Russian President Vladimir Putin has defied expectations that he would appear in person at the 15th BRICS Summit held in South Africa.
The key summit convening the five member states of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa opened this week and is being attended by international heavyweights Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa from 22 to 24 August.
President Putin attended via video address due to an outstanding International Criminal Court arrest warrant, however, it had been heavily speculated that he could attend in person after South Africa issued diplomatic immunity to all leaders attending the meeting in Johannesburg.
“It is important that this forum focuses on such pressing issues as the post-pandemic economic recovery of the BRICS states, improvement of citizens’ well-being, industrial modernisation, development of effective transport and logistics chains, and stimulation of equitable technology transfers,” President Putin said in his video address.
“The global economic situation is also seriously affected by the illegitimate sanctions practice and illegal freezing of assets of sovereign states, which essentially amounts to the trampling upon all the basic norms and rules of free trade and economic life; norms and rules that not so long ago seemed immutable.
“Shortage of resources, growing inequality, rising unemployment, and aggravation of other chronic problems in the global economy are the direct consequences of this. Prices for food, basic agricultural products and crops are forced up, making the most vulnerable, poor countries suffer the most.
“Russia is being deliberately obstructed in the supply of grain and fertilizers abroad and at the same time we are hypocritically blamed for the current crisis situation on the world market. This has been clearly seen in the implementation of the so-called ‘grain deal’ concluded with the participation of the UN Secretariat and initially aimed at ensuring global food security, reducing the threat of hunger, and providing aid to the poorest countries.
“Importantly, under these circumstances, the BRICS states have stepped up their interaction, and our joint work to ensure economic growth and sustainable development brings concrete, tangible results. More and more new infrastructure and investment projects are being launched, mutual trade is growing, industry contacts are expanding.
“The objective and irreversible process of the de-dollarisation of our economic ties is gaining pace. We are working to fine-tune effective mechanisms for mutual settlements and monetary and financial control. As a result, the share of US dollar in export and import operations within BRICS is declining: last year it stood at only 28.7 percent.”
With Putin on the sidelines, many diplomats and media will be turning to Chinese President Xi as the real powerhouse attending the conference and the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue.
“South Africa is home to the great statesman Nelson Mandela, and it boasts the richest tourist resources, the longest road network, the biggest securities exchange, and the busiest airports and harbors in Africa,” Xi said.
“Our friendship has defied the obstacles of mountains and oceans. Facing the sudden onslaught of COVID-19, China was among the first to provide anti-pandemic supplies to South Africa, reaffirming our special brotherhood.
“South Africa was the first African country to sign the Belt and Road cooperation document with China. It has been China’s biggest trading partner in Africa for 13 years in a row, as well as one of the African countries with the largest stock of Chinese investment.
“The China-South Africa relationship is standing at a new historical starting point. It has gone beyond the bilateral scope and carries increasingly important global influence. During my forthcoming visit, I look forward to working with President Ramaphosa to chart the plan for a new chapter of our comprehensive strategic partnership.
“We need to increase our experience-sharing on governance and firmly support each other in independently exploring a path to modernisation that suits our respective national conditions. We should fear no hegemony, and work with each other as real partners to push forward our relations amid the changing international landscape.
“China and South Africa should be pacesetters for solidarity and cooperation. We will succeed because of our biggest strengths in high economic complementarity and the solid foundation for cooperation.
“We need to further synergise development strategies, promote stronger cooperation in infrastructure, digital economy, scientific and technological innovation and energy transition, and ensure that more people of our two countries will benefit from the development outcomes.
“I will work with African leaders to bring more active, effective, and sustainable development initiatives to Africa, expand cooperation in agriculture, manufacturing, new energy and digital economy, and facilitate Africa’s economic integration, industrialisation, and agricultural modernisation.”