BRICS summit defies West's bid to isolate Russia over Ukraine crisis

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 11:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 7:31pm

The summit of the BRICS group of emerging economies in Brazil this week defies the Western push to isolate Russia, a sign of the increasingly multipolar world order the bloc demands.

The meetings yesterday and today's of leaders of the group's member countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - mark the first time Russian President Vladimir Putin has participated in an international summit since being kicked out of the Group of Eight industrialised nations over the Ukraine crisis.

"The BRICS grouping has shown that the West can no longer co-opt emerging powers into falling into line, even about crucial geopolitical issues," said Oliver Stuenkel, a professor of international relations at Brazil's Getulio Vargas Foundation.

"They refused to participate in efforts to isolate Russia," he said, adding that thanks to other BRICS nations' support, it would be impossible to expel Russia from the G20 club of developed and emerging countries.

Relations between Russia and the West have hit a post-cold-war low over Moscow's takeover of Crimea and support for rebels fighting to break away from Ukraine.

In March, the BRICS members abstained from a vote at the United Nations General Assembly on a resolution condemning Russia's takeover of Crimea.

At the time, Vadim Lukov, the Russian foreign ministry's BRICS coordinator, said the Ukraine crisis had "contributed to a consolidation of the alliance".

Bertrand Badie, a researcher at the CERI centre for international studies in Paris, said: "It's rewarding for Putin to see ahead of the BRICS summit that in the face of relative Western solidarity, there's a clear difference [of position] among his partners."

He said the fact that even China, which is normally "very concerned about issues of territorial integrity", had remained neutral on Crimea was a positive sign for Russia.

The tacit support indicates these countries' important bilateral relationship with Russia. Within the BRICS group itself, there is "no pressure to adopt a common position", Badie said.

The Ukraine crisis has also given the BRICS members an occasion to voice their opposition to the way Western powers dominate the international arena.

"The BRICS have been pretty clear in their opposition to US and EU sanctions against Russia," said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. "The BRICS countries can't force Washington to change its foreign policy. All they can do is make [it] pay a political and economic price for it."

The strategic centrepiece of the summit is the creation of a development bank and reserve fund, providing an alternative to Western-dominated institutions.