US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — In the early 1990s, against the backdrop of widespread poverty as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, American food aid in the form of a stream of cheap chicken legs – the Russians called them “Bush’s legs” – symbolized the humiliating collapse of the superpower.
Three decades later, Moscow got a chance to change roles. The giant An-124 military transport plane landed at Kennedy International Airport in New York and delivered masked boxes from Russia, as well as mechanical ventilation devices, designed for this pandemic-suffering city.
“If someone told me a week ago that the United States would thank Russia for humanitarian aid, people would think that I was crazy,” the announcer of one of the Russian television channels said on Thursday, not hiding his surprise.
However, the coronavirus pandemic is increasingly embracing Russia, and the Kremlin propaganda machine, apparently, decided not to brag about it so that the Russians would not think that the government was ignoring the problems in their own country.
After criticism from both sides of the Atlantic over the aid sent to New York, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Thursday said that the two sides, in fact, shared the cost of the delivered medical equipment equally, and that Russia could in the future need help from the United States to combat the spread of coronavirus.
“We are confident that, if necessary, they [the United States] will subsequently be able to support Russia,” said Maria Zakharova, an official representative of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement.
The negative reaction to the delivery of Russian equipment to New York – the state governor and the mayor of the city are sounding the alarm about the lack of personal protective equipment and ventilation devices – bears the trace of a geopolitical shadow hanging over the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, new questions arise about Mr. Trump’s close relationship with Mr. Putin, as well as Mr. Putin’s commitment to fighting coronavirus in his own country.
For the Kremlin, the shipment of this cargo was a propaganda action – it was another opportunity to show Mr. Putin’s country and the world that the time had passed when Russia acted as a supplicant on the world stage.
However, the propaganda victory had a bitter aftertaste, since the spread of the coronavirus is gaining momentum in Russia itself, and this may explain the fact that the landing of the Russian aircraft in New York received on Thursday only surface coverage on the main Russian state television channels.
Although the coronavirus pandemic does not appear to have reached such proportions in Russia as it did in Western Europe or the United States, opposition Russian politicians and medical workers warn of a possible shortage of necessary equipment in the coming weeks.
In the Perm Territory, in the Ural Mountains, on Wednesday, authorities urged residents to start sewing protective masks themselves.
“Doctors and nurses all over the country sit without masks and infect each other,” opposition activist Alexei Navalny said in a message on Twitter. – This is monstrous. Putin is crazy. ”
On Thursday, Mr. Putin did not mention a shipment of medical equipment sent to New York in a letter to the nation about the coronavirus. Instead, he warned that some regions, including Moscow, have so far failed to control the coronavirus pandemic.
“According to virologists, the peak of the epidemic in the world has not yet passed, including in our country,” Mr Putin said with a stern look on Thursday, addressing the Russians from his country house in the Moscow region, where he has been working in recent days remotely.
Mr. Putin said that paid leave, introduced across the country, will be extended until the end of April, the goal of which is to combat the coronavirus pandemic, while giving regional authorities the right to make their own decisions regarding compliance with social distance measures. Moscow and St. Petersburg, the two largest Russian cities with the largest number of infected, have introduced a self-isolation regime, according to which residents are allowed to leave their homes only to buy food and medicine, as well as to walk dogs a hundred meters from their place of residence.
Significantly fewer infected people are registered in Russia than in countries such as the United States and Italy that were severely affected by the virus epidemic, but their number has quadrupled in the past week to reach 3,548 people, and on Thursday authorities reported 770 new infections. whereas a week ago there were only 18 new infections. According to government data on Thursday morning, 30 people who became infected with the coronovirus died.
Coronavirus has already dealt a sensitive blow to the Russian economy, as demand for oil and other Russian commodities has declined significantly, and partly because of the spread of coronavirus. At the same time, the current outbreak of a viral infection has provided the Kremlin with new propaganda opportunities, since Russia, at least for now, is achieving much greater results in containing the spread of coronavirus than Western countries. Although many Russians doubt official data on the number of infections and deaths, there are no reports of overcrowded patient rooms in the country.
The Russian military reported sending at least 15 aircraft with medical equipment and personnel last week to help Italy fight the coronavirus epidemic. The Russian Ministry of Defense sent at least 37 e-mail messages to journalists working in Moscow about this operation, including video recordings showing the movement of Russian dark-green military trucks on Italian roads, accompanied by Italian police. On trucks, Russian flags were posted, as well as posters that read “From Russia with Love.”
Pro-Kremlin news media immediately compared the Russian operation in Italy with the lack, they said, of Italy’s help from the United States and even from other European states.
“All these countries, which are members of the NATO and European Union bloc and boast of their transatlantic solidarity, have begun to shut themselves off and are trying to solve their problems on their own,” said Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the top chambers of the Russian parliament.
Mr Putin and Mr Trump had a telephone conversation on Monday, and the US president later stated that Russia acted “very nice” and “sent a plane with a very, very large amount of cargo.” Brett McGurk, the former special envoy of Mr. Trump to the coalition against the Islamic State (a banned organization in Russia , commented by the editorial office of InoSMI ), called the story of the Russian plane “a big propaganda action.” According to him, Washington is evading global leadership in the fight against the crisis caused by the spread of coronavirus.
However, Russia insists that aid sent to New York is part of a long-term strategy aimed at combating the global coronavirus pandemic. Representatives of the government-supported Russian Direct Investment Fund, which paid half of the cargo delivered to New York, reported on work being carried out jointly with American companies regarding the possibility of supplying medical equipment to Russia if the need arose.
On Thursday, a new object of Russian viral diplomacy appeared – Serbia. Moscow and the West have long been fighting for influence in this Balkan country, in which more than a thousand infections have already been confirmed. Mr Putin had a telephone conversation with his Serbian counterpart, Alexander Vucic, and promised to help the country fight the spread of coronavirus.
After that, Mr. Vučić made a statement in which he thanked the Kremlin. This was reported by the news agency Interfax. Despite the fact that this crisis affects Russia itself, “the Russian leadership is thinking about Serbia and the friendly Serbian people.”
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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.