Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will hold talks with his counterpart from Sierra Leone to discuss fight against terrorism in the Sahel-Sahara region, West Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Central African Republic, as well as efforts to prevent the spread of dangerous infectious diseases, including the novel coronavirus.
Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev told Sputnik earlier this week that the US is secretly developing biological weapons in some of the biolabs that it funds all across the world, building upon previous accusations that he made in the past regarding the danger that such facilities in former Soviet states pose to his country and the rest of the world more broadly.
Biological warfare has been on the tip of many people’s tongues since the outbreak of COVID-19 last year after many speculated that the virus was really a bioweapon that had accidentally leaked from a Chinese biolab. Although the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest study into the matter concluded that this theory is extremely unlikely, the narrative still persists to this day. Regardless of its ultimate veracity or lack thereof, this interpretation of events sparked widespread interest in the danger that biological weapons programs pose to humanity. It’s with this in mind that everyone should listen really closely to what Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev recently had to say about such threats.
He told Sputnik earlier this week that “In recent years, the US and its NATO allies have significantly stepped up biological research in many countries across the world. The US is developing individual action plans for each country based on the needs of national biological programmes, primarily military ones.” This builds upon what he said last month in an interview with the popular Russian business daily Kommersant where he accused America of developing such weapons in close proximity to his country’s and China’s borders. Unlike what Western pundits claim about him sensationally exploiting the COVID-19 outbreak for political reasons, Patrushev has actually been warning about these threats since as early as 2015 according to RT.
So seriously does Russia take this danger that Foreign Minister Lavrov just agreed to a biosecrutiy pact with Armenia during his latest visit to the South Caucasus country which holds the ignoble distinction of hosting one of those American facilities. It also hopes to reach similar agreements with other former Soviet states that have allowed the US to so provocatively operate within their borders. The top Russian diplomat said last May that “We have reached an intergovernmental memorandum with Tajikistan, are working on a similar document with our colleagues from Uzbekistan and are in consultations with other post-Soviet countries, including Kazakhstan, Armenia and other neighbors.”
Of consistent concern for Russia has been the US biolab in neighboring Georgia. Moscow voiced concerns about that facility in 2013 and then again in 2018, during which time Russian officials claimed that the lab was linked to over 70 deaths. The South Caucasus country’s former Minister of State Security publicly speculated that same year that the site was secretly a biological weapons center. The US and Georgia both deny the allegations, but amid unconfirmed claims that COVID-19 might have leaked from a Chinese biolab despite the WHO’s latest study dismissing that theory, it’s understandable why Russia would at the very least want to ensure that such an accident doesn’t ever happen right on its own borders.
As I wrote in an op-ed in April 2020 for CGTN, “The U.S. Needs To Open Up About Its Biological Laboratories In The Former USSR”. That’s the only way to put everyone’s legitimate worries at ease and prevent any accidental leaks of whatever it is that America might really be testing there. Nevertheless, these well-intended concerns have been dishonestly misportrayed as “disinformation” by the Western Mainstream Media, which claims that any talk about those facilities is nothing more than a “conspiracy theory” that’s possibly being peddled at the behest of the Russian security services. That’s not true, and it would be equally legitimate for average Americans to demand transparency of any Russian biolabs near its borders if they were ever built there.
Patrushev isn’t pushing an information warfare narrative but is publicly expressing his country’s legitimate security concerns about the shadowy biolabs that its peer competitor built in its backyard. These facilities might be exactly what they say they are, innocuous sites for testing various diseases and whatnot, or they might really be secret bioweapon factories. Nobody really knows for sure until the US and/or its former Soviet partners finally open up about what’s truly going on there. Russia is demanding answers on behalf of the whole world, and slowly but surely, it hopes to receive them before it’s too late and an accident happens at one of those sites which might make COVID-19 look like child’s play in hindsight.
The Biden administration came out in support of waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, siding with international efforts to bolster production amid concerns about vaccine access in developing nations. Under President Donald Trump, the United States opposed the effort.
China has announced that it is “indefinitely” suspending a key economic dialogue with Australia. Relations have been on the decline since Australia pushed for a World Health Organisation probe into the origins of coronavirus and also banned Chinese smartphone maker Huawei from providing 5G technology for the country’s wireless networks.
Russia plans major presence in Argentina with the building of two nuclear power plants and supplying the “most modern and suitable military weapons”. Cooperation between Argentina and Russia is running smoothly since the purchase of Sputnik V anti-coronavirus vaccines and the agreement to produce them locally soon.
Russia is turning to Chinese firms to help accelerate the production of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. Over the last couple of weeks, Russia made three deals with Chinese firms in connection with 260 million doses.
Russia’s decision to dispatch emergency COVID-19 aid to India proves how reliable it is in comparison to the South Asian state’s newfound American ally, the latter of which dillydallied while New Delhi urgently pleaded for assistance to help its suffering people survive the latest viral wave that came crashing into the country.
The whole world is watching the latest COVID-19 outbreak in India with serious concern after the country suddenly emerged as the latest epicenter. New Delhi urgently pleaded for assistance from its allies to help its suffering people survive the latest viral wave that came crashing into the South Asian state, but its newfound American ally dillydallied while its historical Russian one rushed to its aid without any preconditions. This contrast of commitment speaks volumes about which of the two sincerely cherishes its ties with the world’s second most populous country, which should hopefully result in a reconsideration of India’s recent strategic priorities.
Up until this year, India was stridently siding with the US on practically all relevant matters apart from its continued commitment to go through with its planned purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems. The South Asian state is a proud member of the US-led Quad and arguably envisions becoming its Asian leader in pursuit of its allies’ shared goal of containing China. The Electoral College’s certification of Joe Biden as the next US President threw a wrench in India’s long-term plans since its strategists anticipated that Trump would come out on top instead. The new reality is such that India doesn’t feel as prioritized by the US as before, hence why it sought to recalibrate its multi-alignment policy in response to this perception.
The end result was that it reached near-simultaneous deals with neighboring adversaries China and Pakistan in February regarding a synchronized disengagement with the former and a ceasefire with the latter. This was followed up by hosting Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov earlier in the month for talks to confirm the strength of their strategic partnership and organize the annual Russia-India Summit between their leaders sometime later this year. Perhaps out of jealous reaction to these developments driven by its hegemonic habits, the US Navy violated India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) during a so-called “freedom of navigation” operation (FONOP) and sent the message to New Delhi that it can only ever hope to be Washington’s junior partner.
Coupled with growing disappointment in India over both sides’ failure to reach a long-discussed trade deal, the US’ latest dillydallying over its belated decision to dispatch COVID-19 aid to its partner might be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back and gets New Delhi to more meaningfully recalibrate its multi-alignment policy. What’s meant by this is that India now realizes that the US doesn’t even care about its people’s lives since it wouldn’t even take the easy soft power opportunity to be among the first to send relevant assistance to the country. It can’t be known for sure why this was, but it certainly seems to be the case that this was yet another American punishment in response to India’s increasingly independent policies as of late.
By contrast, the only credible gripes that Indians have about Russia is that the latter is more confidently practicing its regional “balancing” act which should at least in theory be complementary with India’s own (which it calls multi-alignment). Unlike the US, the manifestation of Russia’s newfound approach doesn’t endanger any Indian lives nor infringes on the country’s territorial integrity. It also doesn’t consist of unilateral sanctions threats in violation of international law like the US’ ones about the S-400s. Russia is also very eager to clinch a comprehensive trade deal with India, which could even be broadened to include the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAU). The US, on the other hand, is playing political games with its trade talks.
There’s no doubt that so-called “vaccine diplomacy” is nowadays part of International Relations whether states officially recognize it or not, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing if it’s proactively practiced and not undertaken with any strings attached. To explain, Russia’s vaccine exports are intended to serve as an opening to comprehensively expand bilateral ties with each of its partners, while the US seemingly withholds such aid for political reasons until its partners either make unilateral concessions or the situation becomes much too scandalous that it can no longer continue such a policy without intense international scrutiny. With the Indian example in mind, Russia’s “vaccine diplomacy” is much more moral than the US’.
This objective observation should give Indian strategists cause to think about whether the current direction of their multi-alignment policy is in line with their country’s long-term national interests or not. Remaining so focused on the American vector of this vision despite being slapped around by the US so shamefully this past month, not to mention in such a dangerous way with respect to Indian lives literally being on the line, arguably isn’t advancing their intended goals since they’ve received nothing other than limited military support in exchange for submitting to America over these past few years. It would therefore be much better if India seriously considers the wisdom of cooperating more closely with Russia in support of the Eurasian Century.
Observers are in a passionate debate over what’s really driving the latest Donbass destabilization, with the most prominent hypotheses being either domestic Ukrainian politics or the US’ regional geostrategic ambitions, but the argument can also compellingly be made that the concept of so-called “vaccine nationalism” is playing a largely under-discussed role in events.
The Two Main Hypotheses
Donbass is on the brink of major destabilization once again, yet observers are in disagreement over what’s really driving the latest events. Some believe that domestic Ukrainian politics are to blame and that Kiev’s ruling party aims to provoke a regional crisis in order to distract from its plummeting popularity. Evidence in support of this hypothesis includes the government’s recent witchhunt against opposition figures and its draconian banning of many Russian-language media outlets in the country. President Zelensky also promulgated a decree late last month which practically declares war on Russia and explicitly threatens Crimea. The other theory about the US’ regional geostrategic ambitions is backed up by the its ominous statement of support for Ukraine as well as Washington’s preexisting motives for destabilizing Moscow’s western periphery, which prompted Russia to promise its own ominously support for its passport holders in the country. Both theories have a lot of truth to them, but they’re missing a crucial component which could complete the strategic picture.
It’s against this strategic context that the latest destabilization in Donbass is unfolding. Each side blames one another for provoking it, but an objective assessment of the situation very strongly suggests that neither Russia nor the Russian-friendly rebels of Eastern Ukraine are responsible. After all, they’ve been trying to peacefully implement the Minsk Accords for the past few years, but it’s US-backed Kiev which has obstinately refused to make any tangible progress in this direction, both for domestic nationalist reasons and those related to American regional geostrategic ambitions as was earlier argued. Ukraine is also being crushed by the COVID-19 pandemic but isn’t being provided any real help from its American “ally”, which is why some in the country have looked eastward to Russia for much-needed relief. This inspired me to write about how “Sputnik V Is The Antidote To, Not Russia’s Weapon Of, Hybrid War In Ukraine” at the beginning of the year even though it’s extremely unlikely nowadays that Kiev will agree to cooperate with Moscow in this respect.
The US’ Strategic Failures
Not only has the US failed in its grand strategic goal of “isolating” Russia over the past seven years as seen by Moscow’s successful “balancing” act all across Eurasia that was commenced in response, but it’s also proven itself unable to convince Berlin to sabotage Nord Stream II by incorporating it into the ongoing German Hybrid War on Russia. The Central European country, to its credit, continues to pragmatically engage with Russia on several issues of significance, including Nord Stream II and most recently exploring the possibility of purchasing Sputnik V, though its silence in the face of the latest Donbass destabilization worryingly risks being interpreted as a carthe blanche by Kiev. Nevertheless, the silver lining is that Germany hasn’t condemned Russia for the recent escalations there like others have, and this observation greatly concerns the US. Considering the speed with which Russia’s “vaccine diplomacy” is attracting new partners Europe, it can’t be ruled out that the US wants to provoke a crisis in Eastern Ukraine so as to make Russian-EU Sputnik V cooperation politically impossible.
Towards A Russian-EU Rapprochement?
This shouldn’t sound all that surprising to the reader if they take the time to reflect on the insight that was just shared. “Vaccine diplomacy” is the quickest way to enter into strategic partnerships with other states or comprehensively reinforce those that already exist. Russia’s European interests in this respect rest with its desire to gently influence those countries to reduce and then ultimately lift the US-led sanctions regime that was imposed after Crimea’s reunification in 2014. Moscow would also like the European countries to show more consideration for its legitimate security interests by not rolling out the red carpet for NATO’s US-led unprecedented expansion along Russia’s western periphery. These two US-led developments in recent years – sanctions and military expansion – caused a crisis in Russian-EU relations, one for which Brussels bears partial responsibility because it willingly went along with it in response to Washington’s pressure. It didn’t have to do that, and its obsequiousness to American strategic demands made everything much worse.
Russia’s Soft Power Plans
Perhaps the most immediate strategic importance of Russia’s “vaccine diplomacy” is that it could win countless hearts and minds in Europe and therefore create a favorable grassroots social environment for facilitating those governments’ eventual lifting of their anti-Russian sanctions and their gradual rolling back of NATO’s US-led military expansion in the region. After all, it might soon be the case that Sputnik V is responsible for saving an untold number of lives in the continent in parallel with facilitating the bloc’s economic reopening, both of which would greatly improve the lives of the EU’s hundreds of millions of citizens. It might be very difficult for those governments to justify their decision to continue “punishing” Russia through economic and military means after Moscow saved them from the worst of WorldWarC‘s ravages, which scares the US to no end since it rightly assumes that this might lead to the irreversible decline of its hegemonic influence there. It thus logically follows that the US has an urgent interest in provoking a crisis to make this scenario politically impossible.
Putting everything together, it can compellingly be argued that while domestic Ukrainian politics and the US’ regional geostrategic ambitions play very important roles in driving the recent destabilization in Donbass, any discussion of these developments is incomplete without incorporating the influence of “vaccine nationalism”. The US will do whatever it can to prevent Russian-EU Sputnik V cooperation since it fears that this would greatly reduce its hegemonic influence over the continent. Provoking a crisis in Ukraine, which was already boiling for a long time already even before last year’s COVID-19 outbreak, could help advance this agenda by making it politically impossible for the EU to purchase Russia’s vaccines. It would be very challenging for any country to go forward with such plans in the face of unprecedented American pressure to “reconsider” following what they’d be told was so-called “Russian aggression in Ukraine” even though Moscow wouldn’t be responsible for sparking any potential conflict. That could in turn prolong America’s fading hegemony over the EU.
The so-called “Quad” -United States, India, Australia and Japan- agreed to pool financing, manufacturing and distribution capacity to send coronavirus vaccines across Asia. India will use its manufacturing capacity to make U.S. vaccines, with financing coming from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. They want to counter China’s growing vaccination diplomacy in Southeast Asia and around the world. India is the world’s biggest vaccine maker.