Russia’s possible sharing of its Sputnik V technology with Ukraine could serve as a partial antidote to the West’s Hybrid War on Ukraine by showing the recipient nation’s people that Moscow is truly a reliable partner unlike what its new “allies” claim and in contradiction to its Foreign Minister’s fearmongering that this vaccine is one of Moscow’s latest Hybrid War weapons.
Saturday was a significant day for Russian-Ukrainian relations since it represented the first real moment that those two bitter neighbors finally have a chance to enter into a rapprochement with one another on humanitarian grounds. TASS reported that “Russia is ready to transfer Sputnik V technology to Ukraine”, the same day that RT also informed everyone that “Ukrainian pharma company applies to produce Sputnik V jab after emotional FM dubs Russian Covid vaccine ‘weapon of hybrid war’”. Few across the world could have imagined just 12 months ago that those countries might be on the brink of working so closely together so long as Kiev has the political will to go forward with this, but such are the twists and turns of World War C and the irresistible attraction of Russia’s subsequent “vaccine diplomacy”.
Those two concepts are explained more at length in the hyperlinked analyses associated with each one, but to briefly summarize, the first-mentioned refers to the full-spectrum paradigm-changing processes unleashed by the world’s uncoordinated efforts to contain COVID-19 while the second is Russia’s clever leveraging of vaccine exports to spread its influence across the world. Ukraine was probably one of the last possible partners that anyone could have expected in this respect, but RT noted in its earlier cited article that President Zelensky warned last month that it would be “’impossible to explain to Ukrainian society’ why the authorities would refuse Russian vaccines while the West refuses to provide them.” In other words, the West’s politicization of vaccine exports is making a limited Russian-Ukrainian rapprochement possible on humanitarian grounds.
It’s unclear why the West won’t provide its regional proxy with these medical products, but it might either have to do with limited supplies and a desire to inoculate its own people first or perhaps part of an unconventional pressure campaign to force Kiev into conceding even more of its sovereignty to its new patrons in exchange for vaccines. Whatever the case may be, it’s clearly becoming problematic for Ukraine since its leadership can no longer dillydally while its people are agitating for something to be done as soon as possible. Enter Russia, which is already the world’s vaccine superpower by far and clinching contracts all across the world to provide up to one billion doses by the end of this year. Moscow succeeded in harnessing its glorious Soviet-era scientific legacy to mass produce vaccines on a scale unseen in history, thus making this medical miracle possible.
However one feels about the vaccine’s necessity and the topic of mass vaccination (be it voluntary or compulsory), the point to pay attention to is that Sputnik V is in high demand all across the world, and even in Ukraine somewhat surprisingly enough despite those two countries’ political problems in recent years. Moscow is eager to meet the demand of all potential customers without exception, including Kiev if the latter requests such imports. Russia’s “vaccine diplomacy” with Ukraine wouldn’t just serve humanitarian purposes, but also political ones as well since it would show the recipient nation that Russia is truly a reliable partner unlike what its new “allies” claim and in contradiction to its Foreign Minister’s fearmongering that this vaccine is one of Moscow’s latest Hybrid War weapons.
The only Hybrid War weaponization of vaccines in this context is being carried out by the West, which has hitherto refused to provide Ukraine with the medical products that it needs. Whatever its excuse may be, the fact of the matter is that this has greatly damaged the West’s reputation among the Ukrainian people, who are nowadays growing increasingly suspicious about why those countries aren’t able to provide it with vaccines if COVID-19 is supposedly so dangerous that everyone might die if they’re not inoculated. Either COVID-19 isn’t as dangerous as its been publicly portrayed as being, or the West is willing to sacrifice Ukrainians en masse in order to save its own people. Both explanations are terrifying in their own way, and neither do anything to inspire confidence in the West’s intentions.
It’ll remain to be seen whether Ukraine cares enough about meeting its people’s needs to put politics aside and cooperate with Russia on “vaccine diplomacy”. It’s understandable that there might be some political apprehension considering their problems between them over the past few years, but issues of humanitarian significance such as this one should take precedence over political interests. Since the West isn’t supplying Ukraine with what it needs, the only reliable alternative is to turn to Russia, but doing so might provoke the West’s wrath, which might respond in unpredictable, asymmetrical ways to punish Ukraine for doing so. The last thing that the West wants is Russia improving its soft power in Ukraine through “vaccine diplomacy”, yet ironically enough, it’s the West itself which might ultimately be responsible for making this scenario a reality.