MOSCOW, January 1. /TASS/. On January 1, Moscow is taking over the one-year chairmanship of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Russia plans to carry out about 150 activities at various levels during its chairmanship, which will culminate in July, when St. Petersburg will host the next BRICS summit. The five countries’ leaders will hold another meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the Saudi capital of Riyadh in November.
According to procedure, each BRICS member takes over the group’s chairmanship for a year. Russia last chaired BRICS in 2015, when a summit took place in Ufa. Russia also presided over the group back in 2009, before BRIC turned into BRICS following South Africa’s accession.
Over 20 ministerial meetings are also expected to take place, including those involving the Russian Security Council secretary, the Supreme Court chief justice and the chairpersons of both house of Russia’s parliament. Apart from St. Petersburg, BRICS events - such as meetings between Sherpas, ministers, business community members and experts - will take part in dozens of other Russian cities, including Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Ulyanovsk, Ufa, Khanty-Mansiysk and Yaroslavl. The theme of Russia’s chairmanship is "BRICS Strategic Partnership for Global Stability, Shared Security and Innovative Growth."
President Vladimir Putin clarified Russia’s priorities as BRICS chair in Brasilia in November 2019. Moscow will focus on enhancing foreign policy coordination between member countries on key international platforms, primarily, within the United Nations. According to Putin, BRICS nations need to make more proactive efforts to play a leading role in the UN. Specific goals in this regard include fighting terrorism and the dissemination of terrorist dogma, particularly on the Internet, as well as combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, while working to take back criminally obtained assets.
As for the economy, Russia plans to suggest that the five nations renew the BRICS Strategy for Partnership in Trade and Investment that they adopted at the Ufa summit. According to the Russian Economic Development Ministry, the updated document will cover cooperation fields such as the development and integration of remote areas, the exchange of experience in regulatory impact assessment, digital trade, the use of digital solutions in the field of intellectual property and the promotion of artificial intelligence technologies. Moscow also calls for defining new strategy tasks aimed at boosting cooperation between specific industries up until 2025.
President Putin pointed out that Russia would seek to strengthen the existing BRICS structures and financial mechanisms, namely the New Development Bank, the Contingent Reserve Arrangement and its microeconomic data exchange system. Work will continue to create a BRICS local currency bond fund, and energy cooperation will carry on as well. At the same time, Moscow plans to put forward some new ideas to expand dialogue between the five countries’ tax, customs and competition agencies.
Lastly, the agenda of Russia’s chairmanship will include a number of festivals, theater tours, artistic competitions for children and adults, and sports tournaments. Putin earlier handed down instructions to draw up measures for the creation of a new competition concept for BRICS countries.
Boosting space cooperation is another important task. According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who is the country’s BRICS Sherpa, Moscow will "fill the emerging five-party space cooperation with specific activities." Steps will be taken to continue the implementation of the Clean Rivers program, aimed at improving the environmental situation in river basins.
Fighting the glorification of Nazism
One of Russia’s key initiatives concerns the upcoming 75th anniversary celebration of the Soviet Union’s Victory over Nazi Germany in the Great Patriotic War and the creation of the United Nations. At the BRICS summit in Brasilia, Putin suggested discussing a possible joint statement on those events. The Russian leader pointed out that it was important to discuss attempts to glorify the Nazis and Nazi collaborators, and to stand together to support a world order based on international law and the UN Charter. As Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin said at a meeting of the Victory organizing committee, BRICS countries plan to host events dedicated to the 75th anniversary celebration of the Victory.
Russia is devoting special attention to preserving the historical truth about the victory over Nazism. In a series of statements in late December, Putin emphasized the need to step up efforts in this direction amid Western attempts to review the causes and course of the war.
Russia will continue work to boost the outreach program and BRICS+ mechanisms. Since 2013, expanded "outreach" meetings have been taking place on the sidelines of BRICS summits, which involve the presiding country’s neighbors. In 2017, China came up with an initiative to form "a BRICS circle of friends" that would cooperate with the five nations on a regular basis, creating the BRICS+ concept.
To promote this endeavor, Russia intends to invite members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) to the St. Petersburg summit. Ryabkov noted that it was crucial to engage important countries in order to facilitate efforts to resolve global issues. He noted that steps in that direction would be taken at the summit.
Role of BRICS
According to Putin, BRICS has become a factor of stability in both global politics and the global economy as it seeks to protect open market principles amid some countries’ attempts to increase protectionism. The five member states account for about 30% of the Earth's land mass and 42% of the world’s population. In recent years, their total GDP has been amounting to about 23% of the global one, though they make up about 18% of global trade.
BRICS has neither a secretariat nor a charter. The country that chairs BRICS organizes the group’s summit and coordinates its current activities. In the past several years, the member states have been chairing the organization based on the order of the first letters of their names that make up the BRICS acronym: Brazil took over BRICS chairmanship in 2014, followed by Russia in 2015, India in 2016, China in 2017 and South Africa in 2018. A new cycle began in 2018 with Brazil chairing the group. Russia is now taking over BRICS chairmanship in 2020.