Politics

Russia-Ukraine conflict a real test for BRICS, especially with SA flip-flopping


President Cyril Ramaphosa has been pushing for a more neutral stance while Dirco released a statement calling on Russia to withdraw its forces and respect territorial integrity and sovereignty.

President Cyril Ramaphosa with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the BRICS Summit. Picture: GCIS.

MOSCOW – The Russia-Ukraine violence is a real test for the cohesion of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries.

For years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been carefully cultivating his partners in the alliance, hoping they would bat for him during a time like this, especially economically. But it seems he miscalculated.

India declared its neutrality and abstained from the United Nations (UN) Security Vote.

China has been hedging its bets although it remains politically and diplomatically close to Moscow.

South Africa appears to be flip-flopping and tensions between the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) and the Presidency have emerged.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has been pushing for a more neutral stance while Dirco released a statement calling on Russia to withdraw its forces and respect territorial integrity and sovereignty.

But now, he appears to have walked that back and is more conciliatory towards Moscow.

Brazil has never really been interested in BRICS under its current leadership. Its president Jair Bolsonaro chided his foreign minister for taking a pro-Ukraine position.

“I think they all wanted to remain neutral, but the nature of the Russia invasion pushed some to change their minds and to be a bit more critical of Russia than we may have expected,” said Steven Gruzd, head of the Russia-Africa project at the SA Institute of International Affairs.

“BRICS populations are asking questions of their governments regarding their stance and are expecting them to take a strong stand on Russia.”

No doubt this will be a test for BRICS and its cohesion.

“I never felt BRICS was anything other than a glorified PR attempt for participating countries. It is not a natural entity,” said Daniel Silke of the Political Futures Consultancy.

“Bilateral relations are much more likely to survive than the BRICS grouping itself. BRICS is not dead in the water because of this, but it will be difficult for it to operate going forward until Russia is rehabilitated through political change or militarily beaten.”

What happens in the coming days and weeks could also influence China’s actions regarding Taiwan, which Beijing lays claim to.

Russia’s unilateral invasion of Ukraine might embolden Beijing to seize the island or the strong international reaction Moscow generated might discourage it from doing so.





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