Russia opposes any investigation into the WHO’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country also believes China did an excellent job of handling the outbreak in its early stages. That’s the message a key member of government sent on Monday.
The Speaker of the Russian Senate, Valentina Matviyenko, told Interfax,
“Today, there’s certainly no reason to perform a mock trial or any kinds of investigations [into the WHO] and destroy the useful things that have been accumulated for decades by mankind.”
The speaker went further, directly exonerating China for its role in the pandemic:
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“China was the first to take the hit… Its competent and professional restrictive measures, a strict isolation regime and quarantine allowed it to manage, gain experience with coronavirus and gave other countries a respite of a month and a half.”
The speaker went on to say that not all countries took the threat as seriously as China. She also did not respond quickly enough, suggesting that each nation was fully responsible for its current crisis.
Russia Has No Interest?
Given the fact that Russia is grappling with surging case numbers and deaths, it may be surprising that the nation has no interest in pursuing a review of how the WHO handled the case, calling any such investigation a “mock trial”. One is left asking why Russia opposes any investigation of the WHO’s handling, and why China is so central to the issue.
The answer lies in the two major parties in the global spat over the WHO: the United States and China. The speaker’s remarks are like opposing any investigation into Nicole Brown Simpson’s tragic murder, and then insisting that OJ is a great guy. The implication is that we shouldn’t even investigate her murder because OJ is the prime suspect.
By directly praising China’s response, the Russian government made two key implications: it sees an investigation of the WHO as incriminating China, and it wants to take China’s side. This has more to do with great power politics than any pursuit of truth.
New Triangular Diplomacy
— New Europe (@New_Europe) May 19, 2020
In the early 1970s, tensions between the United States and the USSR were rising ever higher. Communist China appeared to be a natural ally for the Soviets. This raises fears that a bloc of powerful communist countries would run the east.
As cracks began to show in the Sino-Russian relationship, President Richard Nixon decided to seize the moment and move closer to Beijing. Less than ten years after those initial moves, the US recognized the Chinese government. It successfully formed closer ties at Moscow’s expense. Nixon Administration’s management of the three-way relationship was called Triangular Diplomacy.
Today, we see a similar dynamic between the US, China, and Russia, only with the roles a bit different. In 2020, it appears that Russia and China see an opportunity to team up against Washington. Putin’s Russia has demonstrated a long-term objective to weaken America’s global status. Siding with the world’s second most powerful country makes, then, sense in the pursuit of this objective.
The Country’s Position
Russia is in an interesting position. Its status as the other superpower ended with the Soviet Union. Now, Russia essentially plays the spoiler, attempting to undermine US dominance wherever it can. China has usurped Russia’s role as the powerful American adversary, and also the strongest country in the eastern hemisphere.
Russia and China go back much farther than the US and either country. Millennia of history as neighbors have seen its fair share of wars, temporary alliances, and more wars. Even as two communist nations and sworn enemies of the US, they couldn’t find enough common ground to prevent a falling out.
The current detente between Russia and China is a marriage of convenience, a chance to stick it to Uncle Sam. Also, as Beijing grows more powerful, assertive, and adventurous, don’t expect Russia to become a friendlier neighbor.
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