By Skënder Minxhozi
The US Ambassador to Tirana, Yuri Kim, has posted in the last hours (of Friday) a challenging message to China, following a statement by the US Secretary of State Blinken on the same topic. In other circumstances, such a post by Ms. Kim would sound just like a routine warning to China, like the ones the Trump administration has produced almost every week over the past four years.
But when it is known that Albania is currently in a desperate search for vaccines against the Covid pandemic that has hit our country more and more seriously, this post of the ambassador seems like a cryptic warning about the efforts that are said to be made these hours by our government, like those of many other European countries, to find alternative vaccines to those produced in western countries.
Yuri Kim and the US have every right to protect the interests and the big American market from Chinese goods, as well as jobs in the US from the low production costs offered by the Chinese giant market. These and other issues, which have to do with the security and competition for areas of influence in the Pacific and beyond, are normally in the optics and concern of a global power like the United States. In this clash of giants even small Albania should maintain its modest position as a NATO member and US ally.
But if Ambassador Kim's last message includes in one way or another the current world competition for vaccines, this would be neither supportive nor positive gesture for Albanians. Our government has been firmly in focus of absorbing and using only vaccines produced in western countries for months. It has been a costly sacrifice for the lives of Albanians, but it respected the strategic commitments of our country on a continent like Europe and in a lineup with Western countries that share common values and aspirations.
But the pandemic itself and the critical scarcity of vaccines seems to have eroded much of this commitment of Albania, turning it into a one-sided position, which has not found the answer to EU countries or even the US. In the circumstances when countries like Canada have ordered vaccines as many as five times higher than they need, when the new Biden administration seeks to block the exit of vaccines produced on American soil, or when European countries are in total chaos over distribution and administration of vaccines in their populations - what can a poor and weak country like Albania do?!
Covid-19 has put the world in front of the challenge of life. And when things are compared to the value of life, at best they are relativized. As winter is ending even Albanians, who have received three or four backpacks with Pfizer vaccines so far, have the right to look around for other solutions.
The US-China rivalry is nowhere affected by the fact that we Albanians, like the Hungarians, Slovaks, Serbs, Turks or tomorrow the Germans and Italians, open the door to eastern vaccines. There is plenty of time and room to show our loyalty to the West. Let us first come out alive from this greatest evil that has locked us down/ javanews