Putin was meant to be at a summit in South Africa this week. Why was he asked to stay away?

by Sophia Chen
fokus keyword BRICS summit

Vladimir Putin will conspicuously not be present in person when the leaders of the BRICS economic alliance, encompassing Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, convene in Johannesburg this week.

Contrary to usual practice, where all leaders attend in person, Putin will participate through a video conference.

The cause of this divergence from protocol is an arrest warrant issued against the Russian president by the International Criminal Court. The warrant, stemming from charges of war crimes related to the removal of children from Ukraine, placed South Africa, the host country, in a difficult diplomatic position. As a signatory to the treaty of the international court, South Africa would be required to arrest Putin if he entered its territory.

The shared historical bonds between South Africa and Russia only intensified the predicament. South African officials spent months persuading Putin to remain in Russia to avert this dilemma. Deputy President Paul Mashatile likened the situation to inviting a friend to your house and then arresting them. Although the solution was not well-received by the Russians, an agreement was finally reached for Putin to participate virtually.

The Kremlin has affirmed that Putin will play a vital role in the main summit meeting on Wednesday, and he will be involved in speeches and discussions as needed.

The summit’s primary discussion will involve proposals to enlarge the five-nation bloc, with China and Russia advocating for expansion. Nearly twenty-four countries have submitted applications for membership, though agreement among all members must be reached before any expansion can proceed. Concerns that their influence might be diminished has left Brazil, India, and South Africa somewhat reluctant.

A larger BRICS might be seen as a means for China and Russia to broaden their sway, aligning with their efforts to challenge major Western entities like the Group of 7.

While BRICS asserts its focus is on the interests of the developing world, not opposing the West, it has often criticized Western dominance over global governance. Through its New Development Bank, BRICS aims to promote trade in local currencies, shifting away from reliance on the dollar.

South Africa, currently the BRICS chair, emphasizes that the bloc is not anti-West, though it seeks to further the interests of the Global South. The expansion, relations with the West, and a collective approach to economic challenges will likely dominate the upcoming three days of meetings in South Africa’s leading financial city.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about fokus keyword BRICS summit

Why is Vladimir Putin not attending the BRICS summit in person?

An International Criminal Court arrest warrant issued for Putin on charges of war crimes related to the removal of children from Ukraine has led to his virtual attendance. South Africa, being a signatory to the international court’s treaty, would be obliged to arrest Putin if he set foot on its soil.

What is the main discussion at the BRICS summit?

The main discussion at the summit is expected to be over expanding the five-nation bloc. China and Russia are pushing for expansion, while Brazil, India, and South Africa are less keen. The leaders will review proposals on the criteria for expansion.

How is the BRICS group perceived in relation to the West?

BRICS has openly criticized what it calls Western dominance of global governance and financial institutions. However, South Africa, the current chair of BRICS, says the bloc is not anti-West but seeks to advance the agenda of the Global South.

What is the significance of a bigger BRICS?

A larger BRICS could be seen as an opportunity for China and Russia to extend their influence. It is also aligned with efforts to challenge major Western international institutions like the Group of 7.

Who has applied to become new members of BRICS?

Nearly two dozen countries have applied to become new members, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Argentina, Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates.

What is South Africa’s role in Putin’s decision not to attend the summit in person?

South Africa lobbied for months ahead of the summit to persuade Putin to stay at home so it could avoid the diplomatic problem of being obliged to arrest him on the ICC warrant. South Africa shares strong ties with Russia but is also a signatory to the international court’s treaty.

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Mike D. August 22, 2023 - 1:58 am

why are Brazil, India and South Africa less keen on expansion? they should be lookin for opportunities to grow. maybe they’re afraid of losing power within the group?

James T. August 22, 2023 - 6:08 am

Wow didn’t know that Putin had to stay away from the summit cause of an ICC warrant. makes you think what else is going on behind the scenes.

Katie B. August 22, 2023 - 3:11 pm

This whole situation with Putin is embarrassing and difficult for South Africa. It’s almost like inviting someone over and then saying you cant come in. The whole situation seems messy.

Sara L. August 22, 2023 - 4:27 pm

Im interested in BRICS expansion, what does that mean for small countries? China and Russia’s influence could become too much!


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