It’s coming down to this. Whose side will you be on when the coronavirus pandemic finally destroys nations, businesses, and innocent families unable to protect themselves? Will you side with the greedy politicians and corporate elites manipulating the situation? Or, will the stacked bodies and boarded-up shops finally make you realize what this situation is about? Democracy as a system is being put to the final test. We are test rats, in a deadly maze where the mad scientists of detente and economics roll dice and bet on which way we will run.
A recent EU virtual summit laid bare the European Union’s deepening internal conflicts, of Europeans over the fight against the pandemic and vaccination. With coronavirus vaccines in short supply and economies desperate for the reopening of businesses and borders, European Commissioner Thierry Breton announced that there will be no centralized purchases by the European Union of the highly effective and inexpensive Sputnik V vaccine. Also,
French President Emmanuel Macron took the opportunity to predict a ′′new type of world war′′ where Russia and China conspired to weaponize vaccines for some kind of political conquest.
Meanwhile, France’s Le Figaro was quoted suggesting that the refusal to recognize the independent right of EU states to use foreign vaccines suggests that the European Union has ′′ set ideological principles above pragmatism and health of the population “. With France going into a third COVID-19 lockdown, and nations like Greece betting heavily on a restart of tourism to save that economy, a collision of not just ideals threatens hundreds of millions after a year of seeming ineptitude. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is ready to approve Sputnik V, even if Brussels does not. And as the French people begin to register their dissent over the latest coronavirus restrictions, even Macron is talking to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin about French approval of the drug.
However, Merkel and Macron may only be stalling to cover themselves, in case western vaccine makers cannot end the stalled inoculation drive in the EU. It seems reasonable to assume that Merkel and Macron want political immunization from positive Sputnik V discussions, in case a new Frankfurt BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine factory cannot save the day for the EU. French drugmaker Sanofi is also involved in Germany with plans to produce 125 million doses of this jab. But, the point of all this ends up being that dice roll I mentioned. These leaders are risking hundreds of thousands of lives, and even the futures of all their people, because of either some Russophobic insanity, liberal order Cold War strategies, or (I guess) direct money interests of some kind.
Hungary and Slovakia are already purchasing Sputnik V, and now Austria and Italy seem ready to move forward to approve the Russian jab for their citizens. But at the other end of the geopolitical spectrum, U.S. President Joe Biden (who attended the summit) seems to have convinced France’s Macron to “stand up to Russia, and for democracy.” The backers of the Sputnik V vaccine, the Russian Direct Investment Fund are now boosting overseas production to supply shots to, they say, almost one in ten people on the planet this year. But, for Europeans, many experts hold out zero hope that the Russian vaccination will ever be widely deployed. Here in Greece, the authorities in Athens are so handcuffed to the United States, for any number of reasons, you can expect a catastrophe before PM Mitsotakis calls Vladimir Putin for help. Ministers here are busy making deals for tourists to swarm back to Greece for vacation, whether or not Greek citizens die like flies because of COVID-19. Experts advising the government are already heralding this potential as a “solution” since lockdowns are not even considered viable by the people anymore.
Greece is reopening to some tourists this month, and to millions more by May 14, but so far less than 8% of Greeks have received both shots of currently approved vaccines. To exacerbate the situation, production and shipment delays of these vaccines will probably put immunized tourists from abroad, in the faces of Greeks who are still under mask-wearing, distancing, or even lockdown restrictions. Or, the short story, a human-socio-psychological-economic disaster nobody has ever witnessed before. Sadly, no amount of criticism or resistance to the Greek strategy seems to affect the Washington puppets in charge. Last week saw record coronavirus cases registered, but Greece retail stores are slated to reopen on April 5th. Meanwhile, officials are now making it mandatory for teachers and students to take self-tests for COVID-19 after it was announced kids would have to go back to school here. It’s dizzying, the disconnectedness here. It’s the farthest thing from democracy, I can imagine.
After more than a year of crippling restrictions and unprecedented death and suffering, our leaders still are unwilling to put the people first. Every consideration, all the prioritization, every speck of narrative points to old hatreds and bias, power and process taking precedence over our lives and livelihoods. In my mind, had Sputnik V been looked upon positively months ago, international development and distribution of the drug would have already forced the infection curve down drastically. For countries like Greece, with smaller populations, whole populations might have not only been immunized, but other COVID-19 variants out there might have been minimalized accordingly. Short version here – the new Cold War already has civilian casualties in the tens of thousands. Sadly, the end of the coronavirus pandemic might have long since passed, had nations desired to work together. As I type this Greece’s Prime Minister is laying off the blame for looming disaster on drugmakers and the European Union. It’s as if the person, state, or even culture don’t matter at all.
These failed geopolitics, mashed down to the domestic level, are destroying everything we’ve built, everything we hoped to build, and the futures of all our children and grandchildren. It does not have to be a conspiracy, a new world order orchestration, or a page in a history book for us to know, the world has gone wrong. The coronavirus pandemic should teach us this.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”