"Today's problem is not to produce vaccines, but actually to convince people to get vaccinated": an international expert discussion
A special discussion "Is Sputnik the only alternative for the EU?" was held on May 6th in an online format. The event was hosted by the Association of Slovenian International Students - Globallis in partnership with Creative Diplomacy with the participation of Meeting Russia 2020 alumnus Peter Levstek.
On the Russian side, vaccine diplomacy was discussed by Dmitry Kulish, professor at the Skoltech Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The experts from the Slovenian side were Slovenian Member of European Parliament Milan Brglez and former Slovenian Ambassador to Russia Dusan Snoj. The discussion was moderated by Luka Radicevic, a member of the Globallis organization. At the beginning of the round table, Vrevc Zlajpah and Natalia Burlinova presented the host organizations, Globallis and PICREADI.

The expert discussion, which brought together young Russian and European researchers, engaged relations between Russia and the EU in the context of the pandemic, as well as the spread of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in the international arena. The participants discussed the image of the Russian vaccine in foreign media and compared Sputnik V with other existing vaccines.

The central topic of discussion was the question of whether Sputnik V is an effective instrument of Russian soft power. According to Dmitry Kulish, if we consider politics as a "positive exchange" and not propaganda, then Sputnik V is indeed a successful instrument of Russian soft power: the speaker assessed the vaccine as a quality product that saves many lives. The successes of Sputnik were also appreciated by Slovenian experts, who emphasized the effectiveness of the vaccine and the need for global protection of mankind from a pandemic. Mr. Snoj and Dr. Brglez greeted the public discussion on the topic of vaccination and talked mostly from the diplomatic and humanitarian dimensions of the question. Speaking about the protection of the population, Mr. Snoj also focused on the need for expert discussions and discussions on the topic of vaccination.
Then the participants touched upon the topic of pharmacology and health care. The speakers pointed out that vaccine diplomacy is not a political issue, but a public one.

Dmitry Kulish also spoke about the international partnership between Russian and foreign companies in the healthcare sector, presented the history of the development of Russian vaccines, and shared the prospects for the spread of Sputnik V at the global level. Dr. Kulish shared his personal long-term experience of working in the Russian pharmaceutical area and covered the scientific aspect of the current situation with Sputnik V. Also, professor Kulish shared some exclusive info on the Russian expertise of vaccines in comparison to the European developments.

At the end of the discussion, the participants of the event asked their questions about Russian soft power and Sputnik V. The most relevant topic for the participants was the negative rumors around the Russian vaccine and its consequences, which the media allegedly keep silent about. However, experts stressed the groundlessness of these accusations and characterized such "fake news" as undermining the image and achievements of science. The speakers also discussed the image of vaccination both in the Russian and European media, the cooperation–competition issue, and the matter of people's trust in times of pandemic.