As the US & China vie for Supremacy in Europe, Russia has emerged as a Third Player

They call it the “Health Silk Road”, and goes with the already famigerative “New Silk Road”, best know as the Belt & Road Initiative. It follows the same route and above all, has the same goal: assert Chinese Influence and Chinese Dominion on the rest of the World. On Europe, to start with.

That same Europe on its knees at the moment because of covid-19, which began in a country that is now patently trying to gain influence across the continent.

The Chinese strategy started long ago, and is now paying dividends. It started with commercial deals, with a strong presence of economic migrants, then went on to build public opinion through sway over politicians, opinion makers, journalists and think-tanks.

Now, as the pandemic plagues all of Europe, it is easier to play on differences between European countries and the US, and even among NATO allies. Europe appears to have turned into playground for Beijing to counter American influence. China, whose efforts to keep the virus from spreading abroad were far from satisfactory, is sending healthcare supplies and medical personnel to

Europe, be it Italy, Serbia, Poland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Holland and the Czech Republic. The last three, together with Turkey, claim to have received defective goods.

The aid to France, recently, has been openly linked to the purchase of Chinese 5G telecom systems. Jack Ma, a member of China’s ruling party and founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, seems to have made targeted donations along lines laid out by the Chinese government.

The case of Italy, which joined China’s BRI last year, is emblematic for many reasons, and the country has become the last battleground for supremacy on the Mediterranean Sea and beyond.

The so-called support of China for Italy is systematic and provided not only through the government, but also through the Chinese Red Cross, Sino-Italian associations, administrative bodies and technology and logistics companies.

Huawei, Zte, Alibaba and Lenovo have all made donations to Italy that could help further Chinese business interests. The donations made by Sino-Italian associations aim not only to protect the image of China, but also shield the sizeable Chinese diaspora on Italian soil from any unfair association with the virus.

Interestingly enough, since the beginning of the pandemic, there’s a new player on the ground. Moscow, like Beijing, has deployed the same kind of strategy: dispatching aid to the nations hit by the virus and trying to place propaganda on social media.

It might be noted here that Beijing and Moscow have been trying to strenghten their relationship: despite their differences and mistrusts, they are collaborating at infrastructural, military, economic and

technological levels. They have recently announced a pharmaceutical collaboration to fight covid-19. But Moscow’s mission to Italy, dubbed “From Russia with Love”, as in the famous James Bond movie, goes further.

Moscow supplied Italy with ventilators and masks, along with decontamination equipment that arrived in Bergamo, one of the cities most hit by the virus, with a Military Convoy of 122 People. Amongst them were Members of Russia’s Military Intelligence.

The article cited experts to say that Italy did not need the military decontamination equipment because it is reputed to have some of the best nuclear, biological and chemical capabilities within NATO.

The newspaper, after publishing the article, has had to contend with a press release of the spokesman for the Russian Defense Minister, saying: “As for relations with the real clients of La Stampa’s Russophobia, who are known to us, we recommend them to adopt an old maxim: Qui fodit foveam, incidet in eam (Chi digs the pit, it falls into it).

To be clearer: Bad penny always comes back.” Meanwhile, the propaganda seemed to carry on, trying to suggest a failure of the EU in this pandemic, and stoke sentiments that could create divisions in Europe.

The EU is clearly struggling with the pandemic and with the notion of its union itself, while the US seems to lack credibility in assuming strategic leadership. In such times, every state appears to be looking after its own interests and not considering the big picture.

Since Russia has taken to Latin sayings, perhaps others should too, and remember the words of Laocoon in front of the Trojan Horse: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes” (I’m afraid of Greeks even when they bring gifts).

Author: Francesca Marino, Journalist, South Asia Expert & Co-author of ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B. Natale.
Editor’s Note: The article reflects the author’s opinion only, and not necessarily the views of editorial opinion of Belt & Road News.