Pompeo Defends Purchasing Russian Coronavirus Supplies, Says Cooperation Is the Only Way to Beat the Virus

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has defended allowing a Russian aircraft to deliver medical supplies to the U.S., arguing that only international cooperation can defeat the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The delivery came after President Donald Trump spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone on Monday. According to Reuters, the delivery was composed of some 60 tons of ventilators, masks, respirators, and other medical equipment.

The president has regularly been accused of being too close to Putin and too forgiving of malign Russian behavior, including meddling in American elections. But Pompeo suggested Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic supersedes national rivalries.

"We have to work together to defeat #COVID19," the secretary of state wrote on Twitter. "This is why the U.S. agreed to purchase urgently needed personal protective equipment from #Russia to help #FEMA respond in New York City. This is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all."

The Russian military transport plane landed at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday, amid criticism that Trump's administration has not done enough to ensure necessary supplies to battle COVID-19. The delivery is a propaganda coup for Russia and Putin, and comes after Moscow also sent supplies to Italy to assist treatment there.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Trump "gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid," according to the Interfax news agency. After his call with Putin, the president said that the "very, very large planeload" of equipment "was very nice."

But the U.S.-Russian relationship is not entirely rosy. Russia is among the nations accused by Pompeo of peddling disinformation during the pandemic, spreading conspiracy theories and maligning U.S. and European efforts to contain the outbreak.

Pompeo told journalists on Wednesday that authoritarian nations like Russia, China and Iran are all guilty of muddling the global COVID-19 narrative in an effort to "avoid responsibility and try and place confusion in the world, confusion about where the virus began but also confusion about how countries are responding to it and which countries are actually providing assistance throughout the world."

Trump took a less critical line when he spoke to Fox & Friends on Monday, suggesting that "every country" spreads disinformation.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
Russia, US, Mike Pompeo, coronavirus, supplies
This file photo shows staff unloading cargo from a Russian aircraft at the Paris-Vatry Airport in Bussy-Lettree, France, on March 30, 2020. FRANCOIS NASCIMBENI/AFP via Getty Images/Getty