On Tuesday I gave an English lesson, really in the form of practice and conversation, with a student who has become a friend as well. This student is older than I and the work the student does is quite prominent – as an example, our lesson was periodically interrupted by messages from or regarding high ranking government officials. As an older person, the student identifies more closely with the Soviet Union in its final decades than with the Russian Federation, though the student’s work enables and even compels honesty in evaluating the differences between centralized and free-market economic systems.
One of the significant pieces of news of the day was TASS’ report that President Putin announced the release of a vaccine against the novel Wuhan coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. That vaccine, the article goes on to give a few details:
“As far as I know, this morning for the first time in the world a vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection was registered,” the president said.
Putin also stated that one of his daughters had tested a Russian COVID-19 vaccine on herself and that she is feeling well.
The Russian leader noted that the first Russian COVID-19 vaccine forms stable cell and antibody immunity.“I know this very well, because one of my daughters got vaccinated, so in this sense, she took part in testing,” Putin said. He noted that after the first vaccine shot, his daughter had a 38°C fever, and on the next day, a fever slightly higher than 37°C. “And then, after the second shot, she had a slight fever again, and then everything was fine, she is feeling well and has a high [antibody] count,” the president informed.
The Russian leader pointed out that “some people do not have any symptoms at all” after getting a vaccine shot.
Like most news from TASS, this article is short, almost terse, and does not arm the reader with much speculation from whoever wrote it.
However, my student and I had a laugh, because I made a prediction to him:
I know that Fox News has picked up this news, but I have not looked at the American reaction very closely. I will make a prediction though. The American press will take two courses with this news.
- They will deny that this is even possible, because, after all, how could Russia possibly get to a vaccine FIRST?
- They will cast aspersions as to the safety of the vaccine, making an allusion to the image of Russian / Soviet product shabbiness and (dangerous) unreliability.
I should be working with the big guys in news media, I guess. I was correct on both counts.
CNN was quick to address both my points in this piece, some of which we reprint here. I will comment periodically as we walk through the quoted text, originally attributed to Zachary B. Wolf of CNN, who I honestly do hope earned his paycheck this week, despite having to write stuff like this.
(CNN) Would you trust a vaccine if Vladimir Putin told you it was safe?
Follow-up question: Would Donald Trump trust a vaccine if Putin told him it was safe?
This is not the space race, it’s a worldwide pandemic. Putin is nevertheless trying to claim victory here. And while the US medical community has poured cold water on Trump’s suggestions that a vaccine could be ready by Election Day, Putin has just pulled one out of a hat and named it Sputnik, after the satellite mission that shocked the world in 1957.
My student gave a very clear comment about this: In times of no economic crisis, free-market principles usually work far better than a centralized economy. This coming from a person who clearly misses the Soviet times! Consider that intellectual honesty on display. The person went on further to say this, though, that in times of crisis, a centralized economy works better at getting the needed results.
Never underestimate the willingness of powerful people to engage in some geopolitical propaganda. That’s why Putin sent PPE to New York this spring, even as the virus took hold in his own country.
That comment is difficult to ascertain. However, living here in Russia (and I am an American), I can tell you that the virus was very slow to get started here, probably because President Putin, like President Trump, closed the border with China very quickly, in fact, Mr. Putin closed the border effective January 31, and President Trump issued his closure order on January 31, effective February 2.
Moscow entered a “stay at home” work regimen effective March 17th, and lasting until June 6th this year. Most of Russia outside Moscow never shut down, but Moscow was carrying about half of the reported infections in the entire country. Being a city of between twelve and sixteen million people, living and existing in very close quarters often (such as on buses and the Metro – the subway system here), I was expecting the quarantine to start about one or two weeks before it came.
When it came it was (on paper) fairly strict. We were limited to stay within 100 meters (yards) of our residence, but we could go to stores as needed, sometimes with masks, sometimes without (that narrative fluctuates here, too, but less sensationally as some Muscovites wore masks against the reputedly poor air quality long before the virus came). While neighborhood travel was restricted, anybody with a car or with access to one could freely enter and leave Moscow or go anywhere else in Russia. A lot of people decided at this time to relocate themselves to their dachas, (and a great many Russian people own these!) to take advantage of the relative isolation from crowds. Most of these country houses are in small towns, usually about 60-100 miles outside of Moscow.
Interestingly enough, this zone is where many Muscovites were exiled to during Stalin’s time because they held successful businesses or did things that were considered a threat to the cause of Communism, so they were forbidden to come any nearer than 100km (62 miles) to Moscow.
Transparency concerns matter here
Can you trust a Russian vaccine more than you can trust a Russian election result?The kind of electoral fraud that Trump frequently alleges, without evidence, happens in the US in fact does happen in Russia, according to democracy watchdogs.
The vaccine race is a competition
No American President has gotten much more than 60% of the popular vote ever, in the elections where that’s been possible to track. Heck, in our weird system we routinely give the White House to the person who got fewer votes. And everybody goes along with it.
This comment is purely stupid and untrue. George Washington carried 90 percent of the popular vote in his first election, and many presidential candidates took more than 60 percent of the popular vote:
- 1816 James Monroe (72.79%)
- 1820 James Monroe (80.61%)
- 1804 Thomas Jefferson (72.79%)
- 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson (61.05%)
- 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt (60.80%)
- 1972 Richard M. Nixon (60.67%)
- 1920 Warren Harding (60.32%)
This claim by Mr. Wolf reveals his anti-Russia / anti Trump hysteria (we can probably already see where this is going), and of course, Wolf assumes that the average reader is not going to take any time to challenge his assertions about history. This one was easy to disprove, as Wikipedia had this information. Think of that. We offer just a little more:
Trump likes to joke about continuing to serve as President long into the future, but to do it, he’d have to change the US Constitution, which seems completely impossible. Not for Putin. Voters helped him change Russia’s constitution last month.
During his time in office, Trump has shown great deference to Putin. That could stem from Trump’s disdain for the US intelligence community assessment that Russia tried to help his campaign in 2016 (and is trying to help him win again in 2020). The White House also likes to say he’s been hard on Russia, though there is ample evidence of Trump’s willingness to let Putin play alpha.
So, apparently for Mr. Wolf, the reason Russia cannot possibly have developed a vaccine is because President Trump wants to develop good relations with President Putin and Russia. In other words, Trump is a Russian stooge and we are right back to the Increasingly Disproven Russiagate Hoax.
It is just that the folks over at CNN refuse to accept it.
If you want to read more drivel like this, there certainly is more to be found in Zachary Wolf’s piece. I do not mean to run the man down, for he is a skilled writer, but his sourcing and biases are making a mess out of the talent he clearly possesses. We wish him well. Maybe he could get red-pilled and write for our side some day. We are waiting!
So, the question – how did Russia arrive at a vaccine so quickly?
The answer is in two parts. First, there are many nations at work on creating a vaccine. This is far from a single-world effort – Australia, Russia, the US, China, and many others are involved. In fact, the World Health Organization maintains that 150 nations are working on this. Further, Russia does possess very highly developed technologies developed both internally and augmented by very well known Western concerns like Samsung and Hyundai from South Korea and even American equipment in their medical labs and hospitals. Russian education is still largely excellent, a holdover from the Soviet times when education in the sciences was considered essential to the building of the Utopian paradise promised under Communism. One must remember that during the Space Race, American efforts in math, science and technological education were spurred into overdrive precisely because “if we don’t do it, the Commies will beat us.” This was not just pure propaganda; there was indeed a race on.
This never stopped in Russia. While it is often said (here) that the main goal of the Russian worker is to find a way not to work, the reality is that people here work, often very hard, and it is strongly ingrained in all of Russian society that I have seen that results are the only thing that matters.
The second part is that politically, the coronavirus never took on its “second life” the way it did in the United States. In the US, this virus has been politicized to create serious abuses of power by American state and local leaders, with the result being millions of Americans isolated from one another for a long time and then aggravated by a highly dubious (but highly accepted) story of a black man dying at the hands of a supposedly sadistic white police officer. Simply put, the Americans have been in a pressure cooker to the point of insane irrationality. Trump Derangement Syndrome being already present, the results are as we have seen them: explosive.
In Russia, the virus never achieved the power of becoming a basis for a referendum on President Putin. While the Russian leader is somewhat less popular this term than in prior terms, he is still highly regarded, either directly as a great leader and statesman, or by default in the knowledge that there is, to be pragmatic, no other leader in Russia who can do what Vladimir Putin does. This means that even people who really, really wish someone else was in charge have to also admit that there is no one visible yet who has the needed qualities to lead Russia into stability.
Incidentally, America is about to have the same problem that Russia does. We will look at that elsewhere, but this is just a tasty hint.
Given these factors, the race for a vaccine is such that any of the world’s technology leaders could have beaten the United States. It just so happens that Russia is the one that did it.
The rest of this argument simply breaks down into propaganda. I trust that our readers have no time for propaganda – we all have our supplies of it well-provided by other media. But what I have offered are observations from inside Russia about life and progress here. They are given in a fair voice – a pragmatic one, for although there has been certainly a race for a vaccine all over the world, ultimately it is the human race that is the beneficiary of such a vaccine, no matter who created the vaccine.
However, Russia knows the skepticism in which it is held in the West, and probably to help offset that, it comes as no surprise to learn that Phillipines president Rodrigo Duterte and Serbian leader Alexandar Vujic have also volunteered to receive doses of the new “Sputnik V” vaccine.
More to come…
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.