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996 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     988 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

28.05.2020

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s article about the world amid the coronavirus pandemic for Chinese newspaper Global Times, Moscow, May 28, 2020

The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus changed life on the planet virtually overnight. It also became a crush test for international relations, both at the level of individual countries and multilateral associations. The obvious consequences include an economic recession, a crisis of global governance and the growth of protectionist and isolationist sentiments. The pandemic has seriously limited humanitarian, cultural and tourist exchanges, as well as people to people contacts. But this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, when we leave the crisis behind, which will certainly happen one day, we will need to make a comprehensive analysis of the world’s ability to withstand such challenges and find common responses to them. However, we believe that some conclusions can be made already now.

Large-scale epidemics are nothing new in human history; they have happened before. But what makes the ongoing pandemic different is that it is taking place amid an unprecedented interdependence of people, countries and entire continents. Achievements in the fields of technology, information and transport have globalised people intellectually and even physically, which means that the majority of new challenges eventually become our common problems or at least acquire an international dimension. We warned long ago about the danger of underestimating the cross-border nature of numerous threats, from terrorism to cybercrime. We also said that nobody will be able to weather the storm in a safe haven, hide behind moats and fences, or attempt to settle one’s problems at the expense of others. The virus effect has proved this convincingly. The pandemic is also a lesson in humility: all countries and peoples are equal before tragedy, regardless of geography, wealth or political ambitions. The coronavirus crisis has peeled away everything that is artificial and contrived, casting a bright light on the enduring value of human lives.

Far from everyone turned out to be ready for the trial of the pandemic. Even now, when the global challenge should have brought us together and forced us to set our controversies aside at least for a while, we can see negative examples of predatory attitudes.  Some people have yielded to the temptation to act selfishly, believing that it’s every man for himself. Others have used the situation to play the monopolist strategy, advocating their mercenary interests and settling scores with their geopolitical rivals. In this rich medium, the virus is accelerating the growth of negative trends, sharpening contradictions and differences, and promoting unhealthy rivalry.

In other words, the unavoidable natural consequences of the pandemic are being complemented with the man-made effects created by the inability of humankind, or rather a certain part of it, to abandon the friend-foe mentality even when facing a shared adversity. This is regrettable, because it takes unprecedented solidarity and the pooling of efforts and resources to overcome the objective and obvious consequences of COVID-19.

We have to acknowledge that the pandemic has revealed a lack of humanity in some cases. It could be explained by people’s confusion in the face of a spreading threat. But it seems that this deficit is deeper and results from, as I already said, the untreatable selfishness of some countries and their ruling elites. We are witnessing that, instead of consolidating the efforts and aspiring to mutual understanding, those who are used to declaring – or declaiming – their moral leadership and rich democratic traditions, are abandoning the rules of decorum and ethical restrictions and beginning to follow the law of the jungle. For instance, there are attempts to pin the blame for the spread of the infection on China, or sketchy speculations about Russia’s assistance to some countries provided at the request of their governments. It even came to absurd accusations against my country of trying to use the humanitarian and medical assistance to “increase its geopolitical influence,” or humiliating bans – in violation of the basic diplomatic norms – on asking Russia for medical and humanitarian aid regardless of the severity of the situation. Apparently, the fabled solidarity of the Euro-Atlantic format is more important than the lives and health of tens of thousands of people.

What, if not the politisation of humanitarian issues and the desire to use the pandemic to punish the undesirable governments, is the reason for the reluctance of some Western countries that talk a lot about the need to adhere to human rights, refrain from unilateral economic restrictions against developing countries, at least until the global epidemiological situation normalises? Indeed, according to the UN assessment, such sanctions limit people’s ability to use their social and economic rights and seriously impede their efforts to protect their health, striking a blow at the most vulnerable groups.

Russia stands firm against such inhumane practices that are unacceptable during global cataclysms. During the emergency summit of the Group of Twenty on March 26, President Vladimir Putin voiced the initiative to create “green corridors” free of trade wars and sanctions for mutual deliveries of medicines, foods, equipment and technologies. We welcomed and supported the statement by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who urged the parties to regional armed conflicts to promptly stop combat operations and introduce a ceasefire. Of course, any ceasefire should not be used to exempt terrorist groups that are considered as such by the UN Security Council from responsibility.

The attempts to use the current situation to undermine the basic principles of the UN are extremely dangerous. Its agencies must remain the main coordination mechanisms of multilateral cooperation in the interests of an efficient solution for the problems common for the entire humankind. In this regard, we are deeply concerned about the steps to defame the World Health Organisation, which, as most countries agree, has been on the frontline in the war against the coronavirus since the first days of the pandemic, helping all countries to take in the rapidly changing epidemiological situation and pick the best way to respond to the threat. Undoubtedly, the WHO, like any other multilateral agency, should improve its activity and adapt to the new conditions. But the solution is not to destroy the organisation, but to support a constructive dialogue of all of its member states and develop common professional responses to emerging challenges.

 

To be continued...

 




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