The attempt to influence Western Balkans through vaccines fails
Serbian authorities have got advantage of good relations with Russia to provide the “Sputnik V” vaccine not only for Serbia but also for countries in the region. That is how the Russian vaccine, “Sputnik V”, gained geopolitical significance in the region.
But how effective the Russian vaccine, promoted so much by Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin really is? In Russia, the percentage of vaccine administration is very low, under 30 percent, while the number of infected and dead is constantly increasing, due to lack of trust to the government by the citizens, and therefore to the vaccine.
Likewise is the situation in Serbia, where the percentage of vaccinated people is currently just over 50 percent, and the epidemiological situation is out of control. A number of “Sputnik V” vaccines were not administered within the valid timeframe and subsequently excluded from the use. On the other hand, by announcing a large donation of half a million vaccines, the United States is trying to limit the entry of Russian vaccines into Europe and the Western Balkans, due to Russia’s political goals in this area through the vaccine policy.
Russia has tried in various ways to motivate citizens to get vaccinated, especially pensioners, including financial incentives as seen in Serbia. In addition to rewarding, the Russian authorities also implemented repressive measures against unvaccinated people who were not allowed to enter the subway, buy tickets for transportation, enter shopping malls, cinemas…
Production of the Russian vaccine “Sputnik V” against the coronavirus in Serbia began on June 4 this year at the Institute of Virology, Vaccines, and Serums “Torlak” in Belgrade. In early October, the Minister of Innovation and Technological Development in the Government of Serbia, Nenad Popovic, said that the Torlak Institute, which started producing or packing the Russian vaccine in June, had prepared 1.5 million vaccines so far and that it was expected that by the end of the year four million will be produced.
Serbia and Russia are trying to expand Russia’s influence in the Western Balkan as well. According to earlier announcements, the idea is to have Russian vaccines from Torlak be distributed throughout the region. Thus, it was reaffirmed that Russia’s only goal is to achieve geopolitical interest by imposing its vaccine. While western countries were focused on vaccinating their population, Russia sought to deliver as many vaccines as possible around the world.
The president of Serbia, through the Torlak Institute, and the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, joined forces to have as many “Sputnik V” vaccines in the world as possible. Russia has repeatedly proven that it does not choose the means. It has used and continues to use the difficult epidemic situation to exert its influence in the Balkans as much as possible. “Sputnik V” is a state vaccine and that is why Russian aid is just another means of military, political, diplomatic, and economic influence.
Russian authorities, who believe only in their own vaccine, have not provided citizens with a choice of other vaccines that are recognized by the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). That is why the citizens of Russia, in order to have the possibility of unlimited travel in other countries, come to Serbia to receive the vaccine of western production. Serbia, which is not a member of the EU, is a good choice for Russians to get vaccinated because they can enter the allied Balkan country without visas.