Putin returned to the world stage as part of the BRICS summit in China

For Putin, this could be a welcome picture: his face shone on the screen along with other leaders whose countries make up this acronym: Xi Jinping of China, Narendra Modi of India, Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa – a signal that Russia, though battered by sanctions and protests for the invasion, is not alone.

Beneath the surface, Putin’s incursion is likely to create yet another complication for the BRICS, a group of large emerging economies that has been in existence for more than a decade and is already plagued by distrust among members and mismatched ideologies.

But the group’s decision to continue its 14th annual summit reflects a view of the BRICS countries on the world order and, accordingly, on the situation in Ukraine, which is different from the view of the West, experts say.

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

“The fact that Putin is welcome, he is not an outcast, he is not being ousted — and this is a normal interaction that happens every year and still happens — this is a big plus for Putin,” he said.

Although countries may claim that Russian involvement better than not, the optics only get sharper in contrast. A few days after the BRICS summit, a meeting of the block of the world’s leading developed economies, the G7, will take place, which united in their opinion against Russian aggression and expelled Moscow from their bloc after the annexation of Crimea in 2014

Troubled times

Unlike the G7, BRICS is expected to tread carefully when it comes to Ukraine at Thursday’s summit, likely advocating a peaceful settlement, even though its members may cautiously urge Western countries to look into the impact of their sanctions on the global economy. , according to observers. to tell.

Beijing – this year’s host and by far the most economically powerful of the five countries that together make up about a quarter of global GDP – looks set to focus on its own agenda: advancing its new global development and security initiatives and countering what he sees as “bloc” construction by the United States.

The 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 “resist hegemonism and power politics,” Xi said in a speech to the countries’ foreign ministers. BRICS last month. urged the group to promote development during this “period of upheaval and transformation”.

Imports of Russian oil to China reached a record level

Some of the crises of this period, such as food insecurity and the growing debt crisis in the developing world, are those that the group, created in 2009 as a vehicle to “serve the common interests of emerging market and developing countries”, was allegedly formed. to address.

Since its inception, the BRICS, which South Africa joined in 2011, has unanimously called for greater representation of large emerging economies on the world stage and opposed what it sees as disproportionate dominance by Western powers. This meant reforming the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and sometimes veiled jab to NATO action.

According to Shahar Hameyri, a professor and political economist at US University Shahar Hameyri, countries are debating issues such as settling trade in their own currencies outside the US dollar system. University of Queensland in Australia.

These penalties are turn off the central bank of Russia from most US dollar transactions, imposed sanctions on banks and excluded large institutions from international banking systems. This has forced countries that continue to do business with Russia to look for ways to avoid violating sanctions. Both India and China remain major buyers of Russian fuel.

“There will be no full embrace of Russia (at this summit), there is no doubt about that, and I’m sure there will be a lot of awkwardness… but behind the awkwardness (de-dollarization), there is one area where these governments do have a common interest.” Hameri said.

“Any meaningful moves away from (the USD-denominated system) are potentially important.”

cross targets

Despite some common interests, the BRICS group has long been plagued by issues of cohesion, given the vast differences in the political and economic systems of its members, as well as their differing geopolitical interests.

In addition, the complexities surrounding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could negate any major outcome of this week’s summit, even though, with the exception of Brazil, the BRICS countries other than Russia abstained from voting on the United Nations General Assembly resolution Nations, supported by 141 countries. who urged Moscow to withdraw from Ukraine.

China, for its part, has accused NATO of provoking Russia to attack Ukraine, while similar rhetoric has circulated in public debates in India. Earlier this year in South Africa, Ramaphosa told lawmakers about the war could have been avoided if NATO had “heeded the warnings” about considering Ukraine’s membership in its bloc.
And although Brazil voted to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine at the UN, its leader Bolsonaro abstained, saying a few days earlier that the country remain neutral.

Under normal circumstances, China will take the usual steps of touting the BRICS as “a kind of soft alternative to the G7” and seeking to “depict the BRICS as the leader of the emerging world…against the club of wealthy capitalist democracies,” according to China-Russia relations analyst Alexander Gabuev. He added that this would include supporting each other’s key projects.

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

Chinese President Xi Jinping greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a banquet dinner during the BRICS summit in Xiamen, Fujian province, in September 2017.  The meeting followed a months-long standoff between the countries.  troops in the Himalayas.
Meanwhile, a long-standing source of internal friction within the BRICS remains unresolved: tensions between India and China that will rise in 2020. escalated into a violent clash at the border.

According to CPR’s Singh, on the one hand, BRICS was “a way to provide some form of engagement with China” for India. And that remains critical as New Delhi is wary of provoking Beijing, especially since it is cooperating with the United States, Japan and Australia in their Quad security grouping and is increasingly seen by the US as part of its strategy to counter China, he said. .

But these ties also make India more reserved in supporting the main outcomes of the BRICS summit.

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

Another question is how the bloc’s other countries will react to the long-discussed, and expected to be China-led at Thursday’s summit, expanding the bloc to include more developing countries.

At a meeting with his BRICS counterparts last month, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the group to start an “enlargement process” of member countries.

According to Gabuev of the Carnegie Endowment, such an expansion could play a role in the perception by some that the West has demonstrated double standards in how it abides by international norms.

“Involving more countries is what gives it more legitimacy, but again, whether that goes beyond symbolism at this point, I’m not sure,” he said.