South Africa’s Putin Dilemma

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From: John Dietrich

A clear message for South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. af© afp

As host of the Brics summit, Pretoria must take a stand against the Russian president and impeachment against him.

South Africa’s hosting of this year’s Brics summit in Johannesburg in late August threatened to be praised – but no one is willing to talk about it officially. In preparation for the annual gathering of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, there has been a lot of talk in Cape Town over the last two days about the world at large and the dangers threatening the United States: But they lost. elephant in the room, foreign minister Vladimir Putin Brics: not a word.

The Russian president could provide a passkey for the South African hosts – or rather the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Charges were brought against Putin there in March over the forced deportation of Ukrainian children from Donbass. Since South Africa was a signatory to the Treaty of Rome on which the Criminal Court was based, the smallest members of the Brics had to arrest the President upon his arrival in Johannesburg – an almost unthinkable idea.

Behind the scenes, Pretoria is frantically looking for a way to avoid a scandal: Putin doesn’t want to help his South African friends cancel his participation. The way the South African government dealt with the Sudanese president in a similar case eight years ago is also out of the question: Omar al-Bashir, who is also accused of war crimes, was driven out in a cloak and dagger operation by his South. Jacob Zuma’s African partners after a court ordered his arrest. An embarrassing process for everyone.

There is no good solution

Zuma’s replacement Cyril Ramaphosa is looking for a solution. A decision that had been considered in the meantime – to overrule the criminal trial without further ado – was overturned shortly thereafter. A formal withdrawal from the criminal justice authority, which has been criticized by governments on the continent for alleged anti-African leanings, will take longer than August.

Only two options remain: the summit will take place virtually or in another country. China is a good option for the latter: allegedly it was not discussed at the meeting of foreign ministers in Cape Town whether this would actually happen.

On the other hand, a lot of space is occupied, though not named, in the alleged US struggle for hegemony, which the establishment of the Brics 15 years ago was meant to compensate for. With 3.2 billion people, these five states represent nearly half of the world’s population and have defined the goal of a “multipolar world” with special consideration of the interests of the “Global South”. Even without naming it, Brics sees itself as a southern counterweight to the northern G-7. The fact that the Brics could actually be dominated by China is something the alliance has only talked about behind closed doors.

While the Brics were still a somewhat different state club when they were founded, the partners are moving closer, especially in light of the Ukraine war. They see the trigger for armed conflict less in Putin’s unbridled claims to power than in NATO’s eastward expansion.

When South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops on the day of the incursion into Ukraine, he was harshly called back by his boss Ramaphosa: So far, he has not spoken critically of Moscow.

South Africa against sanctions

To this end, Pretoria, along with partner Brics, is inclined to punish Russia with sanctions imposed by the US government – sanctions such as those demanded by Washington’s ANC against the apartheid regime. Also to avoid a Russian boycott, the Brics are currently discussing their own currency. It could counter the US dollar’s increasingly criticized global dominance.

And it’s clear the Brics’ appeal is growing rapidly: more than a dozen countries are trying to join them – including Iran and Venezuela, but also Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The opening of the Brics must be carefully prepared, South African Foreign Minister Pandor dampened expectations: The division of the world into two blocs is still underway.

Ambrose Fernandez

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