On the margins of the G-20 summit in the Argentine capital, the meeting of one of the most influential bloc on the planet took place, uniting five countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Republic of South Africa (BRICS). This time the informal meeting was held at the highest level, because it “accumulated” different points of view of the five presidents of the BRICS member states. What topics were discussed in this long-awaited event? What did the leaders of the BRICS countries manage to agree on?
In the framework of the BRICS meeting, the heads of five states devoted to discussing a wide range of economic and political issues, cooperation within the bloc and coordination with the position of the “G-20”. The “Syrian” question again caused a heated discussion. Vladimir Putin noted that in order to achieve a long-term stabilization of the situation in Syria, it is very important to promote a real process of political settlement. Among other priorities is the restoration of the economy and infrastructure of this country, the creation of conditions for the return of refugees to their native lands. The Russian president stressed that he calls on the BRICS countries to join humanitarian aid programs for the Syrian people. According to the Russian leader, for the long-term stabilization of the situation in Syria, it is of fundamental importance to promote a real political settlement process. To this end, Russia is working closely with partners in the framework of the “Astana format”: with Iran and Turkey. In addition, Vladimir Putin warned his partners against flirting with terrorists and using them in order to achieve various geopolitical goals. He noted that double standards and “any compromises” are unacceptable with regard to these groupings. Speaking about the situation in Syria, Putin expressed the unequivocal intention that Russia is aimed at the early formation of the Constitutional Committee on Syria in Geneva.
In addition, great attention was paid by the leaders of the BRICS member countries to the difficult situation in world politics, economics, trade and finance. Risk factors affecting the trends of the world economy, such as an increase in total international debt, volatility of stock markets and the deepening of trade contradictions, were noted.
The holding of an informal meeting of the BRICS countries on the margins of the G-20 has become a good tradition, as the heads of five states emphasize. Such meetings each time help to outline the main items for the agenda of the block-BRICS summit. During the meeting, the heads of state stressed that the next XI BRICS summit in 2019 will be held in Brazil, and also expressed their readiness to provide full support to the Latin American country during its upcoming chairmanship in the union.
The Russian leader, in his turn, touched upon two difficult topics of the outgoing year: sanctions and the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Vladimir Putin spoke with reasoned criticism of unilateral sanctions, stressing that they negatively affect international cooperation in general. The Russian leader stressed that it is impossible not to notice that unfair competition is increasingly replacing an honest, equitable intergovernmental dialogue. The vicious practice of using illegal unilateral sanctions, protectionist measures in circumvention of the UN Charter, WTO rules and other generally recognized rules of law is being extended. The President of Russia believes that such a policy leads to a collapse of business ties, a loss of trust between participants in economic relations, tearing the very fabric of the world economy. Putin called on the BRICS member countries to influence the creation of a fair system of international relations and to collectively tackle the acute problems facing the entire international community.
One of the important topics at the last meeting was the stabilization of the WTO. The partners in the BRICS block reached a common conclusion and called for resolving trade disputes within the framework of the WTO through negotiations involving all interested parties. According to the countries of the association, their governments will make every effort to stabilize the organization and its further sustainable development. The leaders of the participating countries of the bloc noted that they have every reason to seek to strengthen their influence within the framework of the International Monetary Fund. In their opinion, a significant contribution to ensuring financial stability is being made by the New Development Bank BRICS, which already finances about 26 projects in the countries of association totaling $ 6.5 billion.
As noted by a number of political analysts, the most controversial topic “on the margins” of the BRICS leaders meeting was the risk of an arms race. In the opinion of the countries participating in the bloc, Washington increases the risk of an arms race. Representatives of five states stated that the BRICS block is concerned about the situation in the field of non-proliferation and disarmament. The Russian and Chinese leaders stressed that the possible refusal of the United States under its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the ambiguity in its position on the problem of the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty creates high risks of an uncontrolled arms race. The BRICS member countries have come to an agreement on this topic and will speak from a single agreed position that mobilizes the efforts of the world community in the interests of international security and peace. In turn, the Russian president urged to do everything possible to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (IFAP) and prevent a new round of tension around the Iranian nuclear program.
The main outcome of the meeting in the format of uniting the largest emerging market countries was the signing of a joint statement for the media, which included 16 points. On the one hand, as international observers believe, the BRICS association has long been, if not exhausted and not at a dead end, at least of a purely protocol nature. With all the desire of the “five” of its participants to jointly speak on important issues in the international arena, this block has not yet become a “developing” alternative to the G7. Moreover, step by step, the BRICS is moving back even from the initial attempts to form a global alternative to the existing world order. For example, if this was still mentioned in the final declaration of the 2014 summit in Fortaleza (Brazil), then a year later in Ufa (2015, Russia) such wording disappeared. Obviously, this is largely due to the continuation of China’s entry into the existing system of global institutions and the Russian pursuit of its eastern neighbor and strategic partner in the wake of this course. In addition, as analysts emphasize, the effectiveness of an informal meeting held under the informal chairmanship of Brazil, which hosts the official summit of 2019, is questionable. We should recall the dramatic political events of recent years: the impeachment of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the replacement of which by the current president Michel Temer was associated with an attempt by the West to withdraw this country from close ties with China. Moreover, today Temer himself has become a “political outsider” who lost the trust of the Brazilians, who in the new year will give up the power of the newly elected president to the ultra-right populist Zhair Bolsonaro, and on what path Brazil will move after that and what its line will be with regard to the BRICS – is still unknown .
That is why the final document of the “informal” meeting in Buenos Aires, without pretending to any conceptuality, as if mechanically lists the priorities of the countries participating in the bloc. For Russia subject to Western sanctions and military-political pressure, the main goal is international security and global conflict resolution. China, who managed in the Argentine capital to “pause” the trade war with the United States, is a fight against protectionism and freedom of world trade that fits within the framework of the WTO reform. For India – the fight against climate change and the support of the Paris Agreement, coupled with the concept of “sustainable development”. Whether the participating countries of the once-promising international association will be able to speak as one unit and take more ambitious steps will again show the BRICS summit, which will be held in 2019 in Brazil.