Iran is looking to persuade its regional rival Saudi Arabia to help it to sell Iranian crude oil on international markets in exchange for limiting attacks from the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen on Saudi oil infrastructure. Until the sanctions slapped on Iran’s oil exports by U.S. are in place, Iran is looking for alternatives to have its oil sold on the international markets.
Russia is helping to strengthen Tajikistan’s armed forces and build up its military contingent in the country. The Kremlin is looking to stake out its military position in the Central Asian country amid a deteriorating security situation in neighboring Afghanistan.
Israeli military directed heavy artillery fire and dozens of airstrikes into Gaza, as fears grew that a ground invasion of the territory could be launched to quell rocket fire from Palestinian militants
Chinese-Russian vaccine cooperation will save the Global South
The recent agreements for China to manufacture over a quarter-billion doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will save the Global South from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. This development will greatly improve inoculation rates among some of the world’s most desperate and impoverished countries, thereby helping the international community more quickly recover from this crisis, not to mention saving countless lives.
Instead of being praised for this humanitarian vision, China and Russia are once again being criticized by the Western mainstream media as evidenced by CNN’s latest hit piece against the two countries.
The outlet published an article on Wednesday titled “China and Russia want to vaccinate the developing world before the West. It’s brought them closer than ever.” The seemingly innocuous title disguises an information warfare attack. Firstly, it implies that China and Russia are somehow politicizing their vaccination efforts as part of an unexplained competition with the West.
That’s not true. They’re not trying to do anything “before the West;” they’re simply doing it on their own for humanitarian reasons due to their global responsibilities as members of the UN Security Council. It’s not their fault that the West doesn’t even care about this.
Accusations abound about Western countries hoarding vaccines, which CNN to their credit mentions in their report. One of the experts cited in the piece dishonestly claims that it’s “a really convenient narrative for both Beijing and Moscow” to talk draw attention to this, but the reality is that they don’t have to do anything at all in this respect since the entire developing world is pleading for vaccines but is being ignored by the West.
Those who most desperately need them the most know for themselves that the only reliable partners that they have right now are China and Russia, not Western countries, some of which are their historical partners.
CNN also takes a swipe at both of them by repeating the fake news claims that they propagate “disinformation” about Western vaccines. That’s not only false, but it’s also irrelevant to the topic being discussed. It’s not like the Global South even has access to those Western vaccines in the first place to be misled into refusing to take them due to disinformation.
On the contrary, CNN and other Western mainstream media outlets are trying to provoke suspicion among those people about Chinese and Russian vaccines by wrongly claiming that they’re being provided for political reasons and hinting at possible safety issues, which is very dangerous to imply.
The concept of so-called “vaccine diplomacy” is also brought up in the article, but it too is irrelevant to the discussion. There is no competition between Western and non-Western vaccines in the Global South because the West is mostly hoarding its own supplies and not doing much to share them with the developing world.
It’s therefore natural that those desperate people who receive Chinese and Russian vaccines will have a better view of those countries than of the Western ones who denied them these lifesaving treatments. The West could have supplied its own vaccines to these people but is more interested in inoculating its own citizens first.
The party that’s really politicizing vaccines has always been the West. Their leaders’ selfish motivation to vaccinate their own people before all others resulted in a situation wherein the developing world is becoming resentful of them for denying these life-saving treatments to the planet’s most desperate people.
Some Westerners finally realized how counterproductive their “vaccine nationalism” has been for their soft power, but it’s too late to change the dynamics that they’ve created through their short-sighted policy, hence why their mainstream media have instead taken to spreading scaremongering propaganda about China and Russia.
The presumed target audience is less so the people of the developing world who are sincerely grateful for China and Russia’s humanitarian support against COVID-19 and more likely their own Western people. It’s inevitable that the decline of Western influence across the Global South will become increasingly obvious to their citizens with time and they’ll eventually demand answers from their leaders as to why this was allowed to happen.
Those same leaders don’t want to admit that their selfish “vaccine nationalism” was responsible since it’s much more “politically convenient” for them to blame an entirely fabricated joint Chinese and Russian conspiracy instead.
Turkish President Erdogan’s disclosure that he proposed dispatching a peacekeeping force to Palestine during this week’s talks with his Russian counterpart has been misconstrued by many in the Alt-Media Community as implying an impending mission to the Holy Land, but that’s nothing more than fake news since the topic was only brought up for soft power purposes and no such joint operation is seriously being planned.
The Alt-Media Community (AMC) can be a very valuable place for learning about facts and interpretations thereof that are largely suppressed by the Mainstream Media for “politically correct” reasons, but it can also be a cesspit of fake news as well if one lacks the media literacy to identify the various information products that they come across online. Among the latest false narratives to be propagated across the community is the claim that Russia and Turkey are ready to deploy a peacekeeping force to Palestine. This counterfactual claim is based upon Turkish President Erdogan’s disclosure that he proposed a peacekeeping mission to his Russian counterpart during this week’s talks, though that part of their conversation curiously wasn’t mentioned in the official Kremlin website’s report of their call. No one should doubt that it was probably touched upon to some extent, but it evidently wasn’t serious enough of a topic for the Kremlin to inform the world about.
At this point, it’s necessary for readers to take a step back and assess the strategic dynamics of the latest “Israeli”-Palestinian conflict as objectively as they possibly can. Regardless of whichever side one supports, everyone should acknowledge that there’s an intense information war being waged by each warring party and their sympathizers. Plenty of fake news is being propagated in order to manufacture false impressions of the situation and its future course. In the context of this analysis, one such example is the AMC’s misconstruing of President Erdogan’s conversation with President Putin and subsequent misreporting that the two are seriously considering an impending peacekeeping mission to the Holy Land. This dramatic claim ignores Russia’s perfectly balanced approach to the conflict whereby Moscow has refused to take either party’s side and it also distracts from Turkey’s “politically inconvenient” relationship with “Israel”.
About the first point, many in the AMC wishfully think that Russia and especially its leader are secretly against “Israel”. This is partly due to years of indoctrination after they’ve read countless fake news reports about this topic in the AMC from individuals and outlets that are motivated by ego, ideology, and/or profit (i.e. boosting ad revenue through clickbait and/or soliciting more donations from naive but well-intended members of their audience for reaffirming their false expectations). The second point operates very similarly nowadays as well. Just like there are those who imagine that Russia is anti-Zionist, so too are there many who imagine the same about Turkey despite Ankara’s continued political and economic ties with “Israel”. For various reasons, it’s fashionable to pretend that both of them are against “Israel”, particularly Turkey due to some recent highly publicized disagreements between the two, but both narratives are debunked by the facts.
Nevertheless, quite a few Facebook pages (mostly those targeting Muslims) and even casual commentators fell for the fake news being pushed by those who claimed that Russia and Turkey are preparing to dispatch a joint peacekeeping mission to Palestine. This reflects just how unaware those individuals are of those two countries’ relations with “Israel” (due to a large extent to the years’ worth of fake news they’ve been indoctrinated into believing about that topic) as well as how desperate they are to believe that some Great Powers are assembling the peacekeeping mission that so many of them sincerely hope for. What’s most regrettable about this latest fake news narrative is that it’s bound to be debunked by subsequent developments and result in people’s unrealistically high and completely manufactured hopes being shattered in the coming future, after which they’ll likely be confused and perhaps more susceptible to anti-Russian and -Turkish narratives.
It’s everyone’s right to believe whatever they want, whether it’s the fake news about those two allegedly assembling a joint peacekeeping force for Palestine or any critical interpretations of their policies (whether in general or specific to this or another issue), but folks also deserve to be informed that they’ve been misled whenever viral fake news succeeds in convincing them of something that isn’t true. Nobody wants to have their hopes shattered, especially if the latter were unrealistically high and the result of fake news, hence the obligation that every sincere member of the AMC has to inform their fellows whenever this is happening. President Erdogan knows very well that no such peacekeeping mission is going to happen, but he brought it up with President Putin in order to create a soft power talking point that could boost his country’s supposed anti-Zionist credentials. It was thus nothing more than a tactical infowar move and nothing to be taken seriously.
Russia’s perfectly balanced approach might not win it plaudits from either side, but it’s nevertheless the most pragmatic stance that any foreign party could take if they desire to maintain equally excellent relations with all players in West Asia.
The “Israeli”-Palestinian conflict is a very emotive one draped in ethno-religious and national liberation dimensions that further intensify the sentiments surrounding this issue. It’s therefore understandable that the latest violence further polarized the world. The exception to this observation is interestingly Russia’s stance towards the conflict since Moscow has done its utmost to maintain a perfectly balanced approach unlike practically every other foreign party. It condemns “Israeli” settlements for violating international law but simultaneously supports “Israel’s” right to exist within its pre-167 borders per relevant UN Resolutions. The Eurasian Great Power also wants both sides to stop targeting civilians, which lends credence to each of their claims against the other. This approach might not win it plaudits from either side, but it’s the most pragmatic one that any state could take if they desire to maintain equally excellent relations with all players in West Asia.
In the contemporary era of uncontrollable polarization made all the worse by the unpredictable globalsystemicconsequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s refreshing that a leading country like Russia is taking such a neutral position towards an issue as important as the “Israeli”-Palestinian one. Nevertheless, some critics claim that this stance supports “Israel’s” by default since Moscow doesn’t ever impose any meaningful consequences upon Tel Aviv for its violation of international law. That argument is compelling to a large extent and probably comes off as a surprise to many of the country’s supporters who wrongly thought that it maintains its Soviet-era policy of proudly supporting the Palestinians no matter what. That hasn’t been the case for decades but some forces in the Alt-Media Community dishonestly misportrayed its policy for self-serving reasons related to either ego, ideology, and/or profit (i.e. boosting ad revenue through clickbait and/or soliciting more donations).
The fact of the matter is that while Russia officially deplores “Israel’s” treatment of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, it won’t do anything other than remind the world of this problem from time to time out of fear of risking its newfound de factostrategicpartnership with the self-professed “Jewish State”. Furthermore, much to the consternation of some of its Muslim supporters, Russia is also vehemently against attempts to discredit “Israel’s” existence since these run counter to UN Resolutions. All that Russia would ideally like to see is a two-state solution in line with international law, but it’s equally against both “Israel’s” erasure from the map like some have advocated for and the self-professed “Jewish State’s” indefinite occupation of the Palestinian territories that it illegally seized after 1967. Just like it won’t take meaningful action against “Israel”, however, it also won’t do the same against the Palestinians either, which is fair enough from its perspective.
This means that Russia’s role is largely rhetorical when it comes to this emotive issue except with respect to its sincere efforts to organize another round of peace talks aimed at facilitating a compromise solution to this long-standing dilemma. There might not be much more that Russia could actually do other than host a neutral meeting place for the warring parties and other relevant stakeholders like the rest of the Mideast Quartet (US, EU, and UN) to further discuss their differences. One might argue that Russia would have more to gain by decisively taking one side over the other, but that perspective doesn’t take into account the country’s 21st-century grand strategy of becoming the supreme balancing force to Eurasia, to which end it must absolutely abide by international law and present itself as the least partisan force possible. This position is expected to improve Russia’s influence with both parties without sacrificing ties with one or the other.
Most countries aren’t strong enough to practice such a policy since they’d rather have the benefits that come with supporting one of these rivals. In the case of those who support “Israel”, this is obviously cooperation with its world-class business community (especially in the agricultural and technological spheres nowadays), while Palestine’s supporters expect a major soft power boost by remaining loyal to the principles of international law. That’s not to say that Russia is against international law by not supporting Palestine over “Israel”, but just that global sympathy is clearly on the side of the Palestinians whose cause is more closely associated with this concept due to “Israel’s” ongoing occupation of their territories since 1967. Many Palestinian supporters also believe that “Israel’s” very existence is illegitimate, though while that’s their right to think so, it nevertheless goes against international law and risks discrediting their principled support thereof when it comes to Palestine.
“Israel”, Palestine, and their respective supporters of course wish that Russia would openly take one of their sides, but the Kremlin is reluctant to do so since it believes that such a decision would sacrifice its strategic flexibility. The Eurasian Great Power wants to continue cultivating relations with both parties, which it wouldn’t be able to do if it supported one over the other. Neither is likely happy with this pragmatic stance, but since it technically doesn’t go against either of them despite claims to the contrary considering its strict adherence to international law, Russia’s ties with both of them won’t suffer as a result. To the contrary, they’re expected to continue improving. Russia might be criticized by “Israel” for “flirting with Muslim extremists” while the Palestinians might criticize it for “implicitly supporting Zionism”, but they won’t impose any meaningful costs against it just like Russia won’t impose the same against them either. Russia’s balancing act will thus endure.
Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev told Sputnik earlier this week that the US is secretly developing biological weapons in some of the biolabs that it funds all across the world, building upon previous accusations that he made in the past regarding the danger that such facilities in former Soviet states pose to his country and the rest of the world more broadly.
Biological warfare has been on the tip of many people’s tongues since the outbreak of COVID-19 last year after many speculated that the virus was really a bioweapon that had accidentally leaked from a Chinese biolab. Although the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest study into the matter concluded that this theory is extremely unlikely, the narrative still persists to this day. Regardless of its ultimate veracity or lack thereof, this interpretation of events sparked widespread interest in the danger that biological weapons programs pose to humanity. It’s with this in mind that everyone should listen really closely to what Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev recently had to say about such threats.
He told Sputnik earlier this week that “In recent years, the US and its NATO allies have significantly stepped up biological research in many countries across the world. The US is developing individual action plans for each country based on the needs of national biological programmes, primarily military ones.” This builds upon what he said last month in an interview with the popular Russian business daily Kommersant where he accused America of developing such weapons in close proximity to his country’s and China’s borders. Unlike what Western pundits claim about him sensationally exploiting the COVID-19 outbreak for political reasons, Patrushev has actually been warning about these threats since as early as 2015 according to RT.
So seriously does Russia take this danger that Foreign Minister Lavrov just agreed to a biosecrutiy pact with Armenia during his latest visit to the South Caucasus country which holds the ignoble distinction of hosting one of those American facilities. It also hopes to reach similar agreements with other former Soviet states that have allowed the US to so provocatively operate within their borders. The top Russian diplomat said last May that “We have reached an intergovernmental memorandum with Tajikistan, are working on a similar document with our colleagues from Uzbekistan and are in consultations with other post-Soviet countries, including Kazakhstan, Armenia and other neighbors.”
Of consistent concern for Russia has been the US biolab in neighboring Georgia. Moscow voiced concerns about that facility in 2013 and then again in 2018, during which time Russian officials claimed that the lab was linked to over 70 deaths. The South Caucasus country’s former Minister of State Security publicly speculated that same year that the site was secretly a biological weapons center. The US and Georgia both deny the allegations, but amid unconfirmed claims that COVID-19 might have leaked from a Chinese biolab despite the WHO’s latest study dismissing that theory, it’s understandable why Russia would at the very least want to ensure that such an accident doesn’t ever happen right on its own borders.
As I wrote in an op-ed in April 2020 for CGTN, “The U.S. Needs To Open Up About Its Biological Laboratories In The Former USSR”. That’s the only way to put everyone’s legitimate worries at ease and prevent any accidental leaks of whatever it is that America might really be testing there. Nevertheless, these well-intended concerns have been dishonestly misportrayed as “disinformation” by the Western Mainstream Media, which claims that any talk about those facilities is nothing more than a “conspiracy theory” that’s possibly being peddled at the behest of the Russian security services. That’s not true, and it would be equally legitimate for average Americans to demand transparency of any Russian biolabs near its borders if they were ever built there.
Patrushev isn’t pushing an information warfare narrative but is publicly expressing his country’s legitimate security concerns about the shadowy biolabs that its peer competitor built in its backyard. These facilities might be exactly what they say they are, innocuous sites for testing various diseases and whatnot, or they might really be secret bioweapon factories. Nobody really knows for sure until the US and/or its former Soviet partners finally open up about what’s truly going on there. Russia is demanding answers on behalf of the whole world, and slowly but surely, it hopes to receive them before it’s too late and an accident happens at one of those sites which might make COVID-19 look like child’s play in hindsight.