Russia’s new assertiveness as member of BRICS
by Olivia Kroth
Russia is back on the world scene, basking in the spotlight. The Russian President Vladimir Putin dominates the headlines of international media, much to the discontent of western politicians who are getting angrier by the day, spouting nasty comments like envious schoolboys. Western politicians are not used to sitting on the fence, watching the big players doing their thing. Cool and unruffled, the Russians are setting the pace, showing self-confidence and assertiveness to the world.
In the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique (May 2014, page 6) Jean Radvanyi comments on “Russia’s return on the diplomatic scene” and states the Kremlin’s “disdain of the European Union”. He dislikes the Russians turning towards Asia instead of Europe. But is it really disdain? If Europeans took an unprejudiced look at the world map they might notice how small their continent is, when compared to the Russian Federation or the People’s Republic of China. Europe almost looks like an appendix to the vast Asian landmass. Europeans have been thinking for more than a thousand years that their tiny continent deserved to remain the centre of global attention forever. This might have been true for the first, but certainly not for the second millenium which has just begun.
BRICS on the rise
Brazil, Russia, India and China founded the association at the first BRICS Summit in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, on the 16th of June 2009. South Africa joined them in 2010. Today BRICS spans the globe with three billion people and a combined GDP of nearly 17 billion dollars. The German journalists Daniel Eckert and Holger Zschäpitz analyze in the daily Die Welt (06.05.2014, page 13) the strength of the world’s top ten economies according to the newest data issued by the World Bank. It comes as no surprise that four of the five BRICS states rank among the global top ten. China takes the second place with a GDP of 10.580 billion dollars. Brazil, India and Russia form a solid block as numbers eight, nine and ten. Their respective GDP amounts to 2.143, 2.096 and 2.018 dollars. “China rises like a rocket”, the German analysts know. “No other country of the world produces so many new millionaires each year.”
Russia and China
It is quite natural that Russia prefers dealing with China rather than the ailing, failing EU. The European economy remains in the grip of a chronic, self-made crisis with no end in sight. “Business alwas develops in the environment of stability and mutual interest”, says Dmitry Abzalov, Head of the Russian Centre of Strategic Communications. “Russia’s cooperation with China is based on the raw material sector, engineering and military technology”, he told The Voice of Russia (04.05.2014). When President Vladimir Putin visits China at the end of May, new agreements on natural gas will be signed. China already imports Russian ESPO oil through the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline. In 2013, total Russian ESPO sales amounted to 30 million tons. ESPO is Russia’s best blend, light and low in salt chloride content. It is highly valued in Asia. With China’s consumption constantly rising, chances are that Russia and China will soon switch to mutual payments in their national currencies, the rouble and yuan.
Ivan Aivazovsky: View of the Kerch Strait (1839)
According to the Russian media Kommersant (05.05.2014), China wants to participate in building a transport corridor from Russia’s Krasnodar Krai to the Crimean Peninsula across the Kerch Strait. The Russian news agency ITAR TASS (05.05.2014) published information that the China International Fund (CIF) is expected to fund the project and the China Railway Constructions Corporation (CRCC) will build it. The state-owned CRCC, one of the largest construction companies worldwide, is specialized on building bridges, highways, railways and tunnels. Its net profit reached 1.6 billion dollars in 2013. Bejing is furthermore interested in a joint project with Russia to develop alternative energies on the Crimean Peninsula, mainly solar energy. China also wants to take part in the construction of a deepwater port near the Crimean town of Yevpatoria (Die Stimme Russlands, 25.04.2014).
“Post-Crimea World Order”
Under this title the Indian journalist Debidatta Aurobinda Mahapatra wrote an article in The Russia & India Report (14.04.2014) about the balance of power shifting towards Moscow, Bejing and New Delhi. “Vladimir Putin expressed thanks to Indian and Chinese leaderships for their positions on Crimea. The BRICS as a collective body and also its members including India, China and Brazil separately have deliberately refrained to go against Russia regarding the Ukrainian crisis”, the Indian analyst pointed out.
Another Indian journalist wants to help Russia save its money from western asset freezes. Rakesh Krishnan Simha is giving good advice in The Russia & India Report (02.05.2014), “How Russia and others can protect assets from the West”. From his experience as citizen of a former British colony in Asia, he knows that “it is of course entirely natural for the West to grab wealth belonging to other nations. After four centuries of colonialism, the philosophy of loot- and-scoot seems to be ingrained in western thinking.” He believes that non-aligned countries might be better off keeping their national assets in BRICS banks: “Banks in the BRICS countries are safer, more stable and a whole lot less greedy than western banks.” Finally Rakesh Krishnan Simha suggests: “With the BRICS Development Bank on the drawing board, its planners should offer long- and short-term bonds where smaller countries can park their funds.”
BRICS perspectives until 2050
The same Indian author writes in The Russia & India Report (28.04.2014) “No longer emerging, BRICS have arrived”. Quoting a recent study by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), Rakesh Krishnan Simha sees the BRICS economies steadily growing: “The BRICS are expanding rapidly, lifting people out of poverty and driving the global economy.” PwC says that Russia could overtake Germany to become the largest European economy by 2020. China will be the largest global economy by 2027. India is on the way to turn into the third global economic giant by 2050, ahead of Brazil, which is expected to move up to fourth place. All in all, PcW predicts a rosy future for the BRICS member states. Reason enough for the sulking western schoolboys to grind their teeth, while sitting on the fence?
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Moscow. Her blog: