Russian Sputnik Diplomacy – Foreign and Security Policy

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Amid the West’s rush for vaccines, a trickle of news is slipping under the radar. Argentina becomes the first country in South America to produce the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. The first shipment of Sputnik V is promised to Peru in May. Some 11,000 doses of Sputnik V reach North Macedonia, while Tunisia begins administering 30,000 doses, and Bolivia’s 1.7 million more are promised by May. The African Union confirms that it has received an offer of 300 million doses from Russia, which has already signed agreements to produce tens of millions of doses in China, Brazil, Iran and Serbia.

While we weren’t looking, Russia’s Sputnik V became the cornerstone of the pandemic response in the developing world.

The race for influence

The vaccine offers a unique chance to whitewash Russia’s reputation. But the Sputnik V jab is more than just a picture. It is a campaign calculated to increase the power and influence of the Kremlin through a worldwide operation of scientific, diplomatic and media influence.

Russian capabilities are elegantly aligned with global pandemic needs. While developing countries have tried and failed to get enough vaccines through Western mechanisms, headlines around the world hail Russia as the partner who really steps in when it matters.

While developing countries have tried and failed to get enough vaccines through Western mechanisms, headlines around the world hail Russia as the partner who really steps in when it matters.

Sputnik V is the image of Russia that the Kremlin wants to project. Far from the authoritarian, bellicose and annexationist Moscow which poisons its national political opponents and interferes in the elections of its rivals, Sputnik V places Russia in the role of scientific superpower and savior of pandemic.

Media muscle flexion

Russia’s official spokespersons – Russia Today, Sputnik Radio and the TASS News Agency – thoroughly cover every new country, from Laos to Panama, which endorses the use of Sputnik V, while the Russian Direct Investment Fund, the Kremlin agency that funded the development of Sputnik V, is highlighting Russia’s success not only by first finding a vaccine, but also by making it widely available.

Sputnik V’s Twitter feed (because Sputnik V of course has its own Twitter feed) sends messages once or twice an hour – “ Plane loaded with vaccine lands in Armenia! ‘- or retweet good news from partner countries, such as this one, from the Mexican Ministry of Health, which claims that Sputnik V is the only vaccine with a 0 percent chance of producing serious unwanted side effects.

What Russia can no longer accomplish with its declining military force, writes Flemming Splidsboel Hansen of the Danish Institute for International Studies, it is now seeking through cognitive and digital means.

And Russia’s legendary robot armies are marching in the name of the vaccine. In December 2020, an investigation into The Daily Beast revealed that a Russian state-linked content farm known as Caliwax was behind Why Africa should focus on Russian vaccine Sputnik V, a viral WhatsApp channel that has spread all over Ghana and Nigeria. Meanwhile, sources that the State Department’s Global Engagement Center describes as “ guided ” by Russian state intelligence peddle between two and three pieces a day, announcing the arrival of Sputnik V in places of the whole world.

What Russia can no longer accomplish with its declining military force, writes Flemming Splidsboel Hansen of the Danish Institute for International Studies, it is now seeking through cognitive and digital means.

Support the allies

The first in line for the Russian jab were longtime Moscow allies, usually led by autocrats like Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela. “The vaccines underline the scientific prowess of the anti-Western bloc,” said Félix Arellano, professor of international relations at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. “Ideology demands that it be presented as superior to that of the West. Russia’s stance of providing highly effective vaccines at low prices for countries like Venezuela is being dictated by the media. This is how Russia and its allies seek to show that authoritarian governments can also thrive in science, that it is possible to grow without democracy.

Argentina, under a proto-socialist government, was the first to send a team to Moscow to translate Sputnik V’s technical documentation into Spanish and set up its own production facilities. Other countries quickly followed suit: Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia and even American allies like Peru, Chile and Colombia. These last three were the ultimate feather of the Kremlin beanie, the final seal of approval for an operation that succeeds in large part thanks to the inaction of the navel of the West.

“At this point, the discussion, at least in Peru, recognizes the need to negotiate to get the proposed vaccine,” says Oscar Vidarte, professor of international relations at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Perú in Lima.

Western failures are Russia’s success

For Colombia, Washington’s most trusted ally in South America, the purchase of Sputnik V serves two purposes: to immunize a vulnerable population and to restore bilateral ties with Moscow, which were freezing since Colombia last expelled. two Russian diplomats accused of espionage in the Colombian oil and mining regions. December. ‘Have been [Washington’s] a key ally in the region, ”says Mauricio Jaramillo, who teaches international relations at the Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá,“ and the United States is not trying to use vaccines to project power or gain prestige ”.

Russia is careful to present vaccine supply agreements not as charity, but as partnerships of equals. Giving leaders of poor countries the chance to say “I’m doing something about this” is almost as big as the blows themselves, he said.

The West has not lost this fight so much as it has lost it. The World Health Organization’s Global Vaccine Access Fund, or Covax, amounts to a clearinghouse for the remnants of the West. The Biden administration has pledged some $ 4 billion to Covax, but WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admits that “when there are no vaccines to buy, the money does not matter.”

Arellano stressed that it is not just access to sufficient supply that tips the balance in Moscow’s favor: this is how the Russians approach supply agreements. Russia is careful to present vaccine supply agreements not as charity, but as partnerships of equals. Giving leaders of poor countries the chance to say “I’m doing something about this” is almost as big as the blows themselves, he said.

Come when it really matters

The success of Sputnik V continues to grow. The shambolic deployment of the vaccine by the European Union has even led some member countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, Greece and the Czech Republic to knock on Moscow’s door. Everyone had to unilaterally negotiate their share. Italy and Spain are now planning to do the same, and the European Medicines Agency has had no choice but to formally consider certifying the Russian vaccine, easing its range in the wake of Crimea and Navalny.

To be sure, liberal democracy does not have to fear for its life from the Russian vaccine. But the West has left a huge leadership vacuum at a time of acute crisis that Russia is determined to exploit. Western democracies, and in particular the United States, have lost too many opportunities in the face of the pandemic – especially among them the chance to support their allies, strengthen their influence and position themselves as the go-to model for managing a crisis that , many scientists fear, could be repeated sooner than many realize. Where is the world going then?

This article originally appeared on the Persuasion community blog.





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