BRICS undermine Western attempt to isolate Russia


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(L to R) Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, Ambassador Carlos Antonio Paranhos of Brazil, at the BRICS meeting of foreign ministers during the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands, March 24, 2014. (Xinhua/Gong Bing)

During a meeting yesterday on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the BRICS' foreign ministers opposed restrictions on the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Australia in November 2014.

In their declaration, the BRICS countries expressed "concern" over Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop’s comment that Putin could be barred from attending the G-20 Summit in November. “The custodianship of the G-20 belongs to all member-states equally and no one member-state can unilaterally determine its nature and character,” the BRICS said in a statement.

This is highly significant but not altogether surprising. China, which plays a leading role in the BRICS grouping, abstained from a UNSC resolution that criticized Russia, thus markedly reducing the effectiveness of Western attempts to isolate President Putin. As argued before (Why China will back Russia on Ukraine), Beijing is keen to use Russia to balance the West, and criticizing Russia would imply support of Western meddling in Ukraine.

India's National Security Adviser Shivshankar, for his part, spoke of Russia’s “legitimate interests” in Crimea, in what became the most pro-Russian comments made by a leading policy maker of a major power. India made clear that it will not support any "unilateral measures" against Russia, its major arms supplier, pointing out that it believes in Russia's important role when dealing with challenges in Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. India's unwillingness to criticize Russia may also stem from a deep skepticism of the West's tacit support for several attempted coups against democratically elected governments over the past years - for example in Venezuela in 2002, in Egypt in 2013, and now in Ukraine.

The final document of the BRICS meeting also stated that "the escalation of hostile language, sanctions and counter-sanctions, and force does not contribute to a sustainable and peaceful solution, according to international law, including the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter."

None of the BRICS members is likely to be capable or interested in acting as a mediator between Russia and the West. Yet their criticism of Australia's threat to exclude Russia from the G20 is a clear sign that West will not succeed in bringing the entire international community into line in its attempt to isolate Russia.

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