The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa continue talks in New Delhi at the annual BRICS summit. RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Svetlana Pavlova spoke with Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of "Russia In Global Affairs" and a leading Russian foreign-policy expert, about how the bloc fared under Dmitry Medvedev's presidency and what might lie ahead as Vladimir Putin returns to the Kremlin in May.
RFE/RL: How has the BRICS organization developed in the four years since Dmitry Medvedev became the president of Russia?
Fyodor Lukyanov: Since Dmitry Medvedev arrived on the world stage, the BRICS community has been given greater attention since Medvedev, strange as it may seem and contrary to the stereotypes of him that have formed, has paid significantly more attention to the non-Western world -- particularly to Asia -- than Putin did. Correspondingly, he paid less attention to Europe, which I think doesn't interest him very much. So, during his presidency, the BRICS bloc was emphasized. They started holding summits. Under him, South Africa joined the group -- and Russia played a notable role in convincing the organization of the necessity of accepting South Africa even though the bloc didn't have any particular desire to expand. Formally, the organization has progressed quite a bit during this period, not least in terms of its appearance in the public sphere.
At the same time, it would be a mistake to say that the BRICS structure has been filled with some sort of concrete content during this time. In fact, BRICS didn't even work on those occasions when it could have stood as a united front and extracted some concessions from other world powers. For instance, last year when there was the discussion of the appointment of a new director of the International Monetary Fund, the BRICS countries had an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that they form a cohesive political force and are capable of putting forward a united position. But this didn't happen because all of them -- and Russia most of all -- preferred to engage in direct and separate agreements with the United States and Europe. So, for now, the BRICS structure is an empty casing that the participants are still trying to fill with something.
RFE/RL: Do you think Russia's foreign-policy positions with regard to Asia will change under Putin?
Lukyanov: Both yes and no. As a leader, Putin simply must understand that Asia is moving to the forefront in global politics and economics. So the traditionally Western-oriented foreign policy that Russia has always followed -- and I don't mean pro-Western, but rather oriented on relations with the West -- this policy is becoming outdated. So, clearly, an active and well-considered policy on Asia is vital. But I think that psychologically, Putin understands Asia worse. That is, he understands it with his mind, but psychologically it is easier for him to deal with Russia's traditional partners -- Europe and the United States -- despite the well-known difficulties in his dialogue with them. So I wouldn't be surprised if under Putin the focus of Russian policy turned significantly back to Europe. Although it won't be possible to ignore Asia.
RFE/RL: Should we expect any decisions from the New Delhi meeting?
Lukyanov: We shouldn't expect any decisions at the New Delhi summit because BRICS summits in principle do not make decisions. This is an extremely informal get-together at which decisions are not expected. These summits are necessary for consultations and, as the diplomats like to say, for synchronizing watches. As far as declarations, the most interesting thing will be the positions are current international issues. For example, will there be joint, unanimous declarations on Syria or on Iran? In these areas, BRICS could take a united position that might be impossible to ignore. We'll have to see if they'll be able to do this.