COVID-19 Vaccines, a ‘New Currency in Soft Power?’: A Comparative Study of Soviet and Russian Vaccine Diplomacies (78297)

Session Information: Political Science
Session Chair: Iris Magne

Monday, 27 May 2024 14:35
Session: Session 3
Room: Room B (Live-Stream)
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

This paper examines the instrumentalization of vaccines as soft power tools by authoritarian states. By investigating Soviet and Russian vaccine diplomacies, this study explores the similarities and differences in these soft power tools used during previous and current pandemics. Vaccine diplomacy has been approached using the theory of soft power only since the Covid-19 pandemic. There is therefore a lack of historical perspectives on vaccines as authoritarian soft power tools used by states such as the USSR or The Russian Federation (hereafter Russia). Soft power theory in International Relations (IR) has to be refined to include previous (polio) and current (Covid-19) authoritarian vaccine diplomacies. In line with this theoretical framework, this paper is guided by a mixed-method approach. Vaccine exports will be analysed thanks to descriptive statistics, and vaccine propaganda, through narrative analysis. Results indicate that Soviet and Russian vaccine diplomacies followed a similar pattern. Vaccines were mainly ordered by authoritarian regimes ideologically aligned with the USSR and Russia. Furthermore, Soviet and Russian vaccine propagandas were used to promote Moscow’s foreign policies by either discrediting their “enemies” or promoting local governments. These findings shed light on the characteristics of authoritarian vaccine diplomacy. Learning from the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic, these findings could enable the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop efficient tools to counter authoritarian vaccine diplomacy and promote equitable vaccine distribution. This research is consequently one of the first steps to strengthen pandemic preparedness in the field of vaccine distribution.

Iris Magne, King's College London, United Kingdom

About the Presenter(s)
Iris Magne is a doctoral student in Russian and Eurasian Studies at King's College London. Her research focuses on Soviet, Russian and Chinese vaccine diplomacies as tools of soft power both during the Cold War and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00