- - Thursday, April 23, 2020

When I woke up and read the headline “Russia sent humanitarian aid to USA,” I had a flashback. I remembered the morning of Aug. 11, 2014, when Russia sent its “aid” to Eastern Ukraine after discussing this with Jose Manuel Barroso. The only difference between our countries at that moment was the size, military might and the United States wasn’t under Russian military attack.

As the world is scrambling to contain and defeat the coronavirus pandemic, Russian Military Intelligence is effectively using skills gained in years past decades during similar operations.

The European Union (EU) has been fracturing for years. Britain’s exit and the continual financial bailouts of the Mediterranean nations have exposed the weaknesses of this economic alliance.

Unable to receive necessary medical support from its European partners, Italy has accepted a Russian “Trojan Horse” — 15 planeloads carrying 60 tons of medical supplies each, eight teams of medical doctors, one complete laboratory, 66 chemical/biological military specialists, and 122 crisis response experts. Russian military and support missions always come complete with intelligence officers.

The Italian people have to accept assistance from anywhere they can get it. Meanwhile, the Russian propaganda machine is able to conduct a major public affairs coup. Russian President Vladimir Putin grew up reading Pravda, the Soviet Union’s propaganda newspaper that everyday detailed assumed wonders of the government’s achievements.

Now, Mr. Putin boasts to the world not only how Russia has come to the rescue in southern Europe, but also in the United States. In its fight against Ccoronavirus, America has purchased medical supplies from Russia. Ignoring the key word “purchased,” Russian media is touting that “USA receives Russian help.”

China, the source of the pandemic, has also been able to make the same claims. The United States is heavily dependent on China for medicines and supplies.

In its entire history, the United States never surrendered any territory to any nation, but has progressively surrendered much of its pharmaceutical industry to China. For decades America’s medical and national security communities have warned of this growing threat. Now, like European countries, the United States must look to Russia and China for assistance.

It is rationally disturbing that Russia and China are reporting far less coronavirus casualties than five EU countries and the United States. To America’s approximately 640,000 cases, China is reporting 83,000. This number is difficult to believe considering the virus started in the city of Wuhan and was denied by President Xi’s government for nearly two months. An investigation needs to be conducted as to whether or not it was just a coincidence that of all the cities of China, this pandemic started in the one which is home to China’s biological research laboratory.

As totalitarian rulers, Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin have firm grips on their governments and the media, they control what the world is told. One regime with even firmer control on the government, the people, and its media is Iran. Official numbers out of Tehran are approximately 78,000 total cases with 4,800 deaths. Combining intelligence sources and contradictory comments by regime officials places the numbers at 800,000 infected and the death count approaching 30,000.

The world will not be free of coronavirus until a vaccine is developed and administered, much like our historical reaction to polio. As long as nations such as Russia, China and Iran are hiding the true numbers, and people are able to travel, resurgences are going to continually occur.

The West is struggling to contain and eradicate this biological threat. Except for life-sustainment items, quarantines have ground the production industries to a halt. Free enterprise finances the military services, which are now impeded from fully conducting their missions. One U.S. and one French aircraft carrier are out of service because of internal virus outbreaks. These problems could be a lot worse if China and Russia were to hold back medical supplies.

This has not gone unnoticed by Mr. Putin, Mr. Xi and Mr. Khamenei. Thinking that their military strategists are not studying what is happening and examining the option of including biological attack into future long-term scenarios is dangerously naïve.

The fact that Mr. Putin was immediately available to send to a foreign country 66 chemical/biological military specialists along with 122 crisis response experts should be a red flag within itself. The massive amount of intelligence information they will acquire will be incorporated in future operations plans and war games.

Hopefully, when this pandemic is over, Western Europe and the United States will come to understand and correct their medical and national security shortfalls. The next event of this nature and impact could be intentional with adversaries ready to exploit all vulnerabilities. Also, the time has come to stop Russian and Chinese “Trojan Horses” globally.

• Markiyan Lubkivskyi is the former Ukrainian ambassador to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, deputy secretary of state of Ukraine and adviser to the head of the Security Service of Ukraine.

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