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Analysis: Moscow Looks At The World

The turmoil surrounding the postelection events in Ukraine -- a campaign in which Moscow openly and unequivocally supported a pro-Russian candidate -- has overshadowed another foreign-policy drive on the Kremlin's part. Following the 20-21 November summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group members in Santiago, Chile, President Vladimir Putin arrived in Brazil on 21 November. It was the first time that a Russian head of state has ever visited that country, despite 225 years of bilateral diplomatic relations.

With a population of more than 180 million people and the world's eighth-largest economy, Brazil is Russia's second-biggest trading partner in the Western hemisphere. In 2002, Brazil, Russia, India, and China signed the so-called BRIC agreement. reported on 28 October that, according to Goldman Sachs, the BRIC economies hold the greatest potential for economic growth in the 21st century. Earlier in November, Putin visited Beijing, and at the beginning of this month he traveled to India, where he harshly criticized U.S. unilateralism. Analysts believe that Putin hopes that the BRIC group can someday form something of a counterweight on the international stage to the Group of Seven (G-7) leading industrialized countries.

During meetings with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Putin discussed a range of bilateral trade issues, including energy cooperation, the provision of Russian nuclear-power technology, the aerospace sector, and military-technical cooperation. According to media reports, Russia is a leading contender for a $700 million contract to modernize the Brazilian Air Force.
Putin's visit to Brazil had more to do with his ambition to restore Russia's status in the global arena than with just boosting trade.

During the talks, Putin spoke out in support of Brazil's bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. While in India on 3 December, Putin similarly endorsed Indian membership of the Security Council. At a 22 November press conference in Brasilia, Putin called Brazil -- like India and China -- a "strategic partner of Russia" and called on the two countries to triple bilateral trade, which currently stands at about $2 billion per year.

Putin's visit to Brazil, however, had more to do with his ambition to restore Russia's status in the global arena than with just boosting trade with the Latin American giant. Putin's visit was a response to a proposal put forward by de Silva in May, urging Russia to bolster the BRIC arrangement and to include South Africa in the emerging bloc, reported on 28 October. De Silva, who is known for his left-leaning orientation and antiglobalist sentiments, argued that the bloc could not only counterbalance the G-7, but could also form a united front to counter the status of the European Union and the United States within the framework of the World Trade Organization.

De Silva's initiative dovetails well with Putin's own sentiments. In an interview with Ukrainian television on 26 October, Putin once again spoke out harshly against the idea of a "unipolar world" and specifically named China, India, Japan, South Africa, and Brazil as "the other poles of world civilization." Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko told on 28 October that Moscow is considering de Silva's ideas, which could potentially lead to the creation of a bloc encompassing the lion's share of the world's natural and human resources. further speculated that Moscow would be interested in seeing South Korea, Turkey, Indonesia, and Iran join the new club someday. Putin visited Turkey earlier this month.

There seem to be increasing signs that Russia, having suffered a defeat in Ukraine, is looking for a new, ambitious global project.

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