What you need to know about the BRICS summit, Putin’s first major multilateral meeting since invading Ukraine

What you need to know about the BRICS summit, Putin’s first major multilateral meeting since invading Ukraine
Participants gather near a screen showing Russian President Vladimir Putin, who delivers a speech at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 17, 2022. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

Putin is set to join a meeting Thursday with members of BRICS, a group including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa that sees itself as a voice for developing countries. This year, the event is being hosted virtually by Beijing and will mark Putin’s first major multilateral meeting since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war around four months ago.

None of the group’s members has openly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and China and India have deepened their ties with Russia despite the piles of sanctions mounting against the country’s economy. Although Brazil voted in favor of the UN’s emergency meeting held on the invasion, President Jair Bolsonaro said the country would remain “neutral," later adding that Ukraine had “trusted a comedian with the fate of a nation."

Kicking off this year’s summit, President Xi suggested that NATO was responsible for antagonizing Russia and criticized Western sanctions for global economic suffering, according to state media.

But it’s not just the developing nations against the West. The dynamic between the group’s members, like China, Russia and India, isn’t that clear-cut, either. India and China are still trying to sort out the world’s longest disputed border, where their troops have clashed on multiple occasions. India is also estimated to be between 60% to 85% dependent on Russian arms, but ideologically, the world’s largest democracy is also forming deeper security ties with the US, joining some key dialogues.

Key comments:

“We’re talking about some very major economies whose leadership is willing to be seen with Putin, even if it is only on a virtual platform," said Sushant Singh, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in India. “The fact that Putin is welcome, he’s not a pariah, he’s not being pushed out – and this is a normal engagement, which has taken place every year and it’s still taking place – that is a big plus for Putin.”

“There’s not going to be any full-throated embrace of Russia (at this summit), there’s no doubt about it, and I’m sure there’s gonna be plenty of awkwardness there … but behind the awkwardness (de-dollarization) is one area where these governments do have a shared interest," said Shahar Hameiri, a professor and political economist at the University of Queensland in Australia. “Any kind of meaningful steps away from (a US dollar-denominated system) are potentially significant."

“Politicizing, instrumentalizing and weaponizing the world economy using a dominant position in the global financial system to wantonly impose sanctions would only hurt others as well as hurting oneself, leaving people around the world suffering,” Xi told the BRICS Business Forum via video link Wednesday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. “Those who obsess with a position of strength, expand their military alliance, and seek their own security at the expense of others will only fall into a security conundrum.”