Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 3.2019
2019.01.14 — 2019.01.20
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Will Bolsonaro's Brazil Play A Destructive Role In BRICS? Moscow Gives Their Opinion (Будет ли Бразилия Болсонаро играть разрушительную роль в БРИКС? Москва выражает свое мнение) / Russia, January, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion
Author: Paul Antonopoulos

MOSCOW, Russia – During the press conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on the future of the BRICS group in connection with the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) to the Brazilian presidency.

According to the Russian foreign minister, Jair Bolsonaro, in contacts with Russian representatives confirmed the continuity of the line in relations with Moscow within BRICS.

"President Bolsonaro contacted our representatives, including our representative at his inauguration ceremony, the representative of the State Duma, Volodin. He confirmed his continuity in relations with Russia, and their willingness to participate in the development of BRICS," said Lavrov.

The Russian foreign minister pointed out that Brazil has already begun its presidency in the BRICS.

"Literally in these days, our Brazilian colleagues made known to us the plan of their presidency, with the deadlines for the ministerial meetings, the summit and the program they propose to the participants of this union," he said.

According to Lavrov, Moscow sees no reason, with the new president, for Brazil to play a destructive role in the bloc.

"I see no reason to suppose that Brazil will play a destructive role in the BRICS. On the contrary, [Brazilian colleagues] assure us that this bloc, this union, is one of Brazil's foreign policy priorities," said the minister.

BRICS expert and Professor of International Relations of the Military College of Porto Alegre, Diego Pautasso, in an interview in December, said that the indications of the new government to reorient foreign policy may affect Brazil's relations within the bloc, but pointed out that the Itamaraty tends to maintain certain continuity.

"At the first level, there is a certain relationship in Itamaraty between state policies and government policies, that is, no matter how much the executive changes, Itamaraty is a body of state employees that tends to maintain a certain continuity, although it is natural for every government to print its characteristics and priorities," he said.

On the other hand, according to him, "at a second level one must understand how the Bolsonaro government, the chosen foreign minister and some other advisers and close associates of Bolsonaro, like his own son, will influence the decision making and the choices in the scope International."

"If we take as indicative the statements of the president, the statements of the Foreign Minister and Eduardo Bolsonaro, the tendency is for a realignment towards the US, a distancing from the BRICS and the south-south axis, ceasing to be a priority in the Brazilian policy, and also not very important in Africa and South America. That is what I think," said the expert.

The Indonesian economy: in search of dynamism (Индонезийская экономика: в поисках динамизма) / Indonesia, January, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion

Indonesia has achieved almost 20 years of continuous economic growth.

The country navigated the 2008 global financial crisis with little difficulty and effectively weathered the emerging market volatilities of 2018. It has adjusted to the end of the China-driven commodity boom more effectively than the commodity-exporting members of the now-forgotten BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group.

Workers help unload bags of rice from a cargo ship on to a truck at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, 16 April 2018 (Photos: Reuters/Darren Whiteside).

Despite this record, the economy isn't growing fast enough to meet the growing aspirations of its people or to make significant inroads into poverty — a challenge compounded by the sizeable increase in inequality this century. The new normal is 5 per cent growth. While that's faster than the global economy, it's well behind contemporary Asian frontiers set by India, China, Vietnam and even the Philippines.

It's also well short of President Jokowi's 2014 election campaign pledge of 7 per cent growth. The difference matters: 7 per cent growth implies a quadrupling of real per capita incomes every 28 years, whereas 5 per cent growth delivers just a doubling every 23 years.

Why isn't Indonesia growing as fast as the two Asian giants and some of its neighbours? Jokowi had the misfortune of coming to office just as the commodity boom was ending. Government and businesses were being forced to adjust to the end of a decade of easy growth. Some slowing down in the economic momentum was inevitable. But four years on, economic growth has yet to accelerate despite a moderate increase in commodity prices and the ongoing income effects of the boom.

The factors explaining this lack of economic dynamism are mainly domestic.

There is more or less a consensus around the desirability of appointing highly competent technocratic professionals to run the two key macroeconomic agencies, the Ministry of Finance and Bank Indonesia. As a result, Indonesia's macroeconomic policy framework is functioning effectively. There has been an impressive fiscal consolidation since the crisis, the flexible exchange rate regime is working well, and the financial sector is now much better supervised and regulated.

But microeconomic reform — trade and investment policy, the business environment, the sectors, and labour and social policy — is basically in the hands of the political parties and subject to the rules of the political market place. 'Veto players' proliferate in a system where the president governs by consensus in the legislature, manages a diverse 'rainbow cabinet', presides over more than 500 subnational leaders and occasionally is checked by an unpredictable judiciary.

The result is that the sweeping economic policy reforms and institutional innovations needed for faster economic growth (and that were the government's response to the fading of the earlier boom in the 1980s) are more or less off the agenda.

Jokowi came to office with a reputation as a 'can-do' politician. There was optimism following his first major economic policy decision, which was to substantially reduce the petroleum subsidies that had been crippling the government's budget. This freed up fiscal space for desperately needed infrastructure investments, as well as an ambitious social policy agenda.

Jokowi's well-known impatience with bureaucracy is also facilitating ongoing regulatory simplifications. The country is ascending the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business rankings, the most widely used business environment indicator. Among the 190 jurisdictions, Indonesia has risen from 114 when Jokowi took office to its current ranking of 73.

The fact that Indonesia elected an 'outsider' of modest means to the highest office reflects admirably on the country's democratic progress. But one result of this background is that Jokowi has led from behind on the big issues of economic nationalism and reform.

Take his trade ministers, for example. The three in his administration have ranged from an ultra-nationalist to a liberal reformer to something in-between. As a result, significant trade policy reform is on the backburner. The country's large state-enterprise sector too remains basically unreformed and is seen as an 'agent of development' despite its indifferent commercial record and (for some) compromised governance structure.

Of course, there are small steps here and there. Elements of the 16 reform packages introduced by the Jokowi administration have been useful at the margins. Capable reforming cabinet members, such as the current head of the Investment Board, are able to take some small steps. But in the grand scheme of things these are not enough to accelerate growth.

There can also be no doubting the President's sincerity in social policy reform, including in the form of conditional cash transfers and improved access to education and health facilities. But the country's fiscal policy space is severely limiting the scope for these much-needed services. The subsidies have crept back, the tax effort remains an anaemic 12 per cent of GDP (despite the much-heralded 2016 tax amnesty) and there are large unfunded spending commitments in practically all areas of social policy.

The 2019 election campaign is now under way, but the economic debates are mainly about symbols and slogans. A Jokowi victory would almost certainly usher in more of the same. It would not be a reformist administration, but it would be pragmatic, cautious and focussed on infrastructure. Perhaps Jokowi would be bolder in a second (and final) term. He might also follow the well-established political dictum of administering any tough medicine early in the term, as he did almost immediately after his 2014 election victory.

What are the implications for the region? Indonesia will be fully occupied by elections in 2019. Jokowi has also shown little interest in international affairs, except in cases where business deals are in prospect. Although Indonesia has had some of ASEAN's most creative thinkers on regional affairs, mainly associated with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, the country is unlikely to adopt a leadership role in regional and international commercial diplomacy, from ASEAN and RCEP to climate change and other pressing global challenges.

Russian-U.S. Relations: Torn between the Practical and Ideational Agendas (Отношения России и США: разрыв между практической и идеальной повестками дня) / Russia, January, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
Author: Ivan Safranchuk


The article aims to develop an analytical model for foreign policy experts in order to gain a better understanding of Russian-U.S. relations. The content of Russian-U.S. relations is categorized into practical and ideational agendas. This article argues that the dynamics of interaction between these two coexisting agendas is crucial for understanding the dynamics of Russian-U.S. relations. Descriptive analysis is used to study, categorize, and explain such dynamics. The paper also includes an analysis of the correlation between the practical and ideational agendas. The proposed approach helps to better understand how the unique conceptual landscape of Russian-U.S. relations influences their practical domain. This approach can be used as a separate explanatory model or in combination with explanatory models of major theories.

Keywords: Russian-U.S. relations, practical agenda of Russian-U.S. relations, ideational agenda of Russian-U.S. relations, world order

After the end of the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. sought to make fundamental changes in their relationship. On both sides the ambition stretched much farther than merely reducing disagreements and tensions. The two countries were willing to make a major shift to regarding each other as belonging to a common group of nations. The day after the Belavezha Accords were signed in December 1991, James Baker, then U.S. Secretary of State, said: "If during the Cold War we faced each other as two scorpions in a bottle, now the Western nations and the former Soviet republics stand as awkward climbers on a steep mountain. Held together by a common rope, a fall toward fascism or anarchy in the former Soviet Union will pull the West down, too. Yet equally important is that a strong and steady pull by the West now can help them to gain their footing so that they too can climb above to enduring democracy and freedom. Surely, we must strengthen that rope, and not sever it" (Baker, 1991).

Russia's then Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev read this as a contrario to the Fulton speech. A few months earlier he had encouraged Baker to declare: "Russia and the West are not divided anymore, they are together" (Aven and Kokh, 2013). Boris Yeltsin accepted that thinking. In February 1992, he met George H. W. Bush at Camp David to discuss new Russian-U.S. relations and sign a declaration that stipulated the main principles for these relations. The first principle read: "Russia and the United States do not regard each other as potential adversaries. From now on, the relationship will be characterized by friendship and partnership founded on mutual trust and respect and a common commitment to democracy and economic freedom" (Declaration, 1992). Other principles promised to dismantle the remnants of the Cold War, open venues for broad civil society contacts, and make joint efforts against new international challenges. The declaration concluded: "In adopting these principles, the United States and Russia have launched a new era in our relationship. In this new era, we seek a peace, an enduring peace that rests on lasting common values. This can be an era of peace and friendship that offers hope not only to our peoples but to the peoples of the world" (Declaration, 1992).

Today, a quarter of a century after the Declaration, bilateral relations between the two countries are at a very low level. In fact, they are probably worse than even during the Cold War. This trajectory in the development of Russian-U.S. relations is explained differently.

In the U.S., the mainstream debate has evolved between liberals and structural realists, in particular, offensive neorealists. Structural realism argues that a state's behavior is largely shaped by the structure of the international political system. Operating in an anarchic international system, which is a reality today, states rely on the principle of self-sufficiency and seek to ensure their survival (Waltz, 1979: 105). This means that "balances of power recurrently form, and states tend to emulate the successful policies of others" (Waltz, 1979: 124).

Offensive neorealists claim that "great powers recognize that the best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony now, thus eliminating any possibility of a challenge by another great power" (Mearsheimer, 2001: 35). From this perspective, Russia is inclined to seek hegemony at its borders and to assertively resist others' influence in this zone. John J. Mearsheimer thinks that the West came too close to Russia's borders, posing a real threat to it, which was easy to predict from the very beginning of NATO enlargement (Mearsheimer, 2014).

The prevailing liberal perspective is that Russia's foreign policy is mainly determined by the internal nature of its regime rather than by external conditions. Michael McFaul sees a difference in the foreign policy of Putin and Medvedev. He believes that after oppositional protests Putin used the U.S. in his reelection campaign as an enemy to legitimize his return to the Kremlin for a third term (McFaul, Sestanovich, and Mearsheimer, 2014).

It is not surprising that these two positions represent the mainstream debate in the West. They offered two strategies towards Russia right after the end of the Cold War, namely regime transformation and power balancing (Goldgeier and McFaul, 2003: 5). Since then U.S. policy has actually developed along a line lying in between these two different positions and never to the full satisfaction of any of the camps (although liberals have had more influence on U.S. practical policy).

Both strategies—regime transformation and power balancing—did not welcome Russia as it was. As Thomas Graham and Matthew Rojansky argue, "the most common U.S. policy responses to Russia—from both Republican and Democratic administrations across three decades—have depended either on the hope that Moscow can be fully defeated or that it can become a friend and fellow democracy" (Graham and Rojansky, 2016).

Outside of the main liberal vs. realist debate on Russia, some think that Putin's mindset was shaped by his Soviet experience of service in the KGB. From his very first days in power Putin cherished a grand strategy of restoring Russia's geographical integrity and repute of the Russian state, which only gradually became evident to the outside world (Starr and Cornell, 2014).

In Russia, the debate focuses on what the U.S. and the West on the whole did wrong and how Russia was forced to react under pressure of necessity rather than willingly. This very much resembles what Mearsheimer wrote, making himself quite popular among Russian scholars. Yet the mainstream view in Russia best fits with defensive neorealism, in which Russia sees itself as a status-quo power. The view that Russian foreign policy is determined by its internal politics has been mostly marginalized within the Russian professional community in the last twenty years. This idea is present mostly in the discourse of the non-parliamentary opposition, nationalistic or extreme leftist groups who claim that Russian foreign policy is anti-national. The liberal group shares the Western liberal thesis that the Russian authorities have shifted to anti-Western sentiments because of its non-democratic, under-reformed nature.

Russian mainstream scholars do not pay much attention to the internal grounds of Russian foreign policy, believing that internal affairs affect only the tactics of its implementation. While Russian specialists intensively, and with high quality, write on specific issues of Russian-American relations (such as arms control and missile defense), a broader analysis and generalizations of these relations are not common (and are often presented in essays rather than scholarly writings).

Such generalizations are made either within the discourse over the development of Russian foreign policy or within the discourse over the global order. The concept of "real sovereignty" introduced by Andrei Kokoshin (Kokoshin, 2006) influenced much of Russian thinking, although that influence, more indirect than direct, has been largely underestimated. As a result, in the second half of the 2000s, Russian scholars viewed Russia as relying increasingly on itself and looking for less engagement with the U.S. (Safranchuk, 2008), up to defining it as a "lonely power" (Trenin, 2009; Shevtsova, 2010). Increasingly on its own, Russia relied less on relations with the U.S. to achieve its foreign policy goals.

Within the Russian debate on the world order, which is also indirectly connected to the "real sovereignty" concept, the central question has been whether the world order with Western dominance exists and can be improved with Russia's input to serve Russian interests (Kortunov, 2016) or whether it is not existent anymore (Fenenko, 2017). The first option implies that Russia and the U.S. need to cooperate as two powers with special responsibilities in the world, while the second one suggests that Russian-American relations should solely be based on national interests. After 2014 an important part of the debate is how to manage the growing confrontation. Some stand for Russia's detachment as a way to avoid further worsening of relations with the West (Miller and Lukyanov, 2016), others see Russia's self-reliance as inevitable for its future development (Nikonov, 2015), and still others, as a good chance for it in a new Cold War (Karaganov, 2018).

Notably, the prevailing views in Russia and the U.S. about each other are not new. The essentials of the two dominating explanatory narratives emerged back in the 1990s. One, as a combination of liberal and idealistic perspectives, claims that Russia did not change quickly and deeply enough to be able to sincerely share the views prevailing in the West and, thus, it cannot be fully accepted as a non-contradictory part of the West. The other maintains, from a realistic perspective, that the West tried to misuse Russia's weakness to get unilateral concessions on practical issues, which ultimately provoked Russia's resistance. These two approaches have matured in the writings of talented scholars, with the former one being mostly popular in the West, and the latter one, in Russia.

Importantly, the self-identification of Russian and U.S. scholars with their own country does not match how they perceive the other country. The mainstream school of thought in Russia sees it as a status-quo power, very much in line with defensive neorealism. In the U.S., different scholars may view Russia differently, but hardly as a proponent of the status-quo. In turn, Russia does not view the U.S. in the same way as mainstream American experts see their own country. This distortion of mutual perception makes Russian and American experts spend much time and effort arguing over who they actually are. Each side believes that it knows better what the other side is (because it is not what it declares). This approach locks Russia and the U.S. in a descending spiral of mutual distrust.

Russian-U.S. relations can be explained not only from each other's perspectives, but also within different theoretical approaches. As mentioned above, while offensive neorealism presents Russia as a normal hegemon, defensive realism makes it possible to present it in two different ways (depending on how one interprets facts), either positively as a status-quo power or in the negative as a revanchist nation going beyond a reasonable balance of power. From the liberal or neo-liberal perspective, Russia may be seen as too selfish and not cooperative enough. However, such arguments can also be mirrored with reference to American unilateralism and the U.S.'s occasional disregard of the UN.

From a more traditional idealistic approach Russia may be presented as a state driven by the wrong ideas (from the dominant Western perspective). Yet the U.S. may also be presented in this way (from the dominant Russian perspective). Within the hegemonic stability theory, the U.S. can be presented as the hegemonic power maintaining international order and Russia as the challenger. One may also refer to Paul Kennedy's thesis about "imperialistic overstretch" complicating the hegemonic mission and helping the challenger. The World-System theory makes it possible to describe Russian-U.S. relations as a struggle between a leading core nation and a semi-peripheral nation.

The important methodological problem is that explaining Russian-U.S. relations from any theoretical approach does not help much. Firstly, some of the theories provide, as mentioned above, mirror interpretations of Russia's and the U.S.'s roles, depending on how one interprets facts. Secondly, in applying a theory to Russia-U.S. relations one gets just an interpretation of the fundamental processes and the underlying reasons for a change in these relations from the perspective of that theory. In a way, such application is relevant only to a particular theory (as an exercise to verify how universal its explanatory model is), but not to the essence of Russia-U.S. relations (or any other issue of the same nature) because the relevance of identified fundamental processes and the causes of change remains unverified. Quantitative and formal methods can hardly provide a comprehensive explanation, although they can contribute to finding statistical correlations relevant and important for further analysis. Traditional descriptive analysis is still an appropriate, if not indispensable, methodology to study Russia-U.S. relations. In this article descriptive analysis is aimed at studying, categorizing, and explaining under-researched elements of the phenomena.

Admitting the general observation that the agenda of Russia-U.S. relations involves not only pragmatic but also conceptual issues, this article assumes the existence of a fundamental polarity in U.S.-Russian relations. One extreme is practical or concrete: it embraces specific and actual interest-based steps and actions that are pragmatic by nature. The other extreme can be defined as abstract or ideational, where ideas, values, concepts, and notions are formed; a final high-level vision of either country is formed in this abstract realm which manifests itself in actions. These two extremes underpin the distinctive tracks in Russian-U.S. relations.

Arms control and other hard-security issues, regional questions that are vital for security or economic interests of the countries, building of alliances and coalitions—all of these issues involve the practical national interests of Russia and the U.S. and constitute the practical agenda. Disputes over the principles of international behavior, interpretations of international law, questions of the world order and rules constitute the ideational agenda where visions rather than practical interests of Russia and the U.S. are important.

The central thesis of this article is that the study of the interaction of the two agendas is important for understanding the dynamics of Russian-U.S. relations. The first section of the article analyzes the dissonance between practical and ideational agendas in Russian-U.S. relations over the last twenty-five years. It shows that they coexist rather independently, in parallel to each other. This raises the question of how these agendas correlate, which constitutes the subject of the second section. The third section demonstrates how practical and ideational agendas have been developing and expanding over the past twenty-five years. The fourth section synthesizes the findings of the three stages of analysis and explains the current crisis in Russian-U.S. relations.


With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and Russian leadership experienced an unprecedented commonality of views on both practical and ideational issues, which paved the way for a period of good relationship. However, it did not take long for Russian and U.S. views to start diverging on issues of practical interests (NATO expansion, missile defenses, Chechen separatism), as well as on the ideational agenda (different conceptions of the future world order, such as U.S. involvement in Yugoslavia, Middle Eastern policies, sanctions against Iran and Iraq).

After realistically minded professionals led by Yevgeny Primakov took over responsibility for Russian foreign policy in 1996, they managed to fix a lot in the practical agenda. Through hard bargaining they negotiated the most pressing hard-security issues (NATO policies towards Russia and arms control). However, their elegant appeals to international law ("rules of the game" written with the participation of Soviet/Russian diplomats took into account Russia's basic interests and could not spell defeat) and the concept of multipolarity contributed to the divergence of Russian and Western views on general rules of international behavior. Russia and the U.S. increasingly argued over Iran and Iraq, but particularly over the civil war in Yugoslavia. After NATO launched its air campaign in Kosovo in the spring of 1999, relations between Russia and the West were the worst since the end of the Cold War. Remarkably, for both sides principles were at stake instead of vital material interests.

Putin's administration remained firm on hard-security interests, but, contrary to the late Yeltsin, did not escalate tough rhetoric on conceptual world order issues. Remarkably, during his last official foreign travel to China shortly before Yeltsin's resignation, Clinton said that Russia would pay a price for the conflict in Chechnya, Yeltsin publicly reminded him of Russia's global nuclear power status and its inherent role in setting global rules (Yeltsin stressed that Clinton would not be able to decide everything on his own, but rather would have to accept common Russian-Chinese views). Prime Minister Putin chose to downplay the issue in quite an elegant way; he remarked that that Clinton's critical comments on Russia's activities in Chechnya were rooted in "his [Clinton's] care for Russia not overburdening itself with additional problems," and these comments should not be used to provoke problems in Russian-U.S. relations, because "neither Clinton nor Yeltsin intended or meant that" (Putin, 2000: 11).

A year later the rhetoric of the winning Bush campaign, extremely critical of Clinton's international agenda, promised a revision of America's attitude to world order issues. But before it became clear what that promise had really meant, the 9/11 tragedy occurred and created an international situation where Russia and the U.S. once again viewed each other as being on the same side on something that seemed of critical importance. Although disagreements over ideational issues still surfaced, like in discussions concerning the invasion of Iraq, and later in a swordplay on democratization policy, and also in approaches towards responding to Iran's nuclear proliferation issue, Russia and the U.S. adopted an "agree to disagree" approach. To prevent erosion of the international community's unity on the fundamental Global Terror challenge, they decided to curb escalation of disagreements on conceptual issues. Essentially, it was a sort of compromise on the ideational agenda.

However, this compromise did not defuse the discrepancies on the practical agenda. The U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty, which Russia had traditionally viewed as the cornerstone of arms control and the most precise barometer of the state of Soviet Union/Russia-U.S. security cooperation. NATO expansion to Russia's borders was unsurprisingly taken by Russia as a serious security concern. Besides, NATO expansion stultified some of the recent amendments to the CFE Treaty. The U.S. interpreted the "agree to disagree" approach as "disagree, but do not impede," which Russia seemingly did not contest for a while. However, when U.S. policy in Eurasia began to assertively infringe on Russian interests in nearly all of the post-Soviet space, Moscow counteracted. Russia mirrored U.S. interpretation of the "agree to disagree" approach. These developments opened the way to further growth of mutual disagreements on many practical issues. They were pointed out by Putin in his Munich speech in 2007 and later climaxed in the Georgia conflict.

Obama's administration eagerly initiated a "reset" of Russian-U.S. relations, but it covered only the practical agenda. A new nuclear arms control treaty was signed. On many issues the two sides engaged in discussions aimed at curbing tensions and reconciling disagreements. Obama's reset policy was framed as a pragmatic dialogue with Russia, which was hardly able to accommodate ideational issues of the world order agenda. Although Obama's first administration put a lot of emphasis on talking to President Medvedev, it neglected his puppet initiative on a new security architecture in the Trans-Atlantic.

This contradicted Russia's expectations. Obama's campaign, heavily critical of the Bush administration's foreign policy, promised far less interventionism and unilateralism, which was seen in Moscow as a possibility for tackling disagreements of the ideational nature that could hardly be further hidden behind the counter-terror veneer. Obama talked on broad world order issues to Europe and wanted to talk to China (the Big Two issue), but not to Moscow. Left unattended and not overshadowed anymore by some fundamental agreement (like previously with War on Terror campaign), divergences escalated over the principles of international behavior. Soon they began to impede discussions of practical issues and contributed to disagreements over international crisis situations. Disagreements over Libya and Syria, as well as the Snowden episode, were extremely important cases of Russia's and the U.S.'s divergences on principles. Ultimately, the Ukrainian crisis of 2014 was fueled by both practical and ideational divergences.

To sum up, in the last twenty-five years the persisting dissonance on practical and ideational agendas prevented progress in Russian-U.S. relations. While remaining interconnected, the two agendas are very distinctive, with each of them having its own impact on overall Russian-U.S. relations.


With the new spirit in Russian-U.S. relations there was an anticipation of some reconfiguration in bilateral relations. However, the political leadership on both sides lacked understanding of what exactly this should include. In February 1992 at Camp David one could see how assertive Yeltsin and Bush were in their declarations about the new "quality" and "spirit" of relations, but how little they could say on substance when asked by journalists at a joint press conference. The presidents left, as Bush phrased it, "substance to experts" to "discuss in much more detail" (Bush, 1992).

It seemed reasonable to assume that when the two sides had fewer disagreements they could do more together. This understanding fueled expectations of broader cooperation between Russia and the U.S. In reality, however, Russian-U.S. relations on both the practical and ideational agendas shrank dramatically.

The U.S. took Russia's decreasing military and international standing as a natural post-Cold War development. At the same time, the emerging Russian elite saw the absence of confrontation with the West as an opportunity, if not a prerequisite, for internal development. Yeltsin sincerely (and quite in line with the public opinion in the late 1980s and early 1990s) regarded excessive foreign policy as a burden and wanted to get rid of it. He wrote that the Soviet Union's agencies "never gave a damn about the fate of Russia. They needed Russia solely as a supplier of raw materials, cannon fodder, and the main imperial 'magnet' which could attract virtually everything, even Cuba, and impose its own rules everywhere!" (Yeltsin, 1994).

At that time Russia believed that the excessive component of its foreign policy had been driven by ideological chimera. Paradoxically, the 1993 Foreign Policy Concept, which would soon be viewed in Russia as idealistically pro-Western, stressed pragmatism (not the pro-Western ideological momentum) as the underlying principle of the country's foreign policy. To put it simply, the West expected Russia's external interests to shrink (as a natural development rather than as a deliberate policy to weaken Russia), and Russia also wanted to reduce its international role (believing it to be pragmatic and not interpreting it as a weakness). This complementarity of views created a direct correlation between practical and ideational agendas, which worked in a positive way for Russian-U.S. relations while their scope was shrinking.

In the mid-1990s, Russia set the limits for the reductionist approach to its foreign and defense policies. The territorial integrity of Russia (the first Chechen conflict), the risk of a substantial rebalancing of conventional forces in Europe with the movement of NATO's military infrastructure closer to Russian borders, and the possible erosion of the strategic nuclear parity became such limits. Consequently, Russia's perception of pragmatism reversed from reducing the practical security and political agendas with the U.S. to extending it in order to reach some agreement with the U.S. on issues of Russia's vital concerns.

The U.S. took into account some of Russia's hard-security interests as they were professionally presented by Primakov's diplomacy, although to a far lesser degree than Russia had expected. At the same time, in their discussions of the practical agenda the two sides encountered more ideational issues. Russia's views on its territorial integrity, NATO expansion, and the balance of conventional forces in Europe were shaped primarily from the perspective of its vital national security interests, while the West's position was based on holistic principles which, it believed, should be placed above the self-interest of a nation and which Russia should merely accept. As Russia pushed for expansion of the practical agenda to defend its vital national interests, the correlation between practical and ideational agendas changed from positive to negative.

Since the second half of the 1990s, this negative correlation has been the reason why the dissonance between the two agendas repeatedly drove Russian-U.S. relations into confrontation, sometimes even despite the sides' good intentions. The scope of disagreements on practical issues increased in the 2000s, and so did Russia's will not to compromise its vital interests for the sake of holistic principles promoted by the West. This negative correlation manifested itself ever more vividly when Russia, in turn, victimized U.S. vital security interests for the sake of general principles, like in the Snowden affair. In this case Russia admitted that it was an extremely important issue for U.S. national security, but refused to assist it, making it clear to others (and not only to Russians, considering how many awards the Citizenfourdocumentary collected worldwide, including the Oscar) that there was something wrong with U.S. moral principles.

Importantly, attempts to achieve progress with one of the agendas of Russian-U.S. relations initially would ease disagreements on the other agenda. In other words, an early improvement of relations with one of the agendas is not blocked by disagreements on the other agenda. Each time that happens, hope appears that progress with one of the agendas can be sustained by delinking it from the other and overcoming the negative correlation. However, with time, disagreements on the under-scrutinized agenda grow to a level where they become more important (at least for one side) than progress made with the other agenda, then that progress is ultimately wiped out. Hence, there is only a temporarily improvement in relations. This happened in the late 1990s, when progress in the practical agenda was screwed up with the overwhelming clash on the Kosovo issue, a matter of basic principles of international behavior for each side. Another case was the failure of Obama's reset policy as an emphasis on the pragmatic agenda left ideational issues unattended.

The correlation between the practical and ideational agendas can be systematized using the notions of the mediation model, which interposes a mediator or an intervening variable into the relationship between dependent and independent variables. If U.S.-Russian relations and one of the agendas are assumed to be, respectively, dependent and independent variables, then the other agenda is an intervening variable. One of the agendas interferes in the direct causal relationship between dependent and independent variables. This occurs when the two agendas are in dissonance (when they are not in dissonance, then the casual relationship is direct).

Importantly, the influence of mediation is negative (because of the negative correlation discussed above) and changeable (it varies from partial to full). When an independent variable starts to change (for example, there is progress in discussing questions of one of the agendas) and influence the dependent variable (overall Russian-U.S. relations), the intervening variable (disagreements on the other agenda) exerts minimum influence.

At the initial stage the casual relationship between dependent and independent variables is nearly direct. However, at some point the influence of the independent variables on the dependent one noticeably diminishes (one may argue whether this is a result of gradual development or sudden occurrence) because the mediation power of an intervening variable grows substantially.

Arguably, it takes time for an intervening variable to gain power, but as it does, the direct relationship between the dependent and independent variable degrades quickly, and falls victim to the negative influence of the intervening variable. Sometimes Russia and the U.S. took steps to delink one agenda from the other by curbing the influence of an intervening variable. But this never worked well enough. Not being part of the direct relationship between the dependent and independent variables, an agenda that has been put aside reemerges as an intervening variable with the progressing power of negative influence.


Having exhausted the reductionist approach to its foreign and defense policies in the mid-1990s, Russia quickly re-interpreted the voluntary abandoning of the excessive foreign policy burden as its de-facto self-weakening. Moreover, many in Russia started to claim that the West was intentionally making use of Russia's weakness to keep it down. A day before becoming acting president Vladimir Putin claimed that perhaps for the first time in 200-300 years Russia was facing "a real risk of ending up in the second or even third echelon of states" (Putin, 1999).

Such marginalization was something Russia could not accept. For centuries Russian elites had shared a perception of their country as a great power with a strong messianic predestination. In fact, in the twentieth century this perception also became common with the general public (Interestingly, this great power gen and messianism was challenged by some of Russian great minds, including Leo Tolstoy and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, but unsuccessfully). The risk of marginalization motivated Russia for a revanche.A bit later it was conceptualized in the notion of "real sovereignty" (Kokoshin, 2006), understood as regained capability and will for an independent international standing.

High commodity prices in the 2000s opened up opportunities for Russia's economic growth, which was further stimulated by domestic reforms. Russia's efforts to regain what it understood as real sovereignty coincided in time and space with growing U.S. interventionism. Expanding Russian and U.S. interests collided in the Middle East, Latin America, Eastern Europe and, particularly dramatically, in the former Soviet space. Growing military budgets funded new arms programs, which political experts on both sides took with suspicion and concern. As interests and capabilities increased, the scope of the practical agenda between Russia and the U.S. also widened. Today the vital national interests of Russia and the U.S. collide in many spots around the globe in hard security, economic, and political dimensions.

Ideational disagreements between Russia and the U.S. have also extended. Whereas before Russia had felt comfortable with its reduced international role, now it raised its voice on world order issues, because it found Western approaches particularly unfair in some cases (like in the Kosovo conflict) and disastrous to Russian vital interests in others (NATO expansion). Not meeting enough understanding from the West (which expected Russia to be a good student to transit to the right side rather than raise its voice on global issues), Russia further shifted to modestly challenging the Western order.

Deprived of the opportunity for real input in the design of the new world order, Russia challenged the integrity of the Western order by highlighting double standards in the West's behavior. Making the point that the Western approach was not as good as it was declared, Russia, presumably, sent a message that it was still ready to accept the Western order (preferably with a greater Russian role), but with clear-cut norms, including limitations for the West itself. As the growing U.S. interventionism indicated a movement exactly in the latter direction, Russia continued to highlight Western double standards, but with a different purpose, this time to legitimize its efforts to construct what official Russian diplomacy identifies as "the new architecture of global governance" (see, for example, Lavrov, 2017). Looking for partners to implement the idea, Russia found them outside of the Western world and established non-Western partner organizations (the SCO and BRICS). In fact, Russia engaged in an effort to build an international compact to challenge what it saw as escalating Western disorder. De-facto it opted for a foreign policy of doing something without the U.S. (and mostly without the West), but not against it.

Three events were particularly important for the further evolution of Russian foreign policy: the global financial crisis of 2008 that many in Russia interpreted as a sign of the relative decline of U.S. power; the WikiLeaks story; and the Snowden case, which revealed the misbehavior of the U.S. in world politics. It no longer spoke of U.S. "well-intended errors," but of the fact that the problem was the U.S. itself. In the Russian view, America was losing the power and moral credibility to be the master of the world. Russia was ready to contest not only the particular world order rules, but the very privilege of the U.S. for global leadership that the international community had taken for granted since the end of the Cold War.

In addition to the strong and persisting belief in Russia that the U.S. would never self-restrain itself in achieving what it regards as its vital national goals (a framework for the practical agenda), the Russian leadership also shaped a framework for the ideational agenda of relations with the U.S., namely that the U.S. maintains international spin to cover up the truth with a carefully engineered illusion. A year after the U.S. election, a senior aide to the Russian President, Vladislav Surkov, published an essay on the RT website, where he claimed that the West, and above all the U.S., was about to lose the ability to maintain its internal spin (Surkov 2017). The piece did not touch upon world politics directly, still all its logic implies that the international dimension of the American spin (hypocrisy) was also about to collapse.

Deprived of a chance to substantively contribute to the Western ideational consensus on the world order rules, Russia has been compelled to develop its own independent moral standing. By contrast, the West has found it necessary to respond to Russia's moral quest. Of course, the first reaction is to highlight an issue. A recent report by the U.S. Congress Helsinki Commission emphasizes how important the moral facet of foreign policy has become for Russia: "Today, it appears that the Kremlin is less interested in sanctions relief and is after something less tangible: moral equivalence" (Hope and McAndrews, 2018: 1). The recommendation of the report is to deny moral equivalence to Putin.

To conclude this stage of analysis it is worth returning to the beginning. Practical and, in particular, ideational agendas emerged from some very basic misunderstanding after the end of the Cold War. The West anticipated a radical rejection by Russia of its recent Soviet history and policy patterns, presumably considering that Russia would also reject its past great power history. Arguably, Russia was expected to go through the same transformation that other big European nations had undertaken under the American political and security leadership after WWII, the end result of which was the emergence of the new post-modern Europe (Kagan, 2003: 53-69).

However, Russia, just like most other nations withdrawing from failing universalistic Communist ideology, looked towards connections with the political West, but in broader terms, it anticipated a revival of its pre-Communist nature, which was more in line with what later was presented as thinking of revenge of history (Kaplan, 2012) than with a flat world vision (Friedman, 2005). Yeltsin wanted Russia to regain its historic, pre-Soviet, self; in the foreign policy realm it meant "returning to where we have always been, to the Entente, if you wish, to the alliance with Western powers" (Yeltsin, 1994). In other words, Russia intended to reduce excessive foreign policy to return to its traditional foreign agenda which was consistent with the West and its new world order. Meanwhile, the West expected a deep transformation of Russia away from its Soviet and pre-Soviet self in the direction of European post-modernism. Over time Russia denied the latter path (not least because the U.S. had not undertaken the same transformation) and extended material and non-material arsenals for its independent international standing.


The inherent paradox of Russian-U.S. relations is that it was possible to improve them by delinking practical and ideational issues, but it was impossible to sustain those improvements because of that very delinking. Repeating dissonance between the practical and ideational agendas (which doomed to failure sincere efforts by Russia and the U.S. to put their relations on a positive trajectory and sustain it) persisted and ultimately brought them to a significant crisis.

During Obama's second and Putin's third terms in office something new and even worse happened. In 2012 the U.S. chose to narrow the venues for communication and the reset policy was terminated. For the first time since the end of the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. did not even try to fix at least one of the tracks; instead they used them as fields for competition rather than for reconciling disagreements. In these circumstances the two agendas finally resonated in a negative way: disagreements enhanced in both of them. The collapse of U.S.-Russia relations on both agendas culminated in the crisis in Ukraine.

One may argue that the described model of coexistence of practical and ideational dimensions resembles the Cold War situation. Describing current Russian-U.S. relations as a new Cold War is not completely unfounded. Still, in a way it is substantively wrong. While the geopolitical component of the competition is very much the same, the fundamental clash of two existentially incompatible sociopolitical systems is not in place. In the second half of the twentieth century Russia and the U.S. shaped world politics in very broad terms. Now Russia and the U.S. are accommodating to the evolving international system, rather than shaping it.

Russia's material revanche was a concern for the West, but economic growth and integration into the world economy allowed investors to make money in Russia. Moreover, amid emerging powers Russia could be seen as one of the closest to the West, in particular to Europe, historically and culturally.

There was duality in Russia's position as well. While seeking equal cooperation with the West, the Russian authorities encouraged anti-Western, but particularly anti-American, sentiments in society and the elite. While the West's duality revealed fear and interest, Russia's duality was based on interest and almost complete rejection of everything associated with the West.

This prompted controversial tactics on both sides. The West's fear and interest substantiated practical programs for developing cooperation with Russia and containing it at the same time. Russia's interest and rejection of the West welcomed cooperation and greater independence in global affairs. Europe still stands for the same balance between, respectively, engagement vs. containment and cooperation vs. disengagement. It is not ready, let alone willing, to sacrifice one for the sake of the other.

The debate on values continues not only between Russia and the West, but also between Europe and the U.S. All together we stand in contrast to the rising Asian powers with their own values. Values play a key role in how societies are organized and governed, that is, in determining the internal situation in a country. A value-based domestic policy affects foreign policy and the methods and means a country uses to become more competitive in the modern world. But the recognition of this sequence (values—internal affairs—foreign policy) and the importance of values for domestic and foreign policies (essentially our positions are rooted in our values and for that reason are generally accepted as correct and justified) does not suggest existential competition between socio-political systems.

One more factor is important. During the Cold War, Russia and the U.S. knew less about each other than now due to political restrictions and objective technological limitations for the spread of information. Yet Russia took the U.S. for what it was and vice versa (exaggerations of each other's problems and caricature simplifications were made for propaganda purposes), although moral assessments of each other were basically negative. Now, with new technologies and less restrictions, Russia and the U.S. know (or at least have an opportunity to know) far more about each other, but, paradoxically, understand each other far less adequately.

The internal discourse in Russia and the U.S. can be framed in the following way. With the extension of material power on both sides, particularly rapid in Russia, professionals responsible for securing the country's vital interests, above all hard security, demand more resources. For that they need to raise the public's political awareness. Since it is impossible to present one as dangerous solely on the basis that he is strong, but only in combination that he is wrong (a bad guy) and we are right, the ideational agenda is built around the discourse of self-rightness and somebody's wrongness.

Current debates in Russia and the U.S. are at the stage when the material competition cannot be sustained by a narrow group of professionals without engaging broader political and social groups. The latter are not yet strong enough to mobilize material power for their purposes, but in the U.S. and Russia alike the elites have come very close to that. At the same time, Europe (at least Old Europe), unable to leave the comfortable mindset of the 2000s, tries to avoid this development.

While the distinction between practical and ideational agendas helped identify dilemmas associated with their change, the pending question is how they can be reconciled. The negative correlation between the two agendas, which has been described above, proves that sustainable progress in Russia-U.S. relations cannot be achieved within one of them without reconciling the disagreements with the other one. Yet there is still one way to achieve that.

Hypothetically, Russia and the U.S. may stop escalating their war of ideas if their material interests do not cross. This would be possible if they divide their zones of influence and respect them. However, practically (even if we rename zones of influence as areas of responsibilities or find some other euphemisms for them) this is impossible with the U.S.'s position of "no more Munich." This means that sustainable material de-escalation of the conflict is hardly possible without eliminating non-material, ideational disagreements.

To continue with the good news, essentially Russian and U.S. conceptual positions are not aggressive. America's exceptionalism which presents it as "a shining city upon a hill" does not imply interventionism. It aims to demonstrate moral (rather than hard) power for everybody to follow its way. Russia's messianism suggests being concerned about everything in the world and relying on moral criteria, but not getting practically involved, except in very rare cases. Arguably, Russia and the U.S. do not have historical experience (except for a relatively short period before the Bolshevik revolution) in managing a great power relationship. Most direct Russian-U.S. relations existed in the atmosphere of a genuine Cold War, a clash of two existentially incompatible sociopolitical systems. The Cold War experience of not accepting each other (as each was perceived as willing to change the other), became part of the strategic culture on both sides. This attitude has doomed the two countries to wish for (and, if possible, to stimulate) each other's internal collapse or geopolitical retreat, or a combination of both. It will take some time before a meaningful number of strategists in both countries realize that this is either impossible or unadvisable (or both). This is unlikely to happen until the U.S. settles its internal crisis and until Russia proves that it is capable of supporting its material and moral ambitions over a long period of time. Importantly, the perception of Russian foreign policy in America is extremely personified (not without reason as Vladimir Putin's role in it is really enormous). Arguably, the West will be able to take Russia as it is only after Putin leaves, and if Russian foreign policy proves to be sustainable without Putin's personal factor.

* * *

The study of Russia-U.S. relations through an analysis of the interaction between their practical and ideational agendas helps describe the dynamics of these relations and their inherent dilemmas. The proposed approach is useful for understanding the unique conceptual landscape within which U.S.-Russia (and, more broadly, West-Russia) relations develop and which ultimately influences the process. For this purpose, it is used as a separate explanatory model. The approach also contributes to an analytical description of Russian-U.S. relations per se and the evolution of the views in each country with regard to the other country. The proposed approach can be integrated with other models, thereby improving their explanatory power.


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India- South Africa to enhance trade and military ties later this month (Индия и Южная Африка укрепят торговые и военные связи в конце этого месяца) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: cooperation, trade_relations, national_security, economic_challenges

Enhanced engagement between India and South Africa and greater cooperation in areas including military to military, maritime security, skill development, and agriculture and information technology will be the focus of delegation level talks when leaders of the two countries meet later this month. The two countries have set a trade of $ 20 bn by 2021.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will be the chief guest at India's 70th Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

In 2018, the two countries celebrated their 25th anniversary re-establishing their economic and diplomatic relations and to commemorate the occasion, the first India-South Africa Business Summit had taken place in Johannesburg in April, which was followed by the 10th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit in July. This was also followed by IBSA (India, Brazil, and South Africa) meet — the two major groupings where India has been playing a key role.

As has been reported earlier, at the India-South Africa Business Summit investors from both countries had discussed existing opportunities in various sectors including automobile, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, agro-processing, and start-ups. And for the investors from South Africa, an area of interest is biotechnology – a sector where the government of India allows 100 percent FDI through the automatic route. Travel and tourism, e-commerce, renewable energy, and agro-processing are some of the sectors where the South African countries can enter the Indian market.

According to sources, healthcare and pharmaceutical sector has been identified as a key area of cooperation not only in South Africa but other African countries.

"Africa is a continent which receives nearly 20% of Indian pharmaceuticals. India had hosted the first India-Africa Health Sciences Meet in 2015, followed by health cooperation with new initiatives, including public-private-partnership programmes, in the area of health. Top Indian Pharma companies have established units in various parts of Africa, including Ethiopia, Uganda, DRC, Zambia and Ghana".

According to a short documentary screened by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) a few years ago, a leading pharma company Cipla, was the first company to offer anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) – drug therapy for HIV – at $1 (Rs 68) per day, in an effort to making this medication affordable for the millions affected in South Africa.

Recently, another major pharma company Ranbaxy, has established a second manufacturing facility, by investing $30 million in that country to make basic analgesics, anti-histamines, vitamins, and other over-the-counter medication.

India is South Africa's sixth largest trading partner in Asia, growing steadily from S$4.7 billion in 2007 to close to $10 billion at present. The total trade reached a peak of $15 billion in 2012 – before the global economic slowdown and domestic political factors put a brake on the rapid expansion.

However, South Africa's active involvement in multilateral organizations, such as the IBSA Forum (IBSA), the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (NAASP), the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IORARC), and the annual BRICS Summits has helped in the partial recovery in bilateral trade.

According to reports, in an effort to attract investment, the government of South Africa has designated Special Economic Zones where they offer special incentives.

Indian high commissioner to South Africa Ruchira Kamboj in an interaction with Engineering News of South Africa recently said that the bilateral trade between India and South Africa currently stands at about $10-billion. "More than 150 Indian companies have invested in South Africa, employing more than 20 000 South Africans. These investors include some of India's biggest and best known groups, such as Tata, Mahindra, Vedanta and Motherson Sumi."

According to the Indian High Commissioner, in the defence sector, South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel is free to do business with the Indian government and Indian companies.

Both countries are looking for better connectivity as currently there are no direct flights and with direct flights both trade and tourism will improve between the two countries.
Shifting politics poses threat to Brics' future (Смена политики создает угрозу будущему БРИКС) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues
Author: K С Singh

The nation most likely to rupture Brics is Brazil, under its recently-elected populist President Jair Bolsonaro.

The rise of populist, right-wing leaders across the world, such as US President Donald Trump, raises questions about the groupings that India has assiduously helped to build in the past decade. Brics - one such grouping of five major emerging powers from different continents - was to bridge the divide as the world underwent an economic and political power shift from the Atlantic to the Asia-Pacific (or what is today called the Indo-Pacific). Although annual summits of the founding members - Brazil, China, India and Russia - began in 2009, South Africa was added to co-opt an African member in 2010, despite neither its population nor its GDP rivalling that of the other four.

Political churn in each nation is likely to impact Brics' future. South Africa under its former President Jacob Zuma had faced an economic meltdown rendering South Africa's membership lame duck till his replacement by Cyril Ramphosa in February 2018. The cleaning up of the financial mess is still underway, with the alleged "state capture" by outside agents like the Gupta brothers, who are of Indian origin. Reform of the National Prosecuting Service (NPA) and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is also incomplete. Meanwhile, South Africa faces a general election in May this year, coincidently like India. To unify the ruling African National Congress (ANC), President Ramaphosa is compelled, paradoxically, to woo his predecessor while exorcising his ghost from governance. The African President will be the chief guest at this year's Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi, when Mahatma Gandhi will be remembered with much warmth and fondness.The guest, on the other hand, will be focused on investment and trade to help revive the South African economy. So far China, the Saudi-UAE combine and Germany have shown interest in the tangled South African economy.

The nation most likely to rupture Brics is Brazil, under its recently-elected populist President Jair Bolsonaro. Brazilian foreign policy, whether under authoritarian rule till 1985 or as a democracy since then, has been conditioned by the legacy of the Baron of Rio Branco, foreign minister in 1902-1912. He settled the Brazilian borders with all 10 neighbours, combining respect for international law, peaceful deal-making and soft power. The appointment of a relatively junior serving diplomat Ernesto Araujo as foreign minister, who proclaims "God is back and the nation is back", and thus swears by religion as the touchstone of diplomacy, has shocked several of its neighbours as well as the Brazilian elite. He is additionally a China sceptic and during the campaign had visited Taiwan, which would not have gone unnoticed in Beijing. He debunks "globalism" in a nation that has been at the forefront of various multilateral issues, including climate change. President Bolsonaro himself announced that Brazil will withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. Not surprisingly, he is also candidly enamoured of US President Donald Trump and other populist-nationalists in Italy, Hungary and Poland.

It is possible that this new evangelism may be moderated by the pragmatic economy minister Paulo Guedes, but President Bolsonaro is unlikely to abandon his core beliefs, which could well disrupt Brics, particularly as Brazil is due to host the next summit. Brics had been nurtured by Brazilian governments led by the charismatic Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and his successor Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party in 2003-16. Although Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a populist-nationalist himself, he has kept his politics for domestic vote consolidation while adopting a more liberal stance abroad. How he deals with a kindred soul in Brasilia will be a post-election challenge, if he retains power after the mid-2019 election. A non-BJP Indian Prime Minister may find Brazil a less palatable partner.

Russia and China are the other two legs of Brics. It was the Chinese need to successfully hold the Xiamen Brics summit in September 2017 that had facilitated a resolution of the Sino-Indian standoff at Doklam that year. But there has been a growing Sino-Russian convergence alongside the escalation of the Sino-US trade standoff, which they are trying during a three-month time-out to resolve by discussions. But Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 2, in a speech marking 40 years of the 1979 message that moderated the Chinese approach to Taiwan from "liberation" to "peaceful unification", conveyed his impatience with the delay in annexing Taiwan and held out the possibility of the use of force to achieve it. If anything, this has hardened Taiwanese domestic opinion against unification, with one poll indicating only three per cent of the islanders in its favour. A close reading of the report delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 19th Party Congress on October 18, 2017 reveals the Chinese strategy to get to the envisioned China 2025. The "national rejuvenati-on" touted is about moving China closer to the global centrestage to transform global governance as per the Chinese vision of their centrality. Prof. Xiang Lanxin has thus called the Belt and Road Initiative as a "post-Westphalian" integration of a 21st century Eurasia. This is a resurrection of Tianxia or Mandate of Heaven that the Chinese have used historically to rearran-ge other nations in a "dynamic equilibrium", ensuring Chine-se supremacy. This bodes ill for the unity of Brics.

Russia under President Vladimir Putin has reinvented its role as the arbiter of peace in West Asia, Afghanistan and the Pacific, by drawing Japan into negotiations over the Kuril islands' return. President Putin is now using China as an economic and strategic partner and main foil to the United States, ceding it supremacy in the Chinese maritime periphery in exchange for China accepting a similar lead role for Russia on the Eurasian continent. This deal may not hold beyond the Sino-US standoff but is the basis of a new order. The fate of Brics thus hangs in the balance with President Bolsonaro likely to pull in a different direction. India will be the outlier balancing the pulls and tugs of old players with new moves. Meanwhile, both the Indian and South African people are to decide in May their next governments. The old saying appears apposite - the Brics are now loose bricks!
Investment and Finance
Investment and finance in BRICS
Russian Official: BRICS Countries Continue Unified Payments Systems Developing, No Plans for Bitcoin in Near Future (Российский чиновник: страны БРИКС продолжают развивать системы унифицированных платежей, в ближайшее время нет планов по биткойну) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: digital, economic_challenges

Last week, the news that Russia is considering investing huge amount of money into Bitcoin as a means to invade US sanctions spread like fire.

Given the fact that Russia has been working on de-dollarization plans for a long time now while looking for an alternative reserve currency further put force behind this news. This got the crypto enthusiasts excited as this would have meant huge investment into the crypto market and that too directly from the government.

However, this might not be happening at least, any time soon, as the Russian news channel, Forklog, published an article quoting Elina Sidorenko, the chairperson of an interdepartmental working group of the State Duma for managing risks of cryptocurrency turnover, as saying,

"Under this statement, there is not a bit of common sense, much less ideas that would be considered in government circles. The Russian Federation, like any other country in the world, is simply not ready today to somehow combine its traditional financial system with cryptocurrencies. And to say that in Russia this idea can be implemented in the next at least 30 years is unlikely to be possible."

She further pointed out that given the fact that there is lack of any legislative regulation of cryptocurrencies in the territory of the Russian Federation makes what Vladislav Ginko, a teacher at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation, said sound absurd.

"Even if Russia wants to place its cryptocurrency assets now, it simply cannot do this, due to the fact that we do not have any mechanisms that would allow us to introduce a system, where these assets would be stored, which authorities would be responsible for it, which would be responsible for abuses and stuff. Such a model under the current criminal, financial and civil legislation, in general, does not fit. All over the world, a cryptocurrency is considered as a high-risk asset and a similar model, naturally, would not suit anyone."

However, Sidorenko does note a different way to solve this issue which she states is the only way to use digital assets at the state level.

She says an interstate cryptocurrency can be created that would then become a unified system of payments between countries.

"A similar idea is already being considered within the framework of the EAEU, but the BRICS countries have moved closer to it. If a cryptocurrency unit had been invented, which allowed making payments only for energy, in fact, the Russian Federation could have made a long and long-term advance in the economy."

Just recently, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev talked about cryptocurrencies and their volatility being a cause for concern while acknowledging the fact that it has its own benefits that can't be cast aside.

"But this, of course, is not a reason to bury them [cryptocurrencies]. Here […] there are both light sides and dark sides, as in any social phenomenon, in any economic institute. And we should just watch closely what happens to them."
SA agricultural exports growing steadily (Экспорт сельскохозяйственной продукции ЮАР неуклонно растет) / South Africa, January, 2019
Keywords: economic_challenges
South Africa

South African agricultural exports have been growing steadily over the last five years despite challenges including drought, bouts of food-and-mouth disease, and avian and swine flu over the same period.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana attributed the positive results to the collaborative work between the department's attachés, plant health, animal health, international trade directorates, as well as industry bodies.

"The work included the signing of a MoU and protocols by the Minister with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) member countries. We have seen exponential growth of exports with countries like Japan (46%) and we have gained market access for new products in countries like the USA, China, India, Philippines, etc," Zokwana said.

Zokwana highlighted these milestones during a service delivery forum held in Cape Town on Wednesday.

The forum brought together the public and private sectors and civil society to engage on how the sectors can contribute to the delivery agreement of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Achievements in Aquaculture Operation Phakisa Programme

Zokwana said since the launch of the Aquaculture Operation Phakisa Programme in 2014, various milestones were achieved in order to develop the aquaculture sector.

"The DAFF has registered 35 Phakisa projects and identified eight Aquaculture Development Zones (ADZ) throughout the country. These zones will be dedicated for aquaculture development with the aim of creating an enabling environment and facilitating investment.

"In 2018, more than 4 000 tons were farmed by the 35 projects and the total employment was 1 943 jobs. During the period of 2017/18 the projected additional investment was R616 million of which R236 million was from government and R379 million was from the private sector," Zokwana said.

In terms of skills and capacity building, five State veterinarians were trained at Stirling University on fish health, which is a scarce skill in South Africa.

Zokwana said since the amendment of the Marine Living Resources Act in 2014, which formally recognised the previously marginalised small-scale fishers in South Africa, the department has commenced with a small-scale fisheries program, whose aim is to establish a new small-scale fishery throughout coastal communities.

The initiative, according to the Minister, has seen over 10 000 individual traditional fishers being recognised as small-scale fishers for the first time in South African history.

He said over 200 communities in the four coastal provinces will now be able to access marine resources legally for the purpose of participating in the ocean economy and for food security.

"During 2018, government allocated the first 15-year fishing rights to Port Nolloth and Honderklipbaai in the Northern Cape, where a total of 103 individually recognised small-scale fishers have been assisted to register two co-operatives for the purpose of receiving economically sustainable 15-year fishing rights. This will benefit the broader community of the Northern Cape," the Minister said.

For 2019, Zokwana announced that government is in the process of finalising the allocation of 15-year fishing rights to 75 registered co-operatives.

The co-operatives comprise 5 335 small-scale fishers in Eastern Cape; 45 registered co-operatives made up of 2 184 small-scale fishers in KwaZulu-Natal and co-operatives that will include over 2 500 small-scale fishers in the Western Cape.

Fishing rights allocation appeals finalised

Meanwhile, Zokwana announced that the Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP) 2015/2016, appeals process has been finalised, with the exception of Horse Mackerel, which is expected to be completed shortly.

The department has also started the process of revising policies and application forms for 12 sectors, whose rights expire in 2020. –

Political Events
Political events in the public life of BRICS
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to media questions at a news conference on the results of Russian diplomacy in 2018 Moscow, January 16, 2019 (Выступление и ответы на вопросы СМИ Министра иностранных дел России С.В.Лаврова в ходе пресс-конференции по итогам деятельности российской дипломатии в 2018 году, Москва, 16 января 2019 года) / Russia, January, 2019
Keywords: mofa, sergey_lavrov, speech

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are delighted to welcome you to this traditional news conference on the results of our foreign policy performance last year.

We would like this meeting to take place, just as before, in the form of a direct dialogue. Therefore, I will try to keep my opening remarks as concise as possible, especially since President Vladimir Putin has already spoken about our approaches to the main current topics more than once, including at his annual news conference held on December 20, 2018, as well as during the interviews he gave to Serbian newspapers yesterday.

It is needless to say that the international situation remained complicated. The conflict potential increased last year, primarily because of the stubborn unwillingness of some Western countries led by the United States to accept the realities of the objectively developing multipolar world, as well as because of their desire to continue to force their will on others by means of pressure and economic and propaganda instruments. There have been attempts to steamroll multilateral institutions and erode their international mission and to replace the universal norms of international law with a "rules-based order." This term was recently coined to camouflage a striving to invent rules depending on changes in the political situation so as to be able to put pressure on disagreeable states and often even on allies.

It is alarming that various non-consensual initiatives are advocated beyond the framework of international institutions, and that decisions taken behind closed doors by a narrow group of the select few are presented as the opinion of the international community.

We see no cause for optimism in Washington's unilateral actions taken to undermine the crucial international legal instruments of strategic stability. We saw the latest example of this at the Russian-US consultations on the INF Treaty held in Geneva yesterday. Taken together, this is increasing mutual mistrust and militarising foreign policy mentality.

In this situation, we continued to pursue a multidirectional foreign policy focused on protecting Russia's national interests. We worked to strengthen the positive trends on the international stage, to find collective solutions based on international law to the problems all countries are facing, and ultimately to promote a fairer and more democratic polycentric world order in keeping with objective modern realities. Towards this end, we closely cooperated with our allies and partners at the CSTO, the EAEU, the CIS, BRICS and the SCO, as well as working constructively in the key global governance bodies, primarily the UN and G20.

As part of our presidency of the EAEU, we worked to strengthen the organisation's international standing. We did our best to align the EAEU with China's Belt and Road initiative and to promote the Russia-ASEAN strategic partnership, including in the context of President Putin's initiative for creating a Greater Eurasian Partnership based on the logic of harmonising our integration processes and open for accession to all countries and associations both in Asia and in Europe.

International terrorism has been dealt a defeating blow in Syria. This allowed to preserve the Syrian state and to launch economic recovery and the return of refugees back home. In keeping with the decisions taken at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi, the guarantor countries of the Astana Process – Russia, Turkey and Iran – worked hard to help form the Constitutional Committee by convincing the Syrian Government and the opposition to approve the list of its potential members. This has created conditions for a political process in full compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2254 in the interests of a lasting settlement of the Syrian crisis.

We supported the positive trends on the Korean Peninsula based on the logic of the Russian-Chinese roadmap for a settlement. Of course, this calls for reciprocating Pyongyang's constructive moves.

Another major result of the past year was the signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea at the fifth Caspian Summit. This convention seals the coastal states' exclusive rights to this unique body of water and its mineral and other resources.

We made significant efforts to ensure international information security and to fight cybercrime. In December, the UN General Assembly approved two resolutions on this matter on our initiative.

We paid special attention to the further development of contacts with the multi-million Russian world. The 6th World Congress of Russian Compatriots Living Abroad on October 31 − November 1 held in Moscow.

We expanded humanitarian, research and educational ties, and supported various initiatives aimed at introducing the world community to the best achievements of national culture and art. We assisted foreign countries in the training of their national personnel.

The FIFA World Cup was a highlight last year – a real triumph of public diplomacy. Millions of foreign guests visited Russia and saw modern Russia together with its citizens with their very own eyes.

This year, we intend to step up efforts in all the key areas. Among our priorities is the promotion of creating a truly universal antiterrorist coalition under the auspices of the UN, mobilising the international community to more effectively combat drug trafficking and other types of organised crime. We will help consolidate positive trends in Syria and on the Korean Peninsula, resolve other crises and conflicts, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Ukraine, where there is no alternative to the full and consistent implementation of the Minsk Agreements. As before, we are interested in restoring normal relations with the US and the EU on the principles of equality and mutual consideration of interests. We will certainly continue to respond appropriately to the increased NATO military activity and its military infrastructure being moved closer to the Russian borders.

Our undoubted priority is to ensure the national security and other favourable external conditions for Russia's dynamic development and improving Russians' welfare. We are open for creative interaction with all those who do not make bilateral relations hostage of volatile political environment or use them as a tool to achieve geopolitical advantages, but are willing to cooperate honestly and find mutually acceptable compromises based on mutual benefit.

In conclusion, I would like to note that a few days ago, on January 13, Russia marked Russian Press Day. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like to greet everyone here, primarily the workers of the Russian media as representatives of the entire Russian journalistic community on your professional day. We highly appreciate your work, and efforts to promote high professional standards in the global information space, and your values of honest and unbiased journalism. We are ready to continue close and constructive interaction with the media in a variety of formats. I can assure you that we will certainly continue to pay heightened attention to ensuring free and unhindered work of journalists, and to work to maintain the effective observance of the existing international guarantees by all states.

Thank you. I am ready to answer your questions.


Question: Jair Bolsonaro has taken office as the President of Brazil. He is dubbed the Trump of the Tropics. Are there any concerns that he could be a Trojan horse for BRICS?

Sergey Lavrov: President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro contacted our representatives, including State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who represented our country at his inauguration. He confirmed his intention to ensure continuity in relations with the Russian Federation and to participate in the further development of BRICS, in which Brazil took over the presidency this year. Literally the other day, our Brazilian colleagues made us aware of their presidency plans, the schedule of ministerial meetings and the summit, and the programme that they propose to other members of this group. I do not see any reason to assume that Brazil will play a destructive role in BRICS. On the contrary, the country affirms that the group is one of the priorities in Brazil's foreign policy.

Question: Last year trade between Russia and China set a historical record by exceeding $100 billion. China is Russia's largest trade partner. How do you regard the prospects of trade and economic relations between Russia and China?

Sergey Lavrov: It is true, last year we really reached a record level in trade and there is more to come. We and our Chinese friends share quite ambitious plans that were discussed during the meeting between President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of China Xi Jinping, during Vladimir Putin's visit to China last summer and Xi Jinping's visit to Russia during the Eastern Economic Forum and other contacts our leaders had on the sidelines of international events held by BRICS, G20 and other organisations. Our economic representatives that prepare meetings between heads of state also meet regularly. The latest meeting summed up the results of activities carried out by about 60 organisations operating in various areas of our cooperation. We are developing and already granted support to about 70 projects worth over $100 billion in various spheres such as energy, including nuclear energy, agriculture, transport and cooperation in space. As you know, our space agencies coordinate global navigation systems, GLONASS and Beidou. I believe that our prospects in trade, the economy and investment are very significant.

Let me also comment on our close cooperation and common approaches in international affairs, such as cooperation within BRICS and the SCO as well as in the context of developing ties and harmonising processes with the Eurasian Economic Space and the Belt and Road Initiative. In the United Nations, including the Security Council, we share common approaches to settling conflicts based on international law and dialogue strictly by political means, whether it is the conflict in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East, or the Korean Peninsula. Our relations are developing steadily and progressively in all areas.

World of work
Social policy, trade unions, actions
UCT is Africa's top university in emerging economies (UCT - лучший университет Африки в странах с развивающейся экономикой) / India, January, 2019
Keywords: social_issues, rating

Seven South African universities are in the top 200 of the 2019 Times Higher Education (THE) Emerging Economies University Rankings, with UCT ranking top in the continent.

At position 9, the University of Cape Town (UCT) was ahead of other local institutions such as Wits at 11, Stellenbosch University at 24, the University of KwaZulu-Natal at 49, the University of the Western Cape at 121, the University of Johannesburg at 99, and the University of Pretoria at 78.

The ranking listed 442 universities from 43 countries, classified by the FTSE as "advanced emerging", "secondary emerging" or "frontier".

South Africa has nine institutions in the index, up from eight last year, and occupies seven in the top 200.

The institutions are measured on a range of outcomes, including teaching and research categories, industry links and international outlook, among other things.

All BRICS nations, which South Africa is part of, are represented in the index, with China's Tsingua University taking the number one spot, followed by Peking University in second place.

China is the most represented nation in the 2019 list, with 72 institutions, and occupies seven spots of the top 10.

Brazil is the most represented Latin American nation.

"Elsewhere, emerging nations across Europe have generally declined, while several countries in the Middle East and North Africa and Southeast Asian regions have progressed," according to the report.

A total of 442 universities from 43 countries were featured in the ranking.
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