by Vasilii Ivanenko
translated by “K”
In the Capital of Bashkiria one of the key events in global politics of 2015 is taking shape
Historic summits of two organisations – BRICS and SCO – which are providing the framework of the emerging “Eurasian” world order opened at the same time in Ufa. Moreover it is the first time they take place in the same location. In both structures Russia-China is the “dominant link” and our country will aim to do everything possible to attract more investment in our infrastructure projects, to strengthen economic relations with our partners, as well as to obtain their political support – in case of further escalation in the confrontation with the West.
A truly historic event, radically changing the reality in which we live, often takes place in a quite mundane and even imperceptible way. While global media is trumpeting about the exit of Greece from the Eurozone or the “nuclear deal” between the West and Iran, the events planned in Ufa seem to be merely ceremonial developments in the eyes of ordinary people.
However, many experts testify that indeed one of the key events of 2015 in global politics is taking shape in the Bashkir capital, in comparison with which the fall in world oil prices, and even the panic on the Chinese stock exchange pales. In fact, the Ufa BRICS and SCO summits promise not just the project planning but the real entrance onto the geopolitical scene of a new “Eurasian” project of globalisation, with the aim of replacing the “unipolar world”. For this reason the summits which opened in the Bashkir capital may well be “written” into 21st century history.
Ufa has been preparing to receive these two summits for the past two years. Both forums will be held in the Ufa Congress-Hall, which, although being built only eight years ago, has undergone a major reconstruction. No less ambitious was the “upgrade” which the city itself experienced. All through Ufa house facades were cleaned, squares and boulevards were laid out and courtyards and roads were repaired.
And in only two years seven whole new hotels were built of such class as the Hilton, Holiday Inn and Sheraton.
Major foreign policy and economic tasks are on the agenda of the BRICS and SCO summits. The BRICS summit starts first, during which the leaders of “the Emerging Five” will initially focus on the situation of the global economy and improving the efficiency of joint work within the scope of the “Group of Twenty”. Then, during a closed lunch session, Vladimir Putin, Dilma Rousseff, Xi Jinping, Narendra Modi and Jacob Zuma will discuss key international issues – first of all how to resolve the crises in Ukraine and Greece as well as ways of dealing with the expansion of the “Islamic State”.
Then, together with the premiers and members of government the leaders will discuss the parameters of the investment cooperation “roadmap”. At the end of the main BRICS meetings they plan to adopt the Ufa Declaration, in which they give their assessment of the global political and economic situation. Finally the leaders will approve one further document – the “Ufa Action Plan”, which will describe the points of collaboration in the year ahead. They will also sign a Strategy for economic partnership up to 2020.
Vladimir Putin’s schedule in the Bashkir capital will be exceptionally crowded – after all, it is not often that such a number of distinguished guests from Central and South-East Asia as well as the Middle East come to Russia at the same time. So, in addition to mandatory participation in all the BRICS and SCO summit activities, the Russian President will conduct – in 3 days – one trilateral and 11 bilateral meetings with country leaders. His working day will start early in the morning and end well after midnight.
The Russian President understands very well that these summits are an excellent opportunity for Russia to link itself economically to almost half the world and to enlist its support. After all, the BRICS countries together occupy a third of the earth’s surface, just under half of the world’s population live there and the member countries of BRICS account for around one third of global GDP. Therefore Vladimir Putin’s main task in the forum will be the conclusion of a final agreement with colleagues on the launch of the two structures, which should, in the very near future, be able to offer “the developing world” financial and investment independence from the countries of the “golden billion”.
“The BRICS group began to build its own financial system, aimed at becoming an alternative to the dollar, even before the start of the Ukrainian crisis”, – says political scientist Alexander Kupriyanov. At the Ufa summit the organisation’s leaders are presenting new “parallel” financial institutions – the BRICS Development Bank (meant as an alternative to the World Bank) and the BRICS Currency Reserve Pool (future alternative to the IMF). Their aggregate capital amounts to 200 billion dollars – which is not all that much compared to the financial possibilities of the West. But the BRICS strategy is a different one: Russia, China, India and their partners want to force the US and the EU to reform the IMF and to increase their quotas in this important body. If Washington goes for this, then the transition to a multipolar world will be relatively painless. If the US is not prepared to share its global power then BRICS already has the basis of its own financial system. Apart from this the summit promises to become the “competition of infrastructure projects”, each of which is intended to boost the economies of several member countries of the group at the same time. According to the head of the BRICS Business Council Sergey Katyrin, Russia will present as many as 37(!) such projects at the summit. And in addition, our country is prepared to participate in every possible way in the projects of our partners, using our expertise and technology.
“So, the Republic of South Africa is lobbying for a chain of projects for the extraction of minerals on its territory and specialists from China are already working there – they brought their technology and workforce to South Africa. But South Africa needs its own top class engineers and Russia is ready to help train them. Besides, thanks to the participation in common projects our country can obtain valuable raw materials and rare-earth metals. Thus everybody benefits” – says Katyrin.
A similar picture emerges in the relations of Russia with other partners in BRICS. For example, Brazil is interested in the construction of a whole series of hydroelectric stations and Russian companies are ready to build, provide turbines and other equipment and to train staff. In addition, Brazil still lacks a unified railway network. It plans to connect the north and south of the country in the near future and here JSC Russian Railways is ready to help the Brazilians. “Rostec” has projects for joint construction of helicopters and mobile sea ports, which can be deployed in any location for months at a time. Participation in any of these projects promises Russia hundreds of millions of dollars while for our partners it means fast development.
India in turn is interested in creating new large agricultural holdings. The Indians are also very interested in creating joint enterprises with Russia for the production of foodstuffs, primarily meat. No less essential are sewage treatment plants and the newest water extraction technology. As far as our relationship with China is concerned, Russia intends to implement the high-speed railway project from Moscow to the East as well as several major pipeline projects, several of which are already under construction. Here our task is to “join in” the Chinese “New Silk Road” project for that part where it crosses our territory. The Chinese in turn are interested in projects in the aviation industry and space exploration as well as in the areas of health and the environment. In short, there is potentially a very wide field for collaboration for Russia and her BRICS partners. The main thing is to agree on the realisation of this potential as soon as possible and to start work.
Speaking more globally about the creation of the new world order project by the BRICS and SCO countries there are various aspects. Firstly, the primary meaning of the “Eurasian” globalisation project is in its democratic character, in tolerance and rejection of all forms of monopoly and dictatorship of one party over the others. In fact, the BRICS countries are united by the perception of the world order as a collective work.
“All the member powers of BRICS and SCO view the world in a multipolar light, where the principles of collective leadership and mutual respect are in effect”, says Mikhail Remizov, Director of the Institute of National Strategy. In economic terms they think about how to create several regional economic zones with their currencies on the wreckage of the “dollar pyramid”. And in the cultural sphere they adhere to a “philosophy of blossoming complexity” recognising every nation’s and every civilisation’s right to their own model of development and system of values.
The second distinction of the “Eurasian” globalisation project is in its focus on the gradual transformation of the current world order and not on its revolutionary destruction. The objective of BRICS and SCO is not a confrontation with the West but a “soft coercion” of the US and EU into the joint construction of a more just and harmonious world order. The third characteristic of the future world order is that is based on a new political philosophy: the creation of a system of “collective leadership”. In this, China, as “global factory of the 21st Century” will take on the role of economic leader and Russia the role of political, ideological and military moderator. Also among the aims of BRICS and SCO is the creation of a united geopolitical space within the framework of “Greater Eurasia” and the freezing of the most acute conflicts on its territory –for countries which have been quarrelling with their neighbours for a long time this is the price of inclusion in the SCO.
By the way during the SCO summit, which starts on Friday immediately after the BRICS leaders’ meeting concludes, they plan to make all of 14 decisions at once. The main events of the forum are the approval of the overall development Strategy until 2025, the elections of the General Secretary of the organisation and the Director of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Council. The key issue of the SCO summit will be the reception into the ranks of the organisation (it currently includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan) two major countries at once – India and Pakistan, which in itself is unprecedented. After all, these two countries together are home to nearly one and a half billion people and until recently a sharp conflict smouldered between New Delhi and Islamabad – both countries laid claim to the state of Jammu and Kashmir (which is a part of India, but the population is mainly Muslim). And although the two powers have still not signed a peace agreement, the prospect of inclusion in the SCO has by itself significantly reduced the intensity of emotions between them.
Most likely India and Pakistan will receive a “welcome” in Ufa to join the ranks of the SCO, so their speedy rapprochement is very likely. Besides, today many countries want to develop cooperation with India but at the same time this doesn’t imply confrontation with the heavyweight countries China and Russia. Beijing is currently vigorously expanding its position in Central Asia and India could pose serious competition in the future. But healthy competition is practically an inevitable characteristic of economics. Each country is fighting for its position in the marketplace and Russia is also planning to strengthen its influence on the developing markets of Central Asia. Using someone else’s experience of success, adopting methods and forms of promotion makes sense for each country, said expert Dr Elena Bragina of IMEMO RAN (Russian Academy of Sciences: Institute of World Economy and International Relations).
Iran is another country applying for membership in the SCO, indeed in Teheran they have been talking about wanting to join the organisation for quite a long time already.
“Alas, until recently the international sanctions imposed by the UN in connection with the development of the Iranian nuclear programme have prevented it being admitted to the SCO. But due to the fact that negotiations between Iran and the West on the lifting of sanctions entered the final stage, the door to the SCO may soon open for Iran”, said Georgy Petrov,Vice-President of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In one word, the two “ceremonial” summits in Ufa are in fact able to significantly change the future picture of the world, and most importantly – definitely for the better.