In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Russia shows its political clout by hosting Bric summit

Posted by seumasach on May 16, 2008

An economic and political alliance of the Bric nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – is being forged today at a meeting of foreign ministers in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, but the underlying agenda may have more to do with politics in Washington, political analysts say.

The formal agenda may be less significant than the Kremlin’s political achievement in convening a high-profile gathering of four nations with vast resources but differing interests. It is seen by some as a response to signals from Washington that Russia is no longer welcome as a member of the G8 industrialised nations.

John McCain, the Republican US presidential candidate, has called for Russia’s expulsion, arguing that it lacks democratic credentials. In March, he suggested that its seat should be offered to Brazil or India.

Christopher Granville, an analyst for Trusted Sources, the consultancy, said: “What is interesting is that the Russians are showing that political clubs can be formed with or without the participation of the United States.”

The term “Bric” was coined by Jim O’Neill, a Goldman Sachs analyst, to note the vast economic potential of the four emerging markets. Yesterday, however, geopolitics was high on the agenda as China and India’s foreign ministers joined Russia in calling for fresh talks between Serbia and Kosovo.

Europe and the US both recognised Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February, but Russia has led the opposition to the split from Serbia. Yesterday it appeared to find common cause with India and China, nations struggling with separatist movements.

The Bric foreign ministers have previously held meetings on the side-lines of UN conferences, but the Yekaterinburg gathering is the first formal independent meeting and suggests that the four nations want to use their association for a political purpose.

Brazil and India are using their economic clout to wield political influence, notably in bodies such as the World Trade Organisation, in which the two often lead negotiations with the US and the EU.

A spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry said: “Bric unites the major economic growth centres with more than half the world’s population, the role of which in international affairs will grow.

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