BRICS leaders’ summit starts in South Africa: Xi Jinping came, Putin didn’t

The BRICS leaders’ summit – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, and India – begins today, August 22, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This is the 15th summit of these countries’ heads of state and government. It will take place from August 22 through August 24.

So far, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have arrived in South Africa in place of dictator Putin. Putin did not attend the forum to escape arrest under an International Criminal Court warrant for war crimes committed in Ukraine. The absence of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin at the BRICS summit depicts Putin’s isolation and the decline of Russia’s influence in this organisation.

According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, the BRICS summit is “an important historical milestone” that will deepen unity among emerging countries.

What will the BRICS countries discuss?

According to Reuters, the summit will focus on increasing the usage of local currencies in the bloc’s member nations. At the same time, the summit’s South African organisers stated that the “BRICS currency” would not be considered. Previously, Brazil proposed a similar program as an alternative to reliance on the dollar.

The bloc’s enlargement will also be explored. This has long been an aim of China, which thinks that increased membership will lend weight to the organisation, which already houses nearly 40% of the world’s population and generates a quarter of the global GDP.

According to South African officials, more than 40 nations have expressed interest in joining the BRICS, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Algeria, Bolivia, Indonesia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Comoros, Gabon, and Kazakhstan. Nearly two dozen of them have formally applied for membership.

They regard the BRICS as an alternative to traditional Western-dominated global organisations and believe that participation will provide benefits such as development money, expanded commerce, and investment.

Potential new BRICS members

Saudi Arabia was one of over a dozen countries that attended the “Friends of BRICS” talks in Cape Town in June. Russia and Brazil both supported BRICS membership. Argentina stated in July 2022 that it had gained official support from China in its ambition to join the organisation.

Bolivian President Luis Arce has indicated an interest in joining the BRICS and will likely attend the conference. His government declared in July that it plans to minimise its reliance on the US dollar for overseas commerce by switching to the Chinese yuan, in keeping with the BRICS leaders’ stated goal of reducing dependence on the US currency.

Algeria stated in July that it had applied for BRICS membership and had become a stakeholder in the New Development Bank, also known as the BRICS Bank. The oil and gas-rich North African nation wants to diversify its economy and deepen ties with China and other countries.

Key facts about BRICS

Brazil, Russia, India, and China founded the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Aside from geopolitics, the group is concerned with economic cooperation and expanding multilateral commerce and development.

In a research study showcasing the economic potential of Brazil, Russia, India, and China in 2001, Jim O’Neill, then head economist at Goldman Sachs, invented the abbreviation BRICC. The bloc was formed in 2009 as an informal club to give a platform for its members to challenge the world order dominated by the US and its Western allies.

The organisation is not a formal international organisation such as the United Nations, the World Bank, or the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The participating countries heads of state and government meet annually, with each country holding a one-year presidency of the group.

It should be emphasised that South Africa, the smallest member in terms of economic influence and population, was the first to gain from the bloc’s development in 2010 when it was renamed BRICS.

Why did Putin skip the BRICS summit?

South Africa highlighted in mid-April that the arrest warrant issued by a court in The Hague for Russian President Vladimir Putin was putting a spoke in the wheel of their preparations to host the BRICS summit in August.

On May 1, South African authorities informally informed Russia that if Putin flew to the country for the BRICS conference, they would be forced to arrest him under an ICC warrant.

On July 19, it was revealed that Putin refused to fly to South Africa for the BRICS meeting for fear of being detained at his request of the International Criminal Court. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will represent Russia physically. Putin will take part online. He was labelled an “international pariah” by the US State Department.

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