From the FIFA World Cup, the scene of action will shift from football to politics as Brazil prepares to host the sixth BRICS summit in the northeastern city of Fortaleza. Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa will gather to discuss issues ranging from setting up of a development bank to seek counter-terrorism consultations between the BRICS countries. In an interview to ITAR Tass, exclusively published in HT, Russian president Vladimir Putin talks about various issues and future role of BRICS in the new international order. Excerpts:
What do you consider important to discuss with your BRICS partners at the upcoming summit?
The modern world is indeed multipolar, complex, and dynamic - this is objective reality. Any attempts to create a model of international relations where all decisions are made within a single 'pole' are ineffective, malfunction regularly, and are ultimately set to fail.
Those are the reasons why the interaction format proposed by Russia for such influential states such as the BRICS members has proved to be needed. Our joint efforts have contributed to enhancing predictability and sustainability in international relations.
I believe it is time to raise the BRICS' role to a new level and to make our association an unalienable part of the global management system for sustainable development.
How can this be achieved in practice?
First, develop cooperation in the UN in every possible way, to persistently counteract individual states' attempts to impose on the international community the policy of displacing unwanted regimes and promoting unilateral solutions to crisis situations. We propose to create a mechanism of regular high-level consultations between our foreign ministries on different regional conflicts to agree, where possible, on common positions and joint efforts to ensure their political and diplomatic settlement.
We should coordinate BRICS policy more actively and counteract security threats and challenges. Among other ways, this can be achieved through the mechanism of counter-terrorism consultations. An important place on the agenda will be expanding cooperation to combat drug trafficking. We are ready to build up joint efforts to reinforce the international legal regime of drug control.
Cooperation in setting rules of responsible behaviour in the global information space is another important issue. Such rules must be based on the principles of respect for a country's sovereignty, non-interference in domestic affairs, observance of human rights and freedoms, as well as equal rights for all countries to participate in Internet management. I think our joint efforts will ensure that the BRICS countries hold a leading position in strengthening international information security.
We are going to thoroughly analyse the situation in the planet's hotspots. Those include Syria and Iraq, where the positions of extremist and terrorist groups are gaining strength. Serious attention should be given to the crisis in Ukraine and the international community's measures to stop the bloodshed in the southeast of the country.
In the economic sphere, we are going to discuss IMF reform. The BRICS countries are concerned about the unreasonable delay in holding a debate of this subject. This jeopardises all the efforts of G20 in this direction. It is the case of fulfilling the rightful demands of "new economies" to balance the IMF according to the 21st century reality.
One more important question is the increasing cases of unilateral sanctions. Recently Russia has been exposed to a sanction attack from the US and its allies. We are grateful to our BRICS partners who have criticised such practices in different forms. At the same time, substantive conclusions should be drawn from the current situation. Together we should think about a system of measures that would help prevent the harassment of countries that do not agree with some foreign policy decisions made by the US and their allies.
What progress has been made in realising plans to develop economic interaction within BRICS?
We intend to actively develop trade and economic ties within the association. The BRICS member countries' share in Russian foreign trade is rising steadily: last year it was 12.5%, but in the first quarter of this year it has reached 13.1%. Despite international economy instability, the volume of the BRICS countries' mutual trade is increasing (in 2013, it was over $300 billion).
It is in our common interest to use the complementarity of national economies to the maximum. This is a market with almost three billion consumers. The BRICS countries have unique natural resources and a substantial technological, financial and industrial potential.
On Russia's initiative a BRICS Economic Cooperation Strategy is being drafted at the moment. It will focus on creating preconditions for accelerated economic development and strengthening the international competitiveness of our countries, the expansion and diversification of trade relations, and ensuring interaction for innovative growth. A number of prospective cooperation ventures are being studied to make sure the document is backed by concrete investment projects.
I will note that last year our countries' businesses established the BRICS Business Council. This institution is still to fully realise its potential, but we have already started work to identify and eliminate barriers that impede business interaction within of the association.
It is clear that all the BRICS economies need serious infrastructure modernisation. Our initiative to establish the development bank is aimed at expanding cooperation in this sphere. In the year since the Durban Summit, we have managed to achieve significant progress in this direction. In the near future, we expect to finalise all the remaining issues and we will be able to use this Bank's potential to realise major projects in our countries.
Another important initiative that is underway is creating a BRICS pool of foreign currency reserves. It will become a safety net to help us form a joint response to economic challenges.
I would like to emphasise that both the development bank and the foreign currency reserves pool are practical steps for our countries, intended to strengthen international financial architecture and to make it more balanced and just.
The BRICS countries have shared attitudes towards other modern challenges in the economy, including the prompt completion of the Doha Round of trade negotiations, creating a more just global trade system and ensuring transparency in regional trade agreements.
How solid can a union be if the majority of them do not have common borders?
In the modern world the factor of common borders does not play a defining role. On the contrary, global processes encourage us to join efforts as challenges and problems become shared. In the BRICS case we see a whole set of coinciding strategic interests.
First, this is the common intention to reform the international monetary and financial system. In the present form it is unjust to the BRICS countries and to new economies in general. The international monetary system itself depends a lot on the US dollar, or, to be precise, on the monetary and financial policy of the US authorities. The BRICS countries want to change this.
Another long-term common interest of the association's members is strengthening the rule of international law and the UN's leading role in the international system. To be honest, without Russia's and China's principled position on Syria in the Security Council the events in that country would have followed the Libyan and Iraqi scenario.
The BRICS countries intend to strengthen the political element of our cooperation. That is why we will develop the practice of mutual consultations and joint actions in international organisations, first of all, in the UN. In the long term, we will create a virtual BRICS secretariat. At the same time, I would like to stress that we do not have any plans to form a BRICS military and political alliance.