COVID-19 and the China Blame Game

While what the Russian government actually says gets almost no traction in the Western mainstream media, some recent comments from Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov provide us with some interesting insight into the current "China Blame Game" that is being promoted as the reason for the world's current coronavirus pandemic.

Here are some examples of the China Blame Game:

April 28, 2020 – UK Guardian headline – "Trump says China could have stopped COVID-19 and suggests US will seek damages"

April 30, 2020 – CNN headline – "Trump administration draws up plans to punish China over coronavirus outbreak

April 30, 2020 – Reuters headline – "Trump confident that coronavirus may have originated in Chinese lab"

May 4, 2020 – South China Morning Post headline – "US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says "enormous evidence" coronavirus came from Chinese lab"

Last, but not least, in a different path of the anti-China COVID-19 narrative, here is a press statement from Mike Pompeo via the U.S. Department of State website:

…and, just in case you wondered, here is the aforementioned press statement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about China's targeting of America's COVID-19 research organizations:

With that background, let's look at Russia's comments on the China Blame Game.  Here is the video showing an interview with Sergei Lavrov held on May 15, 2020:

Here is the transcript to the key portion of the exchange with all bolds being mine:

Question: On which side is Russia and why in the conflict between the US and China over possible contradictory data on the emergence and spread of the coronavirus?

Sergei LavrovWe are on the side of justice and common sense. Justice implies that it is wrong to accuse someone of something without the facts. I have given examples of the attitude of our Western partners who base their accusations on the declaration “highly likely,” which is how they accuse us of many things. I think the same applies to any situation where a country is being blamed for serious actions that affect lives but no facts are given. This attitude cannot be taken lightly.

A few words of common sense. This is not a time to be crying “stop thief!” and pointing fingers, it’s a time to cooperate and to develop a vaccine as soon as possible. Institutions in Europe, China, Russia, the US and many other countries are working on this. A kind of “prestigious race” is taking place – who will be the first? There are already manifestations of “national egotism” where the competition for being the first with a vaccine is not entirely scrupulous. There is information that the US has bought Sanofi, a French company, in the hope that it will be the first to develop the vaccine and that the US will get it. However, there are proposals from France and other European countries (which we share) that any positive result in this regard must be instantly made available internationally and the vaccine must be accessible to all. This is common sense without any selfish aspirations or attempts to derive a political benefit from this tragic situation.

I would like to recall that it was in late December that we learned from our Chinese colleagues about what was happening there (when they became convinced that this was really an epidemic). In January, specialists were already talking about it, in part, under the aegis of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In February WHO experts visited Wuhan. By the way, there was a Russian specialist in this delegation. So, it is at least inappropriate to say that the Chinese were concealing information from the WHO, or that the WHO did not know some things, or that it knew about the coronavirus but held back information. Needless to say, nobody could imagine the developments that led to this pandemic but it’s an unprecedented situation. Doctors were acting under conditions where the experience gained from other pandemics was not enough. This pandemic proved to be much more serious.

I think WHO experts must be supported and encouraged in every way rather than accused without grounds. This is especially true since the overwhelming majority of WHO Secretariat employees come from the countries that are the strongest critics of the WHO. They are demanding a drastic reform of the organisation, everything short of closing it down. Representatives of the US, France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Australia, Portugal and Britain amount to over 30 percent of the WHO specialists, that is, people who deal professionally with epidemics and healthcare in general. The majority of Western countries have many more specialists there than they are entitled to by their quota. Out of about 2,100 specialists, one third come from Western countries. Italy, Canada and Australia have about 60 employees each. China has fewer than 40 and Russia has 20. Even if China or any other non-Western country had a malicious plan to use the WHO for its narrow interests, how can 40 people do this if they are confronted by over 700 specialists from Western countries, which are united by allied commitments in NATO and the European Union? I believe it is important to focus now on helping the experts and professionals to develop a vaccine instead of trying to derive some geopolitical, electoral or other advantages.

It is very clear that Russia is not part of the "China Blame Game" and that the country's leadership believes that it is most important that all nations work together to solve the crisis.  Fingerpointing is certainly not the way to solve the pandemic and is just another part of the new Cold War narrative  that is brewing in the halls of Washington. 

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