Brics summit: Members push for global clout amid Ukraine war

Published: 23 Jun 2022

Online Desk

The leaders of the Brics group of nations are meeting this year amid major shifts in the geopolitical order.

The group, which owes its name to the initials of its five member states - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - is holding its annual summit on Thursday, but without much fanfare or huge expectations, reports BBC.

Talks will also be held in a virtual format, for the third consecutive year. The last two were held during the Covid pandemic, but it's not clear why the leaders chose to skip face-to-face meetings this year.

It's in stark contrast to the Quad - which groups India with Australia, Japan and the US - whose leaders met in person in Japan last month amid the global media glare.

Some analysts say that this is also partly due to the fact that the Brics hasn't really lived up to expectations over the years. When it was formed in 2009, the group was expected to reshape the global economy and create a new financial order to help the developing world.

Its success can be described at best as moderate, but its importance can't be overstated. Brics nations have a combined population of 3.23 billion and their combined GDP is more than $23tn.

"The Brics may seem irrelevant because it hasn't really moved the needle forward on its long-standing efforts to usher in viable global economic alternatives to the US-led existing system," says Michael Kugelman, deputy director at the Wilson Center think-tank in Washington.

But he adds that writing the Brics off will be a mistake because of its collective economic might, "even though it often tends to punch below its weight".

The economy has always been at the heart of the Brics but the Ukraine war is likely to loom large over the summit on Thursday.

The nations may not overtly mention the war, but it will definitely be discussed when Indian PM Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro talk to each other.

Pratyush Rao, director for South Asia at the Control Risks consultancy, says Ukraine, without a doubt, will be the elephant in the room.

"A lot of people will be keeping an eye on the summit, especially on the dynamics between Russia and China over Ukraine," he says.

While China has been more open about its support for Russia, India, South Africa and Brazil have tried to walk the diplomatic tightrope over the war. They haven't openly criticised Russia but have advocated talks to end the war.

But a lot has changed since the war started. The economic impact of the war and the West-led sanctions is showing across the world - inflation is up in many countries, global supply chains have been disrupted and there are fears of food shortages.

Russian commentators have been talking about the importance of the Brics nations in blunting the impact of the sanctions.

Mr Rao says some pushback against Western sanctions can be expected at the summit, and that will be comforting for Russia.

"But it should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Russia's actions," he adds.