Sputnik vaccination in San Marino: Trojan horse or savior in need?

Status: 01.03.2021 9:06 p.m.

San Marino is vaccinated with the Russian vaccine Sputnik V. Many in the small European state see urgently needed help in the delivery. Others are concerned about the political implications.

By Jörg Seisselberg,
ARD-Studio Rom

It is here: the vaccine that the European Union is giving the cold shoulder, but which in San Marino is celebrated as a savior in need. The vaccination campaign has begun in the mini-republic in northern Italy, which has been particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic – with the Russian vaccine Sputnik. “We are convinced that the use of Sputnik will help us to lower the curve of infections so that we can finally see light again after many months,” says vaccination campaign director Agostino Ceccarini.

Jörg Seisselberg

Jörg Seisselberg
ARD-Studio Rom

Help in the fight against Covid-19 is very welcome in San Marino. The small state ten kilometers from Rimini currently has one of the highest infection rates in the world. The so-called seven-day incidence is 719 new infections, extrapolated to 100,000 inhabitants – around ten times the level in Germany.

San Marino particularly affected by Corona

Sputnik is praised in this situation, says Alessandra Bruschi, general director of the health system in San Marino. “The vaccination campaign that we can now start with this vaccine is critical to getting us out of this difficult moment.” Difficulties for which, according to experts, San Marino is partly responsible: When the surrounding Italy closed shops, bars and restaurants in autumn to contain the wave of corona infections, San Marino left almost everything unmoved.

Now only in the Czech Republic is the infection situation worse than in San Marino. In their distress, the Sanmarinesi have considered their good contacts to Russia. Moscow responded quickly to the call for help and delivered 7,500 doses of vaccine. But this is not done out of pure charity, warns Russia expert Igor Pellicciari from the University of Urbino: “The arrival of the vaccine is a kind of Trojan horse. Sputnik arrives in a Western European country, while the European Union is more for political than scientific reasons Refuses vaccine. We’re a little on Cold War symbolism and geopolitics here. ”

What are Russia’s interests?

After Hungary, San Marino is the first Western European country to say yes to Sputnik. They shrugged their shoulders in San Marino to fear that Russia could also pursue political interests with the vaccine delivery. The person responsible for the health system, Bruschi, says: “We are the last country in Europe that can now start its vaccination campaign. This would not be possible without the Sputnik vaccine, it is fundamental for us. Neighboring Italy has not had the promised vaccine for weeks delivered. ”

For Moscow, on the other hand, says Russia expert Pellicciari, the Sputnik vaccine is a foreign policy instrument with which international friendships are made or refreshed. San Marino caused a sensation a few years ago when the 34,000-inhabitant state – in contrast to the European Union – rejected sanctions against Moscow.

Strong symbolic effect

Regarding the current vaccine deal, Pellicciari says: “It has a strong symbolic meaning, which is aimed primarily at public opinion in Russia itself. It is not for nothing that the Interfax news agency celebrated San Marino as the 31st state to use the Sputnik vaccine. A symbolic effect that is strengthened by the fact that San Marino is located in the middle of Italy, a state of the EU and NATO “- where the delivery from Moscow has already led to popular demand.

The Institute for Social Security in San Marino reports that there have been “a wave of calls” from Italians in the past few days asking whether they too can benefit from Sputnik. The answer is no, say those responsible in San Marino, the vaccine is only intended for citizens of San Marino.

Pellicciari does not believe that Moscow is also pursuing economic and financial interests through the vaccine deal. For a long time, San Marino has distinguished itself through its “creative financial policy”. However, says the politics professor, there are no significant Russian activities in the country’s economic and financial sectors.

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