The leaders of the two most prominent Western foes decided to skip the BRICS Summit this week, appearing instead via video.
The three-day summit, being held in South Africa, was without Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. The BRICS group includes countries with emerging economies such as Russia, China, South Africa, India and Brazil.
But, Putin decided not to attend the summit in person, perhaps because he has an arrest warrant issued for him by an International Criminal Court because of his ongoing war with Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Putin did give a speech that was pre-recorded and broadcast to those in attendance. During the speech, he railed against the “illegitimate sanctions” that have been put on Russia from Western countries, and he also threatened that his country could permanently cut off grain exports from Ukraine.
Much of what Putin said during his speech, which lasted almost 20 minutes, was focused on the relationship that Russia has with Western countries and the ongoing Ukraine war. This is despite the fact that officials from South Africa said that frictions between the East and West shouldn’t dominate the BRICS summit, which is the first one that’s been held in-person since before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
One point that Putin made in his speech was that he wouldn’t agree to a deal that would allow grain shipments to make their way out of Ukraine until his conditions were met. That includes the West easing restrictions on agricultural and food products coming out of Russia.
If the Ukrainian grain shipments aren’t allowed to be exported, it could have a huge impact on the food supply in much of the world.
Putin further said that the attempts being made by western countries to isolate and punish Russia for invading Ukraine are an “illegitimate sanctions practice and illegal freezing of assets of sovereign states, which essentially amounts to them trampling upon all the basic norms and rules of free trade.”
While western countries haven’t targeted agricultural exports from Russia directly, the sanctions that have been placed on financial payment systems connected to international markets have certainly made it very challenging for Russia to get many of their products to other markets. Because of this, Russia decided last month to pull out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which was allowing Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea ports. In addition, Russia has stepped up missile and drone attacks on the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa, which is one of the country’s main ports.
Putin explained his stance in the video:
“With these facts in mind, since July 18 we have refused to extend the so-called deal. We will be ready to get back to it, but only if all the obligations to the Russian side are truly fulfilled.”
Xi Jinping was also confrontational in a speech that was read on his behalf following Putin’s speech.
Wang Wentao, the commerce minister of China, delivered the speech, saying:
“Some country, obsessed with maintaining its hegemony, has gone out of its way to cripple the emerging markets and developing countries. Whoever is developing fast becomes its target of containment. Whoever is catching up becomes its target of obstructions.”