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Vaccine nationalism

Balance of Power
Bloomberg

As the pandemic death toll has climbed inexorably, under-fire politicians have gone from initial denial to the blame game — President Donald Trump's infamous "China virus" — and now chest thumping.

The drive to inoculate billions is now likened to a race among nations, with news headlines recording who's winning, and who's being left behind.

A minister in the U.K. government, which has presided over the highest number of fatalities in Europe, said Britain was first to approve a shot because it's a "better country." Another official called it a sign that "the U.K. led humanity's charge against this disease." Still others credited London's decision to quit the European Union.

In fact, the Pfizer and BioNTech jab was developed in the U.S. and Germany.

Concern over the U.K.'s quick decision was raised most pointedly by the U.S. government's top infectious-disease specialist, Anthony Fauci. He chided the British authorities for failing to scrutinize Pfizer's data properly before later muting his criticism.

Not to be outshone, hours after the U.K. announcement, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would start next week with the general distribution of its own drug named Sputnik V, a nod to the Soviet Union's victory over the U.S. in launching the world's first satellite to trigger the space race.

Yet the incredible speed that produced defenses for the worst global health crisis in a century resulted not from nation-state competition but from something in short supply in this era of America First, Brexit and the U.S.-China rivalry: international cooperation.

As Germany's ambassador to the U.K. tweeted in exasperation: "Why is it so difficult to recognize this important step forward as a great international effort and success?" — Karl Maier 

A health worker draws the Sputnik V vaccine during a trial in Moscow on Nov. 26.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Click here for this week's most compelling political images, and tell us how we're doing or what we're missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.

Global Headlines

Biden's plea | U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said he'll urge Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus for the first 100 days of his administration and will require face coverings in federal buildings. He also told CNN that he will ask Fauci to stay on in his role.

Roadblock | Hungary said it won't end its block on the European Union's $2.2 trillion budget and coronavirus-rescue package unless Brussels relents in tying spending to upholding democratic values. Poland also cooled speculation it was positioning for a compromise, denting hopes for a deal at a summit next week as the clock runs down to clear financing that's vital to member states' chances of avoiding a double-dip recession.

China tensions | Huawei's Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou has been confined to Vancouver since her arrest two years ago on wire and bank fraud charges. Now the U.S. Justice Department is in talks about a possible resolution of the case. Meng, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, has been at the center of escalating tensions between the U.S. and China during the Trump administration.

'Ready to Die' | Tens of thousands of angry farmers are camped just outside India's capital, vowing to stay for months to pressure Prime Minister Narendra Modi into repealing laws they say will make it harder to sell crops. Modi has stood his ground, saying the biggest agricultural reform in decades will lead to "new rights and new opportunities" for farmers.

Farmers protest yesterday at the Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu.

Photographer: Prakash Singh/AFP via Getty Images

Green debt | Germany's Greens are polling in second place behind only Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc going into next year's federal elections, raising speculation that they could be on the verge of governing together. But as Raymond Colitt reports, a Greens proposal to invest $600 billion over 10 years to tackle climate change and transition to a clean economy could be a stumbling block to any coalition negotiations with the debt-averse CDU/CSU.

What to Watch

  • Brexit trade talks that were on the verge of a breakthrough descended into a fight between the U.K. and France yesterday as the British government said prospects of an imminent deal had receded.
  • The outlook for a U.S. pandemic relief package before the end of the year grew as senior Republicans warmed to the idea of using a $908 billion proposal from a bipartisan group of lawmakers as a basis for a deal.
  • Malian Prime Minister Moctar Ouane said his government is considering talks with militants linked with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in a break from the policy of France, its main partner in the fight against jihadists.

  • Trump's plan to campaign in Georgia for two Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate has party officials worried that it could backfire on their bid to keep a majority in the upper chamber.

Pop quiz, readers (no cheating!). Who became the first Latin American leader to speak with Biden this week? Send your answers to balancepower@bloomberg.net.

And finally ... This year was big. Covid-19, a reckoning on race, and a U.S. election made compiling the fourth annual Bloomberg 50 easier in ways (many people are doing notable things) and harder in others (many people are doing notable things). Take a look at the list that includes Fauci, comedian Sarah Cooper, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and others who rose above the bar in politics, business, entertainment, science and technology.

 

 

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