Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 52.2020
2020.12.21— 2020.12.27
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS Partnership: United for a Better World (Партнерство БРИКС: единство ради лучшего мира) / South Africa, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues, global_governance, mofa
South Africa

On 17 November 2020 XII BRICS Summit took place – the main event of Russia's chairmanship in the organization. The Summit, which was originally scheduled to be hosted in "Russia's Northern Capital", Saint Petersburg, for the first time in history, was held online, due to difficult epidemiologic situation around the globe. Still, it is noteworthy that despite COVID-19 pandemic and severe challenges it posed before humanity, BRICS did not cease its activities – under Russia's chairmanship over 150 events of various levels were held, both via videoconferences and in-person meetings. The most tragic paradox of the COVID-19 pandemic, to our mind, is that its very logic suggests strict isolation of the countries from each other, yet none of them can withstand pandemic's hardships on its own. BRICS countries proceeded from a common understanding that the only way to overcome the coronavirus crisis is through mutual aid. As a result, the five countries provided each other valuable support (this includes material help: PPE, test systems etc). We believe this alone describes better than words that BRICS has proven itself a strong, reliable alliance and that it is truly one of the priorities of the Russian Federation's foreign policy. Instead of isolation, the BRICS members displayed unity and mutual aid, reaffirming organization's status as one of the world's most important ones.

According to Russia's BRICS Sherpa and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov: "Today BRICS is an integral part of international relations and global media landscape". The way we see it, it is quite natural, given BRICS' economic potential: BRICS countries overall share in world's GDP is 25% (21 trillion USD).

Aside from its economic strength, there is one specific factor that ensures BRICS relevance on modern international arena - 42% of world population is concentrated in BRICS member states. BRICS is the voice of almost half of the world, the voice of almost 3 billion people living on 3 continents – South America (Brazil), Eurasia (Russia, India, China) & Africa (South Africa). In the context of the pandemic, it is safe to say that BRICS became one of the mechanisms of providing a joint response to COVID-19. In a broader sense, this also means continuing multilateral activities on various tracks regardless of limitations of present day.

Continuity of BRICS process is traditionally in the centre of attention of presiding country and Russia's Chairmanship 2020 is no exception to that. One of Russia's primal objectives was to ensure harmonious transition from Brazilian chairmanship in 2019, preserving and further developing the ideas formulated at the Brazilia Summit. Against this background, Russia continued to promote all three pillars of the BRICS strategic partnership. The priorities of the Russian BRICS Chairmanship in 2020 lie along these three pillars: policy and security, trade, economy and finance and finally, humanitarian area. The priorities themselves are quite versatile and numerous for simple listing, so we would rather follow the path of highlighting the key ones in each pillar.

Starting off with policy and security, strengthening multilateral principles in global politics and promoting shared interests of the BRICS countries in international fora is the objective that this particular pillar is designed to achieve. In this field, the most remarkable practical result of the XII BRICS Summit was the adoption of BRICS Counter-Terrorism Strategy. Just like COVID-19, terrorism is a common threat on a par with the former in terms of its dangerousness. It is clearly underscored in the Strategy's preamble: «Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security, and that any act of terrorism, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever motives and purposes, is a crime and has no justification». The Strategy also contains the principles of BRICS counter-terrorism cooperation and its goals. One of the goals is that BRICS countries "call upon all nations to take appropriate measures to prevent the use of their territories for terrorist bases or the perpetration or organization of terrorist acts intended to be committed against other States or their citizens", thus building another link with the countries and organizations beyond BRICS itself. The main purpose of the Strategy is to become the next evolutionary step in organization's efforts in combating terrorism, streamlining the BRICS efforts on anti-terrorist track and reinforce the input of BRICS countries to the combat against terrorism.

When it comes to second pillar - cooperation in trade, economy and finance – a major milestone on this track became the adoption of a new Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025. It defines a development path of BRICS and sets the framework for cooperation of its members in accordance with current economic trends and conditions. By adopting this Strategy the BRICS countries express their aspiration to stimulate strong economic growth, confront macroeconomic shocks and financial volatility, support the multilateral trading system based on the rules and principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and resist emerging global uncertainty caused by a number of factors, including rise of unilateral and protectionist measures that run counter to the spirit and rules of the WTO.

It is also noteworthy that Russian Chairmanship marked the launch of practical activities of BRIСS Women's Business Alliance. According to Anna Nesterova, Chairperson of the Board of GlobalRusTrade and Head of the Russian National Chapter of the BRICS Women's Business Alliance, "Generally, women's business development is one of the most promising economic growth drivers. Goldman Sachs data indicates that an equal male/female involvement in BRICS economic processes can accelerate GDP growth by an average of 0.8 percent per year.

Therefore, creating a cooperation mechanism intended to promote and support women's entrepreneurship in the BRICS countries is a very timely step". The Alliance has already launched its own website,, that we will expand and develop as a platform where women can get access to online education, best business administration practices and reliable partners from across BRICS. Right now, companies can apply for the WBA membership via the website by stating their business interests and providing contact information.

Lastly, the humanitarian area. 2020 saw a new stage of comprehensive development of the five countries cooperation in this field. Just a couple of examples to illustrate: the next round of BRICSMATH competition was held as well as numerous other contests for young scientists, providing a platform to showcase their projects. BRICS Film Festival 2020 was held with SA movie "Poppie Nongena" claiming its grand prix. Moscow Declaration of XII BRICS Summit also confirms the shared historical legacy of all BRICS members: "We recognize the Victory in the Second World War as our common legacy and pay tribute to all those who fought against fascism, tyranny and militarism, colonialism and for liberation of the colonized, for freedom of nations, and stress the importance of preservation and inadmissibility of desecration or destruction of monuments erected in their remembrance. We recall that, born out of the horrors of the Second World War, the United Nations, as a common endeavor for humanity, was established to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and since then has helped to shape the very structure of relations between nations in the modern age. We further urge for a resolute stand against the rehabilitation of Nazi ideology, racism, xenophobia, colonialism and the distortion of history"

In conclusion, we would like to point out that regardless of difficult circumstances created by COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of BRICS cooperation, 2020 proved to be fruitful. BRICS demonstrated a brilliant example of multilateralism in the times that dictate isolationism. In spite of all the hardships and challenges, BRICS remains united, "United for a better world", to quote the Moscow Declaration.

Russia Maintains Special but Independent Partnership With India and China, Says Ambassador Kudashev (Посол Кудашев: Россия поддерживает особые, но независимые партнерские отношения с Индией и Китаем.) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, quotation, political_issues

Russia's Ambassador to India, His Excellency Nikolay Kudashev has spoken to Sputnik on a range of issues, including the Asia-Pacific region and how Russia is looking into the relationship with India against the backdrop of New Delhi's deteriorating ties with Beijing.

India and Russia have moved to elevate their relationship to 'special and privileged status' on 21 December 2010. Since that, the ties between the two nations have been progressing in a comprehensive and robust manner bilaterally and multilaterally.

Sputnik: When can we expect the annual bilateral summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin that was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year? Will we see some major agreements during the summit including those related to Russia's Sputnik V vaccine?

Ambassador Kudashev: Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the schedule of the Russian-Indian bilateral contacts at the highest levels. A lot of meetings eventually took place on-line, including a large number of videoconferences with Russia chairman of the SCO and BRICS in the current year.

Moreover, 2020 was special in our relations since the bilateral strategic partnership with India reached its 20th anniversary and the 10th anniversary of Russia's elevation to "special and privileged status". Together, we joined international celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the foundation of the United Nations. So, we had a lot of reasons to fulfill political contacts with repeating our commitments for collective endeavours for the sake of global and regional stability and sustainable development as well as shaping plans to promote our time-tested friendship and multifaceted co-operation further.

However, "corona-crisis" did not stop our interaction – since March 2020, President Putin and Prime Minister Modi held four telephone conversations and jointly participated in a number of videoconferences, including at the BRICS and SCO Summits under the Russian chairmanship as well as the G20 Summits. Certainly, we are expecting our dialogue to continue and for delayed summits and other important preparatory meetings to materialise in 2021. Bilateral high-level intergovernmental commissions on trade and economic, scientific and technological and cultural co-operation as well as on defence partnership are among them. Consultations on dates and other modalities are going on.

We are satisfied with the progress with promotion of the Sputnik V – the first ever COVID-19 vaccine – in India, achieved by the Russian Direct Investment Fund and Dr Reddy's Laboratories. At present they are advancing clinical trials with the view to launching joint production here. Meanwhile, we proceed from the understanding that co-operation in this sphere will expand, and we would expect that this topic will be part of the Leaders' agenda.

Sputnik: India and Russia are "Special and Privileged Strategic Partners", and it is considered that the two have a good understanding of each other on most regional and global issues. India has acknowledged that its relations with China indeed deteriorated beyond repair. Is this a matter of concern for Russia, considering its cordial relation with both the countries?

Ambassador Kudashev: Indeed, current mistrust between India and China is a matter of concern, but not only for Russia. It is potentially very harmful for the stability in the whole Eurasian space. Ongoing dialogue on different levels between Indian and Chinese defence and foreign ministries is giving some hope, and we have no doubts that these two major Asian neighbours will use their civilisational wisdom to retain a constructive engagement.

But what is especially worrisome, is that some outside players are trying to use this situation in their geopolitical purposes to divide the region.

In this situation we feel it is necessary to facilitate a positive atmosphere to build trust between India and China. Russia is not taking sides, since, you are absolutely right, we maintain a special but independent strategic partnership with both our friends. In this regard, we believe that our co-operation in the framework of the SCO, BRICS and RIC, which offer more opportunities to expand common ground between the participants, is helpful.

Sputnik: Last week, the Russian foreign minister accused the West of playing Quad game with India in response to which New Delhi tried to clarify the nature of co-operation under Quad. Had Russia conveyed this view to the Indian government earlier or was Lavrov's comment solely based on the recent action by Quad members in the Indo-Pacific region?

Ambassador Kudashev: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's recent remarks regarding Quad and the Indo-Pacific region are not new – generally, they are based on our approach to regional co-operation in the Asia-Pacific. Earlier this year at the Raisina Dialogue he expressed Russia's reservations in this regard.

In fact, we understand and respect the Indian national Indo-Pacific concept since it is deemed to be inclusive and based on international law. However, there is still a long way to go to make it a truly regional one and, importantly, based on broad consensus. To put it simply, there was no dialogue on that at the commonly recognised platforms such as the East-Asia Summits or others.

Some countries also introduced various Indo-Pacific visions. However, definitions remained similar, and such situation created a misleading apprehension, which was aggravated even more with the focus on a so-called "rules-based order". The open question is what are those rules, and who is shaping them?

Moreover, this artificial similarity was enough reason to launch specific formats such as Quad, which is seen by the western participants as a tool to contain China, and which is being elevated to a high level. Hence, we are facing attempts to create alienation lines, which even threaten to jeopardise basic principles for regional co-operation – ASEAN unity and centrality.

Unlike this approach, Russia upholds its commitment to a broad regional dialogue and unified agenda, equality, respect of interests of all countries and a truly inclusive and undivided regional security. We are looking forward to continuing our consultations with India in this regard.

Sputnik: India bought several weapons, including short range air-to-air missiles, from Russia on an urgent basis during Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's visit to Moscow earlier this year. Has Moscow delivered all the equipment ordered by New Delhi? Can you provide some details on this?

Ambassador Kudashev: The Indian Defence Minister's visit to Moscow in June this year was very important for a number of reasons, not only from the point of view of the exceptional military and technical co-operation between our two countries.

It was highly appreciated that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Rajnath Singh accepted the invitation for the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and the Soviet Victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), leading the Indian Armed Forces contingent for the Red Square parade. For us it is a clear reflection that our positions on global affairs are similar or coinciding, including the respect for the UN, which is the centrepiece of the post-WWII international relations, as well as unacceptability to distort history and glorify Nazis and war criminals. In fact, it is a very important background for trusted relations in sensitive areas, including defence.

A significant part of Singh's agenda was to implement the potential of the bilateral defence co-operation. It was an opportunity to review the whole spectrum of ties in this area and reaffirm mutual commitment for a timely accomplishment of deals and contracts.

Some new Indian requirements were also on the table, including more Su-30 and MiG-29 jet fighters and missiles supplies. All initiatives raised by the Indian side are considered in a most constructive way, and if India needs some projects to be expedited, we are doing our best to satisfy such requirements.

Sputnik: Oil and gas has been the primary focus of trade and investment between the two nations of late. What kind of collaborations are we looking at in the near future in this sector?

Ambassador Kudashev: This is a very promising area of co-operation, although we are closely looking at carbon-free energy projects as well, first of all in the area of nuclear power. As you know, Russia is participating in the construction of the Nuclear power plant in Kudankulam here.

As far as oil and gas in particular are concerned, we are moving with confidence towards the expansion of mutual investments. We are encouraged with the interest of the leading Indian companies to enter various projects in the framework of the large "Vostok Oil" cluster covering huge resources in the Russian Far East and Arctic zone. On the other hand, we note successful implementation of the initiatives in the Indian petro-chemical sector.

Our efforts are also aimed at long-term and large-scale oil supplies from Russia to India. We are working on relevant arrangements.
Russia Supportive of India's Growing Profile, Understands Vision of Indo-Pacific (Россия поддерживает рост Индии, понимает видение Индо-Тихоокеанского региона) / India, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the India-Russia strategic partnership "As friends of both India and China, we welcome dialogue between the two, which is the only key to the progress of ties and to security," said Russia's envoy to India Nikolay Kudashev, during his annual press conference. He noted that it was a sign of Russia's trusted partnership that India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had had "profitable negotiations" with their Chinese counterparts on Russian soil this year, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet. He termed these bilateral talks as very significant to constructive engagement.

"Russia is a trusted partner for India and China and we feel it is vital to ensure a positive atmosphere for cooperation between the two neighbouring Asian giants, including at the platform of the SCO, BRICS and RIC," he said.

The envoy noted that this year marked the 20th anniversary of the India-Russia strategic partnership and the 10th anniversary of elevating the ties to a special and privileged partnership. Though leaders Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi interacted over four telephone conversations and met virtually over two G20 summits and the BRICS and SCO summits, the annual bilateral summit has been pushed to 2021 because of the pandemic.

Kudashev said that Russia was supportive of India's growing profile globally, and understood and supported India's vision of the Indo-Pacific as compliant with international law and inclusive. Roman Babushkin, the deputy chief of mission, however, pointed out that there was no unified version of the Indo-Pacific currently, and many countries are promoting visions and mechanisms, which are non-inclusive, creating some "mixed apprehensions about the intentions".

Babushkin pointed out that there was no regionwide dialogue on the Indo-Pacific as a concept, on dedicated platforms like the East Asia summit. He noted that some countries were promoting a "so called rules-based order" but "no one can clearly tell what does rules-based order mean". He said some countries were creating a "containment" in the region which jeopardises regional cooperation, ASEAN centrality.

"Quad will be detrimental to inclusive dialogue on the region," he asserted. Russia, on the other hand, offers as "unifying agenda of Eurasian partnership that brings all visions together."

Russia made a bid this year for an observer status in the Indian Ocean Rim Organisation because "we feel we should be part of the changes and can contribute lots to IORA's scope—maritime security and connectivity." Russia's bid was turned down, but the envoy said they hope for a better chance next year under the chairmanship of Bangladesh.

The Russian team noted that bilateral relations stayed strong and cohesive even in a year of global disruption. The ties were wide ranging, on the one hand there was joint cooperation in vaccine production, on the other hand Russia is the only country at present to be involved in India's nuclear programme, with the nuclear plant at Kudankulam being their flagship project. They were hopeful that the next year would bring further progress in talks to take forward six other joint nuclear plant projects. Kudashev said that in the defence sector the S400 deal was advancing well.

"If relevant decisions to start works related to Ka-226 helicopters and AK -2-3 rifles production are expedited, soon we will see good progress." At the Aero India 2021 show, Russia intends to be one of the biggest exhibitors, showcasing Su-57, Su-35 and MIG-35 fighter jets, the helicopters Ka-226, Ka-52, Mi-17B-5, Mi-26 as well as S -400 and Buk systems. He was hopeful that the US sanctions would not impede India and Russia's defence deals, since neither Russia nor India recognised unilaterally imposed sanctions like CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), which the US has just imposed on Turkey.

The envoys noted that they did not see much hope of better times with the new regime in the US under Joe Biden, even though President Putin, in his letter to Biden has given an invitation for dialogue. Babushkin pointed out that in the last four years, attempts to repair the dialogue were blocked domestically. He noted that while the US spoke about a rules-based order, it was threatening even its closest allies with secondary sanctions. He cited the example of the Iran oil supply and Russian military deals. The US has also expanded military presence close to the Russian border and was threatening to come out of the Open Skies Treaty. Babushkin also pointed out that the US nuclear policy allows it to use nuclear weapons even in response to non-nuclear weapon threat.

Lessons in Pragmatism (Уроки прагматизма) / Egypt, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues

By Samy Amara

Following his election to a third term, Russian President Vladimir Putin readjusted a number of governing norms and principles of his country's foreign policy philosophy to bring it into line with Russian interests in light of sweeping global changes. The resultant "Concept of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation," which defined itself as a "systemic description of basic principles, priorities, goals and objectives", fleshed out the core ideas many of which have their roots in Putin's address to the European Security Conference in Munich in February 2007, which marked a turning point in Putin's foreign policy positions and Russian foreign relations during the past two decades.

Since the Munich address, Putin has been an outspoken critic of the monopolar world order and a leading advocate of the creation of a "polycentric system of international relations" in which no particular state or states would hold a monopoly on global decision making or sideline the UN and legitimate international decision-making mechanisms. It was this goal, above all, that shaped the new foreign policy concept and that informed "a new vision of priorities in Russia's foreign policy that takes into account Russia's increased responsibility for setting the international agenda and shaping the system of international relations".

"The Concept," as the document is called, proceeds from the premise that Russia must resume its rightful place in a world in which the "ability of the West to dominate world economy and politics continues to diminish". Towards this end, it will pursue such goals as promoting and safeguarding relations with "adjoining states", by which it refers to countries that fell within the orbit of the former Soviet Union, and promote and increase participation in such formats as the G20, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Republic of South Africa), the G8, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the RIC (Russia, India and China) and similar organisations and platforms for dialogue.

Putin explained many aspects of the outlook in several articles that effectively became part of his platform in his campaign to return to the presidency in 2012. He spoke of the importance of building a new world order based on contemporary geopolitical realities, but of the need to do this gradually without causing "unnecessary shocks". International relations continue to increase in complexity while it is becoming more and more difficult to predict how they will evolve, he said, noting that international relations were "in the process of transition, the essence of which is the creation of a polycentric system of international relations". This process was not easy to discern as it was unfolding against a backdrop of mounting economic and political turbulence at the global and regional levels. The nature of this turbulence was such that traditional military and political alliances could longer offer sufficient safeguards against the many new and unconventional transnational challenges and threats. New modes of collective action were required and the Russian Foreign Ministry advocated one: "Network diplomacy based on flexible participation in multilateral mechanisms has become more effective at finding peaceful solutions and promoting collaboration to overcome international crises safely."

Russian documents indicate how Moscow, after having overcome the economic straits of the 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, which derailed the country from its path to progress and threatened to reduce it to a Western dependency, has become more acutely aware than ever that it will never resume a place commensurate to its legacy and economic and human potentials unless it is secure, stable and strong enough to pursue an independent policy. It is equally certain that international peace and security cannot be achieved without Russia, or by weakening its defence capacities and undermining it geo-strategically.

In a February 2012 article called, "Russia and the Changing World," Putin writes: "Our foreign policy objectives are strategic in nature and do not proceed from opportunistic considerations. They reflect Russia's unique role on the world political map as well as its role in history and in the development of civilisation." The Foreign Ministry's "Concept" reaffirmed this stance and observed: "Global challenges and threats require an adequate response and joint efforts on the part of the international community based on the central coordinating role of the UN… [in the framework of] a polycentric model of the world that reflects the world's diversity and variety… and that takes into consideration a clear correlation between the questions of security, sustainable development and human rights." The document added that Russia continues to work actively to promote world peace and security and to fight such threats to peace and security as the proliferation of nuclear weapons, regional disputes and crises, the spread of terrorism and illegal arms and drug trafficking.

In the abovementioned article, Putin reflected on how unsteady relations between Moscow and Washington have hampered the realisation of Russia's polycentric foreign policy outlook. "We have not managed to fundamentally change the matrix of our relations, which continue to ebb and flow," he wrote, and attributed this unstable relationship "in part to the tenacity of some well-known stereotypes and phobias". More recently, the US has delivered further blows to this relationship by imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia, backing out of START and other arms reduction treaties, and pushing NATO to expand eastward and deploy a missile shield along Russia's borders. These are worrisome developments at a time of conflicting speculations regarding the two sides' willingness to cease their undeclared arms race which, according to Moscow, Washington started when former president George Bush Jr announced his intent to withdraw from arms limitation treaties.

In his address to the European Security Conference in Munich in 2007, Putin warned that his country would be forced to upgrade its arsenals. And so it did — as can be seen from the plethora of weapons acquisitions that it unveiled two years ago and that include hypersonic missiles and other missile systems that have sparked controversy in international military circles. Although Moscow hopes that forthcoming developments will ultimately work towards a more harmonious climate, many observers predict the opposite. They believe that US President-elect Joe Biden will be more focused on questions related to human rights and NGO freedoms, issues that have stirred tensions between the two sides before. In addition, the US is likely to focus on ongoing disputes over issues related to former Soviet countries, such as Ukraine, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan. Moscow, for its part, is concerned with the resolution of the conflicts in Syria, Libya, Iraq, subjects on which Moscow and Washington's views have frequently diverged as they have on other questions related to the Middle East and the repercussions of the Arab Spring upheavals.

Russia's relations with the EU have experienced renewed tensions as well in recent years. On the other hand, Europe and Russia are more closely bound by economic and energy related issues, such as the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and other areas of cooperation in energy and economic investment. Putin has complained that the current level of cooperation between Russia and the EU is not of a level commensurate with current global challenges and, above all, "the need for making our shared continent more competitive". He therefore proposed that Russians and Europeans work together to create "a harmonious community of economies from Lisbon to Vladivostok which, in the future, will evolve into a free trade zone and even more advanced forms of economic integration". He also proposed more extensive Russian-EU cooperation in energy, "up to and including the formation of a common European energy complex".

Naturally, the Asia and Pacific region also occupies a significant amount of space on the Russian foreign policy map. Putin as frequently acknowledged the growing roles of China and India in the global economy and international affairs. He has been particularly keen to dispel the anxieties that some quarters have voiced over the increasingly influential "Chinese factor". "I am convinced that China's economic growth is by no means a threat, but a challenge that carries colossal potential for economic and commercial cooperation," he wrote. He urged a more active pursuit of new cooperative ties that would tap the potential of China's technological and productive capacities in order to develop the economies of Siberia and the Russian Far East, especially in areas near the borders with China. Relations with India, which Putin described as a "privileged strategic partnership," were also on track in their development. Their bilateral cooperation and coordination meshed with the interests of the other members of such international blocs as BRICS and the G20.

The foreign policy "Concept" also underscores the importance of strengthening Russia's residual bonds with the collection of post-Soviet republics in Eurasia known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and envisions boosting these relations further through the creation of new regional bodies such as the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Such structures will enable Moscow to sustain a vital and active role in political and diplomatic dispute settlement processes in the CIS space. Indeed, the Russian brokered ceasefire agreement in Nagorno-Karabakh and its ongoing efforts to settle the decades long dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over this territory testify to this role.

In recent years, Russia has shown a growing interest in the Latin American-Caribbean region. Putin has made numerous high-profile visits to many of these countries as part of a drive to strengthen Russian influence in that region. Moscow is equally determined to revive the once strong and influential position it had in Africa. A major landmark in this direction was the first ever Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi, Russia, in October 2019. The event, which brought together heads of state and representatives of 53 African nations, was co-hosted by President Putin and President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in his capacity as chair of the African Union that year. The resolutions and recommendations adopted by the summit reflected the participants' shared desire to increase cooperation in economic, cultural and humanitarian affairs as well as in military fields. South Africa will be hosting the second Russia-Africa summit next year in order to follow through on the resolutions that align with many of the tenets and orientations of Russia's foreign policy concept.

Al-Ahram Weekly

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of InfoBRICS.

Putin-Modi summit may be held in first half of 2021 - Russian ambassador (Саммит Путин-Моди может состояться в первой половине 2021 года - посол России) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: vladimir_putin, narendra_modi, top_level_meeting

The diplomat reminded that despite the pandemic, contacts between both states had not ceased

NEW DELHI, December 21. /TASS/. The meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi planned for October 2020 and later postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be held in the first half of 2021, Russian Ambassador to India Nikolai Kudashev told Russian reporters on Monday in an interview timed to the tenth anniversary of the special and privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India.

"The pandemic has made holding contacts more difficult, it has affected the frequency of face-to-face meetings, however, on the whole, it has not affected the close Russian-Indian political and economic dialogue. A summit is the highest point of such dialogue, it should have been held in October of this year, and large-scale preparatory efforts had been made in advance, however, it was decided to postpone the meeting until next year by mutual consent. I hope that we will see the Russian president here in India in the first half of next year," Kudashev said.

The ambassador reminded that despite the pandemic, contacts between both states had not ceased. In January 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited India, where he took part in the Raisina Dialogue conference and met with his Indian colleague Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. Jaishankar also visited Russia this year. Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh took part in the events timed to the Victory Day parade in Moscow in the summer, and in the fall, he participated the meeting between CIS, SCO and CSTO defense chiefs.

"Besides, the Russian president and the Indian PM have met in the collective format at least four times, during the SCO and BRICS summits in November, and during two G20 summits, one in March dedicated to the pandemic, and during the regular summit in the fall. These meetings were held online," the ambassador said, pointing out that the dialogue between both states on key issues of global development and bilateral relations has been fruitful and intensive. "The leaders have held phone calls many times," the ambassador added.

Planned meetings

Kudashev noted that in the run-up to the summit, a number of events will be held, including the meeting of the bilateral commission on military and military-technical cooperation that should be held in early 2021. In early 2021, a meeting between the co-chairs of the bilateral intergovernmental commission on trade-economic, science-technical and cultural cooperation is expected as well. "We expect that these meetings will not be held online, they will be face-to-face, their dates are currently in the works," the Russian envoy pointed out.

"The role of parliamentary diplomacy is being expanded in our relations; by late winter - early spring of the next year, probably in February, we foresee another meeting of the Russian-Indian interparliamentary commission. India takes over the BRICS chairmanship in 2021, it will be the receiving country. Our leaders will work a lot in this format. In the fall of next year, a BRICS summit can be expected. At the start of next year, in January, the Indian side will name their priorities and expand on their plans," the ambassador informed.

"India is also taking over as chairman within the promising format of Russia, India, China (RIC) as well. The parameters of the Indian chairmanship will be known in January. This is a very promising Eurasian format, the agenda of which goes beyond the region. We can expect an intensive dialogue here as well," the Russian ambassador stated.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's opening remarks at the Dialogue for the Future Forum, Moscow, December 25, 2020 (Выступление министра иностранных дел Сергея Лаврова на форуме «Диалог во имя будущего», Москва, 25 декабря 2020 г.) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech

Good afternoon,

This year, your research and education programme marks its 10th anniversary. This year also marks the 75th anniversary of victory in WWII and the 75th anniversary of the UN. These symbolic dates suggest that we take a closer look at international events.

As of the beginning of 2020, we faced numerous cross-border problems that threaten all countries, such as international terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of organised crime. We were also confronted with a variety of challenges related to food security, the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and much more. These problems have no boundaries. For many years, we have been urging the international community to unite efforts rather than try to address these problems, including rampant international terrorism or drug trafficking, individually, and not to use them to achieve certain geopolitical goals. History knows examples of such approaches. There were attempts to use terrorists against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. It didn't work. The idea was that it would be possible to reach an agreement with them, and they would help achieve certain results on the ground and remain under control afterwards. It doesn't work that way. It didn't work out in Afghanistan or Iraq, where the United States created al-Qaeda as a result of its aggression. The Libyan scenario wasn't replayed in Syria only thanks to energetic efforts, including by Russia. The results of the intervention, which the West touted as bringing democracy, freedom and respect for human rights, turned out to be a gross violation and trampling upon the fundamental human right – the right to life. Crowds of refugees from this region flooded Europe. Terrorists from the Middle East who continue to interact with their Western colleagues, many NATO members, threaten Afghanistan and Central Asia and are ready to step up their efforts to create the "Caliphate" far beyond this region, including in Southeast Asia.

These cross-border problems were further aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic. We thought that with the bigger risks and threats, selfishness should give way to united efforts. This is what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for, suggesting that unilateral illegal sanctions imposed by our Western colleagues on individual countries should be suspended, at least for the period of the pandemic. The sanctions, which are already bad for the people and their social situation, do not even allow them to buy high-quality medications during the pandemic. However, this call has not been heard. Unfortunately, not everyone understands the need to put into practice their own slogans about multilateralism, promoting common values, etc. The West construes multilateralism and common values as everyone else agreeing to the West setting the "tune" and the "fashion trends," and Washington, Brussels and other NATO and EU capitals identifying ways to resolve international and regional problems. This is an attempt to approach global problems with the zero-sum game mindset. We believe that, despite all the changes in the international arena, the basic principles of the UN Charter providing for sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful settlement of disputes and collective action in the interest of ensuring security, remain in full force and have even become more relevant.

Of course, reforms are needed. There are many more sovereign states now than in 1945, because the era of colonialism is almost over. Almost, because 17 territories remain dependent on our Western colleagues, who flatly refuse to comply with the well-known UN declaration that calls for granting independence to colonial countries and peoples. This process has not been completed. Let us not forget about this, especially on the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. Instead of maximising cooperation at the UN, which embodies multilateralism in a universal sense, initiatives have been made up over the past few years which will define multilateralism somewhat differently. When our Western friends need to promote their agenda at the UN, they have to talk with Russia, China, and other countries, the Non-Aligned Movement, Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. Europeans are not always able to promote their interests in this universal format.

Instead of striking a compromise in order to achieve a common agreement and seek a balance of interests, they simply take their ideological projects elsewhere outside the UN system.

Instead of showing some respect for universal multilateralism embodied in the UN, the concept of "effective multilateralism" is being promoted. France and Germany originated it, and the United States strongly supports it. Under it, the West and specifically the EU are the epitome of multilateralism. The EU should promote its approaches to international cooperation and impose them on everyone else. Plans are already in place to create an Alliance for Multilateralism where only those who are convenient to the West and will not ask unnecessary questions will be invited. Washington is planning something along these lines, as far as I know. It wants to create a Community of Democracies. Such an attempt was already made when Madeleine Albright was US Secretary of State. We are talking about self-appointed judges that will decide on who will be designated a "democrat" and invited to this summit, and who will be left outside and made an object of criticism coming from this "democratic" community. We believe this is a wrong approach. No matter how hard it is to achieve results within the framework of the UN and universal conventions, agreements reached through difficult talks and based on a balance of interests are much more reliable than the attempts to force solutions. Even if some countries succumb to pressure, this agreement will lack sustainability.

There are many bodies around the world that function and achieve their goals showing full respect for the UN Charter. Among them are all bodies within the CIS space: the CIS itself, the CSTO, the Eurasian Economic Union and the SCO. It should be remembered that 10 or so years ago, after the 2008 crisis, the G20 began to meet regularly, because the Western G7 realised its inability to rule the world and set the rules in the economy and finance on its own. It used to be the prerogative of the group of seven nations, and everyone else tacitly accepted its primacy. Now with the G20 in place, the G7 is only one of many groups. The second group is BRICS (Russia, Brazil, India, China and South Africa). A number of other G20 members think like the BRICS nations and want the global economic and financial system to become more democratic.

To put it bluntly, they want it to become democratic, because at the moment it is not democratic at all. Things that are happening with the abuse of the role of the dollar are of concern not only to the countries on which the United States is imposing illegal sanctions, thus distorting its role as an issuer of one of the main currencies, but other countries as well. Not only Russia, China, Iran, and the SCO member states want to switch to mechanisms that will rely on national currencies in trade and investment settlements. Europe is beginning to ponder, especially given the fairly strong position of the euro, moving away from dependence on the dollar.

Today, a number of international universal organisations are exposed to actual threats. The United States withdrew from UNESCO, the UN Human Rights Council and the Paris Agreement on climate change. They say the new US Administration will be more inclined to return to international bodies, but the trend is there. Even if Washington is coming back to various multilateral organisations, it is sending out a signal that it does not want to subordinate its actions to collective decisions if they are not 100 percent compliant with the US interests. There may be no such decisions by definition.

The illegal unilateral sanctions by the United States, the EU and their "allies" in Asia undermine the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is going through tough times even without the sanctions. The WTO Dispute Settlement Body has remained idle for many years now, because it must have a quorum to be legal. The United States is blocking the appointment of new DSB members to prevent a quorum. Without a capable DSB, complaints against the United States filed by the EU and other countries to the WTO cannot be considered. As a result, global trade is being gradually overtaken by anarchy, and those with leverage are taking advantage of it. Primarily, this is currency (the role of the dollar), the SWIFT system and other mechanisms.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin stated, we are in favour of joining efforts in the global economy (in particular, his initiative to form a Greater Eurasian Partnership on the vast Eurasian continent with the participation of the SCO, ASEAN, the EAEU and other Eurasian countries, including the EU members). We have a tremendous competitive advantage since we all live on the same continent. We have all it takes to make these efforts effective: Russia's resources, technology from the EU, Russia and China, a vast market and much more. It would be a big mistake not to use this and to continue to act in "private" formats.

We are promoting the same agenda in international politics. President Putin proposed convening a summit of the leaders of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. This proposal was accepted earlier this year, but the pandemic has changed the plans. Of course, it can be held online. But given the importance and complexity of the accumulated problems, we believe an in-person meeting should be held. Hopefully, we will have it soon. Among other things, we plan to discuss strategic stability, since almost all arms-control mechanisms have been destroyed.

World of Work
Cooperation in culture is a priority for the BRICS alliance: Interview with Alena Peryshkina (Сотрудничество в сфере культуры - приоритет для альянса БРИКС: Интервью с Аленой Перышкиной) / Greece, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, social_issues, quotation

In this interview, Alena Peryshkina, Co-Chair of the BRICS Civil Forum, Director of the AIDS Infoshare Foundation, Co-Chair of the BRICS and G20 CSOs Working Group, discusses some aspects of multicultural dimensions, especially the need to institutionalize cultural ties and further pointed to developing a mechanism for evaluating and monitoring the implementation of NGOs recommendations under BRICS. Below are the excerpts of her interview:

What aspects of cooperation strike you most during online roundtable discussions on "International Cultural Cooperation for Strengthening BRICS Unity" organized in Moscow?

Peryshkina: It is really worth noting that the discussions on "International Cultural Cooperation for Strengthening BRICS Unity" were extremely interesting. Our roundtables covered a wide range of issues in the field of culture and the most fruitful dialogues were about institutionalization of cultural ties, development of people-to-people exchange through literature and art, and the most urgent issues in protection of the BRICS cultural heritage.

In your opinion from BRICS 2020 Chair's position, how important could cultural cooperation strengthen unity among BRICS? Do you agree that there are diversities in culture among the group?

Peryshkina: Certainly, the cultures of the BRICS countries are very diverse and very different from one another. But our cultural ties are getting stronger, since they are based on the values that unite peoples, and therefore states. Cooperation in culture, sport, art, youth and tourism is a priority for the BRICS alliance. By developing and strengthening these ties between nations, we are building a language of communication based on mutual understanding, respect and support. The dialogue of our cultures, even the dialogue of the civilizations, if I may say so, is a symbol of our desire for harmony, trust and productive interaction.

Could you discuss some of the initiatives that were presented during the meeting? What were the reactions of your colleagues from Brazil, India, China and South Africa?

Peryshkina: The experts who participated in the meetings introduced many initiatives contributing to the institutionalization of cultural ties between the BRICS countries, such as creation of the «BRICS Non-Governmental Organizations Union (Association)», establishment of the joint Fund for Grant Support for Cultural Projects and Civil Initiatives or establishment of an organization for promoting joint projects in the audiovisual market, mass media, television and Internet, promoting exhibitions of cinematic and audiovisual content.

Obviously, such ambitious projects require elaboration and can be implemented in the medium or long term. Along with this, I also found very interesting initiatives that would contribute to the development of the culture of the BRICS countries right now, such as establishment of a general Register of cultural, architectural and landscape monuments of the BRICS member states and the inclusion of the given cultural heritage sites in the World Heritage List or establishment of the BRICS Literary Prize and organization of the BRICS Literary Forum with the participation of specialists and professionals of a wide range of knowledge from the five countries, including writers, thinkers, historians, sociologists, and philosophers.

I should note that all of the initiatives proposed by the Russian side were very positively received by our BRICS partners. The proposals included in the recommendations to the BRICS leaders are the result of the consensus of all five countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

What challenges are there in promoting civil society, youth and tourism exchanges as part of public diplomacy of BRICS? How did the roundtable meeting participants looked at these in practical terms?

Peryshkina: If we talk about the practical aspects in the implementation of programs and initiatives in the sphere of civil society, youth and tourism exchanges, then we are always talking about addressing three key issues: the support of governments, funding, and the capacity of implementing agencies. Where there are political will and administrative support, where the issues of co-financing are solved, where there are human potential and experience – there is guaranteed success.

What could be the best way to systematize and to combine efforts in implementing all these new initiatives and recommendations arrived at the BRICS Civil Forum? In you view, how best do you see the way forward for the Association of NGOs as part of BRICS?

Peryshkina: Indeed, the best way to consolidate the efforts of BRICS civil dialogue partners could be the creation of the BRICS NGOs Association to unite the organizations within the Alliance, acquire new opportunities for providing effective cooperation, organize and coordinate multilateral activities, create a unified base of BRICS NGOs. Similar to any institutional process, the creation of an association should be a step-by-step process. In my opinion, the first step should be the creation of a steering committee of the BRICS civil society forum. This committee would not only ensure the continuity of the agenda from presidency to presidency, but also develop a mechanism for evaluating and monitoring the implementation of NGOs recommendations to the BRICS leaders.
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