Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube LinkedIn

Editorials

The Kremlin’s vaccine diplomacy: a game of smoke and mirrors

Vaccin

Russia lacks China’s limitless resources, but what little it has it puts to good use, capitalizing on its diplomatic experience and a better understanding of the political and cultural context in the West, knowing which sensitive cord to strike and when. Facing logistics-related problems back at home and a limited capacity for the development of the Sputnik V vaccine, Russia plays a bluff game in Europe, pretending to be waiting for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to greenlight the Sputnik serum in order to fill the vacuum in the EU’s supply chain. And if the certification is delayed, it is only for political reasons, says Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund which financed the development of the Russian vaccine.

Sputnik V – a propaganda agent rather than an answer to the pandemic

Russia is pre-emptively playing the victim here to hide the fact it isn’t too interested in seeing the certification come through either, which is very unlikely to happen as long as Russia itself is buying for time and is not sending the documents AEM has asked for, inside sources have claimed. First, they lack the funds to do it, and second, the current situation suits their interests far better. EU bureaucracy isn’t generating a polemic on social media to explain, day after day, what the problem is all about, so the Kremlin is alone on the playing field, spreading throughout Europe all the stories that best fit its interests: Sputnik is a good vaccine, but the West is cynically undermining Russia for political reasons when it comes to people’s health. Neither side has the psychological upper hand. Western powers are hypocrites – for them this is all a game of seeing their interests best served and filling their pockets – the Kremlin’s old relativist narrative carried over from the far left or the far right, conspiracy mongers and Eurosceptics.

There’s so much to gain with so little investment: all that is required is an intimate knowledge of how the anti-Western propaganda machine works and when to feed it. And if Europe drops the occasional brick, first suspending and then un-suspending the use of AstraZeneca within the course of just a few days, through a purely political decision without any scientific basis (in both cases), and this 360-degree turn confounds people, fueling their vaccine hesitancy, then so much the better!

The hard reality is that Russia’s vaccination rate at home is very low, much lower than Europe’s (which isn’t faring any better), and even just as low as the global fiasco called Brazil, a country where populist policies have nullified any advantage that a solid foundation of biotechnological research could yield. The chart below is revealing. Russia cannot produce enough Sputnik V vaccines, but more importantly, it cannot effectively organization their distribution and administration across its vast territory, as the Russian state is inept when it comes to civilian tasks that benefit the population, and not some geostrategic grand objective.

Hence its efforts at outsourcing the production license for the Sputnik V vaccine to companies abroad, such as Italy, Germany or Switzerland. In theory, there’s nothing wrong with that: Russia simply lacks the manufacturing capacity at home, and such infrastructure cannot be created overnight. We shouldn’t confuse the lab research that led to the development the vaccine formula with its production on a large-scale, nor should we mix the two with getting a vaccine certified for use in a given state. These are three completely different things. If Italy or Germany were to manufacture the Sputnik vaccine, and Moscow bought the shots to meet its domestic demand, then that would pose a serious problem. It would actually feel normal for Russia to get a discount for its own vaccine, because Europe needs to help Russia when the latter is in trouble.

Another source of uncertainty is the price of vaccines, which are kept confidential. A leak from inside the Commission has given us a picture of the situation below, which shows that the Sputnik V vaccine is not just doubtful, but also rather expensive, compared to vaccines that have been already certified for use across the EU. Not to mention the Chinese vaccine: the Chinese have been extremely secretive about their vaccine, but the price tag is really off-putting.

 

Astra-Zeneca

2 Euro

Johnson & Johnson

8-10 USD

Pfizer

12-15 Euro

Moderna

18 USD

 

 

Sputnik V

10 USD (?)

Sinopharm

30 Euro (?)

 

“Russian citizens are left to die unvaccinated in exchange for soft power gains”

Beyond all that, a far more suspicious and politicized strategy is Russia’s call to export the few Sputnik doses they manufacture to countries that have a higher vaccination rate than Russia itself, such as Serbia or Hungary. It’s similar to what Ceaușescu was doing in the 1980s, when it let the people starve to be able to export food, only that Russia isn’t looking for hard currency, but for a diplomatic edge and propaganda leverage. And whatever contracts it does sign with European companies for the production of Sputnik are nothing but a PR stunt, given their questionable efficiency: they are too vague, the output is too low, but still, the contracts are proclaimed a diplomatic success in international media. Unfortunately, they are treated as such by some commentators who overrate their importance and see them as a threat to the unity of Europe, as if they were talking about a new Nordstream project, thus advertising Putin’s image as an all-powerful Darth Vader.

Putin’s regime is anything but all-powerful. Russian citizens are left to die unvaccinated for soft power gains in Belgrade, Budapest and possibly Bratislava, where Russia is exporting its vaccine (despite great turmoil at the heart of the Slovakian government coalition over the decision to import Sputnik V). Estimates made public by Moscow media say the Russian Federation’s excess death toll has reached 400,000 since the start of the pandemic, which is nearly the same as in the United States, whose population is more than twice that of Russia’s. And while the topic has sparked a huge scandal in the United States, where a new administration has come to the White House and the vaccination process has been accelerated, the Kremlin stays silent as the grave. The Russian people need to be saved from the recklessness of its own leaders – it’s just that no one really knows how to do that.

Tags: Russia
Carte recomandata
Other articles
Poland: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Poland: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The Polish government is exacerbating the conflict with Brussels, and Poles are taking to the streets backing EU membership. But when we look at the matter in more detail, it turns out that it is not as simple as the Western media wants to see it.

The Republic of Moldova and the snap election war

The Republic of Moldova and the snap election war

In the Republic of Moldova, two attempts to appoint a new government have failed and more than three months have passed since the resignation of the previous one, so, at least in theory, the conditions have been met for the dissolution of Parliament and for holding snap elections, which all the parliamentary parties said they wanted. But, as usual, in the Republic of Moldova black is never just black, and white is blindingly white.

A Trojan horse: Chinese investments in Serbia

A Trojan horse: Chinese investments in Serbia

In the past few years, Chinese investments in Serbia have intensified, strengthening economic and strategic cooperation between the two countries. However, in addition to investing in production, new technologies, servicing old debts, some of these investments have brought with them harmful effects on the environment, but also a further collapse of the legal system and institutions.

Sorin Ioniță

22 Mar 2021
Sorin Ioniță

4 minutes read
  • Facing logistics-related problems back at home and a limited capacity for the development of the Sputnik V vaccine, Russia plays a bluff game in Europe, pretending to be waiting for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to greenlight the Sputnik serum in order to fill the vacuum in the EU’s supply chain.
  • EU bureaucracy isn’t generating a polemic on social media to explain, day after day, what the problem is all about, so the Kremlin is alone on the playing field, spreading throughout Europe all the stories that best fit its interests: Sputnik is a good vaccine, but the West is cynically undermining Russia for political reasons when it comes to people’s health. Neither side has the psychological upper hand. Western powers are hypocrites – for them this is all a game of seeing their interests best served and filling their pockets – the Kremlin’s old relativist narrative carried over from the far left or the far right, conspiracy mongers and Eurosceptics.
  • A far more suspicious and politicized strategy is Russia’s call to export the few Sputnik doses they manufacture to countries that have a higher vaccination rate than Russia itself, such as Serbia or Hungary. It’s similar to what Ceaușescu was doing in the 1980s, when it let the people starve to be able to export food, only that Russia isn’t looking for hard currency, but for a diplomatic edge and propaganda leverage.
Ill Omens from the East
Ill Omens from the East

Events this week in Iraq, Lebanon and two European countries were a stark reminder that we still need to pay attention to the Middle East

Cătălin Gomboș
Cătălin Gomboș
16 Oct 2021
Poland: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Poland: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The Polish government is exacerbating the conflict with Brussels, and Poles are taking to the streets backing EU membership. But when we look at the matter in more detail, it turns out that it is not as simple as the Western media wants to see it.

Michal Kukawski
Michal Kukawski
13 Oct 2021
Ukraine’s anti-oligarch law: a reform tool or a political weapon?
Ukraine’s anti-oligarch law: a reform tool or a political weapon?

The Parliament in Kiev adopted a law aiming to curb oligarchs’ influence in politics. The piece of legislation comes at a time when Ukraine’s partners have warned Kiev authorities they are doing too little to limit the informal decision-making of groups of oligarchs. Despite having already been adopted, the law rather seems to be a sort of “window dressing” designed to boost Zelensky’s influence in the runup to the presidential election. No one really knows who exactly will be on the list of oligarchs who will have to abide by the new legislation and what the long-term implications will be.

Leonid Litra
Leonid Litra
12 Oct 2021
The Republic of Moldova is still vulnerable to Russia
The Republic of Moldova is still vulnerable to Russia

The pro-European government in Chisinau has entered a complicated period. Judicial reform has already begun in force and has already generated an internal crisis due to the detention of the prosecutor general, a measure that has been described as too harsh by some analysts, recalling a real "judicial blietzkrieg". This is exactly the kind of situation that Russia usually exploits, and Moscow has a few levers at its disposal to ensure that Moldova goes in the direction it wants.

Mădălin Necșuțu
Mădălin Necșuțu
11 Oct 2021