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BRICS: during the summit organized in China, Putin is back on the world stage

For Putin, this could offer a welcome image: his beaming face on screen alongside other leaders whose countries make up this acronym group: China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and the South African Cyril Ramaphosa – a signal that Russia, although beaten by sanctions and admonitions for the invasion, is not alone.

Beneath the surface, Putin’s invasion is likely to create another complication in the BRICS, a more than a decade-old grouping of major emerging economies that already suffers from mistrust among members and incompatible ideologies.

But the group’s decision to move forward with its 14th annual summit reflects a BRICS view of the world order, and by extension the situation in Ukraine, that diverges from that of the West, according to experts.

“We’re talking about very large economies whose leadership is ready to be seen with Putin, even if only on a virtual platform,” said Sushant Singh, senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research (CPR) in New York. Delhi. .

“The fact that Putin is welcome, that he’s not an outcast, that he’s not kicked out — and that’s a normal engagement, which has happened every year and still happens — that’s is a big plus for Putin,” he added. said.

While countries may argue that it is better to engage Russia than not, the optics only become sharper in contrast. The BRICS summit is followed a few days later by the meeting of a bloc of the world’s major advanced economies, the Group of Seven, which were united in their voice against Russian aggression and expelled Moscow from their bloc after its annexation of Crimea in 2014. .

troubled times

Unlike the G7, the BRICS are expected to tread carefully on Ukraine at Thursday’s summit, likely coming out in favor of a peaceful resolution, though its members may cautiously call on Western nations to consider the impact. of their sanctions on the global economy, according to observers. say.

Beijing – this year’s host and by far the most economically powerful of the five nations, which together account for about a quarter of the world’s GDP – seems ready to focus on its own agenda: promoting its new global development and security initiatives and push back on what he sees as the building of a “bloc” by the United States.

BRICS countries should “strengthen mutual political trust and security cooperation”, coordinate on major international and regional issues, take into account each other’s core interests, and “oppose hegemonism and political of power,” Xi said in a speech to BRICS foreign ministers last month, where he called on the group to foster development in this “turbulent and transformative time.”

Some of the crises of this period, such as food insecurity and a growing debt crisis in the developing world, are those that the group – created in 2009 to “serve the common interests of emerging market economies and developing countries – ostensibly trained to answer.

Since its inception, the BRICS, which added South Africa in 2011, have been united in calling for greater representation of major emerging economies on the world stage – and against what they see as disproportionate power domination. Western. This has meant pushing for reforms at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and, on occasion, making a veiled swipe at NATO actions.

Countries have also been seen discussing issues such as how to settle trade in their own currencies – outside of the US dollar system – an issue that may now take on more relevance for the BRICS following Western sanctions against the Russia, according to Shahar Hameiri, professor and political economist at the University of Queensland in Australia.

These sanctions cut off the Central Bank of Russia from most US dollar transactions, sanctioned banks and removed major institutions from international banking systems. That leaves countries that continue to do business with Russia scrambling to avoid violating sanctions. India and China remain major buyers of Russian fuel.

“There won’t be a full throat hug from Russia (at this summit), that’s for sure, and I’m sure there will be a lot of awkwardness there…but behind the awkwardness (de-dollarization) is one area where these governments have a common interest,” Hameiri said.

“Any kind of meaningful steps away (from a US dollar-denominated system) is potentially significant.”

Cross goals

Despite some common interests, the BRICS group has long been plagued by questions of cohesion, given the disproportionate differences in the political and economic systems of its members and their divergent geopolitical interests.

Furthermore, the complexity of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could dampen the main outcomes of this week’s summit, even though – with the exception of Brazil – BRICS countries other than Russia abstained from voting in a UN General Assembly resolution backed by 141 countries that called on Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine.

China, for its part, has accused NATO of inciting Russia to attack Ukraine, while similar rhetoric has circulated in public debate in India. In South Africa, Ramaphosa told lawmakers earlier this year that war could have been avoided if NATO had “heeded the warnings” about Ukraine joining his bloc.
And although Brazil voted to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine at the UN, its leader Bolsonaro ducked away, declaring days earlier that the country would remain “neutral”.

Under normal circumstances, China would take the usual steps – touting the BRICS as “a sort of soft alternative to the G7” and seeking to “present the BRICS as a leader for the developing world…against the club of wealthy democracies capitalists”. according to analyst of Sino-Russian relations Alexander Gabuev. This would include members endorsing each other’s key projects, he added.

“Now it’s just harder to do because of Putin in the room,” said Gabuev, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

BRICS: during the summit organized in China, Putin is back on the world stage
Meanwhile, a long-standing source of internal friction within the BRICS remains unresolved: tensions between India and China, which in 2020 escalated into a violent border clash.

On the one hand, the BRICS have been a “means of securing some form of engagement with China” for India, according to CPR’s Singh. And that remains critical, as New Delhi is wary of provoking Beijing, especially since it has partnered with the United States, Japan and Australia on their Quad security group and is increasingly seen by the United States as part of its strategy to counter China, he said. .

But these ties also make India more reluctant to support the main outcomes of a BRICS summit.

“I would be surprised if any substantive initiative was announced because then India would send a message to the Quad and its Western partners that it is ready to work very closely with China and Russia,” he said. declared. “It would make India’s position very complicated.”

Another question is how other nations in the bloc will view a campaign, long under discussion and expected to be led by China at Thursday’s summit, to expand the bloc to include more developing nations.

During a meeting with his BRICS counterparts last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the group to start an “expansion process” of member countries.

Such an expansion could play into some parties’ perception that the West has exhibited a double standard in how it meets international standards, according to Carnegie Endowments’ Gabuev, who says it has fueled an argument that the developing world should instead formulate these standards.

“Bringing more countries on board is something that gives it more legitimacy, but again, whether that will go beyond tokenism for now, I’m not so sure,” he said. declared.


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