr. Sullivan underscored the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. 

The two sides committed to maintain this strategic channel of communication and to pursue additional high-level diplomacy and consultations in key areas between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, including through a call between President Biden and President Xi.

White House Briefing Room Statement

Mediation: can chemistry be built among adversaries?

Until threats are eased, arms stockpiling will likely continue for many nations. But with equal measure, all nations should be stockpiling “dialogue facilitators” in the shape of skilled mediators with expertise in international relations, active listening, empathy, body language and de-escalation techniques. Mediators who can get to the bottom of what the core of the conflict is. They then can highlight to both sides where the other party’s intentions and concerns can be brought to light, justified or challenged. But when doing so, not to the detriment of the other party.

Navigating the nuances of different cultures, belief systems and even the personalities of world leaders is essential for building trust and finding common ground in complex conflicts.

The world needs misinformation busters and truth seekers

With news outlets making continued staff cuts, it could be even more difficult without the manpower to unravel the truths in conflict zones. What we need more than ever are fact-checkers and researchers who can verify facts from fiction and diplomatically expose falsehoods. This is vital for combating propaganda and preventing misinformation from fueling tensions.

Here are other roles that can help:

  • Data analysts and visualisation experts can make complex data about conflict dynamics accessible and understandable to make informed decisions.
  • Countering hate speech and fearmongering narratives with compelling stories of peace and understanding can shift public opinion. Journalists, copywriters, speechwriters, scriptwriters, academics and podcast hosts have the power to promote peaceful dialogue between warring nations or even just those nations battling it out with war-mongering headlines. The goal is to deescalate the tensions.
  • Music can unite millions. A call for peace can move millions. The musicians and songwriters that can make a collective stand towards peace in 2024, could be more powerful than any political agenda.

Bring on the cyberpeace architects and digital defenders

Protecting critical infrastructure and communication networks from cyberattacks is crucial for preventing online warfare from spilling over into the real world. This is why governments, large corporations, military forces, supply chains and news agencies need cybersecurity specialists

The world needs ethically designed security systems to shield against nuclear attacks, notably autonomous ones, according to Paul Scharre and Michael Depp, two leading analysts at the Centre for New American Security (CNAS).

In an article, the authors wrote:

Of all the effects that AI can have on the world, among the most consequential would be integrating it into the command and control for nuclear weapons. Improperly used, AI in nuclear operations could have world-ending effects.

If properly implemented, it could reduce nuclear risk by improving early warning and detection and enhancing the resilience of second-strike capabilities, both of which would strengthen deterrence.

To take full advantage of these benefits, systems must take into account the strengths and limitations of humans and machines. 

Colin Mayer, Emeritus Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Saiid Business School at the University of Oxford, is on the same wavelength and said in a recent paper published by Microsoft, “AI requires human mediation in contextualising the information to the particular circumstances in which it applies and which, by definition, AI cannot fully appreciate.”

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi also spoke of arranging a “US-China dialogue on AI” in the Spring perhaps for the reasons mentioned above.

War is not a game

In April 2023, CNAS presented a wargame scenario of China invading Taiwan to the House Committee and how real-life politicians may have to react. While tactically useful, such exercises remind us that war is no game. The UK Army recently found that out. Reports revealed that the UK Army created a recruitment video based on the highly popular video game Fortnite used by adults and children alike. Bad taste in judgment? We will let you decide. In the end, the advert was scrapped after public backlash. The video set back the Army £100,000 according to a news report,

How to avoid threats caused by climate change

While political rhetoric over nuclear armament is splashed across headlines, the war on climate change must rage on. Finding innovative solutions to address climate change and resource scarcity can mitigate competition and conflict over these vital resources. This is where freelance environmental scientists and engineers can help nations become more self-sufficient. These specialists are future-proofing the global economy and the planet’s sustainability. We cannot let the ball drop on these objectives, even though defence budgets are looking to balloon over the next three years. It is very likely we will see budgets once earmarked for environmental protection and zero-carbon energy transition going to domestic security.

Arming the world with peaceful resolutions

For all these reasons and more, the world needs a diverse “army” of international freelancers – negotiators, truth-seekers, digital defenders, environmental warriors, and empathy builders – working tirelessly to prevent conflict escalation. This reminds us that the power to prevent war doesn’t lie solely in the hands of governments and institutions. It lies within each of us, and the skills we choose to hone can make a world of difference.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed by individuals featured in videos or quoted do not necessarily reflect the views of the author or The Freelance Informer.

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