Ukraine invasion may be start of third world war and ‘civilisation may not survive it,’ says Soros

The 91-year-old financier told Davos that Western countries must defeat Vladimir Putin’s forces to preserve free society

<p>George Soros addresses the assembly on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos on Tuesday</p>

George Soros addresses the assembly on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos on Tuesday

Billionaire George Soros has said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could be the beginning of a third world war and that “civilisation may not survive it”

The 91-year-old financier, who has become a bogeyman for the far right, told Davos that the best way to preserve a free society was for Western countries to defeat Vladimir Putin’s forces.

And in a broadside aimed at China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s under-fire president he said that repressive regimes are “in the ascendant” and open societies are “under siege”.

He also warned EU countries - who have faced criticism for their overreliance on Russia for energy - that Mr Putin could turn off natural gas supplies, which currently accounts for about 40 per cent of Europe’s needs, “while it really hurts”.

On Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, Mr Soros said: “The invasion may have been the beginning of the third world war and our civilisation may not survive it.”

He added: “The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilisation is to defeat Putin as soon as possible. That’s the bottom line.”

Mr Soros said that he thinks Mr Putin now believes the invasion of Ukraine was a mistake and the Russian president - who has been dogged with rumours of ill-health - was preparing to negogiate a ceasefire.

“But the ceasefire is unattainable because he cannot be trusted,” the financier said. “The weaker Putin gets the more unpredictable he becomes.”

Mr Soros cast Russia, by far the world’s biggest country by area, and China, the world’s second largest economy, as the leading members of a group of ascendant “closed societies” where the individual was subservient to the state.

“Repressive regimes are now in the ascendant and open societies are under siege,” he said. “Today China and Russia present the greatest threat to open society.”

Mr Soros said digital technology, especially artificial intelligence, had helped China to collect personal data for the surveillance and control of its citizens more aggressively than ever before.

Chinese officials dismiss foreign criticism as clouded by outdated colonial thinking and say the Communist Party has helped rebuild the country and lift 800 million people out of poverty.

Mr Soros also had some harsh words for China’s “zero Covid” strategy, saying it has failed and put the country on “the verge of open rebellion.”

Along with the Covid-19 policy, he said Xi Jinping had made a series of mistakes which could cost him significant influence as the Communist Party prepares for a decision on awarding him a precedent-breaking third term.

“Contrary to general expectations Xi Jinping may not get his coveted third term because of the mistakes he has made,” Mr Soros said. “But even if he does, the Politburo may not give him a free hand to select the members of the next Politburo.”

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