Return to Transcripts main page
Fareed Zakaria GPS
A New Peace Deal In The Middle East; What Should U.S. Do About Hong Kong?; Putin And The Post-Election Protests In Belarus; Rosenkrantz-Theil: You Can't Suddenly Invert Good Cooperation; Denmark Teaches The World A Lesson On School Reopening; Bruce Feiler: Each Individual Response To The Collective Quake Will Be Different; How To Navigate Pandemics & Other "Life Quakes". Aired 10-11a ET
Aired August 16, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's about those who still care about facts and truth and decency, and those who have no allegiance to them at all. And a message to those Republicans who care about facts and truth and decency, your side in this battle is losing.
Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us. The news continues next.
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
ZAKARIA: Today on the show, America's attention was fixed this week on Joe Biden's choice of a running mate, but beyond that, America and the world are still grappling with a pandemic. And a fresh assortment of crisis from Belarus to Beirut. I'll talk about it all with top former State Department officials, Richard Haass and Anne-Marie slaughter.
Also, as the U.S. continues to struggle with how to open schools, lessons from the first European country to do so successfully. Denmark flung schoolhouse doors open way back on April 15th. So, what have they learned? I'll talk to the nation's education minister.
Finally, the quest to find a vaccine for COVID-19. Russian President Putin compared it to the Cold War space race and he says he's won. But many don't quite believe that Russia has really repeated its Sputnik success story.
Who is poised to cross the finish line first and safely? We'll tell you.
ZAKARIA: But first, here's "My Take." Rarely has the metaphor been more apt, Washington is fiddling while America burns. Congress and the Trump administration are barely negotiating anymore while unemployment remains at levels rarely seen since the Great Depression. Do not be fooled by the stock market's vitality, which reflects the
strength of a handful of stocks that now dominate the indices. The conditions for tens of millions of Americans are bleak with few jobs, low incomes and a soaring number of business failures. And despite these emergency conditions, worse than during the crisis of 2008, Washington simply cannot get its act together. Political polarization has a lot to do with the breakdown. Democrats and Republicans both gain more from their supporters by standing up to the opposing party rather than compromising with it.
That makes it very difficult to pass large, complicated bills and Democrats clearly believing that they have the upper hand are demanding that Republicans make larger compromises. But at the heart of the problem is a substantive disagreement. Large numbers of Republicans believe that the federal government should not be spending this much money, that the debt burden is rising to unconscionable levels, and that the U.S. is risking its future financial health.
Every one of these concerns is wrong or largely exaggerated. Let's start by remembering that this is an almost unique economic situation where the economy has created not because of too much debt or collapsing financial system or any of the usual causes of recession. The pandemic has meant that people who would happily buy and sell goods and services cannot do so for fear of infection. Add government rules on top of that natural caution, and large parts of the economy have simply shut down.
It is a great paralysis more than a great depression. And until a vaccine is administered widely, normal levels of economic activity will not return. That means that the government has to step in and help people who, through no fault of their own, cannot engage in regular economic activity. Paul Krugman has rightly described this more like disaster relief than a traditional stimulus program. But still it seems to gall Republicans who don't want to engage in bailouts.
Their ire is particularly directed at state and city governments run by Democrats which they claim are bloated and mismanaged. But then misses the point. Even if their claims are true, and in many places they are, it is irrelevant to the current situation. New York City may be badly run, but its subway ridership has dropped by 85 percent and its sales tax revenues by 30 percent for reasons that are mostly unrelated to this mismanagement.
These are also extraordinary times in another crucial and positive sense. With rock bottom interest rates, countries that issue debt in their own currencies, such as Britain, the United States and Japan, have a golden opportunity to spend money at little cost. The U.S. Treasury can issue 30-year bonds on which it pays less than 1.5 percent interest.
Now, Democratic and Republican negotiators are apart right now by about $1 trillion. So that works out to annual interest payments of under $15 billion. That is less than 0.5 percent of last year's federal budget. The F-35 fighter aircraft program alone costs more than breaking this national gridlock and providing relief to the entire American economy. Furthermore, after accounting for inflation, bondholders will likely be paying the U.S. government for the honor of lending it money.
We've been here before. In 2009, hundreds of distinguished economists, dozens of Republican leaders like Paul Ryan and influential public interest groups argued that the stimulus bill and the Federal Reserve's actions in that crisis would cause hyperinflation, economic collapse and the decline of the dollar. In fact, the opposite happened. The United States chugged along to its longest peace time recovery on record, the dollar soared, American banks emerged stronger than all the rest, and the American stock market outperformed the world.
Undeterred by this record of failure, many of the same voices are at it again, saying that this time all the things that they wrongly predicted in 2009 really will happen. Perhaps. But it is also likely that we are in a period where inflation will stay low. For the next year at least spending will continue to be very low as people eschew travel, eating out, public entertainment and sports. The broader forces of technology and globalization continue to keep costs down and make it hard for labor to force wages up.
In this kind of a world, if a government has the capacity to step in and fill the gap at low cost, it should consider itself blessed. Otto Von Bismarck, the great German statesman, was on to something when he purportedly said, God has a special providence for fools, drunks and the United States of America.
Go to CNN.com/fareed for a link to my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. That was apparently a guiding theory behind a major development in the Middle East that was announced on Thursday. The announcement came not from the region but from President Trump, who said from the Oval Office that the United Arab Emirates and Israel had agreed to a peace deal. A deal that included a full normalization of relations. Their shared enemy, as you might have guessed, is Iran. With this move the UAE became only the third Arab nation to have full relations with Israel after Egypt and Jordan.
So what does the normalization mean?
Joining me now are two former directors of policy planning at the State Department. Richard Haass served in that role under President George W. Bush. He is now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. His article in the new issue of "Foreign Affairs" is entitled, "Present at the Disruption: How Trump Unmade U.S. Foreign Policy."
Anne-Marie Slaughter held the planning post under President Barack Obama. She is now the CEO of think tank New America.
Richard, let me begin by asking you, does this not prove one sort of central plank of America's Middle East policy, or at least the way people often thought of it, which was that the Palestinian problem was at the center of the Middle East and that what certainly over the last 10 years or 20 years, it seemed as though, no, what's been at the center of the Middle East is the divide between the Sunnis and the Shias, between the autocrats and the Democrats, between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but not the Palestinian peace process.
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Up to a point. I think it does prove just that, but it still is at the center of the future for Israel and it's still at the center obviously of the future for Palestinians. If Israel is going to be permanently a democratic Jewish state at some point it has to come to terms with Palestinians.
But don't get me wrong, Fareed, this is an important development. It took annexation off the table for the time being. And as you pointed out, this is the third Arab state now to formally accept Israel as a member of the region.
ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie Slaughter, what does this mean for the Palestinian question? What does this mean for the Palestinians? You know there are people like Peter Beinart arguing that with the annexation or not at this point a two-state solution is no longer really viable?
ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, CEO, NEW AMERICA: Well, Fareed, I think the first point is exactly that Trump came to office wanting to make the historic Nobel Peace Prize winning deal between Israel and the Palestinians and now he's making peace around the Palestinians.
And what is truly significant here is that the UAE is formalizing what has been an open secret, that Israel has had a close relations with the UAE as it has with Saudi Arabia, but those relationships have not been formalized because of the Palestinians. This is the first step towards essentially saying to the Palestinians, look, either you get your house in order and negotiate something, even though Netanyahu is a very untrustworthy negotiator, or we're just moving ahead.
And in that sense it's very much like Lebanon. The question will be, will younger Palestinians essentially say, we want a leadership that is honest and represents us, and that way we can ultimately get a deal, or does it continue at the stalemate where now the Palestinians are just getting left behind, tragically so?
ZAKARIA: Richard, what do you make of that idea that there is -- you know, there could be a trigger for some kind of reform? And I liked Anne-Marie's linking of Palestine with Lebanon because it allows me to also segue to the question to ask you. Does what's happening in Lebanon look like it could produce a movement for reform?
HAASS: In Lebanon, sad to say, I don't see it. Lebanon looks to me more like the textbook failed state. This country has lived, as you know, by demographic fictions for decades. You've got the presence of Hezbollah and Iranian-backed militia. I simply don't see the prerequisite for political stability or political reform. One of the other rules in the Middle East, you said, you know, the enemy of your enemy can sometimes be your friend.
The other is situations have to get worse before they get even worse. And I simply don't see a silver lining in what is going on in Lebanon.
ZAKARIA: Before we take a break for this block and go on to other things, I want to ask each of you a question about the big news of today, which Kamala Harris.
Anne-Marie, I wanted to ask you, what do you think we should be looking at? Because, you know, there is a particular double standard still for women. I remember Hillary Clinton coming on this show and talking about how, you know, just -- you're still judged by appearance, you're still judged by the range of, you know, the -- how much emotion you show. What should we think about when we think about Kamala Harris running for the vice presidency?
SLAUGHTER: Well, she'll still be judged by a double standard but I think we should think that we're making enormous progress, that this is now normal. This is the second election in a row you have a woman running either for president or vice president. And this time around, she'll get judged in all sorts of ways, but what's most important about Kamala Harris is she's the future of America.
She's Indian-American, she's African or Jamaican America. She has a white husband. She has Jewish step-children. She's very hard to type in all sorts of ways, and we should just be thinking that this is all American.
ZAKARIA: Richard, there is one disturbing element to this. So this is the second African-American to be on the national major party's ticket for president. And it is now the second time that Donald Trump has raised speculation that perhaps this person is ineligible to be -- to run on this ticket because she was not -- she's not properly an American citizen. You know, there's no -- there's no basis for this whatsoever, even less than there was for Obama, even though in both cases it was nonsense. But this is a sad part of this story as well.
HAASS: It's worse than sad. It's disgraceful to see people trafficking in this sort of a political filth to try to delegitimatize a political figure.
Look, the last I checked, Fareed, Donald Trump has been president for 3 1/2 years. He now wants a second term. It seems to me his campaign ought to be about pointing to what he accomplished over his first term, and second of all, what he plans to do if he's given a second term. But to try to attack the legitimacy of the constitutionality of his opponent, that's just another sign of how low we've sunk, about essentially how every norm imaginable is being violated.
ZAKARIA: All right. Stay with me. Next on GPS, a dramatic and disturbing scene in Hong Kong on Monday as some 200 police officers raided the newsroom of the top opposition publication "Apple Daily" and marched the billionaire owner Jimmy Lai through the newsroom in handcuffs. Lai has long wanted the U.S. to take a harder line on China. Will it?
I will ask Richard and Anne-Marie when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And we are back with Richard Haass and Anne-Marie Slaughter.
Anne-Marie, what should Washington do about events in Hong Kong? At one level, very disturbing. Clearly there is now real political pressure being placed on Hong Kong in a way that totally negates the one country, two systems approach that the Chinese had promised. On the other hand Hong Kong is part of China. Is it something that Washington can do much about?
SLAUGHTER: Not this Washington at this time. China is betting that Hong Kong is a side show to the Trump administration. It obviously upsets some members of Congress, but overall, this administration is not about to put anything on the line for Hong Kong specifically. There's too much else going on, and that is certainly not where Donald Trump's heart is.
I think the -- it's tragic in many ways, but the one -- I don't know if it's a silver lining, but it's been interesting to see that, although there have been specific leaders that the overall movement in Hong Kong is being led by many, many different people, a little again like Lebanon, like other protests we've seen around the world, so it's much, much harder to actually decapitate and to shut down definitively. But I don't think there's much the United States is going to do that will make a difference.
ZAKARIA: Richard Haass, should the United States -- the Trump administration seems to be trying to get tough with China, but often it seems kind of rhetorical. It seems more a campaign strategy than a foreign policy strategy.
HAASS: Well, if the United States were going to get tough with China, Fareed, we would find our way to join the Transpacific Partnership to provide a united economic front against China. We would stop banging the South Koreans over their head about how much they're paying for the presence of American forces. We would become much more competitive. We would have a much more selective, creative immigration policy.
We would have better education in this country. We would have our own 5g. We would increase the amount we are spending on basic research so we would outcompete China. So, there's a real gap between the tough rhetoric on China and a policy which, I think, more often than not, has created space for China, including such things as pulling out of the World Health Organization. Every time we create a political and diplomatic vacuum, guess what, it's China that benefits.
ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie, what about Russia and Vladimir Putin? You have in Belarus now a contested election and then a brutal shutdown of protests. Will Putin try to take advantage of the situation in Belarus and move in the way he did in Ukraine?
SLAUGHTER: Well, Fareed, it's certainly a possibility and there are lots of echoes here of Ukraine where we had a very similar situation with mass protests and Putin very, very worried about successful democratic opposition on his borders. But I do think the E.U. has moved very quickly. The 27 have met and agreed to impose sanctions on those responsible for rigging the elections and for the torture of protesters who have been arrested.
I don't think that Putin can afford the kind of economic pain he's -- was experienced through the Ukraine sanctions, nor can he actually afford military deaths should he send in troops. So it's a tense situation and it's certainly possible, but I think it's unlikely. It would be far better if the United States were really working very closely with the E.U. But again, this is not where Trump is going to put his energy.
ZAKARIA: Richard, I want to close by asking you about a really terrific piece you have in the current issue of "Foreign Affairs," but it is a scathing assessment of Donald Trump's foreign policy. Essentially arguing that where after 1945 the United States built an international system that has preserved peace and allowed for prosperity. Donald Trump is present at the destruction. He is, in a sense, destroying that system.
Explain why -- this was a tougher critique than I've seen you write about Trump in the past.
HAASS: Well, it is a tough critique, Fareed. And I was careful in doing it, in part given my situation. As you know, I lead a nonpartisan institution. But I think the stakes are enormous. I think the United States has benefitted. The benefits have been far greater than the costs of our international leadership over the last 75 years. This has been one of the great runs in history, the institutions that were built.
We won the Cold War, stayed peaceful, we won it on our terms, the unified Germanys and NATO. The average American has a far, far higher standard of living. The average American lives a decade longer. Far more people around the world are living in democracies. This has been an extraordinary era. And the idea that we would dismantle it without, and this is what is so important, without having something better or viable or preferable to put in its place, that to me is the definition of reckless.
So that's why I wrote this critical piece because I really do think that we are toying in some ways with the lines of history here and the stakes are enormous.
ZAKARIA: Well, I really recommend that people go to "Foreign Affairs" Web site and try to get the essay. It's a really terrific piece.
Anne-Marie Slaughter, Richard Haass, always a pleasure.
HAASS: Thank you, sir.
SLAUGHTER: Thanks, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on GPS, how in the world is America going to reopen schools? Well, in a moment we will get a proper lesson from the education minister of Denmark where the schools reopened with success four months ago.
ZAKARIA: On Wednesday, CDC director Robert Redfield warned that America could be in for its worst autumn ever from a public health perspective if citizens don't take precautions. This comes as some of the schools around the country that have already begun classes are struggling.
This picture of a crowded high school hallway went viral after a student posted it. Shortly thereafter the school went temporarily to all virtual learning after nine students and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
It's emblematic of America struggle with what to do about schools.
Let us get a global lesson from the European country that reopened schools first, Denmark, which opened elementary schools way back on April 15th. The country's reopening has been hailed as a resounding success. Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil is that nation's Education Minister. Good to have you on, Minister.
PERNILLE ROSENKRANTZ-THEIL, DANISH EDUCATION MINISTER: Good day.
ZAKARIA: So, you started the schools back open at a time when actually in April there was - there was a peak. The infection rates were peaking. It seemed a bit of a gamble. You were betting that this was, indeed, a peak and things would start moving down. What went into the calculation to start to reopen the schools that early before a lot of other European countries were even doing it?
ROSENKRANTZ-THEIL: For us it was crucial to keep the children in smaller groups when they came back to school. So instead of having all pupils together in big hallways, for instance, or together in big canteens eating their lunch, we kept them apart.
So, our calculation was that if we could keep the children in smaller groups when they were at class and also when they were on break, then it would be possible for us to retain the situation, and so far it has been successful.
ZAKARIA: As you say, you've reopened and there has been no uptick kind of in general terms. But did you learn something about, you know, things not to do or to do better once you opened? What - were there some initial trial and errors that took place?
ROSENKRANTZ-THEIL: I think one of the - maybe most important things that we have been also discussing in Denmark afterwards has been that it has been those places where the cooperation between the Teachers Unions, the parents organizations, and the local authority, if the cooperation between these three parties has been strong, then it has been a strong and successful reopening.
On a national basis, this has been functioning very well. And, therefore, the teachers and the parents were on a general basis very safe to put the - to have the children back in school and also for the teachers to go back to work.
But on a local level, this cooperation has also been very, very important both to the teachers and to the parents and also for having a successful and feeling of safety when returning to kindergarten or schools.
ZAKARIA: I notice in your guidelines, and in practice, you do not do something that is much talked about in the United States, which is masks? You do not require the teachers or students wear masks. Why?
ROSENKRANTZ-THEIL: That's because we have separated the classes so that the children will only meet approximately 25 students. It's the same students in every class, every day, every week and every month. They won't see children from other classes.
And, therefore, it's possible for us, if there is a breakout we know that these children have not been together with 100 other children. They have only seen 25 classmates. Therefore the mask is not as necessary as it is when we go to public transportation where you obviously would see lots of different people at different times of the day.
So, the key issue for us has been to have the amount of pupils seeing each other to be as small as possible all the way through the reopening.
ZAKARIA: You seem to be pointing to a key to your success in this education reopening, which is in a way a key to success in Danish and Northern European politics is a certain consensus approach where the teachers, the unions, the parents all work together. In the United States, this has actually been very conflictual.
President Trump and unions are at war the teachers unions. Do you have any lessons, how do you handle situations when there is a clear clash between the unions and the government?
ROSENKRANTZ-THEIL: We haven't had that clash when it came to Corona. I think it's not possible to invent good cooperation when Corona occurs. It has been there. 98 percent of the teachers in Denmark are members of the same teachers union.
So we have a very high rate of organization. So, when the Chairman of the Teachers Union talked to the government or the local municipalities, then he has the backing of 98 percent of the teachers in Denmark. It's not possible to build that in a week because of Corona. It has to be in the long run that you build very strong unions and therefore, you have the representation of most teachers when there is a crisis like this.
ZAKARIA: Now, you have very low test positivity rates but things out there are an uptick in cases, which is probably inevitable as more people interact. Is there anything you're worried about or is there anything you're looking at closely and wondering whether to make a course correction?
ROSENKRANTZ-THEIL: Yes. For the first half year of the Corona, we have met the virus with national general standards. Now we are - so we're finished with the hammer on the Coronavirus and have put it down on a level where we have the control over the national level.
But now we have many places in Europe, we have local outbreaks. So the next half year we're look at dancing with the Corona, as we call it, which means that we will have temporarily shutdowns on a local municipality level.
And that change of focus obviously means that we have to, again, find out how to do this so that the situation is safe for the children, it's safe for the teachers and that we can smoothly implement new ways of doing the dance with the Corona.
ZAKARIA: Well, you've given us lessons to learn from. Thank you, Minister.
ROSENKRANTZ-THEIL: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," the pandemic has changed almost all aspects of life from large too small. How best to negotiate such kinds of shock to the system, to the person. The author Bruce Feiler has been studying just that and he has some answers, back in a moment.
Don't forget, if you miss a show, go to cnn.com/fareed for a link to my iTunes podcast.
ZAKARIA: In mid-March life suddenly and unexpectedly changed for all of us. For some, it has been inconvenient, for others life-shattering. This is what the Author Bruce Feiler would term a life quake, one of great magnitude felt simultaneously around the world.
So, how does one deal with life quakes? Bruce Feiler joins me now. He's the author of six consecutive New York Times best sellers. His new book is "Life is in the Transitions." Bruce, begin by telling us why you wrote this book, what inspired you? It has something to do with your father.
BRUCE FEILER, AUTHOR, "LIFE IS IN THE TRANSITIONS": That's exactly right, Fareed. First of all, thank you for having me. As you said, we're all in this life quake, which is a massive change that has aftershocks that last for years.
And I got interested in these events because I went through one a few years ago, as you know. I just got walloped by life. First I got cancer, as a new dad, and then I almost went bankrupt. And my dad, who has Parkinson's, tried to take his own life, six times, actually, in 12 weeks.
There wasn't really a book that I could find that helps you in these moments when life seems to come at you from all directions. And I thought there must be some wisdom out there. So I set out on this journey, crisscrossing the country, collecting what became hundreds of life stories of Americans in all 50 states.
People who lost limbs, lost homes, changed careers, changed religions, got sober, got out of bad marriages. And I then got a team of 12 people and we spent a year coding, combing through these stories, trying to tease out ideas that could help all of us survive and thrive in times of change.
And so the big idea that emerged, as you said, is that the linear life is dead. What you and I grew up with? The idea that there's going to be one job and one home and one relationship and one source of happiness from adolescents to assisted living that's gone and it's been replaced by this what I call the nonlinear life which has many more twists and turns and ultimately transitions that we have to navigate across the whole span of our lives.
ZAKARIA: So, how does one live life, as you put it, out of order, where, you know, things come at you unexpectedly, things come at you in ways you didn't anticipate. What's the key element there?
FEILER: The key element is to understand that the life quake that you go through, it could be voluntary, you leave a marriage, right, or you change careers. It could be involuntary. You get fired or you get a diagnosis, you lose some limbs.
That the life quake can be voluntary or involuntary but the life transitions that come out of it must be voluntary. You have to choose to lean in and go through the steps. That leads us to the moment we're in now because what we're in now is a collective - I call it collective involuntary life quake.
Frankly, it's the first one in a centaury where the entire planet is going through it. But it is deceiving while it seems like we're all going through it together, actually the way it's going to affect each of us is going to be different.
So, that the life quake is the same, but the life transition that comes out of it is going to be different for each of us. This person may choose to get sober. This person may choose to move. This family may choose to kind of rethink how they're going to take care of their children?
So, I think that the first and most important thing is to decide which transition you want to go through that's coming out of the life quake that we're in.
ZAKARIA: Finally, you say, it's only you who can give meaning to your own life. In other words, it's not the job. Ultimately this is kind of an act of self-definition that helps you succeed or go through this more than anything else.
FEILER: Life transition at its core is a narrative event. You know, one thing we've learned in the last generation is that story in your head about who you are? Where you came from? Who you want to be? Where you're going? That story isn't part of you. It is fundamentally who you are. That life is the story that you tell yourself.
ZAKARIA: And here we are in this moment, Fareed, we like to think of other stories as a fairytale. There's a hero and a happy ending. But in those fairytales it's the wolf that shows up. There's a wolf or a dragon or an ogre or a tornado or a downsizing or a death, or a pandemic.
And in order for that story to work, you have to figure out a way to get around or through or around or under that wolf. So, right now we are all facing the same wolf. And we have to understand that that's fundamentally what life is about?
Life gets us stuck, and the life transition helps us get unstuck. So, what I want to say is whatever you're struggling with and whatever's keeping you awake at night, if you come on this journey with me, you're going to meet people and you're going to find something you can do tonight, tomorrow, next week, three months from now.
So that whatever transition you're in, we can make it go a little bit better and a lot more effectively. We can get past these wolves. There is knowledge out there. We can do it together.
ZAKARIA: Bruce Feiler, always a pleasure.
FEILER: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," from the race for space to the race for a COVID-19 vaccine. Did the Russians win both? Not so fast. I'll explain when we come back.
ZAKARIA: And now for the "Last Look". Russia has had another Sputnik moment. At least that's what President Putin would have you believe. During a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Vladimir Putin announced that the world's first COVID-19 vaccine had been registered.
Meet Gam-COVID-Vac, a vaccine that to put it simply attaches the main Coronavirus protein to a different weaker virus in order to trick the body into fighting COVID-19. But immediately critics raised the alarm that Russia has cut corners. In April Russia passed a law allowing a vaccine to be approved before it had gone through the critical third phase of trials, when thousands of people are vaccinated and analyzed for immunity and safety.
What's more, those first two clinical trial phases had tested many times fewer people than normal standards would dictate. Now, the Kremlin maintains that the vaccine is safe, effective and ready to go into widespread production within a few months.
In fact, Putin said his own daughter received the vaccine. So did the drug's main researcher, but with very little data published on the vaccine, experts are left to wonder whether it will be effective or safe?
So, why is Russia throwing caution to the wind to be the first to declare it had a vaccine? It boils down to nationalism. Look no further than the nickname Russians gave the vaccine. Sputnik-V, it calls to mind the glory of Soviet's space race victory and as a sign of Russia's desired scientific resurgence.
As a recent - article pointed out, any COVID vaccine gives the home nation an exceptional edge. Being first brings not only soft power and prestige but also a chance to inoculate enough of the workforce to jump starts the economy ahead of the rest of the work.
But being first only counts if the vaccine actually works, if not, Russia's impatience could backfire, especially if there are severe side effects. And the Russian vaccine, though registered earliest, is not the furthest along in development.
Of the 29 vaccines, the W.H.O. says are in clinical trials, seven had already moved into that critical large-scale phase III testing by the time Russia announced. The first one to do so was a joint Oxford and AstraZeneca vaccine which began those widespread testing months ago.
But the real success story - says looks to be China. Of those seven in phase III trials, more than half were developed there. Like Russia, China took the risk of approving a vaccine for use before tests were completed, but only for the people's liberation army instead of for international distribution.
In some ways, China's success makes sense. Not only did it have knowledge of and access to the disease first, but Chinese research and development investment is second only to the United States and the world. And China is closing that gap.
Since 2000 it accounted for about a third of the growth in global R&D spending. Some critics worry that a Chinese vaccine may not meet international standards. To see why, one only needs look at recent history. Thousands of Chinese children were given detective vaccines in 2018.
And the Chinese scientists like the Russian ones face political pressure to perform. But with COVID-19, China is so far is meeting many of the same standards as for instance, the United States. China's only problem in widespread testing is a positive one. You see vaccine trials require exposure to a virus in order to test immunity. But Beijing's lockdown measures were so successful in tamping down COVID-19, that its citizens vaccinated or not, aren't likely to get sick.
ZAKARIA: So instead clinical trials are being held in allied countries like Pakistan and trading partners, like Brazil, both of which have higher COVID rates than China. As when personal protective equipment hoarding happened and Beijing came to the rescue by delivering masks far and wide, China's attitude on COVID seems to be, though we were the cause, we will also be the cure.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I will see you next week.