Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 07.2023
2023.02.13 — 2023.02.19
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Criteria for BRICS expansion under development, says South Africa's Sherpa (Критерии расширения БРИКС в процессе разработки, говорит Шерпа ЮАР) / Russia, February, 2023
Keywords: quotation, brics+

Algeria, Argentina and Iran have already applied to join BRICS

PRETORIA, February 14. /TASS/. The concept and principles of the expansion of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) will be hammered out in the next three months and presented at the meeting of foreign ministers of member states in June, Ambassador at Large for Asia and BRICS in South Africa's foreign ministry, the country's BRICS Sherpa Anil Sooklal told TASS On Tuesday.

"At the meeting of sherpas and sous-sherpas of BRICS member states that took place in early February in South Africa, we started discussing the expansion of BRICS, thus beginning to carry out the decision made in June 2022 at the BRICS summit to develop criteria for accepting new countries into the group," he said.

Sherpas at the South Africa meeting agreed to develop and adopt the concept for BRICS expansion, the diplomat said. "In the next three months we will have another three meetings in order to reach a consensus on the criteria of recommendations, principles and approaches for BRICS enlargement," he said. "A corresponding report is expected to be submitted for consideration to BRICS foreign ministers, whose meeting will be held in early June. Major efforts are underway now on the concept for BRICS expansion and criteria for adopting new members," Sooklal noted.

Algeria, Argentina and Iran have already applied to join BRICS. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt have announced their interest in membership in the group.

In 2006, Brazil, Russia, India and China founded the BRIC group. The Republic of South Africa entered the organization in 2011, turning it into BRICS. This year the country chairs the group. The summit of BRICS member states will be held in the city of Durban in August.

                Ramaphosa meets Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan as the two nations ramp up people-to-people ties (Рамафоса встречается с китайским вице-премьер-министром, в то время как две страны наращивает взаимодействие между людьми) / South Africa, February, 2023
                Keywords: top_level_meeting
                South Africa

                Pretoria - President Cyril Ramaphosa has met a high-level Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Sun Chunlan in Cape Town as the two nations ramp up widespread efforts to elevate political, defence and economic, and people-to-people ties in the post-Covid-19 pandemic era.

                The Chinese delegation, which met Ramaphosa at Tuynhuys, included Chinese Ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong.

                Sun, an influential Beijing official, who is Vice Premier of the State Council, is in South Africa for the 3rd SA-China High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) meeting, which she co-chaired with Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa.

                During the meeting with Sun, President Ramaphosa conveyed greetings and good wishes to Chinese President Xi Jinping and expressed gratitude to China for the support extended to South Africa at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

                Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan and Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa have co-chaired the 3rd SA-China High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) meeting in Cape Town. Photo: Supplied Sun conveyed Xi's "warm greetings and good wishes" to Ramaphosa and the people of South Africa. She said that China and South Africa share "a special friendship of comradeship plus brotherhood".
                She highlighted that with the close contact between the two heads of State, and the extensive bilateral relations, the China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership enjoys a strong momentum of development, with deepening political mutual trust, fruitful practical cooperation, productive people-to-people exchanges and sound communication and cooperation at a multilateral level.

                Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan and Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa have co-chaired the 3rd SA-China High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) meeting in Cape Town. Photo: Supplied "China always views its relations with South Africa from a strategic and long-term perspective, and is ready to work with South Africa to follow the important guidance of consensus reached by the two heads of State, continue to firmly support each other on issues concerning each other's core interests and major concerns, and deepen experience-sharing on governance and development," she said.

                "The Chinese government has been optimising epidemic prevention and control measures and actively creating conditions for facilitating people-to-people exchanges between China and other countries.

                "China is ready to take the opportunity of celebrating the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties with South Africa to expand face-to-face exchanges in various fields and at various levels and strengthen cooperation with South Africa in education, science and technology, health, culture, tourism and sports," said Sun.

                She said China fully supports South Africa's BRICS chairship and added that her nation is ready to further enhance cultural exchanges and mutual learning among BRICS countries so as to consolidate popular support for the BRICS cooperation, which incorporates Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

                On Thursday evening, Sun chaired the China-South Africa High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism meeting with Mthethwa. The two senior officials presided over the signing of three cooperation agreements in the fields of education, science and technology, and health between Beijing and Pretoria.

                The 3rd PPEM meeting takes place following the two State visits on July 14 and September 2 in 2018 where President Ramaphosa and President Xi strengthened bilateral ties between the two countries, particularly the people-to-people exchanges.

                Last month, the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria revealed that trade volumes between South Africa and China in 2022 reached $56.7 billion, up by 5% "against headwinds" and reached a record high in recent years.

                Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Buti Manamela with Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong at the 3rd SA-China High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) meeting in Cape Town. Photo: Supplied China has been South Africa's largest trading partner for 14 years in a row, and South Africa has been China's largest trading partner in Africa for 13 years in a row.

                "At the 5th China International Import Expo, South African companies delivered a great performance. They achieved an intended turnover of nearly $100 million, which is 1.5 times over last year," Ambassador Chen remarked last month at an event marking the Chinese New Year.

                "The investment co-operation between our two sides has also shown great momentum. Chinese companies have invested over $25 billion in South Africa, and hundreds of Chinese firms took part in South Africa's 4th Investment Conference," he said at the time.

                On Thursday, Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the conspicuous failure of the current global institutions to resolve conflicts fairly, justly and equitably in order to safeguard the interests of all nations had brought despair to millions of people, but it's mechanisms like BRICS and forums like the PPEM providing the solutions in an era punctuated with misery and gloom.

                "Initiatives such as BRICS and such forums as PPEM give hope to the people of the Global South. The PPEM endeavour is rooted in people-to-people relations as the cornerstone of any cooperation and achievements.

                Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa with Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Candith Mashego-Dlamini at the 3rd SA-China High Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism (PPEM) meeting in Cape Town. Photo: Supplied "This form of relations, otherwise known as "soft diplomacy'' puts the people at the centre of development. It speaks to them, their needs and foster mutual understanding and friendship. We have seen how resilient our people are in the face of adversity, and we will do well to harness that resilience and ingenuity to better manage our PPEM programme," said Mthethwa.

                "Your Excellency, the meeting today (Sunday) is important in that it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the journey we have travelled since 2017, the achievements, the challenges and the opening of new frontiers and opportunities as we continue to develop and grow our partnership," he said.
                              BRICS Debates Expansion as Iran, Saudi Arabia Seek Entry (Растет количество дискуссий по поводу возможности входа Ирана и Саудовской Аравии в БРИКС) / USA, February, 2023
                              Keywords: brics+, political_issues
                              Source: /

                              By Antony Sguazzin

                              The BRICS group of nations plans to decide this year whether to admit new members and what criteria they would have to meet, with Iran and Saudi Arabia among those who've formally asked to join, according to South Africa's ambassador to the bloc.

                              Enlarging the group that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa would benefit Beijing, as the world's second-biggest economy tries to build diplomatic clout to counter the dominance of developed nations in the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other institutions.

                              China initiated the conversation about expansion when it was chair last year, triggering concern among other members that their influence will be diluted, especially if Beijing's close allies are admitted. China's gross domestic product is more than twice the size of all four other BRICS members combined.

                              The proposal to expand BRICS will be one of the economic bloc's main focuses this year, said Ambassador Anil Sooklal. South Africa is the group's current chair.

                              "There are over a dozen countries that have knocked on the door," Sooklal said in an interview in Johannesburg last week. "We are quite advanced at looking at a further group of new members."

                              Vote Imbalance

                              The potential repositioning of BRICS comes as developed nations in Europe and North America seek to bolster alliances to push back against the influence of an increasingly dominant and assertive China by forming new blocs and signing trade and security pacts. The so-called Quad, an alliance between the US, Japan, India and Australia, has gained in prominence since being resurrected in 2017 after standing dormant for almost a decade. And in 2021, Australia, the UK and the US entered into a security alliance known as AUKUS.

                              We are living in "the world between orders. We don't know what the new order is going to be," Sooklal said. "We believe we need to play a role in ensuring that we have a more equitable, inclusive, transparent, global architecture."

                              While BRICS accounts for 42% of the world's population, its members have less than 15% of the voting rights in the World Bank and the IMF, according to the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies. Originally known as BRIC, after an acronym coined in 2001 by then-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Economist Jim O'Neill, the bloc was formed in 2009 and South Africa was admitted the following year. It has since tried to forge closer trade relations between members through agreements between their development banks, currency-swap accords and an increase in intra-BRICS trade in local currencies to reduce reliance on the dollar.

                              IMF Counterweight

                              Its five members founded the New Development Bank, intended as a counterweight to the IMF and World Bank, in 2014, and Bangladesh and the UAE joined the institution in 2021. Egypt and Uruguay are expected follow suit soon, according to the NDB's website.

                              With BRICS originally envisioned as a group of expanding emerging-market nations, there is concern that the admission of weaker economies could weaken the ties that the countries are trying to build within the bloc. O'Neill sees little economic logic for additional members.

                              "The case for expansion is very weak in my view unless they really have better collective purpose," he said by email. They would need clear objectives, when it comes to dealing with economic, trade, health, green energy and finance issues, he said.

                              Other countries that have expressed interest in joining include Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain and Indonesia, along with two nations from East Africa and one from West Africa — which Sooklal didn't identify.

                              Algerian media has reported the country's interest and Argentina has expressed a desire to join the group. In Iran, the semi-official Fars news agency reported that the country had applied for membership, citing a foreign ministry official, while Russian President Vladimir Putin last year said he backed Saudi Arabia's potential entry. China's Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a press conference on Feb. 10 that the country backs an expansion.

                              Not all BRICS members are as enthusiastic.

                              While Brazil agrees with the principal of expanding, the nation is still considering its position and is wary of the group being geographically tilted toward Asia, said two people familiar with the South American country's thinking who asked not to be identified as public comment is yet to be made. It also wants Latin American countries to join, the people said.

                              India doesn't want countries to be allowed to join on the recommendations of existing members and wants a process established so that nations have to meet certain criteria to be admitted, said a person familiar with the Asian country's thinking.

                              Relations Tested

                              The implications of expanding BRICS — which South Africa backs — will be discussed in a series of meetings ahead of a full summit of the group in August. The government is confident all the BRICS nations' leaders, including Russia's Putin and China's Xi Jinping, will attend the gathering.

                              South Africa will invite other African leaders to the August summit, be they heads of state or the chairs of regional organizations such as the African Union and East African Community, as part of an attempt to widen the influence of BRICS, according to Sooklal.

                              Holding the group together hasn't been without its challenges. South Africa and Brazil's economies have struggled over the past decade, while Russia's invasion of Ukraine a year ago has tested relations, with the NDB suspending new lending to Russia.

                              "Very often I am asked the question: You are so diverse in so many ways, how is it that you'll function?" Sooklal said. "My extended answer has been there are far more points of convergence than divergence."

                              Antony Sguazzin is a reporter for Bloomberg News based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

                              With assistance by Mirette Magdy, Juan Pablo Spinetto, Golnar Motevalli, Lucille Liu, Gina Turner, Sudhi Ranjan Sen, Simone Preissler Iglesias and Monique Vanek.
                                            Investment and Finance
                                            Investment and finance in BRICS
                                            Political will needed to create BRICS common currency, says expert (Политики должны создать единую валюту БРИКС) / Russia, February, 2023
                                            Keywords: chairmanship

                                            South Africa is taking the reins of the BRICS presidency this year

                                            PRETORIA, February 16. /TASS/. Political will is needed for a BRICS common currency to come to fruition along with the strengthening of financial and economic cooperation among the member-states in the group, Professor of Political Science in the University of the Free State in South Africa Theo Neethling told TASS.

                                            "Theoretically, a single currency could help BRICS member states to eliminate volatile swings in exchange rate. Furthermore, with the necessary political will it would be possible for the BRICS members to move to the creation of a single currency, based on the logic of enhancing mutual trade flows," the expert said.

                                            "At the same time, it is difficult to come up with a time frame for the implementation of such a project and personally, I don't see this happening soon as this is a matter of work in progress," the expert noted.

                                            The establishment of a common BRICS currency should be preceded by greater volumes of national currencies' use in mutual trade and investments, South Africa's Sherpa in BRICS Anil Sooklal told TASS. This is the only way of establishing the foundation for a common BRICS currency, he added.

                                            South Africa is taking the reins of the BRICS presidency this year. An in-person BRICS leadership summit is scheduled for August 2023 in Durban.

                                                          Development dynamics of global financial market favorable for BRICS (Динамика развития мирового финансового рынка благоприятна для БРИКС) / Russia, February, 2023
                                                          Keywords: economic_challenges

                                                          Theodor Neethling noted that Western countries still have the majority of votes in global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. "Western countries also have a stronger voice in terms of the running and functioning of global financial institutions.

                                                          PRETORIA, February 13. /TASS/. The economic might of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has not been duly reflected in the global financial architecture, however, the balance of power worldwide is quickly shifting in favor of the group and can result in the emergence of a new global financial market structure, Professor Theodor Neethling of South Africa's University of the Free State told TASS on Monday.

                                                          "The BRICS share of world GDP measured in Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) terms rose from about 18% in 2000 to about 31% by 2020, a share double that of member states of the European Union," he emphasized, adding that the profile and voice of the BRICS countries in the global financial architecture do not yet reflect this changing economic landscape.

                                                          Neethling noted that Western countries still have the majority of votes in global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. "Western countries also have a stronger voice in terms of the running and functioning of global financial institutions. In view of the above, the New Development Bank, formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank, resulted from political and economic dissatisfaction relating to the disparity between the share of the BRICS countries in the world economy on the one hand, and their actual representation in the global financial institutions on the other," he asserted.

                                                          According to the South African scholar, the New Development Bank is supposed to impact the global financial market and alter its architecture in order to be more representative of the growing economic profile of BRICS in particular and of developing countries in general. "Through the New Development Bank, the BRICS countries have the potential to make a greater impact on the global financial system," he asserted.

                                                          Neethling added that the gradual strengthening of BRICS' positions is underway not only in the global economy but in politics as well. "There is no doubt that BRICS has become an important political entity in international politics in the past decade. After all, BRICS is an organization that comprises the major emerging economies with more than 40% of the world population, almost a quarter of global GDP, more than 16% share in the world trade, and 25% of foreign investment. Also, all BRICS countries are members of the G20 and it is known that all BRICS countries have a significant influence on their regional political affairs," he explained.

                                                          The New Development Bank was founded by the BRICS countries based on an intergovernmental agreement in the summer of 2014. It is headquartered in Shanghai. The bank's goal is financing infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and developing countries.

                                                                        Political Events
                                                                        Political events in the public life of BRICS
                                                                        Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to questions during the Government Hour in the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Moscow, February 15, 2023 (Выступление Министра иностранных дел Российской Федерации С.В.Лаврова и ответы на вопросы на «правительственном часе» в Государственной Думе Федерального Собрания Российской Федерации, Москва, 15 февраля 2023 года) / Russia, February, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: sergey_lavrov, speech

                                                                        Esteemed Mr Volodin,

                                                                        Esteemed colleagues,

                                                                        I am grateful for yet another opportunity to speak to the deputies of the State Duma during these traditional government hours.

                                                                        The interaction between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation is indeed of a friendly nature. Our regular meetings in different formats allow us to provide legislators with information on the work of the foreign policy service, as well as hear your plans, advice and thoughts. This is particularly important for us at this current historical stage when the efforts to create favourable external conditions for resolving our domestic socio-economic goals and improving the living standards of the Russian people, encounter fierce resistance of those who imagine themselves the masters of the destinies of people. They are trying to interfere with our efforts by pushing us back decades and even to ruin our national development under the slogans of "decolonisation" and "preparations for Russia's collapse." In the process, the Anglo-Saxons and the rest of the collective West that have obeyed them without a murmur, are doing all they can to impose their dictate in world affairs. They are doing this to continue controlling the external conditions for the development of all humanity for the sake of their own global domination. They resort to illegal methods including threats, blackmail and outright robbery to punish those that are pursuing independent national-oriented foreign policy.

                                                                        Therefore, our updated Foreign Policy Concept will stress the need to end the Western monopoly on creating a framework of international life. From now on, this framework will be determined not by the self-centred interests of the West but by the fair universal balance of interests in line with the UN Charter that has fixed the principle of sovereign equality of all states.

                                                                        Crudely violating this fundamental principle of civilised international communication, the United States and its allies are obsessed with a maniacal striving to restore a neocolonialist unipolar world order and impede the objective process of the formation and rise of new global centres. As President of Russia Vladimir Putin noted in his speech at the Kremlin on September 30, 2022, they are doing all this to continue "to collect an actual tribute from humanity, to extract rent to be paid to the hegemon." Russia's deterrence over many years has been a component part of this course, including through NATO's expansion to our borders and the turning of fraternal Ukraine into an "anti-Russia," a Russophobic military bridgehead. In the past few years, this policy of Washington and its European satellites has reached a point of no return.

                                                                        We gave up illusions about the true goals of the Westerners long ago. We remembered how they failed to fulfil their specific political commitments, given to the Soviet leaders, not to expand the North Atlantic Alliance. We remembered how Germany, France and Poland renounced their signatures under the agreement between President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition. By doing this, they actually sanctioned the bloody state coup in Kiev in February 2014 under openly Nazi, racist slogans.

                                                                        During all these years, the Western curators were directly pushing the criminal Kiev regime to the power solution of the Donbass problem, shutting their eyes to inevitable ethnic cleansing and the physical destruction of Russians and Russian-speaking people. It is enough to mention the recent cynical confessions by former Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel and ex-President of France Francois Hollande. They admitted that they needed the Minsk Package of Measures approved by the UN Security Council, merely to gain time to allow Kiev to build up its military potential. Petr Poroshenko and Vladimir Zelensky also admitted this. The public statements by these figures are basically a confession; they actually admitted that they disrupted the Minsk agreements that the Western leaders proclaimed a non-alternative foundation for settlement in Donbass. Simply put, all of them lied to us. They are also lying to us now, concealing the truth about the acts of terrorism at the Nord Stream pipelines.

                                                                        NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg joined the chorus of self-incriminating statements. He said in Brussels that the war started in 2014. NATO was preparing for it from the moment of the state coup and the advent of Nazis to power in Kiev with promises to destroy everything Russian in Ukraine and to expel Russians from Crimea. In other words, the goal was to resolve the Russian issue, and the alliance supported it, no matter how hard the successors to those who made previous attempts to do this, tried to reject it.

                                                                        Until the very last moment, we were doing all we could to reduce tensions and find an equitable and mutually respectful agreement. With this in view, in November 2021, President of Russia Vladimir Putin suggested drafting reciprocal legally binding security guarantees with the West. Washington and the North Atlantic bloc arrogantly rejected this initiative. They did not even feel like discussing our lawful concerns.

                                                                        All this left us no other choice. A year ago, on the orders of Vladimir Zelensky's regime, the armed forces of Ukraine, led by the nationalist battalions, began the forceful suppression of Donbass, stepping up the bombing of local towns exponentially. In response to an official appeal from the DPR and LPR, we recognised their independence and provided military assistance under Article 51 of the UN Charter, launching the special military operation.

                                                                        Today, the United States and its satellites are waging a comprehensive hybrid war against us that they have been preparing for many years, using Ukrainian radical nationalists as a battering ram. They are not hiding their goals – not only to defeat our country on the battlefield and destroy the Russian economy, but also to surround us with a cordon sanitaire, making Russia a kind of a "rogue state." For that, they are using their entire toolkit, from direct military support for the neo-Nazis (US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin directly called for this yesterday, citing the need to provide the Armed Forces of Ukraine with high-precision weapons and to train Ukrainian personnel to ensure the success of the regime's new counteroffensives, which are allegedly being prepared) to unprecedented illegal sanctions and outright lies in an attempt to demonise Russia.

                                                                        It came to the point where French Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre accused Russia on February 2 of pursuing a "neo-colonial policy in Africa." That is, Paris, which, together with other major European powers, has committed numerous bloody crimes in African and continues to openly consider the continent its "backyard," is making such accusations against Moscow, which has played a decisive role in freeing the African nations from colonial oppression, in promoting the formation of their statehood, and laying the foundation for their economies and defence capabilities. That's a mental case, the pot calling the kettle black. No comment.

                                                                        Their attempts to isolate Russia have failed. Our enemies had to admit this. The foreign policy adopted by President Vladimir Putin to firmly defend Russia's national interests while at the same time being open to broad and equal international cooperation has proved effective. Our long-term planning consistently relies on the modern world being multipolar, where the countries of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, which constitute the world majority, do not want to live by a Western-centric "rules-based order" invented by the West. Washington, Brussels and London have written those "rules" to suit themselves, and they continue to re-write them as they please.

                                                                        As was predictable in this context, three-quarters of the world's states have not joined the anti-Russia sanctions. All of them have taken a balanced stance on the situation in Ukraine, rightly considering it in the context of the European security crisis that has long been brewing due to NATO's aggressive policy, rather than as an isolated conflict. As President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping said, we need to ensure indivisible security on a global scale.

                                                                        Amid this situation, Russian diplomacy has intensified its work in those areas where multipolarity and a fairer world order are gaining status, and where our partners are ready for honest and mutually beneficial cooperation. Among our unconditional priorities is the strengthening of association formats with our friends, allies and like-minded nations in Eurasia. Integration is expanding in the Eurasian Economic Union, where Russia is presiding in 2023, and the number of countries and international organisations (there are several dozens of them) interested in establishing ties and possibly signing free trade deals with the EAEU is growing, too.

                                                                        Integration processes are getting stronger in the Union State, where most of the 28 integration programmes have been implemented; foreign policy coordination is being strengthened and cooperation within the CIS is being promoted. The CIS has declared 2023 the Year of the Russian Language as a Language of Interethnic Communication. Cooperation as part of the CSTO remains an integral factor of regional security and stability.

                                                                        Together with our Chinese friends, we are working vigorously to strengthen our bilateral strategic partnership, which has reached a historical high and an unprecedented level of trust. The foreign policy link between Moscow and Beijing has cemented the foundation for the emerging polycentric architecture, serving as a balancing and stabilising factor in global affairs.

                                                                        Russia and India are steadily deepening their special and privileged strategic partnership (that's the official term). Russia's ties with Brazil, Iran, the UAE, Egypt, Turkiye, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and many other friendly countries on all continents are growing stronger. The second Russia-Africa Summit to be held in St Petersburg in July 2023 is expected to raise our partnership with our African friends to a new level. We highly value our diverse cooperation with the countries of Latin America and with their integration associations. Russia's relations with some of them have reached a truly strategic level.

                                                                        We continue to be active on multilateral platforms, primarily the United Nations, where Russia and a number of like-minded nations (more than 20) have set up the Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter; we defend the basic norms of international law and the inclusion of the aforementioned principle of respect for the sovereign equality of all countries without exception and non-interference in their internal affairs. These principles are directly enshrined in the UN Charter.

                                                                        The SCO and BRICS have a special place in our foreign policy priorities. We consider these associations as the consummate example of multipolar diplomacy in the 21st century, aimed at promoting jointly developed collective approaches to global affairs. Today, an increasing number of states are striving to establish ties with the SCO and BRICS and become full members. This once again proves both format's growing relevance in the context of the evolution of global governance mechanisms. Within the democratisation of these mechanisms being long overdue, Russian President Vladimir Putin's initiative to establish the Greater Eurasian Partnership including the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN and other Eurasian states and associations is growing all the more important. Interaction between the EAEU and the Chinese Belt and Road project is increasing in this context as well. Integration platforms from other developing regions – the African Union, the Arab League, the GCC, CELAC and many others – are increasingly declaring their independent roles in global affairs. We have established systematic interaction with each of them, as all of them are true pillars of the emerging global multipolarity. In the end, it is they, and not the West, who will determine the external conditions for the development of all countries on our planet.

                                                                        Fighting the falsification of history, primarily the history of the Great Patriotic War, and the spread of Nazi ideology in all its forms and manifestations remain in our focus. The Global Majority, which regularly supports the resolution on the inadmissibility of glorifying Nazism that we introduce annually at UN General Assembly sessions, stands in solidarity with us. However, this year we became deeply concerned with the fact that Germany, Italy and Japan voted against this document for the first time ever. This casts doubt on the sincerity of their repentance for the mass crimes against humanity committed during World War II.

                                                                        The Great Victory gave a powerful impetus to the liberation of the colonial countries and peoples. Our country provided decisive and, more often than not, free support to former colonies. Today we stand in solidarity with the calls to bring the decolonisation process to a fair conclusion. In particular, Paris, which I mentioned earlier, still retains its sovereignty and control over the island of Mayotte, which was annexed from the Union of the Comoros. This state of affairs continues unchanged despite multiple UN General Assembly resolutions calling on France to return this territory. The same applies to the Chagos Islands, which London took from Mauritius. About half a century ago, the British, in defiance of UN decisions, actually banished the locals in order to create a military base there, which has remained operational to this day.

                                                                        We welcome the efforts of non-governmental and parliamentary diplomacy to assert the truth and to restore justice. The Ministry will provide every necessary support to the United Russia Party's initiative to hold an International Forum of Supporters for the Fight against Modern Neo-Colonialist Practices. I know that all other State Duma parliamentary parties are part of this work as well.

                                                                        In addition, we are working with the State Duma and the Federation Council to ensure transparency in the Pentagon's military biological activities at its secret laboratories scattered around the world, far beyond the borders of the United States, in violation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction.

                                                                        Our top priorities include protection of the legitimate rights of Russian citizens residing abroad, consolidation of the multiethnic and multi-religious Russian world, and the strengthening of ties with our compatriots living abroad.

                                                                        We continue to make the most of economic diplomacy levers. In the face of the mayhem perpetrated by the West, we help build up trade and investment ties with friendly states, convert transactions with them to national currencies, and form financial and logistical mechanisms that offer an alternative to Western mechanisms.

                                                                        We focus in particular on strengthening the position of the Russian language and Russian culture. The Ministry's freshly created Department for Multilateral Humanitarian Cooperation and Cultural Relations will work to address these issues and to promote an objective and unbiased image of our country. We spare no effort to help the implementation of President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev's initiative on creating an international organisation to support and to promote the Russian language around the world. The organisation is created under the auspices of the CIS, but will be open to all countries and regions without exception. This work is under way in practical terms.


                                                                        The foreign policy approved by President of Russia Vladimir Putin is a long-term strategic course. Unlike in Western "democracies," it is not tethered to electoral cycles and even less so to anyone's whims. Importantly, it enjoys nationwide support which imparts strength, predictability and stability to our steps in the international arena. All assignments issued by the head of state to the Foreign Ministry will be fulfilled.

                                                                        We will continue to work, employing all modern forms of diplomatic activities, including parliamentary, governmental, scientific, as well as cultural and sports diplomacy. Amid the all-out hybrid war that is being waged against us in all these areas, the pooling of efforts and the daily coordination of our specific initiatives and practical actions is an absolute necessity.

                                                                        I appreciate your focus on Foreign Ministry activities. Let us hear what you think about us. I am ready to participate in an interactive discussion.

                                                                        Question: Don't you think time has come, after Seymour Hersh's publication and NATO leader's confessions, to take more serious action? We had the Treaty of Nystad, under which Peter the Great paid for the entire Baltic region an amount that back then was equal to the Kingdom of Sweden's budget. They are calling us human garbage today. Perhaps, time is ripe to denounce a number of treaties with Norway, the United States, and Finland?

                                                                        Sergey Lavrov: We are now in the process of a major revision of our obligations to international organisations that have been openly discriminatory, grossly violated their statutory principles of equal rights for participants, and are violating the rules of procedure on a daily basis with the sole purpose of undermining the existing consensus with regard to adopting Russia's resolutions.

                                                                        The Council of Europe is among the organisations from which Russia has withdrawn. We also withdrew from the European Court of Human Rights. Speaking before judges yesterday, President Putin reiterated that we were taking every measure to make sure our citizens do not lose the human rights function of the state. Until recently, this function was performed by the ECHR, but not too effectively. We will do a better job in this regard.

                                                                        We planned to stay in the Council of Europe's conventions that are open to the countries that do not participate in this organisation. But they began to voice grievances against us in an attempt to, under these conventions, infringe on our rights that all countries participating in these documents enjoy. We have withdrawn from the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption (the so-called GRECO Group of States against Corruption) precisely for this reason. A number of other agreements under which they are trying to infringe on our rights are part of the same category. They are being reviewed by the Government as part of the law on international treaties where the Foreign Ministry acts as a coordinator.

                                                                        We are taking inventory. We are about to withdraw from conventions and agreements that are no longer relevant, and this move is not politically motivated. There was the 1992 Agreement on guarantees of the rights of citizens of the State Parties of the Commonwealth of Independent States in the field of provision of pensions. All these issues have long been addressed in other legislative instruments.

                                                                        Work is underway to address the entire range of our international obligations. In this regard, we are reviewing the issue of paying fees to organisations where our interests are being infringed upon. We are withholding payments to the OPCW, which introduced an illegitimate mechanism that runs counter to the convention, and a number of other organisations. This work is in full swing. We have several hundred such treaties and conventions.

                                                                        Question: There are allegations that our country is plotting a coup to topple the Moldovan government and that a sabotage group will seize the media, and so on. What's your take on this? Is it Kiev's attempt to draw Moldova into the conflict, also because the Transnistrian issue remains unsettled? Or, is it an attempt to refocus public opinion on other issues since their utility bills have skyrocketed, social tensions are running high and people are disgruntled and insolvent, so they just came up with an image of an external enemy?

                                                                        Sergey Lavrov: It's a combination of the factors you mentioned. There is, of course, Kiev and its EU puppeteers' maniacal desire to undermine Russia's positions in the 5+2 mechanism on the Transnistrian settlement, to degrade our ties with Gagauzia, to declare the Russian Federation guilty of all troubles in Moldova and to demand the withdrawal of our peacekeepers, which are a military group guarding the enormous Cobasna ammunition depot. The Moldovan government led by Maia Sandu (she and nearly everyone else in her government are Romanian nationals) is trying to fend off accusations of having brought that country's socioeconomic policy to a failure which causes mounting public outrage. Her government is whipping up this rhetoric with Kiev's assistance, which made some obscure confidential information about the provocations and a coup allegedly planned by us available to Moldovan government.

                                                                        Although they continue to claim that they must resolve the Transnistrian issues and have the Russian troops withdraw exclusively by diplomatic means, they are being nudged to adopt a wholly different stance where legitimate public processes are suppressed as harshly as possible in order to provide reasons for the West's intervention in that country in much more material ways than before.

                                                                        The Foreign Ministry made a statement to the effect that this is not in our interests, and we want good relations with the friendly and multi-ethnic nation of Moldova. But this is a two-way street. We hope that the politicians at the helm of that country, who made known their desire to join the European Union, going as far as reuniting with Romania or even asking NATO to ensure their security, do not reflect the interests of their people. Calls for holding early elections can be heard in Moldova. This is Moldova's internal affair. But we are not at all pleased about someone using that friendly country for achieving their anti-Russian goals.

                                                                        Question: The Russian Federation is engaged in an extensive construction programme, building Russian schools abroad. There are five of these in Tajikistan and plans to build others in Kyrgyzstan. But it is a long, costly affair. Our rivals build private schools. This is a rapid and efficient option, but it requires involvement from businesses. For this, government incentives are needed, and it is the government that should come up with a vision. Can the Foreign Ministry put forward a vision and a method for establishing a network of Russian schools abroad with business participation?

                                                                        My contacts with colleagues from CIS countries reveal a serious shortage of books in Russian. We supply books, of course, but in small amounts. To compare: foreigners supply as many as one million textbooks per country per year. But the most important problem is that we do not always inquire as to how much literature and what kind of textbooks are needed. It happens in practice that just a few textbooks and several books of fairy-tales arrive. As a result, we are not always able to meet the demand. Should we perhaps do the same as in the new territories?

                                                                        Sergey Lavrov: I think we should apply this experience in all territories that belong to our allies, our CIS, CSTO and EAEU partners, and our bilateral partners such as Azerbaijan, where there is a great yearning to learn Russian.

                                                                        We have established some 20 or so branches of Russian universities in CIS countries. Uzbekistan alone has 11 of them; they are numerous in Kazakhstan, and there are several in Azerbaijan. Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan have established Russian-local Slavonic universities. A lot of work is being done.

                                                                        As for school education, there are special programmes for Tajikistan, in keeping with the initiative President Emomali Rahmon expressed during Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko's visit some time ago. There is already a work schedule, and government funding will be forthcoming. Similar work is being done in Uzbekistan and other countries. The scale is not so large, but we do create one or two schools [per country]. There is the Alexander Pushkin School in Ashgabat. One of the most popular schools and a magnet for the local youth is on the Russian military base in Tajikistan. Of course, we would like to allocate more money.

                                                                        You have mentioned the new Department for International Humanitarian and Cultural Cooperation. It will operate the new state comprehensive programme called Support for and Promotion of the Russian Language Abroad on behalf of the Ministry. The programme has been finally approved. Regrettably, there is no money for it this year, but in legal terms, it does exist. Funding starting in 2024 has been promised. If it proves possible to get at least some funding for educational priorities this year, given the difficult financial situation, we are ready to work on it jointly with the State Duma and the Federation Council.

                                                                        This programme is mostly aimed at pooling together whatever is related to the Russian language. I am referring to Rossotrudnichestvo, the Russkiy Mir [Russian World] Foundation, the Alexander Pushkin State Institute of the Russian Language, and the Programme for the Support of the Russian Language Abroad, which was not in one piece until recently. The task for now is to coordinate all this.

                                                                        Question: During your news conference in January, you spoke about the glaring examples of Russophobia in the West with regard to all things Russian, including Russian culture. You pointed out that the scale of Russophobia had increased since WWII. What countermeasures might our country and the Foreign Ministry take in this connection? Should we make broader use of soft power, that is, Russian culture and art? Or should we sit back and be content that Anton Chekhov remains one of the most widely staged dramatists, that Fyodor Dostoyevsky is one of the most widely read writers, and that Konstantin Stanislavsky is studied at all theatre and film schools?

                                                                        Sergey Lavrov: No, we must not leave the current events to take their course. This would amount to betraying our culture and our contribution to global development. Russia is making one of the largest contributions to the cultural development of the world, considering our rich heritage in music and theatre, science, education and culture in the broad meaning of the word.

                                                                        We have amazing, unsurpassed experience with inter-cultural and inter-civilisational cohesion and with teaching our young people to understand the civilisational specifics of other ethnic groups, including those that live in the Russian Federation. It is our altruistic position – which is not limited to cultural events that can be placed on the record of Russia's achievements but promotes inter-civilisational harmony and recognition of the global civilisational diversity of the world – that is appreciated in many countries, especially Muslim states and countries with other religious beliefs. We can see in Africa, Latin America and Asia that this factor is more important than the allocation of relatively modest funds by their Western partners.

                                                                        I don't think that anyone can undermine or disparage our humanitarian influence. Of course, we must continue working in this sphere. We are holding an increasing number of such events within the frameworks of BRICS and the SCO. We organise and regularly hold the Children of Asia Games. A new project, which has been supported by the President of Russia, is the Games of the Future, which will combine technical sport and cybersport, with the same persons competing in both. This should make intellectuals physically stronger, and athletes better versed in natural sciences and humanities.

                                                                        It would be wrong to downplay the serious efforts being taken to undermine our achievements. But in these circumstances we will only try harder to redouble our efforts and succeed in this area, just as we are doing in all other spheres.

                                                                        Question: In your remarks, you said that the number of countries who are Russia's friends and partners exceeds substantially the number of unfriendly countries, but we still need to promote good relations with people in the countries whose governments adopted an openly anti-Russian policy. Parliamentary diplomacy must play a bigger role now that interaction through official diplomatic channels has become an issue.

                                                                        The State Duma leadership, as well as parties represented in parliament, have been proactive in working with their foreign partners, including at the party level and through the groups of friendship. What do you think about this activity and what more must MPs do to reinforce Russia's international standing?

                                                                        Sergey Lavrov: I fully agree with this approach. Of course, in many cases the ruling elites in unfriendly countries are not acting of their free will. This is not what they want. They act the way they do only because they must show solidarity within their block. NATO and the EU enforce heavy-handed discipline on their members at the initiative of an aggressive minority.

                                                                        The majority has not been exactly enthusiastic about it, but they have to stick with this line and follow the mainstream as defined in Europe by those who have US support, and no one else. I am referring to the Baltic states, as well as Poland, the Czech Republic and of course the UK, which is always there as the main driving force behind efforts to subvert and stop any contacts with the Russian Federation and spread everyday Russophobia across continental Europe.

                                                                        There have been fewer contacts with civil society in Western countries. This is the objective truth. People are being intimidated, and complex logistics stand in the way of people-to-people ties, since there are no direct flights. There are other factors too. It is for these reasons that we mostly focused on Asia, Africa and Latin America last year.

                                                                        I fully agree that people in unfriendly nations willing to support us and step up their ties with us, and there are quite a few of them, should have an opportunity to do so. We should invite them, have meetings with them in other venues whenever we get an opportunity to travel, which has become quite complicated.

                                                                        Apart from the parliamentarians and representatives of European parties, and MEPs we know for their principled positions, even if there are few of them, there is the silent majority who does not like what is going on either. When they hear this flamboyant Irish MEP speaking on the origins of the Ukrainian crisis yesterday, his message will get across to many of those who voted with their parties to condemn Russia, and hopefully, they will come to question this position.

                                                                        Today, the path to the Western "big screen" is blocked. As we said during a conversation with State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, Deputy Speaker Petr Tolstoy, when we cover Ukraine and what is going on in NATO and the EU, we do not just have a presenter condemn them. But this is exactly what the West does. In Russia, before sharing an assessment from the screen or on social media, we present what our opponents think to show their side of the story. We always make sure to cover both sides, and only then do we comment. You will not see this in the West, or very little of it. There are just sporadic voices that get through: Former Pentagon advisor Doug Macgregor and Scott Ritter, whom I know well, since he is a military expert and worked in Iraq when I was Russian Permanent Representative to the UN. There is also Seymour Hersh with his courageous revelations and his daily efforts to produce more evidence. Their message does get across to some people. They are like lone warriors. There is also Tucker Carlson, who is quite good and committed to showing things how they are. It is not a question of whether these people are pro-Russian or anti-American. What they want is that their country stays true to the high standards set forth in its own Constitution. These principles include not lying to your own people. I think that the truth will out.

                                                                        In the previous question, the explosions of the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 pipelines were mentioned, and I did not respond to this part of the question in my answer. We raised this issue with the United Nations, and preparations for a special meeting of the UN Security Council are underway. We will demand that they find a way to carry out an investigation, even though UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has already said through his spokesperson that the UN does not have the mandate or authority to carry out investigations of this kind.

                                                                        With all due respect, we disagree. When something happened in Idlib, Syria, a territory that was outside of the government's control at the time, and the government was allegedly to blame for the suffering inflicted on the population, the Secretary-General did not need to seek a mandate from anyone, and said that he would launch an investigation even before the journalists asked him about it. He said that he had set up an investigative team that travelled to the site, returned and produced ambiguous conclusions. Antonio Guterres is an experienced diplomat and must not shy away from examining the facts. Maybe we should not call this an investigation. To use this word, you have to dig deep. But you can examine the facts that are there for the whole world to see and that can hardly be refuted. I think that the UN Secretary-General will have a hard time trying to avoid this.

                                                                        Question: You said in your remarks that you would like to know the State Duma's attitude to your efforts. The short answer is that our attitude is positive.

                                                                        However, our independent foreign policy has not been backed by resolute economic measures so far. Regrettably, our economic and financial policies are still based on the rules that were imposed on us to restrain our economic growth and to make us dependent on technology, debt and more. In this context, do you envision any negative diplomatic consequences of the potential termination or refusal to comply with Russia's WTO accession agreement, or denunciation of numerous agreements on avoiding double taxation, including those signed with unfriendly countries and offshore territories?

                                                                        Sergey Lavrov: It is a system-wide issue. It not only concerns our position at the WTO, although that organisation is the backbone of globalisation, which was invented by the West and, above all, the Americans and which they are now trying to undermine. Their abuses of the mechanisms created within the framework of the WTO and Bretton Woods institutions have reached the allowable maximum. The same is true of the other institutions that were launched in the West many years ago to make globalisation work. They invited everyone, declaring "the end of history." It is their ideal of organising human lives on the international stage. Everyone must abide by the rules, and they will have everything, like comforts, McDonald's, trips to foreign resorts, and the ability to travel around the world in the most convenient manner. But all of that will be possible only if you follow the rules. The Americans and their main satellites in Europe bristled at Russia's refusal to follow Tolstoy's doctrine of non-violent resistance to evil and its decision not to turn the other cheek in Ukraine. After the outrageous coup was staged and a Nazi government was subsequently supported in Ukraine, after the disgrace of the Minsk agreements, which were promoted as the only option but were later exposed as a "diplomatic imitation," as the dishevelled Boris Johnson has said recently, we saw that the West had no regard for proprieties. It has violated property rights, the law of fair competition, the presumption of innocence and many other laws on the protection of investments. All of them have been buried. They have frozen our state reserves and private funds. They used to preach to us about the sanctity of private property rights. They still don't know what to do with all that. A year has passed, and they are still puzzling over ways to steal legally. I regard this as shameful behaviour by those who claimed to be the paragons of civilised human relations.

                                                                        The WTO is in the grips of a deep crisis. In that organisation and in several other international mechanisms, including in the field of international investment and finance, China was working in strict compliance with the rules according to which these globalisation instruments were created after WWII. When there were any doubts about its activities, China provided explanations at the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body, acting in compliance with and playing on the field marked by the United States, and it got the better of them while playing by their rules. It surged to first place in terms of purchasing power parity. According to the most conservative estimates, it will become the world's leader by GDP per capita within this decade. But there is a loosely formulated WTO provision that allows countries to adopt sanctions in case of existential threats to the security of other states. It can be applied to any activity.

                                                                        The WTO dispute resolution mechanism's complete paralysis is problem number two. The Americans do not want to respond to fair calls addressed to them by many countries, primarily China, because Washington is bent on discriminating against Chinese-made goods on the US market in its push to degrade everyone, including Europe, which it has put on the brink of deindustrialisation, and China (according to their doctrinal documents, their main challenge is to prevent China from becoming the number one power). Compete fairly. Keep away from it. These are illegal moves (below the belt).

                                                                        The dispute resolution mechanism in unable to function properly. The United States is blocking the appointment of the required number of members for a quorum. It's as simple as that. Just like a [Communist] party meeting that has to be held according to the script. Therefore we have to fight it.

                                                                        Meabwhile, our Foreign Policy Concept states that diplomacy's main goal is to facilitate the country's internal and socioeconomic development, to ensure its security, and to improve the well-being of its citizens. There is some criticism in the country, but mostly abroad, where unofficial opposition leaders can now be found, to the effect that they have set a goal to create favourable external conditions. They themselves destroyed these conditions and created the most unfavourable environment for our development. This is from their point of view of the comfort provided by Western civilisational perks in the form of Starbucks, McDonald's, etc. From this point of view, their life has become less carefree.

                                                                        However, the overwhelming majority of our people – I know that the State Duma and the Federation Council think alike in this regard – refuses to be happy about external conditions that strip us of our independence at any moment, as was the case with our special military operation in Ukraine, which was inevitable after seven years of the West plotting a hybrid war against Russia, which we are now trying to stop. Given these circumstances, how can we rely on the West to create proper external conditions for our development?

                                                                        Until recently, we lived in the paradigm that you mentioned. In the first years after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the globalisation rules were seen as something that had to be improved and internal problems had to be addressed. They wanted to put us in our place so that we would not stop the war that was unleashed against us, immediately cancelled all the rules that allowed us to import everything that we needed without thinking about import substitution or building our own technological sovereignty base. Now, we have come to understand this fully and deeply.

                                                                        As before, we must push to create the most favourable external conditions for our development, but "favorable conditions" must be spelled out. It's unlike it was before, when the external factors were controlled by the West and the system that it created, which it could manipulate for its own gain. New external conditions must be formed in conjunction with the Global Majority within BRICS, the SCO, and our integration associations in the post-Soviet space, ASEAN, and SELAC. It was for a reason that not long ago the presidents of Brazil and Argentina officially began considering the creation of a payment unit (not a full-fledged currency yet) that will make it possible for us to avoid payments in US dollars, which the Americans are abusing. BRICS is discussing this possibility. The New Development Bank has been created, and similar structures are being created in the SCO. The process is underway, as they used to say about somewhat different processes a while ago. In this case, though, the process is healthy and is headed in the right direction.

                                                                        We will prioritise these processes, because they will help us create external conditions that we really need to move forward and to improve the well-being of the people.
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