Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Выпуск 53.2020
2020.12.28— 2021.01.03
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS and Global Governance: Rebuilding a New and Inclusive Multilateralism (БРИКС и глобальное управление: восстановление новой инклюзивной многосторонности) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: global_governance, expert_opinion

The pandemic exposed the international political tensions arising from China's economic ascension and the dispute over more efficient governance models adapted to contemporary demands and challenges. One declaration given by an international authority figure brought this debate to the forefront of one of the greatest pandemics in the history of humanity: the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking about the measures taken by the Chinese government to contain the epidemic of COVID-19, stated that the Chinese president had shown the type of political leadership that is expected from countries facing a public health crisis of such magnitude. And, while highlighting China's commitment to multilateralism and peace, he also said: "In fact, they (the Chinese) are protecting the rest of the world." Trump's reaction was soon to come and, in its wake, that of the new Brazilian extreme right-wing movement.

Since the USSR's dismantling, there was a belief that the liberal democratic model would inevitably expand across the world under the patronage and hegemony of the United States. This scenario was challenging due to three factors: the unexpected crisis of democracies in the 21st century; the emergence of communism renewed by China and adapted for competition in the global market; and, finally, the return of neo-Nazi movements in several Western democracies.

Democracy, communism, and Nazism represent systems of thought and modes of societal political and economic organization. These three ideologies are moving towards meeting at a crossroads that does not resemble that of the past.

This process was undoubtedly accelerated by the "America First" doctrine of Donald Trump, president of the United States. In the explicit defense of its national interests, the United States risks sacrificing multilateralism and deepening the crisis of legitimacy and efficacy of international organizations. Such an example would be the World Trade Organization (WTO); since 2018 Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the WTO because his country has allegedly been unsuccessful in almost any trade dispute with China under the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism. Despite his complaints, statistics compiled by the Peterson Institute for International Economics show that the United States won more cases against China than the other way around. Following the disapproval policy on international organizations, the United States, in 2019, officially withdrew from UNESCO, claiming that the organization had taken an anti-Israel bias. More recently, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump announced the suspension of WHO funding and the withdrawal of the U.S.A. from the organization, arguing that it had failed to report the seriousness of the situation in the city of Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported. But there is another argument that justifies the American president's dissatisfaction: Trump accused the WHO of being "too focused on China."

The diplomatic crisis between the two major powers became evident when Trump, in the midst of the trade war against China, leveled the accusation of data espionage at the Chinese company Huawei through the infrastructure it sells to telecommunications companies. This crisis was compounded when Trump politicized the pandemic by calling COVID-19 a "Chinese virus," reviving Sinophobia in his country. Research published by Pew Research Center in March 2020 shows that about two-thirds of Americans now have an unfavorable view of China. That would be the highest negative rating since 2005.

What do these facts reveal? They reveal that the country that, in the 20th century, had once led an international order based on multilateralism, became the one mainly responsible for its disruption and instability. On the other hand, Europe's lack of more explicit assertiveness in its commitment to a multilateral and multipolar world is also another worrying factor. This is the moment for the BRICS to speak louder and for all nations in defense of multilateralism that can be translated as the defense of the democratization of the international system, and the defense for a greater participation of nations in the decision-making processes that concern the future of all humanity and not just a country.

The debate on governance models and the future of the international order is still ongoing. If the statement made by WHO's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus mentioned at the beginning of the article may sound overly complacent with China, the fact cannot be ignored that the Chinese government has been sending medical supplies to over 100 countries, in contrast with the Trump administration, which has been accused of diverting medical equipment intended for Germany, France, and Brazil as well.

In this context of international organizations' crisis and the rise of ideological disputes that remind us of a new Cold War, BRICS must find solutions for these problems and try to continue to be relevant. When BRICS emerged more than 10 years ago, the five countries had a clear reformist agenda for international organizations. The challenge was mainly external to the BRICS group. Currently, the challenge is within the BRICS as a platform. The Brazilian government is not really engaged in multilateralism and brought to its foreign policy the ideological clash originating in the domestic arena. The alignment with the U.S., the insistence on joining the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), and ganging up against China put Brazil on a collision course not only with China but with the original idea of BRICS.

Of course, diplomats will deny these facts because this is part of their job. But the denial of the facts is another symptom of our time. It also seems clear that the political, diplomatic, and even academic discourse that pretends that none of these events are happening is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

However, over its more than 10 years of existence, BRICS has done something that could be its lifeline. I refer to the several forums and seminars that involve the most diverse sectors of society in the five countries. BRICS has sought to involve civil society in discussing this platform's direction and in defining its agenda. BRICS Business Forum, BRICS Youth Forum, BRICS Women's Forum, BRICS Legal Forum, and BRICS Seminar on Governance among others, have given BRICS vitality and sustained its legitimacy. In the current context of so much adversity, it is necessary to pay more attention to these forums. Besides, it is important to continue the Outreach Dialogues and BRICS Plus.

Considering the current context, I believe that the time has come for BRICS to support and sponsor a global agenda in defense of the international system's democratization, multilateralism, and the strengthening of international organizations combined with greater promotion of dialogue between peoples.

In conclusion, we need to escape these political pitfalls that drive the world into conflict, given that some governments in some countries are committed to an agenda for the destruction of multilateralism and the division of the world. To resume its original agenda, BRICS must reinforce its agenda supporting the multilateralism between states and peoples' unity.

Close Sino-Russia relations is a saving grace in a wobbling world (Тесные китайско-российские отношения - спасительная благодать в шатком мире) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion

The telephone conversation between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday was not only a statement of close friendship, but also a reassuring gesture in a world that needs to get a grip.

In their exchange of New Year messages, the duo exuded confidence that they would overcome the current uncertainties wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and also lead the world towards overall stability.

Indeed, China and Russia are kindred souls. Speaking earlier at his annual press conference on Thursday in Moscow, Putin noted that the two countries have "common interests in many fields." These mutual interests have informed and grown their strategic and pragmatic cooperation.

Over the past decades, the two countries have opened up their economies to global trade, utilizing their huge entrepreneurial potential that has at one time peaked in double digit growth. As they continue pursuing fast paced quality development, the duo is becoming first among equals in the world's leading economies.

Both are prominent members of the Group of 20 biggest economies in the world. The two are also members of BRICS, a group composed of the world's five major emerging countries. Their clout in these two forums cannot be gainsaid, as the G20 and BRICS carry more than two-thirds of the world's economy and population.

China has made its mark as the only G20 member that did not record negative growth because of COVID-19, and actually recorded impressive growth throughout the year, given the challenging circumstances arising from the pandemic.

Although Russia recorded negative growth, it is expected that its close trade relations with China will boost its economic fortunes in 2021.

In 2019, Russia was China's main trade partner, with the volume of export and import trade between the two countries estimated at almost $111 billion. China was the country's leading import origin and export destination.

Latest statistics from China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that bilateral trade between the two countries hit $88 billion from January to October this year. The main areas of trade between the two countries included agriculture, energy and cross-border e-commerce.

Further, the two countries recently launched the China-Russia Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation and extended the notification agreement for ballistic missile and carrier rocket launches for another 10 years.

At a time when the world is faced by the coronavirus pandemic, the developing world will benefit from more affordable and accessible vaccines by the two countries. China's vaccine has already been approved by some countries in the Arab world, including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Kenya and Morocco are some of the countries that have indicated they will order the vaccine.

Press reports in mid-December indicated that over 50 countries had ordered for more than 1.2 billion doses of Russia's now approved Sputnik V vaccine. The Russian Direct Investment Fund will work with partners in several countries including India, China, Brazil and South Korea to produce the vaccine for the global market.

Relations between the two countries is not only a great example of how great powers can coexist by respecting each other's space, but how they can positively and collectively impact the world.

It is an observation that was made by Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin on Friday while commenting on their ties. "The two countries have also been firmly supporting each other in opposing interference and stigmatization, making them significant forces in safeguarding the stability of the global strategic pattern."

The pair has acted as a buffer against the bullying of weak countries by those who see themselves as global lords.

As members of G20 and BRICS, they have offered alternative markets and source of development assistance to developing countries. Their mode of diplomacy that seeks win-win cooperation and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries has also created an alternative voice in global decision making.

In his address in Moscow, Putin called for the lifting of sanctions for countries struggling with COVID-19. This echoed the sentiments of Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the United Nations, who on October 5 called for a complete and immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions on behalf of 26 countries.

With the strengthening of bonds between China and Russia, we expect to see a coalescing of more countries around them, effectively creating a potent force for global change.

BRICS Member South Africa May Not Get Vaccines From Bill Gates-Funded COVAX Until June (Член БРИКС ЮАР может не получить вакцины от COVAX, финансируемого Биллом Гейтсом, до июня) / Russia, January, 2021
Keywords: covid-19, social_issues, political_issues

South Africa, a member of the BRICS bloc of leading developing nations including Russia and China, is relying solely on the COVAX syndicate for supply of its vaccines rather than buying directly from producers in both east and west.

South Africa may not receive supplies of COVID-19 vaccines until June despite paying hundreds of millions up front.

The African National Congress (ANC) government's failure to deliver vaccines in sub-Saharan Africa's wealthiest yet hardest-hit nation drew criticism from a group of leading doctors and academics on Sunday, including members of the SA Medical Research Council.

The government made a 327 million rand ($22 million) payment to COVAX — an initiative to buy an distribute vaccines to poorer nations, funded by Microsoft founder and world's richest man Bill Gates — just before Christmas, as a 15 per cent down payment on a 2.18 billion rand ($149 million) fee for supplying vaccines.

But the group argued a wealthy nation like South Africa should not have to rely on COVAX.

"It beggars belief that South Africa, against all reasonable expectations, finds itself in this group, since it is not a poor country," they wrote for the Daily Maverick website. "The stunning reality is that it has neither a secured vaccine supply nor a plan for mass inoculation in the foreseeable future that can withstand scrutiny", the signatories charged. "This portends for this country the worst ravages of Covid-19 in the year ahead."

And they dismissed claims by officials that early negotiations with producers might have obliged the government to buy ineffective vaccines.

"Public acknowledgement by officials that they didn't think it prudent to begin bilateral negotiations with vaccine suppliers, because they could not 'take the risk' of ordering vaccines in the event that they would not work, is shockingly disingenuous," they wrote. "An Advanced Market Commitment does not require upfront payment for the vaccine and commits the buyer to purchase vaccine only when it becomes available, at an agreed price and quantity." Six-Month Delay

President Cyril Ramaphosa admitted on Tuesday that COVAX would not be able to deliver until the "second quarter" of the year — anywhere between April and June — even while Russia, the UK, the US, Canada and the 27 European Union nations have already begun mass inoculation campaigns with several different vaccines.

"We are part of the first group of countries that will receive an allocation of vaccines from Covax," Ramaphosa said. "We have been advised that we should expect the vaccines in the second quarter of 2021." On New Year's Eve, Department of Health Deputy Director Dr Anban Pillay denied the government was putting more lives at risk by not buying currently-available vaccines directly from producers such as Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca — or fellow-BRICS bloc members Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute or China's Sinopharm.

"We have not delayed the procurement at all. We took a decision at the time we will go to Covax facility because Covax was purchasing vaccine from multiple vaccine producers, rather than taking the risk and going with one vaccine supplier," Pillay insisted. Neither Ramaphosa nor Pillay revealed which brands of vaccine COVAX would supply. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has yet to approve any candidate vaccines against COVID-19 — even those now in widespread use in other countries. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for "emergency" use worldwide on December 31.

While a December press release from SAHPRA stated the organisation was relying on "work done by other regulators", CEO Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela indicated it was proceeding slowly out of concern for the "quality, safety and efficacy" of those products.

In a separate Daily Maverick article, columnist Dave Martin urged the government to make use of its membership of the BRICS bloc of leading developing nations to acquire Sinopharm's Sinovac jab.

"There is no logical reason our vulnerable people should have to stand at the back of the line," Martin wrote. "We have the money to buy vaccines – they are not expensive."

Russia is supplying fellow BRICS member Brazil with its Sputnik V vaccine, while India is producing the British AstrraZeneca jab under license.

South Africa has suffered more from the coronavirus pandemic than any other African nation per head of capita, with almost 29,000 deaths in the last year, despite being one of the wealthiest and developed countries on the continent.

The Gates Connection

COVAX was set up in 2020 by Gavi, an organisation founded in 1999 with $750 million from Gates through his charitable foundation. Gavi's funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has exceeded £4 billion since then.

Gavi, which "partners" with the WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank, claims to have "helped" vaccinate more than 800 million children in developing nations since 1999.

COVAX Managing Director Aurélia Nguyen worked for British pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) until 2011. GSK and French firm SanofiPasteur are also in the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, but their formulation is only just entering Phase 2 of clinical trials, according to the WHO.

The stated goal of COVAX is to ensure vaccines are distributed "fairly and equitably" to all 187 countries in the programme, insisting healthcare workers should be prioritised for immunisation before others.

Nguyen told China's CGTN News that the organisation hoped to distribute 2 billion vaccines this year — far short of the 7.5 billion global population.

She claimed there would be a "very constrained environment in terms of supply." But the WHO summary shows up to 16 vaccines currently in Phase 3 trials, considered far enough advanced for "emergency" use in the UK, US and EU.

Allies Divided

ANC ally the South African Communist Party (SACP) appeared to back SAHPRA's slow-track approach in a statement on January 1 — while implying "corruption" might influence the purchase of vaccines.

"As our government continues on the quest to solicit the best vaccine suitable for our conditions, the SACP calls upon strict measures to ensure quality control on all phases of acquiring the vaccine, based solely on scientific reasoning," spokesman Alex Mashilo said. But ANC-allied trade union federation Cosatu condemned the government's "lethargy" in vaccinating essential workers, the elderly and those with medical conditions that put them at risk from the virus.

"We cannot afford to allow South Africans to die because of state lethargy," spokesman Sizwe Pamla said. "Government and the private sector need to produce a plan to ensure that all South Africans will be vaccinated."
Xi, Putin pledge further development of China-Russia ties in New Year greetings (Си и Путин пообещали дальнейшее развитие китайско-российских отношений в их новогодних поздравлениях) / China, January, 2021
Keywords: cooperation, xi_jinping, vladimir_putin

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday that he stands ready to maintain close contact with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in various forms in a bid to lead their countries towards deeper comprehensive strategic coordination and practical cooperation in various fields.Xi made the remarks when exchanging New Year congratulations with Putin, adding that in doing so, greater benefits will be brought to the two peoples and more positive energy injected into the turbulent and changing world.In his message, Xi, on behalf of the Chinese government and people, extended sincere greetings and best wishes to Putin and the Russian people.

Workers from China and Russia shake hands after the two ends of the Blagoveshchensk-Heihe highway bridge were joined together on May 31, 2019.Photo:Xinhua

Noting that 2020 is an extraordinary year, Xi said the Chinese and Russian people have helped each other and worked together in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, writing a new chapter of good-neighborliness and friendship between the two countries.In 2020, Xi said, the two sides launched the China-Russia Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation program, promoted the steady development of bilateral economic and trade cooperation under the condition of regular COVID-19 prevention and control, and achieved new progress in aligning the construction of the Belt and Road with the Eurasian Economic Union.China and Russia also jointly celebrated the 75th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War and the founding of the United Nations, demonstrating their firm determination to safeguard international fairness and justice, and making new contributions to building a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind, Xi added.Xi said he and Putin in the past year have had several telephone conversations, jointly attended a series of multilateral summits via video link, had in-depth exchange of views on China-Russia relations and major international and regional issues, and reached new and important consensus, which the Chinese president speaks highly of.

Chinese medical experts pose for a photo before boarding a plane at an airport in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, April 11, 2020.Photo:Xinhua

Noting that the upcoming year is of special significance to bilateral relations, Xi said the two sides, centering on the theme of celebrating the 20th anniversary of the signing of the China-Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, will vigorously promote the idea of a lasting friendship between the two countries, and envisage and enrich the development of China-Russia relations in the new era.For his part, Putin extended his sincere New Year greetings to Xi, and wished the Chinese people happiness and good health.In the past year, the Russia-China comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination has been rapidly developing, Putin said, adding that the governments, legislatures and various departments of the two countries have maintained close communication.

Photo taken on April 2, 2020 shows Chinese government's humanitarian aid at the Chkalovsky military airport in Moscow region, Russia.Photo:Xinhua

The two countries, he noted, have also smoothly launched the large-scale program of the Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation and maintained high-level development of bilateral economic and trade cooperation despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.Meanwhile, the two sides have maintained close coordination and cooperation to jointly promote the settlement of regional and international hotspot issues, and work together within the framework of the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS, Putin said.Noting that the next year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the China-Russia Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation, Putin said he believes that the two sides will continue to uphold the spirit of the treaty and jointly achieve fresh outcomes in Russia-China relations.On the same day, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin also exchanged New Year greetings.

Aerial photo taken on Feb. 17, 2020 shows a China-Europe freight train fully loaded with auto parts, mechanical facilities and garments bound for Moscow of Russia and Minsk of Belarus waiting for departure at Xiangtang railway port in Nanchang, east China's Jiangxi Province. Photo:Xinhua

In his message, Li said that China and Russia have made great efforts to overcome the impact of the pandemic and external challenges over the past year, and maintained the positive momentum in the development of bilateral cooperation in various fields.The two countries also successfully held the 25th regular meeting between Chinese and Russian prime ministers and reached many important consensus, Li said.Li said he is ready to further strengthen communication and cooperation with Mishustin, give full play to the coordinating role of the regular meeting mechanism with his Russian counterpart and promote a sustainable, sound and stable development of practical bilateral cooperation.For his part, Mishustin said he believes that the regular meeting mechanism will further help implement the goals and tasks set by the two sides and push the bilateral cooperation to a higher level in the new year.
Work together on virus attests to China ties (Совместная работа над вирусом свидетельствует о связях с Китаем) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, cooperation

China and Russia have maintained close relations in a challenging year, with experts describing high-quality cooperation in bilateral and multilateral spheres that has helped the two to weather the coronavirus pandemic.

On the trade front, the emergence of COVID-19 triggered a massive slump in trading volumes between the neighbors in January, the 2020 China-Russia Economic Trading Index Report indicated.

But with supportive policies and the Sino-Russian Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Coordination for a New Era, trade between the two countries managed to recover from that rocky start to the year. Bilateral trade reached $25.35 billion in the first three months of 2020, a 3.4 percent rise compared with last year. The Chinese General Administration of Customs says that in September the figure was $10.22 billion, a rise of more than 7.8 percent from September last year.

The cooperation and mutually supportive policies brought in to counter the pandemic have been a highlight of the neighbors' relationship this year. In August, when the number of coronavirus infections in Russia began to grow again, China sent medical experts to Moscow at the invitation of the Russian government.

The 10-member group, including epidemiologists from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as hospitals and medical institutes in the Heilongjiang province, visited hospitals in the Russian capital. Among the facilities they visited was the main hospital designated for COVID-19 treatment, Kommunarka.

Hao Huilong, leader of the team and vice-chairman of Heilongjiang Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the experts hoped their visit contributed to an improved COVID-19 situation in Russia.

Oleg Timofeev, an associate professor at the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, said the arrival of the Chinese team was a much-appreciated gesture of support and followed a visit by Russian medical experts to China in February, during the height of China's battles with the coronavirus. Timofeev said China and Russia share deep expertise in healthcare and on control of epidemics. Such expertise heightens the value of their work together.

Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui said that at the outset of the pandemic, the authorities and diplomatic agencies of China and Russia established a mechanism for direct communication in facilitating the reporting on developments in the control and treatment of COVID-19.

Russia's State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR and China's Biological Science Center of the Ministry of Science and Technology were among organizations that established direct contact as a means of aiding cooperation on virus tracing, laboratory diagnosis and vaccine development, Zhang said.

On April 16, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin approved the use of hydroxychloroquine, a drug made by the Chinese company Shanghai Pharmaceuticals that had been best known as an anti-malaria treatment, for COVID-19 treatment. This approval came even though the drug was then not registered in Russia. Mishustin's order showed the unconditional trust that the Russian government places in China's medical capabilities, Timofeev said.

At present, the pandemic is making it difficult for the neighbors to implement some of the major bilateral projects that have been planned, Timofeev said.

But China and Russia can focus on preparing for new projects and pursue cooperation to this end, such as by staging online investment roadshows, holding events via video conferencing, and proceeding with feasibility studies into projects, he said.

Timofeev suggested that the two governments can increase financial and other support for scientific research institutes and universities under the 2020-21 China-Russia Year of Scientific and Technological Innovation, while enhancing cooperation in high-technology fields.

Frequent exchanges

In the military realm, the armed forces of China and Russia have maintained close relations, marked by frequent exchanges between personnel. Ninety-five soldiers from China's People's Liberation Army honor guard participated in Russia's Victory Day parade in Moscow on June 24.

In August, the PLA sent six teams and more than 260 soldiers to participate in the International Army Games 2020 in Russia. In September, Chinese troops joined with those from nine other nations for a week-long military drill, known as Kavkaz 2020, in southern Russia.

During a video link on Dec 15, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu agreed that they would further build up strategic contacts and coordination between the armed forces of the two countries, improve the mechanisms of military cooperation, and expand interactions more broadly in order to confront the challenges to regional and global security.

In addition to the comprehensive framework of bilateral relations, Russia also maintains close communication with China under multilateral organizations, such as the Group of 20 industrialized nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The two nations are also key members of the grouping that binds Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa-known as BRICS.

Alexey Ivanov, director of the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre, said China and Russia intend to pursue joint solutions to economic problems, such as remedying global economic imbalances. This is especially needed while businesses recover from the upheavals of lockdowns.

As the global balance of power shifts, Russia is seeking to strengthen its already friendly relations with China. "The BRICS framework provides an effective platform for our countries to develop common decisions and to fight jointly the economic impacts of the pandemic," Ivanov said.

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's interview with Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency, December 29, 2020 (Интервью Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова международному информационному агентству «Россия сегодня», 29 декабря 2020 года) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: sergeyr_lavrov, quotation

Question: What were the most important foreign policy events in the outgoing year? What was the main breakthrough, the main success and the main failure? Do you believe the international community has learned from the coronavirus pandemic? Has the world become more fragmented or, on the contrary, have countries become more focused on cooperation?

Sergey Lavrov: The outgoing year was complicated for international relations. It is hard to use phrases like "main success" or "main failure" when summing up the events of the outgoing year. Clearly, the coronavirus pandemic was bad for international politics and diplomacy and caused a deep crisis in the global economy which is now in for a long and painstaking recovery. Mind you, the challenges and threats that were there before the pandemic, such as terrorism, drug trafficking and other transnational crimes, did not go away. Long-standing crises remained ablaze, and new hotbeds of tension arose.

Unfortunately, common problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have so far failed to move the international community to join forces in order to effectively overcome them. The main reason, and we have said this many times, is the unwillingness of a number of the US-led states in the historical West to establish constructive and equal cooperation with other international players. Our Western colleagues continued to use a wide range of illegitimate tools ranging from military pressure to information wars. They ignored calls by the UN Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to suspend – in light of the worldwide humanitarian emergency – unilateral sanctions on supplying medications, equipment and food that are needed to fight the virus, including related financial transactions. President Putin's initiative on opening green corridors in international trade that would be free from trade wars and sanctions was not heard, either. Washington's course to continue discarding the global strategic stability architecture and arms control did nothing to boost optimism.

Under these circumstances, we did our best to reliably uphold our national interests and continued to promote a constructive and unifying international agenda, and work in favour of ensuring the indivisibility of security across all its dimensions. As you may recall, the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh were stopped largely thanks to Vladimir Putin's personal efforts. We contributed to the political and diplomatic settlement of the Syrian crisis. We participated in international efforts to take the intra-Libyan confrontation out of the deadlock.

In order to improve the situation around the world, we maximised the potential of our chairmanships in BRICS, the SCO and the CSTO. We supported the implementation of various EAEU integration projects and the formation of the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

Sure enough, we continued to work energetically at the UN. In particular, the president of Russia put forward an initiative to hold a summit of the five permanent member states of the UN Security Council.

Despite the pandemic-related restrictions, we productively interacted with the vast majority of our foreign partners in Eurasia, Africa and Latin America, both bilaterally and within various multilateral platforms.

As a leader of the international healthcare industry, Russia has contributed to common efforts to combat COVID-19 and provided substantial assistance to the affected countries.

In 2021, we will continue to pursue a pragmatic and responsible foreign policy and contribute to forming a more just and democratic multipolar international order. As before, we will be open to mutually beneficial cooperation to the extent that our partners are willing to, and of course, with unconditional respect for Russia's national interests.

Question: You said that Russia should stop looking to the West. Does this mean that there will be the long-discussed turn to the East?

Sergey Lavrov: First of all, I would like to point out that we do not look to anyone. Even though a larger part of Russians live in Europe, Russia is a great Eurasian and Euro-Pacific nation and one of the main guarantors of the UN-centric world order that took shape as a result of World War II. Our foreign policy is multidirectional and independent. We are interested in good relations with our foreign partners in all parts of the world without exception based on international law, mutual respect and consideration for each other's interests.

At the same time, we also take into account the tectonic shifts taking place in the global geopolitical landscape. The global political and economic focus is shifting from the Euro-Atlantic region to Eurasia, where new global centres are developing dynamically. Relying on their centuries-old traditions, they have acquired and are strengthening their economic and technological sovereignty. They are pursuing an independent foreign policy. It is on this basis that they have attained impressive results in many spheres. In this context, it appears logical that our policy of building up mutually enriching cooperation with Eastern countries, including Asia Pacific nations is long-term, strategic and does not depend on changes in the international environment.

Eurasia is not just a geographical region with huge resource potential, which can and must be used to the benefit of its peoples. It is also the most dynamically developing part of the world when it comes to the creation of new transport and logistics corridors, the improvement of infrastructure connectivity and many other forms of multilateral cooperation. Russia stands for harmonising the integration processes that are gaining momentum there. This is the objective of President Putin's initiative of the establishment of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. Energetic efforts are being taken towards implementing it, including through the alignment of the development plans of the Eurasian Economic Union and China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Question: What do you think about the prospects of Russian-US relations during the Biden administration? Will they change? Will they turn around or continue to deteriorate?

Sergey Lavrov: Regrettably, we do not expect the slumping Russian-US relationship to improve in the near future. The anti-Russia hysterics in the United States does not leave any chance for a rapid return to normality. Our dialogue has fallen victim to domestic political strife in the United States, which is not solid ground for constructive cooperation.

Nevertheless, we are sure that there is untapped potential in Russian-US relations. It will not be easy to remove the obstacles, which have accumulated through no fault of ours, but we must keep working towards this. However, this will be impossible without America's political will.

There are many issues on the bilateral agenda, including topics of priority importance, which the new US administration will be facing, from the normal operation of foreign offices and humanitarian issues, to international security and strategic stability. We don't have to try to settle all of these problems at once; our cooperation can be based on small-step logic. We are ready for this, provided the sides act on the principles of good faith and respect for each other's interests, rather than on the US-centric international order imposed by Washington in the "might is right" spirit. We hope the new US administration will make a choice in the interests of the American people and will demonstrate reciprocal readiness for developing dialogue with Moscow.

Only in this case will the Russian-US relationship gradually return to a path of stable development. Of course, this will have a positive impact on international affairs, considering the special responsibility of Russia and the United States as the world's largest nuclear powers and permanent UN Security Council members for global stability and security, especially in this complicated period.

Question: Is there any hope that, under the new US administration, Moscow and Washington will manage to extend the New START Treaty in time? Is Russia ready to make any further concessions, such as suspending the development of advanced weapons systems? And why does Russia consider the US proposal on the verification regime to be unacceptable? Is there anything wrong with mutual verification of agreements?

Sergey Lavrov: One would like to hope that, just like Russia, the new US administration will consider it an obvious fact that the extension of the New START Treaty without any additional conditions, and preferably for the maximum five-year period stipulated by it, would meet the security interests of our two countries and the entire international community.

Judging by media statements, unlike our current dialogue partners, the team of President-elect Joe Biden is not interested in turning the New START Treaty into a hostage to its ambitions and trying to push for a priori unrealistic demands.

If that is indeed the case, and they still have to convince us that it is, there is still a chance that we will achieve an agreement to extend the Treaty before it expires in February 2021.

Regarding possible future cooperation with the United States in the area of arms control, and we urge the United States to engage in such cooperation, then any talks, if and when they begin, will yield tangible results only if the US party is ready to respect Russian's interests and concerns. This should be what our US colleagues call a two-way street.

Naturally, Russia is ready to contribute to attaining mutually acceptable agreements, drafted on a strictly equitable basis. At the same time, it would be so far premature to talk about their specific parameters. At this stage, it is important to note that we have informed the Americans about our vision of the framework of potential agreements presupposing the elaboration of a new "security equation" and comprising all significant strategic security factors as variables. This vision remains relevant.

I would also like to stress that no aspect of Russia's position presupposes a refusal to monitor compliance with possible future agreements. On the contrary, we have advocated and continue to advocate the mandatory presence of a monitoring component in any arms control agreements.

On the other hand, the verification regime should completely meet their subject and remit. We have failed to reach agreement on these matters with the outgoing US administration. Its verification demands far exceeded the boundaries of a hypothetical political agreement, advanced by the US party in conjunction with the New START Treaty's short-term extension. The US proposals stipulated verification procedures with regard to highly sensitive aspects of the nuclear weapons sector, which was seen as unacceptable by Russia.

Notably, they wanted to screen the potential of our non-strategic nuclear weapons, without moving to alleviate Russian concerns in this and adjacent areas.

We hope that the new US administration will act in line with more rational and realistic positions.

Question: Has Russia received any confirmation from the remaining parties to the Open Skies Treaty that they agree not to transfer data to the United States or open all their territory for inspection? What legal confirmation is Russia expecting? Does the Treaty itself serve as such confirmation? Or is it going to be de facto re-signed?

Sergey Lavrov: The Treaty on Open Skies does not contain direct stipulations that information received by observation equipment during flights is classified, or any restrictions on access to such information.

About 20 years ago, due to the growing terrorist threat, the signatories noted this inconsistency and in 2002, they adopted a corresponding decision of the Open Skies Consultative Commission. But that also has generalised phrasing.

Today, in connection with the US withdrawal from the Treaty, this is obviously not enough – especially now that we became aware that the US has required its allies to transfer the results of observation flights over Russia to the American side.

Taking into account this new situation, we demanded that the states parties to the Treaty provide some clear legal guarantees of the good-faith fulfillment of their obligations.

No, a re-signing is not on the agenda. It is enough to add more clarity to the legally binding 2002 decision. We have made such a proposal and are waiting for a response from our partners.

To be honest, the first reaction was kind of unclear. The Western countries did not seem to object, in principle, to the idea that the information I mentioned should not fall into the wrong hands. But at the same time, they hid behind legal casuistry and tried to convince us that the existing provisions are quite enough.

Equally vague was the response to our second demand to guarantee the possibility of performing observation flights over the entire territory of the participating states, also covering non-signatories' facilities located on it. And we have evidence that the United States would not like this very much and is trying to get its allies to hinder us.

Therefore, we warned our OST partners that halftones would be unacceptable here. If the remaining participating states follow the US lead, then a tough response from us will not be long in coming. We are ready to continue cooperation under the Treaty only on the understanding that in the very near future, all the remaining signatories will give us direct and firm legal guarantees of their readiness to comply with its requirements.

So far, we have not received any such guarantees, so the future of this Treaty is a big question.

Question: This year, the UN Security Council's arms embargo against Iran has expired. Are Moscow and Tehran making any specific plans to enhance military-technical cooperation? Are they talking about a possible purchase of Su-30 aircraft or T-90 tanks by Iran? Wouldn't this affect Russia's relations with some countries such as Israel or the United States?

Sergey Lavrov: At present, there are no restrictions on military-technical cooperation with Iran as far as the UN Security Council is concerned. Russia and Iran have every right to interact in this area. Russia's military-technical cooperation policy fully complies with international law and is pursued in full compliance with Russian export control legislation, which is one of the most stringent in the world.

I repeat: while implementing military-technical cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran, which undoubtedly has every right to ensure its own defence capability, Russia strictly adheres to its international obligations and is guided by the priority of maintaining stability and security in the region.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's interview with TASS News Agency, December 30, 2020 (Интервью министра иностранных дел Сергея Лаврова информационному агентству ТАСС, 30 декабря 2020 г.) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: sergey_lavrov, quotation

Question: The pandemic has changed people's lives this year. However, instead of cooperative international efforts against the pandemic next year we will likely have a war of vaccines. Where does our strength lie? Will the pandemic become the touchstone for international relations? Who has reaffirmed their friendly ties with us amid the 2020 calamities?

Sergey Lavrov: Our strength is that Russia, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council with a unique geostrategic position and considerable military-political, economic and cultural potential, has a peaceful and predictable foreign policy. We remain open to joint efforts, based on mutual respect, with anyone who is willing to reciprocate. The main task for Russian diplomacy is to create favourable external conditions for sustainable domestic development, which means that we must build up multifaceted international cooperation and create a "good neighbourliness belt" around the country in the broad sense of the word.

We are not playing zero sum geopolitical games, and we are not acting in the spirit of an archaic concept of spheres of influence. Quite the contrary, we are taking practical action to implement the idea that large-scale trans-border problems can only be settled through joint efforts based on the principle of solidarity.

Guided by this logic, we have provided assistance to countries that have been hit especially heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic at the bilateral level and through multilateral organisations. We are ready to continue cooperating with all interested foreign partners to comprehensively overcome the consequences of this common tragedy. Incidentally, this is what distinguishes Russia from some Western countries, which have not only tried to politicise the purely humanitarian battle against the pandemic but have also used it to punish "undesirable" governments, contrary to UN calls for at least the temporary lifting of some of the unilateral restrictions, which are complicating the sanitary and epidemiological situation in these countries.

In this context, it appears logical that even under these circumstances we have built up and strengthened our friendly cooperation with the overwhelming majority of countries in a broad range of spheres this year, including with our allies, like-minded countries and partners in the CSTO, the EAEU, the CIS, BRICS and the SCO.

I would like to use this occasion to reaffirm that we remain open to dialogue with our Western colleagues, provided, of course, they give up lecturing and the policy of blackmail and ultimatums. This would benefit both our relations with them and international security and stability in general.

Question: The New START will expire within a matter of weeks, and any possible extension, if coordinated, will only be temporary because the treaty was signed in 2010 when the situation was completely different. Other arms control agreements are not effective either. How far do you think the nascent arms race might go?

Sergey Lavrov: I believe you have taken note of what President Putin said during his annual news conference on December 17 that the arms race is already underway. Just take a look at the US military budget and the number of programmes it has to create or upgrade weapons. Washington's objective is to ensure its military superiority in order to prop up its weakening global standing at all costs.

The arms control system has fallen victim to that destructive policy. The Americans have destroyed a number of vital agreements and are doing their best to promote initiatives that would benefit them alone. At the same time, they have shown complete disregard for the security interests of other countries.

The New START is the last international agreement that limits the nuclear missile potential of the world's two largest nuclear powers and ensures predictability and verifiability of their activities in this sphere. I would like to remind everyone that it expires next February. We expressed readiness on numerous occasions to extend it as it was signed and without any preconditions for up to five years. This would maintain the current level of transparency in our strategic relations with the United States.

In addition, in light of the deteriorating global conditions, we call for Russia and the United States, which have special responsibility for international security, to launch talks on a new security equation that will take into account all current strategic stability factors and modern military technologies.

As of now, we will wait for the new US administration to determine its approach to the New START and arms control talks in general.

I would also like to remind you about the Russian initiative for lowering risks after the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty. President Putin has put forth practical proposals regarding this. In particular, he reiterated our commitment to the moratorium on the deployment of ground-based intermediate- and shorter-range missiles until US-manufactured missiles of similar classes appear in the respective regions, and called on the NATO leadership to consider the possibility of declaring a reciprocal moratorium and specific options of reciprocal verification measures. The ball is now in NATO's court.

Question: Throughout 2020, we have witnessed confrontation, attempts to stage revolutions and even wars near Russia's borders, that is, in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Nagorno-Karabakh. The situation in Moldova also causes concern. Should we expect new unrest in the post-Soviet space next year, especially considering the traditional desire of US Democratic administrations to help democracies "triumph" all over the world?

Sergey Lavrov: President Vladimir Putin commented on this matter in great detail at his December 17 news conference.

Foreign interference in the domestic affairs of post-Soviet states did not begin yesterday. Suffice it to recall the February 2014 coup d'état and the armed takeover in Ukraine, supported by Washington and Brussels. In 2020, they tried to use a similar "colour revolution" scenario in Belarus.

We were repeatedly convinced that, in the pursuit of geopolitical gain, our Western colleagues easily sacrifice the stability of entire states, instil inter-ethnic discord and put fraternal nations at loggerheads. The West historically uses the divide-and-conquer approach.

At the same time, we hope that the situation in the post-Soviet space will mostly remain stable. We have reasons to think so. For example, Russia's consistent efforts made it possible to reach a ceasefire agreement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. Signed on November 9, the trilateral statement paves the way for the long-term and full-fledged resolution of the crisis around Nagorno-Karabakh on an equitable basis and in the interests of the Armenian and Azerbaijani peoples.

We believe that the people of Belarus themselves and their legitimate representatives, rather than impostors and their Western handlers, will decide the future of Belarus. We hope that Moldova will uphold its well-balanced foreign policy and will continue its non-alignment policy, aiming to steer clear of NATO and other military alliances.

On January 10, 2021, early presidential elections will take place in Kyrgyzstan, followed by repeat parliamentary elections in spring. We are confident that our Kyrgyz friends have drawn the appropriate conclusions from the October 2020 developments, and that all political forces will show a responsible attitude towards the future of their country.

In turn, Russia will continue to promote peace, security and stability in the post-Soviet space, including within the framework of the Union State, the Eurasian Economic Union, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Question: Quite recently, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia have adopted a statement on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, incidents involving shootouts are being reported in the region once again. At the same time, there are still no details about substantive talks on Nagorno-Karabakh. Do you anticipate that Russian peacekeepers may happen to be in the firing line between the warring parties next year?

Sergey Lavrov: We believe that it is necessary to unfailingly fulfil all agreements, formalised by the parties in the November 9, 2020 joint statement by Vladimir Putin, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan. In this context, we continue our mediatory cooperation with Baku and Yerevan.

The situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone is returning to normal. We are happy to note the commitment of Baku and Yerevan to fulfil their obligations and to gradually stabilise the overall situation. I would like to note that the parties remain highly cooperative in addressing matters on the ground. In turn, Russia continues to perform its duties responsibly and effectively as a guarantor of the ceasefire agreement. So far, no provocative actions against Russian peacekeepers have been recorded.

The only noticeable violation was recorded on December 13 in a section of the demarcation line where no Russian peacekeepers were stationed. Energetic efforts of the Russian peacekeeping contingent's commanders during contacts with Azerbaijani and Armenian partners made it possible to prevent the incident from escalating. We will continue to do our utmost to prevent violations of the ceasefire agreement.

The agenda includes efforts to prevent any violations of the ceasefire, to remove explosive devices, to exchange prisoners of war and the bodies of the deceased, to facilitate the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons, to resolve acute humanitarian matters, to preserve historical landmarks, regardless of their religious affiliation, and to unblock transport and economic ties. Certain positive results have been reached in all these areas, but inevitable problems arise because of the extraordinary situation.

Regarding the discussion of previously unresolved political matters, I can reaffirm our readiness to help organise such meetings, as soon as the parties are ready for this, in our national capacity and also on the part of co-chairs of the OSCE's Minsk Group.
Main Foreign Policy Results in 2020 (Основные внешнеполитические итоги 2020 года) / Russia, December, 2020
Keywords: mofa

In 2020, Russia's foreign policy focused on making better use of the potential for international cooperation in the interests of protecting national security, promoting the country's socioeconomic development and encouraging approaches to current global and regional problems that meet the interests of Russia.

Russia proposed a positive unifying agenda in the name of global stability and predictability and stronger central role of the UN as the main coordinating agency of international politics. Russia urged its partners to stop playing zero sum games and to abandon double standards in favour of an open and honest dialogue. Seeking to start a serious and frank discussion on the principles of interstate interaction and ways to address acute current problems, President of Russia Vladimir Putin put forth an initiative of holding a summit meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which they supported in principle and which the international community welcomed.

A vital sphere of our efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic was the repatriation of over 300,000 Russians and the provision of assistance to those of them who found themselves in difficult circumstances abroad. Russia was one of the first countries to start assisting other states' efforts to halt the spread of COVID-19 and overcome its socioeconomic consequences, as well as launched broad-based cooperation for creating, producing and supplying anti-viral medicines and vaccines. Russia helped promote multilateral cooperation in the field of public health through its efforts at the UN and its specialised bodies, first of all the WHO, as well as at the EAEU, the CSTO, BRICS, the SCO, the G20 and other associations.

An important international event this year was the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the establishment of the United Nations Organisation. Russia and a group of 43 states have co-initiated a resolution of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), which included a meeting in commemoration of all victims of the war held on December 1. The majority of the attending countries reaffirmed the importance of collective efforts to prevent the falsification of history and a revision of the causes and results of World War II. It is symbolic that in the year of the 75th anniversary of Victory our traditional UNGA resolution on combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance has been supported by the overwhelming majority of UN member states: 58 countries co-authored it and 130 voted for its adoption.

On June 24, foreign leaders and guests attended festive celebrations in Moscow and a Victory Parade in which many units of foreign armies took part.

Despite the unfavourable epidemiological situation, Russia successfully performed its duties as a chairperson of several international forums and organisations. Some 140 events have been held and over 40 joint documents have been adopted as part of Russia's BRICS Chairmanship. The Moscow Declaration adopted at the 12th BRICS summit on November 17 reaffirmed the basic principles of the group's activities and the closeness of its participants' views on the main issues of the international agenda. They have also coordinated their Counter-Terrorism Strategy, approved the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025 and launched the BRICS Energy Research Cooperation Platform.

Russia's chairmanship in the Russia-India-China group resulted in the adoption of a joint press release that emphasised the importance of the three countries' interaction for global economic growth, peace and stability. They also initiated a new sphere of trilateral cooperation – interaction between their sanitary and epidemiological services.

Russia's CSTO Chairmanship in 2019-2020 included the adoption of strategic documents on collective security and joint efforts against new challenges and threats. The member states have reinforced the fundamentals of multilateral cooperation in the field of regional security and the CSTO's tactical capabilities for combating terrorism, extremism and illegal drug trafficking. The CSTO peacekeeping component was strengthened. During the December 2 meeting of the CSTO Collective Security Council, the leaders of the member states put forth the idea of developing a common agenda and promoting interaction between the CSTO, the CIS, the SCO, the OCSE and NATO.

Over 70 events were held within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), including the SCO Summit on November 10. The member states coordinated their positions on a wide range of international issues and approved action plans for the implementation of the SCO Development Strategy in 2021-2025 and the Programme of Multilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation until 2035.

Integration cooperation also developed consistently with other Eurasian formats. The CIS countries adopted a number of policy-making documents on medium-term CIS development, including the updated Concept of Economic Development of the Commonwealth of Independent States until 2030 and an Action Plan for its implementation in 2021-2025.

A set of anti-crisis measures to ensure the vital needs of the people, maintain mutual trade and free movement of goods, and create conditions for further economic growth were quickly coordinated within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Green corridors were opened for the delivery of critically important products to the EAEU countries and restrictions were adopted on the export of certain commodities. The Strategic Directions for Developing Eurasian Economic Integration until 2025 have been approved, a decision has been taken to grant Uzbekistan and Cuba observer state status, and the start of talks on a free trade agreement with Iran has been approved.

On June 19 in Minsk, Russia and Belarus signed an agreement on mutual recognition of national visas and other documents related to the entry and stay of foreign nationals and stateless person in the Union State. Efforts have been redoubled to coordinate integration roadmaps.

Activities within the framework of the Russian initiative for creating a Greater Eurasian Partnership have reached a new level: the Joint Commission on implementing the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the People's Republic of China held its first meeting, and the updated programme of cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) and ASEAN until 2025 has been approved. The Greater Eurasia concept was supported in the final documents of the SCO heads of state and government meetings.

Amid the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 consequences, the strategic partnership between Russia and China had a major stabilising effect on international relations. Bilateral interaction on important items on the regional and global agendas received additional boost, especially at the UN and other prominent international platforms. The two countries' common positions on a wide range of international issues were included in the Foreign Ministers' Joint Statement adopted in September.

Russian-Indian dialogue was very productive, including within multilateral formats. In February, India hosted a meeting of the Russian-Indian Defence Industry Conference, and in September, the Indra Navy-20 joint naval manoeuvres.

In our cooperation with ASEAN, the efforts focused on promoting practical aspects of interaction, to which end we used ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi's visit to Russia (February), a special Russia-ASEAN ministerial video conference on fighting the coronavirus (June), a ministerial ASEAN Regional Forum session (September) and events held as part of the mechanism for the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting with dialogue partners. Our ideas for building up cooperation to combat the pandemic at the regional level were included in the statement of the leaders adopted at the 15th East Asia Summit on building up the collective capacity to prevent and respond to epidemics (November 14), as well as in the statement of the regional coordinators and chairman of the Asia-Europe Forum on fighting the coronavirus infection (September 7).

Russia's trade and economic priorities were included in the new basic document adopted at an APEC Forum - APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 (November 20).

Constructive relations with most of the Latin American and Caribbean states have kept their positive dynamics. In cooperation with the like-minded nations, Russia energetically supported multilateral efforts aimed at protecting the rights and legitimate interests of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.

As a follow-up to the agreements reached during the first Russia-Africa Summit (Sochi, October 23-24, 2019), the institutionalisation of Russian-African cooperation was strengthened when the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum became operational and an Association of Economic Cooperation with African States was formed (with the participation of a number of major Russian publicly- and privately-owned companies).

Russia's efforts to resolve regional conflicts and crises brought concrete results. Russia's mediation helped put an end to armed clashes and restore peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. Emergency humanitarian aid was provided, proper conditions were created for the return of the refugees and displaced persons, a peacekeeping operation was launched, and the creation of a joint Russian-Turkish ceasefire compliance centre was agreed upon.

Russia's mediation helped achieve a drastic reduction in shelling in eastern Ukraine and, in general, maintain the ceasefire between the parties to the intra- Ukrainian conflict.

We upheld international law within the framework of the settlement of the Kosovo problem and post-conflict settlement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In June, we signed a Russian-Serbian intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in combating terrorism.

Our cooperation with Iran and Turkey in the Astana format helped stabilise the situation in Syria. A considerable contribution to the settlement of humanitarian problems has been made by the international conference on the return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons held in Damascus (November 11-12), which was attended by delegates from over 20 countries, including Russia, Iran, China and Lebanon, as well as several international organisations. At the bilateral level, we continued providing assistance to Syria for overcoming the socioeconomic crisis.

Our active contacts with the conflicting parties in Libya have helped develop a dialogue between them and reduce military-political tension in this North African country.

Substantial efforts have been made in combating new challenges and threats. Our efforts taken during the 63rd session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs ensured the adoption of a resolution on promoting the involvement of youth in drug prevention efforts. We also promoted this subject at the annual OSCE-wide Anti-Drug Conference held in October.

An important result in the field of economic diplomacy was the adjustment of double taxation agreements with Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta.

Russia's involvement in international efforts within the G20 and OPEC+ to ensure the stabilisation of prices in international oil markets amid a dramatic decline in demand, including top-level contacts with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, the United States and several other countries, has helped reduce the volatility of oil prices.

Russia's relationship with the collective West has not improved: confrontational approaches continued to prevail over constructive policies at NATO, the EU and some of their member states.

Nevertheless, we maintained dialogue with the European countries that are interested in cooperation with Russia. On February 18, a joint meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of Russia and Italy was held in Rome in the 2+2 format, for the first time in five years. In October, the

17th meeting of the Russian-Italian Council on Economic, Industrial and Financial Cooperation was held in Moscow.

During the Russian-French summit meeting held via videoconference on June 26, the parties approved a list of joint working groups in the priority spheres of bilateral cooperation. Eight of them have already held their meetings.

Despite the curtailment of the positive agenda in our relations with Germany, we maintain a regular political dialogue. The agenda of the constituent meeting of the Russian-German Economic Council held in December included the opening ceremony for the Russian-German cross-year Economy and Sustainable Development 2020-2022. The year of Germany in Russia was launched in September.

Russia's relations with the United States are based on our awareness of the two states' special responsibility for international security and strategic stability and included our gestures of readiness for mutually beneficial cooperation based on respect for each other's interests. A vital component of our efforts on the bilateral track was the strategic dialogue on nuclear missile arms control.

Seeking to reduce tension in relations with NATO, we took steps to ensure military-political predictability and restraint in Europe. In particular, Russia has adopted a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of intermediate- and short-range ground-launched missiles in Europe.
World of Work
BRICS Media. Reshaping the Global Communication Order? (Медиа БРИКС. Изменение порядка глобальных коммуникаций?) / United Kingdom, December, 2020
Keywords: media, research
United Kingdom


Bringing together distinguished scholars from BRICS nations and those with deep interest and knowledge of these emerging powers, this collection makes a significant intervention in the ongoing debates about comparative communication research and thus contributes to the further internationalization of media and communication studies.

The unprecedented expansion of online media in the world's major non-Western nations, exemplified by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) is transforming global communication. Despite their differences and divergences on key policy issues, what unites these five nations, representing more than 20 per cent of the global GDP, is the scale and scope of change in their communication environment, triggered by a multilingual, mobile Internet. The resulting networked and digitized communication ecology has reoriented international media and communication flows. Evaluating the implications of globalization of BRICS media on the reshaping of international communication, the book frames this within the contexts of theory-building on media and communication systems, soft power discourses and communication practices, including in cyberspace. Adopting a critical approach in analysing BRICS communication strategies and their effectiveness, the book assesses the role of the BRICS nations in reframing a global communication order for a 'post-American world'.

This critical volume of essays is ideal for students, teachers and researchers in journalism, media, politics, sociology, international relations, area studies and cultural studies.
BRICS Alliance and its Quest for Cultural Cooperation: Interview with Victoria Panova (Альянс БРИКС и его стремление к культурному сотрудничеству: интервью с Викторией Пановой) / Greece, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, quotation, social_issues
Author: Kester Kenn Klomegah

Modern Diplomacy brings you the final in the series of interviews that focus on BRICS Alliance and its Quest for Cultural Cooperation. In this interview, Victoria Panova, Co-Chair of the BRICS Civil Forum, Managing Director of the National Committee on BRICS Research, Scientific Supervisor of the BRICS Russian Organizing Committee Expert Council and Vice President for International Relations of Far Eastern Federal University, discusses most of the salient points. Here are the interview excerpts:

In 2015 you headed the NGO Working Group on BRICS, what would you say were the main non-government directions and, to what extent, these have been implemented over these past five years?

Panova:Back in 2006, when there was still the G8 and Russia was chairing the Group that year we, a group of dedicated representatives of civil society and academia led by prominent activist Ella Pamfilova, who was back then chairing the Council on development of human rights and civil society organizations in Russia together with our colleagues in the other G8 countries came up with the idea of the need of much deeper involvement and need for enhanced influence on the part of civil society of our countries on the otherwise quite closed process of governmental meetings of the G8 countries.

There were meetings with business that interested official representatives, but also parallel anti-globalist process trying to counter the official process. We thought that it is vital to make sure our governments here us, but we realized we have to act constructively and joined efforts to launch the full-blown Civil process at the G8, in fact that year was the first time that we garnered attention of all the nine Sherpas (including that of the EU) and had our ideas promoted among the governmental representatives urging them to be bolder and have a real connect with their proper civil societies.

The year 2015 came, the second time for Russia to host initiated BRICS alliance, the G8 was no longer existent at that time, but we were sure changing the composition of states is not altering the essence of what we were trying to do. And it goes without saying that in today's world it should be two-way movement – not just people and society working for their country to be strong and efficient, but the country – its officials – should be ensuring the State does understand the vital needs and wishes of its people. And importance of this idea doesn't change from one type of political regime to the other, doesn't have a different meaning in the Western or Eastern hemisphere, doesn't depend on the level of economic development of the given country and group of countries. Thus, once again, partly with the same enthusiastic civil society representatives, partly the newcomers we came up with the idea to enrich the second track of diplomacy and ensure a broader engagement of BRICS local communities in shaping the global agenda (it should be noted, that two years earlier similar process was also initiated at the Russian Chairmanship in the G20). Our goal was to create an environment for a constructive dialogue between governments and its citizens, promoting mutual understanding and acknowledgement of people's concerns as well as encouraging strong problem-solving relations and generation of innovative ideas.

Within Russian Chairmanship in 2015, we kick-started the BRICS civil process by holding the first Civil Forum. We were looking at previous experience of the kind, but also tried to innovate with extra formats of involvement to ensure our voices are heard to their maximum. This year with the pandemic we experimented even further. In fact momentum wasn't lost even with the travel restrictions and globally introduced lockdowns. We've held unprecedented number of online round tables across all the eight working groups in order to work out comprehensive and inclusive set of recommendations featuring wishes and needs of global, not just BRICS, civil society community.

This format received attention from the BRICS governments and it speaks volumes. As the BRICS governments' officials traditionally attend some of our events, the credibility of our interaction platforms is widely recognized. I think that our important result is the creation of conditions for public sector and civil society representatives to discuss sensitive issues where they can go beyond official talking points and explore new ideas. These consultations provide policymakers with a better understanding of motivations and interests of the other actors and a clearer sense of how their policy initiatives are perceived by the citizens of BRICS countries.

Capabilities to offer policy advice and produce positive effects provided food for thought regarding institutionalization of the BRICS civil process. It would allow our societies to have more profound people-to-people connections, a wider range of joint activities, including cultural exchange. Emerging of intra-BRICS association of NGOs may also upgrade our current consultation platforms and mechanisms. It seems that we are on the way to it.

How would you argue that some of the initiatives have largely remained unrealized primarily due to diverse challenges and due to the geographical locations of BRICS members?

Panova:Challenges related to the geographical remoteness of the BRICS countries have been consistently associated with peculiarities of people-to-people cooperation. Long distances and high costs of travel within our countries, certain underdevelopment of services sectors and tourist infrastructure as well as burdensome visa procedures remain the foremost barriers for BRICS. We also have to remember that BRICS represents 40% of the world population and about 30 % world's land surface that is why it takes time to raise awareness on BRICS and engage our societies into activities of the grouping. Our countries thereby seek to expand the geography of BRICS official events and promote each other's cultures.

Outcome documents elaborated within the BRICS track 2 diplomacy have traditionally comprised recommendations and suggestions in these fields. Among them – to simplify visa procedures, to launch initiatives on cultural tourism, to harmonize standards of educational systems, to establish scholarship schemes promoting cultural and educational exchange. We may witness that these recommendations are gradually addressed, but tangible results could be expected in a long-term perspective only.

Could you please discuss why empowering women, in particular, has become important as one of the latest NGO directions for BRICS? How has this stimulated interest among members of BRICS?

Panova:A primary reason for the growing relevance of women empowerment agenda for BRICS is that in this context our countries encounter a variety of common challenges. Performance of BRICS countries in the international rankings, such as WEF Global Gender Gap Index and the OECD SDG Gender Index displays that we tend to be ranked lower than most of developed and some developing countries are. Despite the fact that our five countries demonstrate relatively high performance in the fields of education and health, we have major gaps in women's economic and political participation.

Among these challenges, we may see the lack of transparency in gender budgeting, low participation of women in decision-making and political processes, gaps in implementation of women's labour rights, including gender pay gap. In all BRICS countries women have to overcome barriers such as lack of professional training to obtain necessary digital skills, prevalence of informal employment and unpaid care work, lack of financing for women-owned businesses, and many others. In addition, stereotypes about the role of women in the society aggravate this situation.

I should say that this issue gained momentum in 2015, when BRICS countries made their commitments to adhere to Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. It also encouraged women and men worldwide to take more active roles in gender mainstreaming. It evolves as a trend, and upstream initiatives began to emerge. Topics on gender equality more often appear at BRICS events organized by our civil society organizations.

Our civil society organizations persistently draw the attention of the BRICS Leaders to the gender agenda. Our governments repeatedly recognized empowerment of women as a driving force for economic growth and agreed on a set of key policy principles to improve the status of women. This year BRICS Women's Business Alliance was established to foster female entrepreneurship and participation of women in international trade. There is still a room for action. Recently the world has seen implications of these gender disparity trends catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic. I can say that balance upset caused by the pandemic revealed those pre-existing problems and pushed forward gender mainstreaming in all countries of the world, not only in BRICS.

I think that continuing efforts of our civil society in this regard will contribute to further formation of BRICS as a prominent example of an alliance uniting socially responsible economies, attaching great importance to ensuring the inclusiveness of its communities and to meeting the needs of citizens.

Despite all you have said above, in what ways would you argue that the group has a unique for developing Civil Society?

Panova:Indeed, BRICS is the grouping of countries from different parts of the world, countries with distinctive histories and cultures, but similar values. At the same time, BRICS brings together great minds of humanity with outstanding creative potential. BRICS is paying higher attention to its human capital and it is but natural to opt for the taking advantage exactly of this potential.

There is one thing that may "kill" the most innovative idea – lack of political will. In this context, BRICS represents an open platform established by our governments as a priority. This is also an important precondition for laying a solid groundwork for the advanced development of our societies.

So, are the negative perceptions really changing about BRICS? What keeps you personally motivated working for this Civil BRICS?

Panova:For over a decade the public image of the grouping has been transforming from "BRICS as marketable product" to "BRICS as a strategic partnership". For some time, BRICS was perceived as not a very successful interpretation of Jim O'Neil's ideas, for another period BRICS has been viewed as "a power to confront the Western dominance". Luckily, the reality has nothing to do with both judgements.

BRICS perception of itself is close to the ideas or Yevgeny Primakov, Russian former Prime Minister. He drafted the concept of the need for maximum multi-vector engagement, championed the idea of no other alternative to the multipolar democratic world and as one of the prerequisites of such – the Russia – India – China strategic triangle which is considered to be a progenitor of future BRIC, and later – BRICS. Still, BRICS as a newly established club mechanism had to earn its place in the system of global governance.

I should say I see much less skepticism about BRICS lately. Probably it is changing due to certain global outcomes of the BRICS economic cooperation while it is only one of three pillars of our partnership (other two are "politics and security" and "humanitarian and cultural cooperation"). Let me give you some examples: in 2020, the total GDP of the BRICS countries amounted to 25 % of the global GDP and in 2015-2019 our GDP have been growing faster than the global GDP. In 2020, the share of BRICS in international trade reached 20 % while over the past five years the mutual exports of have also grown by 45 %. BRICS countries were capable of establishing the New Development Bank and launch effective solutions globally. I must emphasize that it became the first case in history when so called "club mechanism" managed to create its full-fledged financial institution and created it in less than five years.

What keeps me personally motivated is keen interest of our countries' citizens to shape and take part in BRICS agenda. This interest is growing beyond BRICS – today we witness ever-increasing engagement of representatives from non-BRICS societies that is also a positive trend. BRICS is getting more demanded for people, and there is a strong message from our governments that BRICS should be a people-centered institution. I think these are the most essential conditions for creativity and innovation.

In terms of strategic outlook, is it appropriate to conclude the discussion here that BRICS is purposefully looking for a unified Soft Power as part of efforts in dealing with dominance by Western and European countries?

Panova:As I briefly mentioned in my previous answer – BRICS has never intended to be the power dealing with dominance of any states or groups of states. BRICS has grown to be self-sufficient mechanism, and it means that our governments need to respond to the needs of their citizens. These needs formulate grand strategy of the grouping, and it coincides with interests of the most countries in the world. Expanding outreach to its networks, BRICS serves as a proponent of the renewed world order that implies several decision-making centers. I think this circumstance could raise the idea that BRICS endeavors to undermine the world order.

On the contrary, our countries aim to play a stabilizing role in global affairs by promoting respect for the principles of national sovereignty, non-intervention in internal affairs, mutual respect and consideration of each other's interests as well as respect of the international law. As BRICS stands for multipolar, democratic, just and fair world order, it undertakes efforts to make the voices of the developing world heard. And aren't those the core features of peaceful and harmonic world?(Modern Diplomacy)

Cooperation in Culture is a Priority for the BRICS Alliance (Сотрудничество в сфере культуры - приоритет для альянса БРИКС: Интервью с Аленой Перышкиной) / Greece, December, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion, quotation, social_issues

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.

Call for essays: COVID-19, Crime and Corruption in a Connected World (Запрос на эссе: COVID-19, Преступность и коррупция в связанном мире) / China, December, 2020
Keywords: ndb, covid-19

On the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day (December 9, 2020), New Development Bank (NDB) invites you to submit reflection pieces in the form of short essays on the topic, "COVID-19, Crime and Corruption in a Connected World". NDB welcomes the submissions of original contributions that address any one of the following topics:

1. How did COVID-19 disrupt the anti-corruption policy landscape globally?
2. What are the innovative ways of addressing corruption risks related to during COVID-19?
3. How can technology support the fight against corruption in the context of COVID-19?
4. In what way can the capacity building to handle the challenges of anti-corruption, be enhanced to ensure that the pandemic recovery is equitable and sustainable?

Submission deadline: February 28, 2021

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