The COVID-19 pandemic’s main lesson: value the partnership

The COVID-19 pandemic’s main lesson: value the partnership

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tour of Diriyah, Saudi Arabia’s ancient capital and a cradle of the Saudi state in October 2019, has become a symbol of strengthening partnership between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

The rapid rapprochement between the two world’s biggest oil producers, which started after the first historic meeting between President Putin and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2015 was a major new positive geopolitical factor in the pre-pandemic world.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and our partner, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, from the very start were the champions of this new alliance which opened numerous opportunities to invest in sectors ranging from oil to tourism. This partnership led to a rise in joint investments by the two sovereign funds to over 2.5 billion dollars from zero in a span of 5 years.

It should not be forgotten that the alliance between Russia and Saudi pulled the world from the brink of an economic collapse after the oil prices had dived in the early months of the pandemic on worries over uncertainty in spring of 2020.

If our two nations did not act responsibly and swiftly then, bringing back stability to oil markets, the economic consequences of the pandemic would have been hard to predict, let alone to cope with. This was an example of leadership needed at turbulent times. The mudbrick walls of Diriyah, which I visited on many occasions before the pandemic struck, provide an excellent setting for reflections over what values stayed unchanged throughout human history, plagued by wars, pandemics and natural disasters.

During the eighteen months in a new shocking reality with national lockdowns and restricted travel the humankind learned an important lesson. The value of international partnership in the face of a common threat such as the COVID-19 pandemic has grown exponentially since no single country, even if it belongs to the most developed and powerful, can successfully defeat the pandemic on its own.

History teaches us that human health is the natural sphere for international partnership regardless of ideological and other differences. Even at the height of the Cold War Soviet and U.S. scientists worked together to develop vaccines against the deadly polio disease and to eradicate smallpox from the face of the Earth. In RDIF we place partnership at the core of what we do. Early in the pandemic we started working with our partners both at home and internationally to develop the most effective strategy to deal with the new threat.

This resulted in the development of high speed testing systems, an anti-COVID drug and the world’s first vaccine against coronavirus, Sputnik V, which is now authorized in 70 countries, home to over 50 percent of the world’s population. There are only 3 vaccines in the world with the proven efficacy against COVID-19 above 90% and Sputnik V is one of them.

Sputnik V vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya National Research Center, was registered at an unprecedented speed, because from the very first day the goal of providing the vaccine to the global community was more important than the slow risk-averse careful progression through a bureaucracy-ridden path.

We keep pace of Sputnik V ecosystem’s development through several strategic initiatives. Contrary to practices accepted in the global pharmaceutical industry RDIF shared the Sputnik V vaccine technology with 25 partners in 14 countries. Local producers in India, including the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute, Argentina, China, Mexico, South Korea, Serbia and other countries have become part of this cooperation effort previously unseen in the industry. The Sputnik V international partnership will supply the world with 700 million vaccine doses per year, bringing closer our final victory over the pandemic.

We are building a global network of Sputnik V manufacturers, who will coordinate rather than compete with each other, and will continue to share the vaccine production technology with them. RDIF was also the first to offer other vaccine producers the opportunity to use the first component of Sputnik V, also known as Sputnik Light, as a booster shot in vaccine cocktails to increase efficacy of other vaccines as the world battles emerging variants of coronavirus such as Delta.

The unipolar world with “My home is my fortress” approach is still holding ground. Attempts to monopolize markets, build barriers to entry and destroy competition using red tape and bureaucracy are still ubiquitous. Working to supply the Sputnik V to various regions of the world our team felt the pressure and even attacks from the unipolar world’s partisans. In this view examples of productive, constructive and sustainable partnerships such as between Russia and Saudi Arabia or an international effort to produce Sputnik V vaccine should serve as models for the post-pandemic world striving to revive economic growth.

The more vigorously the path of partnership is followed the sooner we will be able to see again crowds of international visitors, including from Russia, in Saudi Arabia’s amazing historical heritage sites such as Diriyah, Al Ula and many others.

  • Kirill Dmitriev, CEO, Russian Direct Investment Fund
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