The Turn Toward Asia and the Ukrainian Crisis
THE IMPACT of the Ukrainian crisis on the structure of international relations as well as accelerated Russia’s turn toward Asia as one of its widely discussed consequences can be hardly overestimated. Reorientation, very much within the concept of the multipolar world, began long before the crisis: Russia was seeking wider cooperation with the APR countries as the future center of world politics and economy; wider investments and high technologies of the most developed countries to whip up the economies of Russia’s Asian regions and diversify political and economic cooperation so that to reduce its dependence on the West. Before the clashes in Ukraine, the leading Russian politicians were unanimous in their conviction that closer cooperation with Asia would complement rather than weaken Russia’s partner relationships with the U.S. and the EU. Amid the Ukrainian developments the West is cutting down its cooperation with Moscow to force it retreat from its positions; this has woken up the Russian elite to a simple thought that there is no alternative to intensified cooperation with Asia.
Assessments of the Russian-Chinese Rapprochement
RUSSIA AND CHINA continue drawing closer together as part of Russia’s turn to Asia. The process has already invited all sorts of comments in Russia and abroad, some of them mutually exclusive. Inside the country those who support Western orientation do not make secret of their fears that having come too close to strong and aggressive China Russia, which is much weaker, might degenerate into its “satellite” and a “raw-material appendage.”1
These people use different terms to describe the results of an opposite, yet absolutely identical, trend: having come too close to the much more aggressive West Russia will not become a satellite and a raw-material appendage – it will be “integrated into world economy” and join “the civilized world.” Their opponents insist that in its opposition to the West Russia should unite with China so that to strengthen its position in the struggle for its independent course.2 Both camps prefer to ignore the Chinese position since it would have interfered with their simplified picture of a bipolar world. Both camps are driven by their ideological preferences rather than by realities.
Amid the Ukrainian developments, the West is cutting down its cooperation with Moscow to force it retreat from its positions; this has woken up the Russian elite to the simple thought that there is no alternative to intensified cooperation with Asia.
In the West there is a split along the same line: some authors, mostly those who side with the anti-Russia course of Washington and Brussels, point to or even overestimate the disagreements between Russia and China and argue that a dangerous anti-Western Russian-Chinese bloc is a chimera.3 There are other opinions: aware of the dangers some people recommend to play on the disagreements between the two countries and to move closer to China4; others are talking about making peace with Russia to jointly oppose China, a likely future threat to the world.5 There are critics of Washington’s foreign policy which made a bloc between Russia and China a reality. They warn that based on very close interpretations of geopolitical realities and the ideologies of the ruling regimes this closeness has “come to stay.”6
The Real Motives Behind the Process
THE DELIBERATIONS discussed above share one basic fault: they proceed from the authors’ political preferences rather than from their analysis of the sides’ real positions and motivations. This is true, in the first place, of the motivations that are pushing Moscow and Beijing closer. The process began long before the Ukrainian crisis: it has been going on for over thirty years now and was set in motion by the sides’ gradual awareness that their fundamental opinions about the international system and geopolitical situation are very close or even identical.
After the Soviet Union’s disintegration, the state ideology suffered a debacle in Russia; meanwhile the state ideology in China acquired a new form during the more or less same period. Both countries dropped the global aim of building communism all over the world or, at least, in Asia. Their politics, geared at their national interests, became much more pragmatic which explains their rapprochement. I tend to agree with Fyodor Lukyanov and Gilbert Rozman who write that the closer ties are “motivated less by shared material interests than by a common sense of national identity that defines itself in opposition to the West.” This has nothing to do with the totalitarian ideology of the past intended to pattern the world to its own image – the goal to which the traditionally interpreted national interests were sacrificed (massive aid to friendly regimes at the expense of their own populations). Today, the ruling elite act in conformity with their national interests.7 On the other hand, the totalitarian ideology of “democracy” preached in the United States and the European Union has developed into a full-fledged foreign policy instrument.
The following interests bring Russia and China closer together:
- They want to move away from the unipolar to the multipolar world for the simple reason that in the world dominated by the United States and its Western allies Russia and China feel insecure and economically vulnerable. These two big countries with their own approaches to international problems will feel much more comfortable in a world in which there is no single power pole to impose on them its monopolist conditions.
- They want to preserve the system of international law based on sovereignty of states and the UN SC as its core. As the only representatives of the non-Western world among the UN SC permanent members they want to preserve its leading role since their right of veto puts them on an equal footing with the West, something which cannot be realized outside the UN SC.
The principle of absolute sovereignty of states does not allow the main center of power to impose its will on the domestic policies of other states. This explains why Russia and China which differ from the West where their domestic political orders are concerned and which are living under strong pressure of the West are very cautious about the concepts, which undermine sovereignty and justify “humanitarian interventions,” including the “responsibility to protect” concept.
- Their positions on regional conflicts are either close or identical: they vote identically in the UN on the Korean and Iranian nuclear files and the situation in Libya and Syria and also closely coordinate their lines on these and other regional conflicts.
- Russia and China both favor reforms in the international financial system and a greater role of the non-Western states in the WB and IMF. wider use of regional currencies in international trade, etc.
- Russia and China need one another as trade and economic partners; since 2010, China has been and remains Russia’s largest trading partner that fills its market with consumer goods and, to a gradually increasing degree, machines and equipment. China accounts for 10% of Russia’s foreign trade and is one of the top ten investors in its economy.
Russia’s share in China’s foreign trade turnover is comparatively small: it has barely reached 2% yet China gets from Russia goods and commodities unavailable from other sources either in required quantities or at acceptable prices, no matter how much Beijing would have preferred to diversify the sources.
- Transborder trade is developing at a fast pace and plays an important role in the development of the Russian Far East, Siberia, and the northwest of China.
- Russia and China are actively cooperating in Central Asia, within the SCO in the first place, to promote the region’s economic development, preserve political stability and help secular regimes remain in power.
- Russia and China more and more resolutely reject the values which the West is imposing on the world as universal. In Russia all traditional confessions (the leaders of which are very critical of the Western secular-relativist ideology which has already moved far away from the Christian roots and is slipping into decline and paganism) are widening their flocks.
China, which claims leadership in the developing “South,” is especially critical of the concept of “universal values” as an instrument with which the West is trying to perpetuate its domination over its former colonies and semi-colonies. Chinese are growing increasingly appreciative of their traditional morals based on Confucianism. Despite the fact that Confucianism and traditional Christianity have very little in common, Russia and China are driven closer by their unanimous rejection of Western ideology.8
These common interests are developing into a common ground on which Beijing and Moscow may move even closer. We should analyze the impact of Ukrainian developments and Western sanctions in the context of the process described above which has been unfolding for many years now.
Acceleration or Coincidence?
THERE IS a more or less widely shared opinion that disagreements between Russia and the West are pushing Moscow toward Beijing even though there are no tangible proofs of this. The biggest gas contracts signed in 2014 merely coincided with the Ukrainian crisis: the talks had been going on for many years. The talks about Russian oil exports to China, likewise, have a long history; the corresponding contracts were signed irrespective of crises of any sort. The Western sanctions, however, could have added vigor to the talks. The same applies to all other contracts signed during the May visit of President Putin to Beijing, the Moscow visit of Premier of the PRC State Council Li Keqiang in October and during Putin’s attendance of the APEC Summit in November 2014.
In any case, the gas contracts are very important even though gas supplies will start much later: the West, Europe in the first place, now knows that Russia has an alternative to the European market. If the EU starts cutting down its gas imports from Russia, as some people think, it will have to pay more to other gas exporters; the Russian budget will survive. This will also move Russia further away from Europe; by burying the idea of South Stream Russia demonstrated its newly acquired confidence in alternative markets, the Chinese market in the first place.
The gas contracts with China should not be overestimated: it will constitute a small share of the total volume of bilateral trade and the entire volume of multi-dimensional and self-sufficient cooperation which does not depend on the relationships of Moscow and Beijing with third states.
So far, the cooler relationships between Russia and the West have not been transformed into specific decisions yet very different circles of Russian society have learned to treat cooperation with China much more seriously. Today, Russian officials and big business perceive it as practical necessity rather than a political declaration.
Significantly, in March 2014 billionaire Gennady Timchenko (close to Putin according to the Russian president9), one of those whose names appeared in the U.S. sanction lists, became head of the Russian-Chinese Business Council, an association of the Russian businessmen working in China. Before that, the Council had been nothing more than a shop window set up on order from above for no practical reasons. The new leaders have stirred it into action; in fact Timchenko as the council’s head might add more weight to cooperation in the energy sphere: he is the owner of the Volga Group; co-owner (with 23.5%) of Novatek, Russia’s largest independent gas producer; Sibur, Russia’s largest petrochemical complex (32.5%); the CTG construction holding (63%); Transoil, the largest private operator of the rolling stock in the segment of railway transportation of oil and oil products (80%); Russkoe More group of companies, etc.10 According to certain sources, the Volga Group is actively looking for independent Russian assessment of various aspects of Chinese business.
RusGidro (the biggest Russian power company and the biggest owner of hydropower stations in Russia) intends to sell the blocking parcel of shares in the Far Eastern Power Holding RAO Energeticheskie sistemy Vostoka (which operates in the Far Eastern Federal District). Leaks to the press confirm that Russian business has turned to China.11
Before that, Chinese investors, unlike Western investors, were kept away from the Russian fuel and power companies for the national security considerations. In 2002, for example, the CNPC, a Chinese state company, which offered a bigger price, was not allowed to take part in the tender at which the blocking parcel of shares of Slavneft, a Russian-Belarusian company, was sold to the Sibneft consortium and the Tyumen Oil Company for $1.86 billion and partly resold to the British BP
Recently, the government circles demonstrated an upsurge of interest in the Russian community of experts in China. In October 2014, Alexander Gabuev, deputy editor of Kommersant-Vlast analytical weekly, published two articles about the system of Chinese studies in Russia and the Russian studies in China12 in which he argued that while in China Russian studies were lavishly funded by the state, were strictly systematized and appreciated by the state and business community, in Russia the situation was different: the six-volume publication Dukhovnaia kultura Kitaia (The Spiritual Culture of China) which got the State Prize of Russia was published on Chinese money.
The author merely repeated what had been written before and passed unnoticed. Two years ago he wrote: “For many years now, we can watch a vicious circle: Russian experts in China complain of inadequate funding while the state and business are talking about the shortage of experts and ideas. Meanwhile, young Russian Cinologists which could have expected the same attention as the nuclear physicists in the Soviet Union are talking about lack of opportunities; they either change specialization or even leave the country. In Russia, the community of Cinologists is degrading together with the decision-making system while China is actively developing studies of Russia.”13 The article got no response to speak of.
In late 2014, a new article caused an active discussion and attracted attention of power and business which by that time have become much more interested in China. Gabuev was instructed to gather together a group of experts at the Ministry of Economic Development to discuss the ways and means of building up cooperation with China and pouring more money into Russian Cinology. Deputy Minister of Economic Development Stanislav Voskresensky coordinates cooperation with China; in the government, the Chinese and the Asian track as a whole was entrusted to Vice Premier Igor Shuvalov (who is believed to have successfully carried out the 2012 APEC Summit in Vladivostok).
In August 2014, the Moscow State University and the Beijing Polytechnic University signed an agreement on setting up a joint university in Shenzhen to train, on the basis of the best educational programs and standards of the Moscow State University, specialists with a good knowledge of Russian and Chinese in great demand in both countries and elsewhere in the world. It was not by chance that the new university was set up in a special economic zone: Russian companies are expected to develop an interest in it. This is the first project of that sort between Russia and China; earlier there were only joint Chinese-American and Chine se-European universities.
This means that the current confrontation between Russia and West has tilled the soil for a consistent and deeply rooted turn to China which includes physical infrastructure and the cultural and educational foundation. What is even more important is the turn which is taking place in the minds of Russian officials and businessmen: they are gradually accepting the fact that cooperation with the West cannot be fully restored, let alone widened. The spiritual and axiological gap is growing wider while the hope that the Ukrainian conflict will end any time soon is dying together with the confidence in the West as a reliable partner. Cooperation with China is free from these hindrances even though there are other, mainly manageable, problems: the very specific Chinese culture and psychology, the need to cut down the habitual ties with Europe, the language barrier, etc.
THIS SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN to mean that Russia is unaware of possible complications in its cooperation with China: neither the government nor the expert community cherish any illusions. Nobody expects altruism from Beijing; everybody knows that it would not rescue Russia at its own expense or develop cooperation with it against its interests. Beijing has the right to insist on its interests, and does this every time, sometimes harshly.
The oil and gas talks were revolving around the conditions and prices for a long time. Russia knows from previous experience that as a monopoly customer China might become a headache. In 2003, as soon as the Blue Stream gas pipeline had been commissioned, Turkey demanded to lower the gas prices. If agricultural import is switched from Europe to China, as a result of Russia’s “counter-sanctions” against Europe, trade turnover will increase together with Russia’s dependence on the Chinese market.
Moscow knows that China needs the West to develop its own economy and that Beijing will not retreat from its relationships with the West for the sake of Moscow. The rapidly developing and politically very different China is a challenge for economically stagnating Russia. It is no secret that China’s newly found foreign policy activeness is partly fed by nationalism mounting in society and the army.
Being fully aware of this and under different conditions Moscow would have demonstrated more restraint. At all times there were different approaches to China and the West in the Russian leadership and the elite. There are several groups which favor continued closer relations with the U.S. and the European Union and which still carry a lot of weight: the post-Gaydar bloc in the government and the circles close to it, corrupt officials and businessmen close to them with big assets and real estate in Europe and the United States, and the business elite with serious business interests in the West (not infrequently the same people belong to all groups).
There is a wing which wants Russia to demonstrate firmness when dealing with the West, to actively promote Eurasian integration and to move closer to Asian countries. President Putin is maneuvering between the two extremes: Russia needs contacts with the West for economic reasons; it should develop integration across the post-Soviet space and cooperate with China, in the first place, and also with South Korea, India, Iran, Turkey, and the ASEAN countries. It seems that Putin is convinced that Russia is an inalienable, yet independent, part of Greater Europe (he has said as much many times) which takes no command from the Euroatlantic political center and the opinions of which are taken into account. He is doing a lot to ensure this independence by diversifying foreign policy and foreign economic ties in all directions including the Eurasian and Chinese trends.
By its anti-Russian policies the West has already undermined, to a great extent, the positions of the pro-Western groups in Russia and supplied their opponents with fresh arguments. If the West softens its policies by abolishing sanctions (which is highly improbable in the near future) Russia will retreat, to an extent, from its present stand which will help the pro-Western group strengthen its positions and restore some of the ruptured ties. However, there is no chance to go fully back to the pre-Ukrainian state of affairs for several reasons. First, the widening contacts with China and other Asian states are irreversible; the same applies to the profitable contracts with Chinese partners. Second, the trust in Western partners has been undermined: multimillion contracts with companies of the states which do not hesitate to pass political decisions fraught with serious losses hold no attraction. Third, public opinion has passed the point of non-return: the majority in Russia has learned to look at the U.S. and the EU members as enemies.
In the next five to ten years, Russia’s strategy will be determined by the above factors and the influence of all sorts of groups in the governing structures. On the whole, relations with China will further develop since Western policies offer no other alternative. NATO’s eastward expansion which brings its military structure close to the borders of Russia, support of anti-Russian radicals in Ukraine, their advent to power, through an anti-constitutional coup actively supported by the West in exchange of their promise to remove Ukraine from the zone of Russia’s influence, are seen from Moscow as a real and direct threat to Russia. Asia, China in the first place, looks like the only option to economic blackmail, threats and an obvious intention to force Moscow shift its positions on international issues. It seems that the sanctions played a positive role by adding vigor to the overdue decisions postponed by the elites habitually geared at the West.
Today, Chinese challenges look less threatening than the threats coming from the West. They might be diminished through active economic and political cooperation with other Asian states, including China’s neighbors, as well as through sincere exchange of opinions with China which, guided by the spirit of cooperation, frequently takes Russia’s wishes and apprehensions into account.
On the whole, there are no chances that full-scale cooperation between Russia and the West will be restored any time soon: there is no understanding between the sides while their ideas about the world are drifting apart. This means that Russia should find a variant of “peaceful coexistence” (to borrow a Soviet term) by which I mean the following: 1) the conceptual issues should be left alone since their discussion widens the gap instead of moving the sides closer together; 2) the discussions should be limited to the means and methods designed to avoid the use of arms (ceasefire agreements in Ukraine, confidence-building in the military sphere, reduction of armaments, etc.). The sides, however, might cooperate on international issues which threaten Russia and the West (international terror being the best example); 3) very pragmatic talks and mutually advantageous trade and economic cooperation should be conducted while long-term projects are pushed aside as potential instruments of political pressure.
Just this kind of relationships between China and the West have a long history, going back at least to the late 1970s; some of the Western sanctions against China installed in 1989 are still in place. Since ideological discussions on conceptual issues (what is democracy and how it can be used) are useless the sides have made a habit out of one-sided statements; they produce no effect on large-scale trade and economic cooperation which, however, cannot be called smooth either. Interaction on certain international problems is going on despite serious disagreements on many other issues and frequent mutual accusations. A new Cold War is an alternative to “peaceful coexistence” which from time to time will develop into armed clashes at the border of Russia’s strategic interests (the Ukrainian crisis serves the best example) and also in some other regions of the world where Russia has preserved its influence.
In its relationships with China Russia has no alternative to more and more active cooperation: today, the threat comes from the West not from China yet challenges might crop up; they should be taken into account and defused, if possible.
The following can be offered as a method of dealing with possible challenges and threats created by the growing might of China and its increasingly nationalist foreign policies:
- Diversification of Russia’s Asian policies which should be developed beyond its relations with China. Russia should develop, at a fast pace, trade and economic cooperation with the other big regional powers: India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Iran, Turkey and others which have problems dealing with China.
- Restoration of the traditional ties: since cooperation with the American allies in Asia looks hardly possible we should concentrate on our former allies and geopolitical “friends” – Vietnam, India and Iran. We may also contemplate closer political cooperation with North Korea, which remains under strong or very strong Chinese influence even if economically this holds no promise.
- Open discussions of Russia’s apprehensions with the Chinese leaders up to and including the warning that exacerbation of conflicts in the APR (around the contested territories in the South China Sea claimed by China and Japan) will do nothing good not only to Russia (which will have to take sides) but also to China. Its neighbors will close ranks against it which the United States will interpret as an invitation to interfere and build up its military presence in the region.
- The course at closer economic integration should be continued to create mutual rather than one-sided dependence to make exacerbation of the relationships an unwelcome possibility for both sides.
The SCO Under Russia’s Presidency
THE SCO which demonstrated a lot of activity before the Ukrainian crisis might be stimulated by the tension between Russia and the West. In 2015, Russian presidency in the SCO means that Moscow will work toward further consolidation and formulate new initiatives. Russia’s SCO Chairmanship Activity Plan prepared and approved by the President of the Russian Federation includes over 100 joint projects in political, trade and economic, cultural and humanitarian areas: meetings, forums and exhibitions in Moscow, Sochi, Ufa, Khanty-Mansiysk, opening of the first line of the Yuzhnouralsky Transport & Logistics Hub (one of the first results of economic cooperation within the SCO) scheduled for April-May 2015; the ceremony will be attended by about 150 officials, including heads of state and government.
The SCO will play a much greater role in ensuring security around Afghanistan following the coalition’s pullout. The SCO members are very much concerned with possible negative consequences; there is information that Beijing will finally join the common efforts.
Full and simultaneous membership for India and Pakistan might produce the greatest effect; it seems that Beijing (which had had strong doubts about Indian membership, in the first place) finally accepted this project which will boost the SCO geopolitical consequence and stimulate trade and economic cooperation inside it. More than that, the presence of democratic India will defuse all talks about the SCO as an “alliance of dictators” and consolidate the non-Western world still further. In their rejection of Western domination the main non-Western players tend to join ranks despite very real contradictions between them.
Russia and BRICS After the Ukrainian Crisis
THE SOVIET Union’s disintegration in the 1990s changed the nature of international relations previously geared at confrontation between the two main power centers. While the Soviet Union was still alive some of the political analysis interpreted the growing might of regional leaders as a certain trend to multipolarity; the sudden disappearance of the Soviet Union from the map of the world left a vacuum which stirred up fears in many, especially the biggest, states even though the Soviet Union had been no favorite with the West and, to some extent, with the non-Western world as well. It was, rather, an object of criticism. Its disappearance, first, created international instability because the bipolar system had guaranteed a semblance of order); second, it allowed the only power center left without checks and balances to infringe on the interests of others.
While the United States was celebrating its victory in the Cold War and Francis Fukuyama deliberating about the end of history, China, India, Brazil and many other Asian, African and Latin American states remained gripped by forebodings. If Washington opted for keeping within certain limits history might have followed a different path, yet Bill Clinton and, to an even greater extent, George W. Bush who came after him tried to perpetuate the victory and ensure total American domination in the world. Unable or unwilling to pursue its own independent policy Europe, very much as before, trailed behind Washington.
The united West tried to grab the functions of an international arbiter and to pass its own decisions for international law. It ignored the UN SC if it disagreed with what the West wanted to achieve; it gave NATO and its members the right to interfere in international conflicts bypassing the UN SC authority. The conflicts in Iraq, Yugoslavia (and separation of Kosovo from Serbia by force, in the first place), Libya where the West exceeded the authority granted by the UN SC resolution and later in Syria where it is involved in regime change without corresponding international decisions destabilizes the region which causes legitimate concerns in the non-Western world.
Bridge-building was a logical answer; at first the concerned states had no anti-Western feelings: as part of the Western system they cherished their cooperation with it. They were merely seeking coordination on the parameters which caused their dissatisfaction in the new West-dominated world. Hence new and much more consolidated old organizations and groups with no Western membership: ASEAN and different cooperation formats close to it – the SCO, CELAK and BRICS.
The latter, which formally cannot be called an organization, attracts a lot of international attention for several reasons. First, it unites the largest and most influential countries of the non-Western world; second, it is not a regional but a world group which claims representation of the “South” or, wider, the entire non-Western world; third, it actively generates initiatives which offer alternatives to the Western project of economic and political organization of the world.
The group got its name (at first it was BRIC) from Jim O’Neill, former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management; today, it is developing in the direction which he never imagined or presupposed. The group was brought together by geopolitical rather than economic considerations and was gradually moving from one stage to another; it consists of the largest non-Western states which represent different continents and regions in which they are accepted as leaders. Its sources can be seen in the geopolitical interests shared by Russia and China. It took them two decades to draw closer, the result being one of the cornerstones of BRICS. Later, India joined Russia and China, thus changing the RC into RIC; Brazil changed RIC into BRIC (formally RIC is still there yet it remains passive since the emergence of BRIC); so far, South Africa added the last touch by joining the BRIC and turning it into BRICS.
Geopolitically its contribution is highly important: it offers the international community its own opinions about what is going on in the world. It is actively involved in the efforts to change the world economic system by increasing the number of non-Western states in international financial institutes despite the frantic opposition of the traditional distributors of world money.
Deeply disappointed with the results of their attempts to introduce fairness into what the WB and IMF were doing the BRICS countries decided to create the $100 bn BRICS Development Bank and a reserve currency pool worth over another $100 bn. Even if they produce no alternative to the international financial structures they will at least correct their pro-Western bias and offer an alternative to the countries of the non-Western world when it comes to choosing the sources of funding development or coping with a serious economic crisis.
Russian Ambassador at Large Vadim Lukov, chief expert of the Russian Foreign Ministry on BRICS, looks at the reforms of the world financial system as one of the group’s four strategic interests, the three others being a stronger role of the UN and its Security Council in the international system, maximal use of the complementary nature of their economies to add vigor to economic development and modernization of social sphere and economic life in these countries.14 Only some of the goals are purely economic.
The consequences of the Ukrainian crisis for BRICS and the world as a whole cannot be overestimated. It demonstrated that the West has not abandoned the idea of the unipolar world and will continue building it up by drawing into its foreign policy orbit more and more satellites which will be forced to obey it on the international scene and even at home and accept the standards which the West calls “international” or even “common to mankind.” Many non-Western states look at this as a new wave of colonialism which having abandoned the old slogans (“superior culture”) for new ones (“democracy”) use the old methods and pursue the same aims. This will increase the desire of the non-Western world to tighten their coordination.
The BRICS states are different in many respects and their disagreements with the West are rooted in different historical and political soil. Brazil which represents Latin America with strong left socialist trends disagrees with the West and the U.S. in the first place on social issues. For the country in which almost all biggest political parties have the word “socialist” in their names the entire political spectrum of the United States is too “right.” Latin America is especially sensitive to the diktat from the North and recurrences of the Monroe Doctrine.
The situation in South Africa is more or less the same: the local Communists belong to the ruling coalition while the Western political elite are accused of abetting the regime of apartheid. In Russia and India the anti-Western sentiments are gathering axiological dimensions. Amid the recent religious revival in both countries people are not so much repelled by the political as by the moral values the West is trying to impose. The Western political system caused much milder negative feelings even though there are differences in this field too. Morally, China seems closer to the West yet their political systems are absolutely different. This means that the determination to oppose diktat, rather than the cause of contradiction, plays an important role.
What is also important is the fact that the united “North” has chosen one of BRICS’ members as an object of confrontation. This consolidated their solidarity which is confirmed by their collective protest against the attempts of certain Western members of G20 to exclude Russia from the Brisbane Summit of November 2014. In March 2014, foreign ministers of the BRICS countries issued a statement which said: “The custodianship of the G20 belongs to all Member States equally and no one Member State can unilaterally determine the exclusion of another Member State from the Summit.”15 This consolidated position confirmed the role of BRICS as a representative of the non-Western world in G20 where they consistently offer alternatives to the initiatives of the collective North. The fact that the demarche of the BRICS succeeded meant that the West is losing positions in G20.
Suspension of Russia’s membership in G8 as one of the Western anti-Russian sanctions crystallized the poles in G20. As a member of BRICS and G8 Russia softened the contradictions in G20; today, the purely Western G7 and BRICS which represents the rest of the world will act as two opposite poles.
In this way the Ukrainian crisis will consolidate BRICS still further; it has confirmed that the group is moving in the right direction and should coordinate its efforts still more to become a real alternative to the West and its unipolar world. This will help create a real multipolar world.
Russia, on its side, will become even more interested in its cooperation within BRICS not only because it is seeking support in its confrontation with the West but for a much more important reason. Russia’s turn to the non-Western world which has been going on for some time is stimulated by the collapsed mutual trust between it and the West, the anti-Russian sanctions and the attempts to use economy for political purposes and also by Moscow’s reciprocal measures. As long as the sanctions remain in place – there are no reasons to expect that they will be lifted any time soon – Asian and Latin American states will gradually replace Europe as exporters of many goods, foodstuffs and agricultural products in the first place.
Russia will gradually orientate its export of fuels at China and the APR. The Russian elite are gradually accepting the truth that Siberia and the Far East cannot be developed outside Russia’s cooperation with Asian countries. On the whole, Europe and the United States are losing their former images of reliable partners. This means that Russia will have to switch its attention to other regions for ideological and also for practical economic reasons. Intensified cooperation with the political and economic leaders of Asia and Latin America (read the BRICS countries) is gradually developing into the key trend of Russia’s foreign policy.