US and Russia should work together to defeat coronavirus


U.S. President Donald Trump (R) greets Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) during their bilateral meeting at the G20 Osaka Summit 2019, in Osaka, Japan on June 28, 2019.

Mikhail Svetlov | Getty Images

During World War II American and Russian soldiers fought side-by-side against a common enemy. We achieved victory together. Who can forget the images of allied soldiers embracing each other on the banks of the Elbe on April 25, 1945, nearly 75 years ago?

Those images stand as a symbol of international unity in the face of a global threat. Now is surely the time to collaboratively tackle a challenge that threatens us all today.

Just as our grandfathers stood shoulder-to-shoulder to defend our values and secure peace for future generations, now our countries must show unity and leadership to win the war against the coronavirus. This war has already affected the lives of billions of people and may lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Despite many differences, Russia and the United States have a lot in common. We love our families and want them to be healthy. We know how to work as a team in the face of adversity and are ready to make sacrifices for our values and communities.

In recent years there has been too much attention paid to our differences and too little to opportunities to work together on global issues. In fact, we have allowed the culture of fear to emerge with business leaders and even scientists, causing them to be afraid to talk about U.S.-Russia cooperation.

The time has come to improve relations by focusing our efforts on three areas: (1) jointly fighting the coronavirus, (2) reducing the impact of the inevitable global economic recession and (3) developing a platform for future cooperation in confronting terrorism, nuclear proliferation and climate change.

The fight against coronavirus

As the sovereign wealth fund of Russia, we realized in early January when we established our network of top investment funds in 18 countries that the coronavirus pandemic could have a devastating global impact.

Jointly with our partners, we focused on the best available technologies to address it.We formed partnerships in China, Japan and the U.S. to invest in some of the most accurate, quick and mobile virus testing systems in the world. We identified a top VC firm in the U.S., who will be our co-investor in this technology.

This joint U.S.-Japan-Russia consortium will provide an important and scalable testing solution for the U.S. market. Through our partners, we are already providing testing solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, working jointly with many nations to slow down the spread of the virus through extensive testing.

We formed partnerships to test and manufacture drugs that showed significant clinical potential and supported collaboration between U.S. and Russia pharma companies. Our doctors and scientists must work together on creating and testing a vaccine.

We can exchange best practices regarding hospital and manufacturing processes, and exchange medical equipment and supplies where possible while jointly coordinating our efforts to help other countries. Just as we supported financially part of the medical supply cargo that Russia delivered to New York, so we hope to facilitate medical supply shipments from the U.S. after the U.S. coronavirus peak.

In short, the coronavirus challenge can be best addressed through a coordinated global response, including a close partnership between the U.S. and Russia.

Reducing economic turbulence

At last year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, we discussed extensively with our global partners that the global debt burden is too high. We highlighted that it stood at over 300 percent of global GDP compared with just over 200 percent preceding the 2008-09 economic crisis.

We noted that any significant shock could lead to the downward spiral of a debt crisis and an inevitable world recession in an inter-connected world.

We could not have predicted, however, that the tsunami of the coronavirus would lead to such significant supply and demand side shocks, dramatically reducing global demand and paralyzing economic activity.

In times like this, new approaches to explore close collaboration between the U.S., Russia and other countries are needed to stabilize energy and other markets, to coordinate policy responses and to revitalize economic activity.

For example, Russia proposed to jointly undertake significant oil output cuts with the U.S., Saudi Arabia and other countries to stabilize markets and secure employment in the oil industry.

Platform for US-Russia Cooperation

We have always called for closer cooperation between our countries. Having studied and worked in the U.S., I am well aware of the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of the U.S. And having worked in Russia, I recognize that Russia’s position is best understood by acknowledging the many U.S. businesses that successfully operate here. Our fund is working to continue cooperation between Russian and U.S. companies supported by many in both countries. We believe that we need to resume top-level business dialogue proposed by our President soon.

The world needs strong platforms for cooperation between our governments, our businesses and our people. As citizen exchanges are difficult during stay at home orders, maybe citizen diplomacy groups can foster better online dialogue to help our people understand each other better.

Many minds are set in a self-reinforcing news cycle. The usual critics from both sides, who will attack this op-Ed as “trying to solve the insolvable” or as another “propaganda stunt” are stuck in the past and are not offering a viable alternative forward. Their blame game, trite cliches and inability to offer viable solutions is a road to nowhere.

To change the views on Russia in an election year may be an insurmountable challenge. But so it also seemed in 1941, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union put behind the differences of the past to fight the common enemy.

By focusing on our similarities rather than on our differences, and by being more open to cooperation, we can improve the state of the world and help to defeat the threats that we all face at this difficult time.

Kirill Dmitriev is chief executive officer of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund with $10 billion under management.


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