Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 03.2023
2023.01.16 — 2023.01.22
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Minsk, Moscow continue to strengthen relations, Belarusian top diplomat says (Минск и Москва продолжают укреплять отношения, заявил белорусский дипломат) / Russia, January, 2023
Keywords: brics+

Sergey Aleinik also said that Russia had expressed readiness "to support Belarus if it decides to join the BRICS group and participate in the Russia-Africa summit set to take place in July"

MINSK, January 19. /TASS/. Relations between Minsk and Moscow got significantly stronger last year and this positive trend is expected to continue in 2023, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergey Aleinik said on Thursday. "Our relations got substantially stronger last year. There is every reason to believe that this trend will continue this year," he said following a joint board meeting of the Belarusian and Russian foreign ministries.

Aleinik noted that last year, Belarus and Russia "continued to coordinate their activities within international and regional organizations." "We promoted joint initiatives, standing our ground and actively providing political and information support to each other amid increasing pressure from the collective West," the Belarusian top diplomat stressed.

He also said that Russia had expressed readiness "to support Belarus if it decides to join the BRICS group and participate in the Russia-Africa summit set to take place in July."

                Russia's Sergey Lavrov returns to Africa with aggressive charm offensive (Россиянин Сергей Лавров возвращается в Африку с агрессивным обаянием) / South Africa, January, 2023
                Keywords: expert_opinion, sergey_lavrov
                South Africa

                Barely six months after the Russian foreign minister's first African tour, two more trips are in the offing.

                To call it a new 'scramble for Africa', as some like to do, is clearly hyperbolic. Nonetheless, it can't be denied that the Big Powers are energetically wooing Africa as relations among themselves deteriorate.

                China's new Foreign Minister Qin Gang got off to an early start, visiting Ethiopia, Gabon, Angola, Benin and Egypt last week. United States (US) Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is on a tour to Senegal, Zambia and South Africa.

                And next Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to visit South Africa at the start of a planned second African tour since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 — an act that Moscow evidently needs to justify across the continent. On his July 2022 trip, Lavrov visited Egypt, Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda and Ethiopia, also meeting the African Union (AU) leadership in Addis Ababa.

                The Qin and Lavrov trips could be seen as responses to US president Joe Biden's Africa summit in December, which appeared to have been successful and certainly pulled a big crowd of leaders.

                Though it hasn't yet been officially announced, ISS Today understands that Lavrov will visit Eswatini, Botswana and Angola after South Africa. He will then return to North Africa in February to visit Tunisia, Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco. That would amount to 12 countries plus the AU in just over six months — an impressive diplomatic charm offensive on Africa.

                Yet in a marathon three-hour press conference in Moscow on 18 January, covering the world but mostly Ukraine, Lavrov didn't mention an African tour. In fact, Africa only came into the picture in the very last question of the conference. A Russian journalist asked him to comment on Sputnik TV's interview with South African international relations Minister Naledi Pandor.

                In it, Pandor had demanded, not for the first time, the withdrawal of the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa bill, adopted by the US House of Representatives in 2022. It would impose sanctions on Russian entities — like the Wagner private military company — deemed to be conducting 'malign' activities on the continent. It could also lead to US sanctions on African governments and businesses dealing with such Russian entities.

                US Senate sources believe the legislation was a misguided overreaction by the House to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and that the more sober-minded Senate wouldn't even bother to take it up. Nonetheless, it is remarkable how much negative influence the bill is having on America's relations with Africa.

                The bill plays directly into Russia and Lavrov's narrative about America's supposedly patronising attitude toward Africa. '"This is the colonial paradigm par excellence," Lavrov said on Wednesday. He recalled how former US president Donald Trump's secretary of state Mike Pompeo had told African states in February 2020 that they should stop trading with Russia and China because these two countries were serving their own interests and damaging Africa's.

                He revealed that much of the second Russia-Africa summit, which his government would host in Saint Petersburg late in July 2023, would be devoted to finding ways for Russia and Africa to sidestep such US sanctions. "We are preparing documents on finetuning our interaction mechanisms to the new conditions that involve sanctions," he said. This would entail adjusting investment and trade tools and supply chains.

                Most of all, Lavrov said, "We are shifting to settlements in national currencies" — rather than the US dollar. These changes would not happen overnight, but they were underway, he said.

                The implications of Lavrov's remarks were quite far-reaching. Will all African countries be willing to collaborate with Moscow in elaborating new systems to circumvent US and Western sanctions?

                Something similar is already underway in BRICS — the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa bloc of emerging nations. The bloc has already begun granting loans from its New Development Bank and conducting trade in its own currencies rather than the greenback.

                So it's not surprising that South Africa already seems on board with this project. Pandor told Sputnik that, "We have always been concerned that there is a dominance of the dollar and that we do need to look at alternatives. I think this was one of the reasons we created the New Development Bank of BRICS.

                "The systems currently in place tend to privilege really wealthy countries and tend to be really a challenge for countries such as ourselves, which have to make payments in dollars, which cost much more in terms of our various currencies. So I do think a fairer system has to be developed." She added that BRICS's economic ministers were discussing this.

                So will this project now become Africa-wide? Is President Vladimir Putin going to use the Russia-Africa summit to go beyond rhetoric and recruit Africa into his alternative universe? DM

                              SA assumes BRICS leadership role amid domestic challenges (ЮАР берет на себя роль лидера БРИКС на фоне внутренних проблем) / South Africa, January, 2023
                              Keywords: chairmanship
                              South Africa

                              By David Monyae

                              South Africa assumed the rotating chairpersonship of the BRICS grouping on January 1. It is the second time that South Africa will occupy the chair's seat having played the same role in 2018 since joining the group in 2010. As the BRICS chairperson, South Africa will host the 15th BRICS Summit later this year.

                              Besides the summit, South Africa will also lead the BRICS High-Level dialogue and numerous other events that make up the BRICS calendar. Moreover, the chair of BRICS is granted the privilege of determining the agenda of the summit. South Africa's chairpersonship comes at a time the world is facing a lot of uncertainty with a struggling global economy, the raging Russia-Ukraine war, worsening climate change and rising geopolitical tensions among the major powers. Over the years, BRICS has increasingly become a prominent actor in global affairs with the potential to shape the future of the global order.

                              Accounting for more than 26% of the world's gross domestic product (GDP) and more than 40% of the world's population, BRICS does indeed have the economic and political muscle to influence the trajectory of the global order. As such, the BRICS chairmanship is a unique opportunity for South Africa to stir the bloc along its foreign policy vision. South Africa's leadership coincides with important changes that are taking place within the BRICS group itself. These include the plans to expand the group by adding new members. Countries such as Iran, Argentina, Turkey and Senegal among others have expressed their interest in joining the group. Key group members such as China have welcomed the expansion of the group arguing that this would enhance the group strategic foothold and thus boosting its global influence. Adding new members to the group will make it more inclusive and representative of the Global South it claims to speak for. It is important that the group carefully considers the countries it is willing to admit based on what value they will bring. As the chair of the group, South Africa's voice will have considerable weight in how the group handles the expansion issue.

                              More interestingly, it remains to be seen whether as the only African representative in BRICS, South Africa would push for the admission of another African country.

                              A central element of the BRICS founding mandate was to promote South-South cooperation through establishing vibrant and robust trade, investment, scientific and cultural networks between developing countries. This was a way of reducing the dominance of the North-South orientation of the international order in which Global South countries were exploited and dominated by the Global North. In its 2020-2025 Strategy, the BRICS group detailed ways of enhancing South-South relations. The implementation of this strategy is likely to become a top priority for South Africa as the BRICS chair. Moreover, as the African voice in the BRICS bloc, South Africa will use its chairmanship to push for the reform of global institutions such as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Africa has for a long time demanded representation in the UNSC but its demands have fallen on deaf ears. The continent has also been one of the fiercest critics of the structure of the IMF arguing that it is at odds with Africa's economic development priorities. Hence, South Africa's chairmanship is likely to stir the BRICS group towards the reform of global institutions which underpin the global order the group was established to transform in the first place. Further, issues around sustainable development will also become more prominent in the BRICS agenda in 2023. Sustainable development is one of the group's key priorities outlined in the 2020-2025 strategy. It is a highly important issue in the light of the increasingly devastating effects of climate change over the last few years. Scientists have expressed concerns that the world might surpass the dreaded 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global temperatures if drastic actions are not taken toward sustainable development. With 40% of the global population and 26% of the world's land surface, BRICS is well placed to drive the world towards sustainable development and prevent a climate catastrophe.

                              More cooperation is needed in developing clean and green technologies in key sectors such as energy, transport, and industry in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions. However, it remains to be seen whether South Africa will have enough in its tank to run an effective chairmanship of the BRICS. Within the group, South Africa has the smallest economy and population. For example, China's economy is over 35 times bigger than that of South Africa. China's overbearing influence might render South Africa's chairmanship a lame duck. Further, South Africa is experiencing significant domestic challenges of its own not least the crippling energy crisis which has had a devastating impact on its economy. President Cyril Ramaphosa's attention and energy will have to be divided between his duties as the South African president on the one hand and as the BRICS chair on the other. The former is likely to take precedence.

                              *David Monyae is the Director for the Centre for Africa – China Studies at the University of Johannesburg
                                            Saudi Arabia sees as most probable candidate for joining BRICS in 2023 — expert (Саудовская Аравия видится наиболее вероятным кандидатом на вступление в БРИКС в 2023 году — эксперт) / Russia, January, 2023
                                            Keywords: brics+

                                            A member of the Russian International Affairs Council Yaroslav Lisovolik recalled that the expansion of the association is a priority of South Africa's presidency in 2023

                                            MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. One or two countries may join the BRICS association in 2023 and Saudi Arabia is the most probable candidate, Yaroslav Lisovolik, a member of the Russian International Affairs Council, told TASS on Sunday.

                                            He recalled that the expansion of the association is a priority of South Africa's presidency in 2023. "The probability of BRICS's expansion is rather high. But I don't think it will be a mass admission of states. If an expansion happens this year, it will be one or two countries," he said.

                                            "Among the countries, which are being discussed by BRICS nations and which have expressed their interest in joining this group, Saudi Arabia has highest chances," the expert said, adding that the association is elaborating criteria for the admission of new members. These parameters, in his words, are expected to include a country's leadership in its region and its weight in the global economy, especially "in key sectors, such as energy."

                                            Based on these criteria, Saudi Arabia looks the most promising candidate. "It can be said that Saudi Arabia has leading position in the Middle East. Along with being a member of the Group of Twenty, this country is a key leader on the global energy market and is cooperating with Russia within OPEC+ quite constructively," he explained.

                                            Another criterion for joining BRICS could be the state of a country's economy. "It can be noted that amid the high energy prices, Saudi Arabia demonstrates quite good performance both from the point of view of economic growth and from the point of view of the margin of safety, which is characterized by the level of reserves," Lisovolik said, adding that Riyadh can add a range of new areas to the association's activities, especially in what concerns cooperation between sovereign funds, "which can become a powerful force on global financial markets."

                                            According to the expert, another option for BRICS in 2023 is its staying as it is with those willing to join it forming a BRICS+ association, like in OPEC+.

                                            He noted that the increased interest to BRICS membership is a kind of response to the association's bigger openness and its interest in expansion demonstrated under China's presidency in 2022. "And the reaction of the developing world was not slow in coming. After a certain introspective period of focusing on internal matters, BRICS is now showing higher readiness for building relations with other developing countries," Lisovolik noted.

                                            Another factor attracting new partners is the increased role of developing countries in the world and closer cooperation among them, including within international organizations and forums, such as the Group of Twenty.

                                            Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier that at least 12 nations were demonstrating interest in joining BRICS.

                                                          Algeria aspires to becoming key energy provider to Europe, but conflict with Morocco is a problem(Алжир стремится стать ключевым поставщиком энергии в Европу, но конфликт с Марокко является проблемой) / Russia, January, 2023
                                                          Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion

                                                          Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts

                                                          In today's global energy crisis, Algeria, being the largest natural gas exporter, is trying to make the most. Amid the BRICS expansion, and following other Arab League members Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Algeria applied to join the group in November 2022. The country is a member of OPEC, and the African Continental Free Trade Area, as well as the Arab Trade Zone. It enjoys good relations with India, China, and Russia - thus it is well positioned to grow as an emerging energy power, but faces many regional challenges pertaining to its tensions with Morocco and it's been the target of Washington pressures to cut ties with Moscow.

                                                          Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Algeria in May 2022, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in turn, during his visit to Saudi Arabia, met with Algerian Prime Minister Aymen Benabderrahmane, and both vowed to enhance their bilateral relations.

                                                          Algiers has indeed maintained very close relations with both Moscow and Beijing: the former held joint military exercises with the North-African country near the Moroccan border in November 2022. Moreover, Moscow provides about 80% of Algeria's weapons. Algiers in fact is Russia's third-largest arms importer, after India and China. As for China, it has been Algeria's main exporter since at least 2013. More recently, in November 2022, Algeria and China signed a second five-year strategic cooperation pact. This is one of the reasons why the two Eurasian powers have welcomed the country's application to the BRICS group.

                                                          Algeria's windfall profits from its energy exports exceeded $50 billion in 2022, up from $34 billion in 2021 and merely $20 billion in 2020. The country intends to double gas exports, thus reaching 100 billion cubic meters per year. Moreover, on December 22, Berlin and Algiers signed a memorandum of understanding for constructing the first green hydrogen plant in the North African country. The deal involves German gas company VNG and Algeria's state-owned oil company Sonatrach. The plant is expected to have a 50 MW production capacity. In addition, Algeria plans to sell its spare electricity capacity to Europe.

                                                          As the EU-27 seeks to disconnect energy from Russia, the EU is willing to strengthen its gas trade with Algeria, and this explains much of the diplomatic work going on. A sign of that is the fact that EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson visited Algiers in October 2022, while the French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne met her Algerian counterpart Aimene Benabderrahame there.

                                                          Navigating the boom in energy exporting, Algiers also aspires to increase its diplomatic power. As mentioned, tensions with neighboring Morocco are still a problem, however. For instance, the latter was recently forced to cancel its participation in the soccer African Nations Championship (CHAN) because Algeria has closed its airspace to all Moroccan flights - borders in turn have been closed since 1994. In October 2021, I wrote that a large part of the international community at that time did not find this conflict to be a hard-pressing issue but this should change, as the situation escalates, with economic impacts in Europe. The current conflict in Ukraine might end up contributing to placing the Moroccan-Algerian dispute into the spotlight.

                                                          French President Emmanuel Macron in an interview with LePointed said he does not believe in the possibility of a war erupting between the two neighbors, however some experts believe that this is a real risk.

                                                          According to the World Bank forecast for 2023, due to Algerian inflation, Moroccan economic growth will be much higher than Algeria's one - while Egypt remains the fastest growing economy in North Africa. In an increasingly geopoliticized world, the two Maghreb countries' economic and territory dispute might also translate into political consequences abroad.

                                                          One should keep in mind that Washington has been working with its European allies to find further non-Russian liquified natural gas (LNG) supplies from Africa and other regions, and the US has asked North African countries to increase gas production to supply Europe, while pressuring traditional Russian partners to distance themselves from Moscow. Once again, one can see how, in today's world, it is becoming hard and harder to insulate industries from geopolitical disputes. Algeria has strong links with Russia, and even Morrocos (traditionally a Western ally), seeks to maintain "positive neutrality" with regards to Moscow.

                                                          In any case, both Morocco and Algeria compete for European markets and also for diplomatic influence. Algeria aspires to become Europe's main exporter of green hydrogen, while Morocco so far has taken a lead in this sector.

                                                          The hard fact, though, is that the North African region at the moment cannot solve Europe's energy problems. European plans, as well as their North African partners' ones, often get entangled in local political conflicts. For instance, the Nigeria-Morocco pipeline is planned to have its drop-off point in the disputed Western Sahara area. Former US President Donald Trump's own recognition of Morocco's claim over the region, which is controlled by the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, was a kind of "quid pro quo" after the Moroccan authorities in Rabat normalized the country's relations with Israel. This American diplomatic decision however greatly increased tensions in the region, with potential bad outcomes for Europe, as the specter of a war over Western Sahara still haunts both continents.

                                                          In any case, to sum it up, it would not be too realistic to expect a very robust energy supply from North African pipelines, and Europe's economic, industrial and energy crisis remains deadlocked.

                                                                        Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at the news conference on the performance of Russian diplomacy in 2022, Moscow, January 18, 2023 (Выступление Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова и ответы на вопросы СМИ на пресс-конференции, посвященной деятельности российской дипломатии в 2022 году, Москва, 18 января 2023 года) / Russia, January, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech

                                                                        Good afternoon, colleagues.

                                                                        Our tradition has been to meet at the beginning of the new year to discuss the results and events of the past year. 2022 was difficult and even unique to some extent. It reflected deep-rooted trends in geopolitics and the international aspirations of the leading states, which had been brewing for more than a decade.

                                                                        Our Western colleagues tried to turn Ukraine and the developments around it into the main media, political and economic event, accusing the Russian Federation of the troubles in the global economy because of its "aggression" against Ukraine. I do not want to dwell on refuting these assertions. The statistics of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and other international agencies convincingly show that the crisis had been developing long before the start of the special military operation. President of Russia Vladimir Putin repeatedly cited data showing the emergence of negative phenomena in the global economy, primarily due to the egoistic position of the United States and its allies.

                                                                        What is happening in Ukraine now is the result of preparations by the US and its satellites for the start of a global hybrid war against the Russian Federation. Nobody is hiding this fact. This is clear from statements by unbiased Western politologists, scientists and politicians. In his recent article, Ian Bremmer, political science professor at Columbia University, wrote: "We are not in a cold war with Russia. We are in a hot war with Russia. Now it's a proxy war. And NATO is not fighting it directly. We are fighting it through Ukraine." This admission is frank and this conclusion is on the surface. It is strange that some people try to refute it. Recently, President of Croatia Zoran Milanovic said that this is a NATO war. An open and honest statement. Several weeks ago, Henry Kissinger (before he urged NATO to accept Ukraine in his recent article) wrote in clear terms that the events in Ukraine were a clash, a rivalry of two nuclear powers for control over that territory. It is clear enough what he meant.

                                                                        Our Western partners are cunning while vehemently trying to prove that they are not fighting Russia but are only helping Ukraine respond to an "aggression" and restore its territorial integrity. The scale of their support makes it clear that the West has staked a great deal on its war against Russia; this is obvious.

                                                                        The events surrounding Ukraine have brought to light the implicit push by the United States to drop attempts to reinforce its global position with legitimate means and to adopt illegitimate methods to ensure its dominance. Anything goes. Once revered mechanisms and institutions that were created by the US-led West have been discarded (and not because of what we are seeing in Ukraine). Free market, fair competition, free enterprise, the inviolability of property, and the presumption of innocence, in a word, everything the Western globalisation model relied on collapsed overnight. Sanctions have been imposed on Russia and other objectionable countries that do not comply with these tenets and mechanisms. Clearly, sanctions can be imposed any time on any country, which, in one way or another, refuses to mindlessly follow American orders.

                                                                        The European Union has been completely subsumed by this US dictatorship (there's no point in discussing this at length). The signing of the Joint Declaration on EU-NATO Cooperation on January 10 was the high point of this process, something that has been in the making for several years. It states explicitly that the alliance and the EU's goal is to use all political, economic and military means in the interests of the golden billion. This is exactly what it says: in the interests of the one billion residents of NATO and the EU countries. The rest of the world, to quote High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, is a "jungle" that stifles progress in the "garden" and must, therefore, be reformatted, adjusted to their needs and turned into new-style colonies in order to use new methods to ruthlessly pump out resources from them. These methods are all too familiar and include demonisation, blackmail, sanctions, threats of force, and much more. The West's course on destroying traditional ties between historical partners in different regions and fragmenting and destabilising them has become more salient. We can see this in the Balkans and in the post-Soviet space, especially if we take a closer look at what the United States, their "clients" and "fixers" are doing in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.

                                                                        Everything that is happening around Ukraine has been in the making for a long time. The first Maidan protest took place in 2004 when European officials declared for the first time that Ukraine had to choose sides and decide who it was with, the West or Russia. Since then, this either/or approach has been consistently promoted by the West in its policies in this region. Those who chose the wrong side or believed that their historical and family ties, and their traditions and religious beliefs bonded them with the Russian Federation (even though they lived in Ukraine), were at first more or less delicately, and then ruthlessly, ground down, excluded from political life and criminally prosecuted. They killed intractable journalists and politicians and closed media outlets that did not promote the official point of view. The creation of a police-run Nazi state was in full swing. In fact, it has now been created with the blessing of the West. They used the "either with the West or Russia" choice to identify those who were against the West and proceeded to severely punish them.

                                                                        Coming back to the NATO-EU Declaration – this is an interesting document. These two organisations are being presented as an alliance of democracies against autocracies amid global rivalry. A patently confrontational agenda has been announced for the world to hear. Europe has waived its independence. The Joint Declaration directly subordinates Europe to NATO. It includes commitments to serve US interests in matters of geopolitical containment of Russia and China. Their declared goal – well known to everyone before but now laid out in black and white – is to enable the US-led alliance to achieve global preeminence.

                                                                        NATO is not limited to organising life on the European continent. In June 2022, NATO's Madrid Summit declared that the military bloc had a global commitment, specifically in relation of the Asia-Pacific region, which they call the Indo-Pacific region. It is clear that they are attempting to make overtures to India to create additional problems in its relations with China. Their battle-cry is indivisibility of security in the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions. Mere word play. Since the 1990s, the same commitment to the principle of indivisibility of security was declared by the OSCE and Russia-NATO Council. This term was used to mean equal security for every state and an obligation not to strengthen one's own security at the expense of another's. Now it has been taken out of context and given a new meaning – the indivisibility of interests of NATO and the Indo-Pacific region. The difference is obvious.

                                                                        In the so-called "Indo-Pacific region," the West is out to create bloc architecture against Russia and China. With this aim in view, they have consistently been destroying (although they prefer to keep quiet about this) the decades-old mechanisms and formats of cooperation created around ASEAN based on equality, consensus, and a balance of interests. Instead, they are putting together military blocs. A shining case in point is AUKUS, an Anglo-Saxon bloc in Asia, which includes the US, the UK, and Australia). Japan is under pressure to join it as well. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's recent visit to Washington ended up confirming this course. Japan is militarising again. As I understand it, Japan is bracing to alter the articles in its constitution that prevent it from doing this. The process is underway.

                                                                        I will not speak now about the West's actions in other geopolitical areas. Today we regard the policies of the US and the West as a whole as the main problem creating difficulties in all areas. In short, this is what it means. Washington's policy of dictate in international affairs means precisely that the Americans can do anything anywhere they want, even at the other end of the Earth. They do what they think is necessary. All other countries cannot do anything without the US's approval, even in response to direct security threats the US creates on their borders.

                                                                        Like Napoleon, who mobilised nearly all of Europe against the Russian Empire, and Hitler, who occupied the majority of European countries and hurled them at the Soviet Union, the United States has created a coalition of nearly all European member states of NATO and the EU and is using Ukraine to wage a proxy war against Russia with the old aim of finally solving the "Russian question," like Hitler, who sought a final solution to the "Jewish question."

                                                                        Western politicians – not only from the Baltics and Poland but also from more reasonable countries – say that Russia must be dealt a strategic defeat. Some political analysts write about decolonising Russia, that our country is too big and "gets in the way." The other day I read an item in The Telegraph that called for liberating Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria, while leaving Karelia, Koenigsberg and the Kuril Islands for negotiations. Of course, it is a tabloid, but we have to read yellow sheets because they sometimes make headline news.

                                                                        Quite a few such statements have been made, including in our non-system opposition. No Western politician has refuted them. President of France Emmanuel Macron, who proposed creating a European Political Community as a format which all European countries apart from Russia and Belarus will be invited to join, has also suggested convening a conference of European states. He suggested that it should be open for the EU member states, Eastern Partnership countries (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan), as well as Moldova and Ukraine. I doubt that Belarus will be invited. The potential participants as the EU states and Eastern Partnership countries, plus – note this - politically active emigres from Russia. It has been said (not in Macron's presentation but in subsequent comments) that some Russian regions, which are trying to maintain ties with Europe, could be invited as well. I believe that everything is clear. It is not a black-and-white situation, contrary to what our Western colleagues claim; it reflects their strategy of global domination and unconditional suppression of all countries on pain of punishment.

                                                                        The Western politicians are talking only about sanctions. Ursula von der Leyen has recently said in Davos that new sanctions will be imposed on Russia and Belarus, that they know which sanctions to adopt to strangle the Russian economy and cause it decades of regression. This is what they want. They have shown their true colours. For many years, UN Security Council members discussed sanctions against countries that violated international law or their obligations. And every time the Western countries that initiated such measures promised that the sanctions would not harm the people but would be targeted at the "regime." What became of their promises?

                                                                        They openly say that sanctions against Russia are designed to incite the people to rise in a revolution to overthrow the current leaders. Nobody is observing or intends to observe proprieties any longer. But their reaction and frenzied attempts to ensure, by hook or by crook, by any foul means possible, the domination of the US and the West, which Washington has already brought to heel, is proof that, historically, they are acting contrary to the objective course of events by trying to stop the rise of a multipolar world. Such change does not happen on orders from the high offices on the Potomac or in any other capital, but for natural reasons.

                                                                        Countries are developing economically. Look at China and India (our strategic partners), Türkiye, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt and many African countries. Considering their immense natural resources, their development potential is enormous. New centres of economic growth are emerging. The West is trying to prevent this, in part, by exploiting the mechanisms created to service its interests within the globalisation framework it created. The role of the dollar as a reserve currency is very important in this respect. This is why in our contacts through the SCO, BRICS, the CIS, and the EAEU, and in our cooperation with associations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, we are doing all we can to create new forms of interaction to avoid dependence on the West and its neocolonialist methods (that are now clear). President of Russia Vladimir Putin spoke about this frankly and clearly. These methods are used with the express purpose of robbing the rest of the world in these new conditions. In dealing with our reliable partners and friendly countries, we are developing forms of cooperation that will benefit all of us. Those who want to subdue the entire world have no say in it.

                                                                        These are my thoughts on the past year. The main point is that the processes that took place did not start yesterday, but many years ago. They will continue still. It takes time to create a multi-polar world and finalise the relations needed for the triumph of democracy and justice and for the observance of the UN Charter principle of respect for the sovereign equality of all states. The UN Charter is a good foundation. At the time it was adopted, it was a revolutionary document. Unfortunately, the West distorted all its correct principles. It did not respect the principles of sovereign equality of states, non-interference in internal affairs and peaceful settlement of disputes. The United States used its armed forces abroad hundreds of times since the establishment of the UN. In the majority of cases, it crudely violated the UN Charter.

                                                                        It will take a long time to create a multipolar world order. This will take an entire historical era. We are now in the midst of this process. Sometimes, direct participants of such major events do not see everything immediately. This is why we value so greatly that we are in constant contact and share our opinions and impressions with each other. I am referring not only to our foreign partners but also to media colleagues. Your observations and the questions that you want to ask are useful for us.

                                                                        Question: What's your take on current relations between Russia and the Latin American countries?

                                                                        Sergey Lavrov: As with almost all developing regions around the world, I believe our relations with Latin America are on the rise. We have created a ministerial mechanism to harmonise approaches between the Russian Federation and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). It was convened a couple of times in the format that included Russia and four CELAC countries. It had to be put on hold due to COVID-19-related restrictions, but we will resume cooperation soon.

                                                                        Of course, there are countries, primarily, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, with which we have longer-standing, deeper and more intensive cooperation than with other countries in the region. We appreciate the history of our relations and solidarity on most international political issues. We always support each other during voting at the UN General Assembly.

                                                                        As you may be aware, Cuba has been under illegal and unilateral US sanctions since the Cuban Revolution. The United States is the only country that votes for keeping these sanctions in place. Sometimes, other island nations side with them. However, the overwhelming majority of all UN members vote for lifting this illegal blockade immediately.

                                                                        As we move forward in our relations with our long-standing partners, whom I just mentioned, we want other Latin American countries to be part of our priorities as well. We are not pursuing any Monroe Doctrine. When we come to a region, we are not carrying along any risks or threats to subsume a particular country into our orbit or to advance certain political forces to the helm of power.

                                                                        Over the past 20 years, we have had good relations with all countries of the region, regardless of whether the country has moved towards the left or swayed to the right following the most recent elections. We will continue to expand our relations.

                                                                        The new President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was sworn in just the other day. President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with him and also spoke with former President Jair Bolsonaro and thanked him for his cooperation. I contacted my colleagues from Brazil. Yesterday, I went to the Embassy of Brazil in Moscow and made an entry in the Book of Condolences for the great football player and Brazilian citizen Pele. I spoke with the Brazilian Ambassador to Russia, Rodrigo Baena Soares, about current plans.

                                                                        Argentina, Mexico, Bolivia. Peru. I want to make sure I don't miss anyone. We are interested in mutually beneficial cooperation with all these countries. We also want Latin America to strengthen its Latin American-Caribbean unity.

                                                                        As I understand, Brazil said that it is about to rejoin CELAC, which will allow this pan-regional association to resume its activities soon. We hope that CELAC will make its voice heard in the process of addressing key issues that are arising as this very multipolar world that we are all talking about is in the process of taking shape.

                                                                        Brazil is a BRICS member. Argentina has also announced its interest in joining this association. As far as I understand, several other Latin American countries are also planning to join.

                                                                        At this point, we are ready to cooperate through the BRICS+ format. The five association members see eye to eye with us on this score. We have teamed up with our Chinese friends to approve the criteria for other countries wanting to join BRICS. Probably, speaking about the Latin American region's interests, it would make sense for CELAC to consider items on the BRICS agenda. Also, other CELAC countries would benefit from the Latin American countries that participate in the BRICS activities representing their interests in BRICS. Russia has observer status with the Central American Integration System (CAIS). We maintain contacts with the Central American Parliament as well. We enjoy observer status with the Association of Caribbean States. We maintain regular contacts with the South American Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Andean Community, and the ALBA Association, which, as I understand, is on its way to finding a second wind, which is a very welcome development.

                                                                        We appreciate the fact that not a single Latin American or Caribbean country, with the exception of the Bahamas, joined the anti-Russian sanctions.

                                                                        As a result, Russian exports to Latin America increased by almost 10 percent last year. Our cultural and humanitarian ties are getting stronger. Not long ago, Moscow, St Petersburg and several other Russian cities marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of outstanding scientist Yury Knorozov who is known to have deciphered the Mayan script, for which he is held in high esteem in Mexico and other countries of the region. Thousands of Latin American students (mostly Cubans) study at our universities. Tours to Cuba, Venezuela and other countries of the region with great resort destinations have become increasingly popular. We have visa-free travel arrangements with 27 out of 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries, which fact spurs people exchanges and contacts at various levels.

                                                                                      Press release on Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's visit to the Embassy of Brazil in Moscow (Пресс-релиз о визите Министра иностранных дел Сергея Лаврова в посольство Бразилии в Москве) / Russia, January, 2023
                                                                                      Keywords: mofa, sergey_lavrov

                                                                                      On January 17, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the Embassy of the Federative Republic of Brazil in Moscow, where he left a message in the book of condolences in connection with the death of the legendary footballer Pele, noting his outstanding contribution to the development and promotion of football.

                                                                                      During a meeting with Ambassador of Brazil to Russia Rodrigo Baena Soares, the sides emphasised their mutual determination to ensure continuity in the Russian-Brazilian strategic partnership, and confirmed their commitment to strengthening bilateral cooperation in the political, trade, economic, scientific, technological, cultural and humanitarian spheres.

                                                                                      The parties noted their interest in increasing foreign policy cooperation at international forums, primarily BRICS, the G20, the UN and its Security Council, and in developing Russia's relations with integration associations in Latin America and the Caribbean, in particular with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR).

                                                                                                    Investment and Finance
                                                                                                    Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                                                                    Russia-China trade turnover to be calculated in rubles and yuan — Lavrov (Товарооборот между Россией и Китаем будет рассчитываться в рублях и юанях — Лавров) / Russia, January, 2023
                                                                                                    Keywords: sergey_lavrov, trade_relations

                                                                                                    MOSCOW, January 18. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes that the trade turnover between Russia and China will soon be calculated in rubles and yuan, not in dollars, he said on Wednesday.

                                                                                                    He said that by the end of 2022, the trade turnover between the countries broke a record and reached around $200 bln. "This will probably happen soon," he said commenting on the calculations in rubles and yuan.

                                                                                                    He added that the share of trade between Russia and China in national currencies has reached roughly half of turnover, recalling the array of sanctions was imposed against Russia with the purpose of harming the country's economy. China understands that at some point the West may turn its attention on them, the minister said. It has already been announced that Western countries need to avoid any kind of dependence on the People's Republic of China, he stated. "That is why we, together with the People's Republic of China, are moving gradually towards a reduction of dependence on those Western instruments and Western unreliable partners. Half of our trade turnover is already settled in yuan and rubles. And this share is rising fast and will grow even higher," Lavrov said.

                                                                                                    He also stated that Russia and China have close cooperation in the international arena, including the UN, as well as in combating new challenges and threats, through the SCO, BRICS, and cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union and China "in harmonizing Eurasian integration and the Chinese Belt and Road Project."

                                                                                                    Lavrov also mentioned the two nations' military and military-technical cooperation, as well as joint drills, saying "all of this, of course, improves our strategic partnership".

                                                                                                                  'SA Should Advance Agri Trade as Brics Chair' (ЮАР должна продвигать сельскохозяственную торговлю в качестве председателя БРИКС) / South Africa, January, 2023
                                                                                                                  Keywords: trade_relations
                                                                                                                  South Africa

                                                                                                                  With South Africa now in the driving seat of the Brics grouping of nations, the nation's farming hotshots are hopeful that this also presents an opportunity to advance agricultural trade.

                                                                                                                  This, after President Cyril Ramaphosa said that South Africa will use its role as the 2023 chair to advance the interest of Africa as a whole. Other African nations will be also invited to the Brics summit in South Africa later this year.

                                                                                                                  Brics is an acronym for the powerful grouping of the world's leading emerging market economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

                                                                                                                  Agbiz chief economist Wandile Sihlobo told Food For Mzansi that as the Brics chair, South Africa has an ideal opportunity to influence the agenda and advance the agricultural trade interests of the country.

                                                                                                                  "China and India are some of the key markets South Africa is interested in. They are growing economies, with large populations. We will be pushing our fruits, beef, and wine interests in these markets.

                                                                                                                  "South Africa's agriculture sector is export-oriented. We already export half of what we produce in value terms. So, as we push expansion in production domestically, we will be pushing our export interests in platforms such as Brics," he said.

                                                                                                                  'Farmers are barely coping'

                                                                                                                  Meanwhile, farmers will be looking to government to also use its Brics positioning to curb rising input costs of fertiliser. Globally, fertiliser costs have increased by as much as 80% in the awake of Russia's war against Ukraine.

                                                                                                                  Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede said he was hopeful that profitable farming would be on the Brics agenda. He said farmers were barely coping with the price of shipping, packaging, diesel and electricity costs which were the basics needed.

                                                                                                                  "We have been appealing to government to have a look at this situation because it threatens South Africa's food security status if farmers can no longer farm profitably.

                                                                                                                  "Given our relationships within the Brics context, we should look at the landscape at which agriculture operates. For example, shipping logistics, exports and imports. Also, how can these countries assist each other in terms of better energy and fertiliser prices."

                                                                                                                  Van der Rheede added that Brics nations should also look more closely to agricultural dumping which is the practice of exporting commodities at prices below the cost of production.

                                                                                                                  "Opening up markets for trades between various Brics partners will be of great advantage to the country's economy and theirs as well. Agriculture needs to have a seat at the table so that we can engage with our trade partners in Brics.

                                                                                                                  "Importantly, it is [also about the development of our] farmers, providing them with the latest technologies. How do we work together to mitigate the impact of climate change on agriculture? How do we open our institutions so that young people can study and get exposure?" he asked.

                                                                                                                  Western Cape fruit exporter and managing director of Riyp Uzair Essack told Food For Mzansi that following a major shift in exporters now looking for alternative markets amid the Russia-Ukraine war, greater legislation is needed.

                                                                                                                  "Putting legislation and political aspects in place to open new markets for exporters in the country is very important. After those market are opened, there should be a conducive environment for those exporters to reach those markets and right buyers," he said.

                                                                                                                                BRICS Undermine Dollar Hegemony with Gold Purchases (БРИКС подрывает гегемонию доллара скупкой золота) / United Kingdom, January, 2023
                                                                                                                                Keywords: economic_challenges, expert_opinion
                                                                                                                                United Kingdom

                                                                                                                                Just before the New Year, the Financial Times ran a piece noting that central banks were accumulating gold at a rate not seen in 55 years. In the third quarter of 2022, analysts estimate that almost 400 tonnes of gold were bought by central banks. That much gold would take around 16 semi-trailer trucks to .

                                                                                                                                In November, traders in the gold market noted that there was a huge buyer entering the market and purchasing very large volumes of gold — a so-called 'whale'. In December it was revealed that this whale was the Chinese central bank. But it wasn't just the Chinese buying gold. Other buyers include Turkey, India, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Qatar, and Iraq. It is worth noting that many of these countries have expressed an interest in joining the BRICS+ alliance.

                                                                                                                                Why are central banks snapping up gold? Most commentators recognise that it is due to geopolitical turmoil. Jonathan Guthrie at the FT, for example, argues that "gold is the currency of fear and mistrust," and that "the democratic west and the authoritarian east are pulling apart amid mutual recriminations". Guthrie is certainly correct that a geopolitical schism is taking place, but since when is gold the currency of mistrust? Throughout history gold-backing has been used to buttress trust in currencies — when sterling was the global reserve currency it was said to be "good as gold".

                                                                                                                                Our period of paper currency is the exception rather than the rule, and it only started in 1971 when the US dollar link to gold was broken. It was 1967 which saw levels of gold purchases by central banks comparable to what we observed at the end of 2022. All of this raises the obvious question: what if these purchases signal the beginning of the end of the paper dollar as the global reserve currency?

                                                                                                                                It seems unlikely that the countries buying gold are going to try to give their currencies gold backing. But it appears probable that the immediate cause of the rush for gold is an attempt to diversify out of dollars. Since the United States seized Russia's dollar reserves after the invasion of Ukraine last year, other countries have grown distrustful of holding dollars as they fear that they, too, could see their reserves seized in the future. Hence the race for gold.

                                                                                                                                Perhaps there is no plan behind the current gold rush, but it may be read in retrospect as the beginning of the evolution of a new global monetary order. It could be the first step toward this reshaping of the landscape, as countries around the world try to find alternatives to the dollar. The West is learning a hard and fundamental lesson: financial systems are built on trust, and if they are weaponised they lose the trust required to maintain their dominance. It would be strongly in our self-interest to attempt to rebuild faith in our financial system if we want to protect our global power.

                                                                                                                                The Post

                                                                                                                                              Political Events
                                                                                                                                              Political events in the public life of BRICS
                                                                                                                                              Brazil seeks to shift its BRICS presidency to 2025 — minister (Бразилия хочет перенести председательство в БРИКС на 2025 год — министр) / Russia, January, 2023
                                                                                                                                              Keywords: chairmanship

                                                                                                                                              Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva assumed office as Brazilian president on January 1

                                                                                                                                              GENEVA, January 18. /TASS/. Brazil has asked its partners in BRICS to delay its presidency in the group that also includes Russia, India, China and South Africa from 2024 to 2025, Brazil's Finance Minister Fernando Haddad said on Wednesday.

                                                                                                                                              "We have put off our presidency in BRICS so that it doesn't coincide with the G20," he told reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos. The minister said the purpose of the move is to "do quality work in both cases."

                                                                                                                                              "We have asked to delay [the BRICS presidency] for one year," he said.

                                                                                                                                              Speaking at a WEF session a day before, Haddad said the string of presidencies at major international groups - the Group of 20, BRICS and the Southern Common Market, known as MERCOSUR - heaps a lot of responsibility on Brazil.

                                                                                                                                              Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva assumed office as Brazilian president on January 1. The socialist said his foreign policy priorities include plans to rekindle integration processes in Latin America, highlighted the role of BRICS and the G20 and touted international cooperation to counter climate change. The new president said Brazil's main task for the next four years would be to restore trust and ensure predictability and stability to make the country more appealing to international investors.
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