Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum
Issue 19.2020
2020.05.04 — 2020.05.10
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
BRICS Against COVID-19 (БРИКС против КОВИД-19) / India, May, 2020
Keywords: covid-19, expert_opinion

In the global war against the novel coronavirus, emerging economies, many belonging to BRICS, have reached out to other countries humbled by the pandemic. India has reinforced its credentials as a rapidly emerging pharmacy of the world. As the world's largest producer of hydroxychloroquine, India has recently exported the drug not only to SAARC countries and to its "extended neighbourhood" in the Gulf, but also to Russia, Brazil, Israel and the U.S. This has set the stage for India to forge an inclusive BRICS-driven pharma alliance, which could also actively explore the production of vaccines.

Despite allegations that it had delayed sounding the alarm about COVID-19 infections that had broken out in Wuhan, China has, subsequently, responded strongly in containing the pandemic, leveraging its position as the workshop of the world. Notwithstanding teething problems and quality concerns, China has steeled the transcontinental response to the disease by providing the "hardware" — masks, gloves, coveralls, shoe covers and testing kits — to hotspots across the globe. Under its Health Silk Road doctrine, the Chinese reached out to two of the worst global hotspots, Italy and Iran. A Chinese shipment of 31 tonnes, which included essential supplies and equipment, including respirators, protective suits, masks and medications, arrived on March 12 in Rome. Six days later another Chinese team flew directly to Milan. Soon China was running a medical air bridge bound for Europe.

Despite fighting the virus at home, Russia too sent its doctors and virologists overseas, including the launch of the famous 'From Russia with love' air mission to Italy. At the request of U.S. President Donald Trump, a Russian Antonov-124, packed with medical supplies and experts, landed at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. Since Soviet times, Russia has top-of-the-line emergency services, which are equipped to handle any kind of emergency including biological attacks, nuclear radiation, and chemical weapon attacks.

On the African continent, South Africa, the current rotating head of the African Union, is engaged in framing a pan-African response to COVID-19. Among the BRICS nations, only Brazil's response may need a course correction, as its resistance to breaking the infection chains through travel bans, lockdowns, isolation and testing appears to have led to an infection surge.

Having demonstrated their comparative strengths as providers of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), BRICS countries now need to pool and coordinate their efforts, in partnership with the WHO, and Europe and North America, both badly affected by the pandemic, as part of a global assault on the virus. But for seeding a robust institutional HADR response, the BRICS countries may have to reactivate an existing disaster response mechanism, and earmark resources and assets to combat a whole range of natural disasters, with special focus on the emerging economies and the global south.

The Shanghai-based New Development Bank of the BRICS countries has already demonstrated the way forward to allocate financial resources to combat COVID-19. In April, during a meeting of the NDB Board of Governors, NBD President K.V. Kamath announced that apart from disbursing a $1 billion emergency loan to China, and subsequently to India, South Africa and Brazil, the NDB had the financial heft to provide $10 billion in "crisis-related assistance" to BRICS member countries. The NDB's financial model, demonstrated to address the pandemic, can now become a template to address natural disasters.

Russian Ministry of Healthcare hosts conference of BRICS senior health officials (В Минздраве России прошла конференция старших должностных лиц здравоохранения БРИКС) / Russia, May, 2020
Keywords: top_level_meeting, social_issues, covid-19

On 7 May 2020 Russian Deputy Healthcare Minister Oleg Gridnev chaired the Meeting of BRICS Health Senior Officials via video conference under the Russian BRICS Chairmanship.

Among the central topics of discussion were improving control and diagnostics of the novel coronavirus infection COVID-19 as well as searching for effective methods of treating patients with a confirmed diagnosis.

"We are gathered here today not only to discuss the main achievements of our countries in combating COVID-19 but also to formulate expectations of future actions in the field of infectious diseases. We must strengthen our cooperation in developing inexpensive and sustainable methods for testing infectious diseases, address the issue of vaccination and conduct global research in the field of treatments," Deputy Minister Oleg Gridnev said in his opening remarks.During the meeting, the parties discussed topical issues on the current health agenda, including ensuring biological security of the population of the BRICS countries during the pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus infection, a general overview of the situation in the five countries on the implementation of measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 as well as the issues of interaction between national healthcare systems.An analysis of the experience of the BRICS countries in combating the spread of the noval coronavirus infection has shown that early warning and prompt response to threats related not only to COVID-19, but also to any other emerging infectious diseases are an important factor in safeguarding the health and lives of their people. In order to achieve this, the officials have agreed that it is important to strengthen international cooperation, within the framework of which there has to be a transparent and timely exchange of information.In this regard they also discussed the proposal of the Russian Side on the need to set up a comprehensive early warning systems for the risks of biological threats within BRICS. At the same time, with the feasibility of using the potential of the New Development Bank to finance joint projects to ensure the health security of the population of the five countries was determined, with an emphasis on preventing significant biological threats and the need to eliminate their consequences.

During the discussions, the countries also agreed to continue providing mutual support in activities to prevent and treat the novel coronavirus infection COVID-19, as well as to create favourable conditions for the supply of deliveries of medications and diagnostic materials, immunobiological preparations and medical equipment.The partners welcomed the proposal of the Russian Side to compile an overview of the advanced measures taken by BRICS countries to counter the spread of COVID-19 for further use not only by the five countries, but also by specialists from other countries.The decisions proposed by the meeting participants will be further discussed at the Meeting of BRICS Ministers of Health.

The choice is always yours (Выбор всегда за вами) / Russia, May, 2020
Keywords: expert_opinion
Author: Vladimir Chizhov

On the eve of the 75th anniversary of the Great Victory in the Second World War one can often hear people in the EU and Brussels talking about the need for historical truth.

I could not agree more - should such cardboard shield not hide unworthy attempts to downplay the role of the Soviet Union and its nations that sacrificed 27m lives for Victory, to equate Nazism to Communism, and, furthermore, to accuse the USSR of responsibility for this appalling tragedy of the 20th century.

Thereby, I am sure Europeans deserve the genuine truth and should have the choice to have their own critical view of the modern world order.

In January 2020, president Vladimir Putin announced the opening a Centre of Archive Documents on the history of the Second World War, soon to be opened to enable all those interested in understanding historical processes to see documents with their own eyes.

In the meantime, an avalanche of lies about my country and its history sweeping over European public opinion on the eve of the sacred date of 9 May makes me remove my pen-lid today.

Our Anglo-Saxon partners were immediately dissatisfied with the world order established following the Second World War.

The accepted story is that the speech given on 5 March 1946 by the then former British prime minister Winston Churchill in Fulton heralded the beginning of the Cold War.

But it is a misconception. It was preceded by Operation Unthinkable, elaborated by the UK back in 1945 - a plan of war to be waged by the US and Great Britain against the USSR, and it was preceded by the American Totality Plan, developed by the US after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, to carry out nuclear attacks against 17 major Soviet cities.

Churchill's statement templates are still used nowadays.

In his speech he named the USSR as the main source of international difficulties. Today the West applies it to Russia.

Take, for instance, disinformation campaigns launched in connection with unification of Crimea with Russia or the alleged Russian interference in democratic processes in the US, or in Europe.

But this bitter pill prepared for my country would have been inedible had it not been sweetened by an invitation "to take its rightful place among the leading nations of the world". The dramatic experience of the 1990s proves that it would have been a carefully prepared and comfortable one in return for total surrender of national interests.

In the 1990s, the collective West missed its historic chance to establish a transparent system of equal and indivisible security in Europe and undermined a key asset - trust that just started to reappear after the Cold War.

Notions continued to be actively substituted.

A "rules-based world order" was invented to replace international law. The warning issued by Vladimir Putin in Munich in 2007 that a unilateral world order cannot exist was simply ignored.

Instead, mankind was served a concept of "multilaterality" - a surrogate for multipolarity promoted by key world powers, including BRICS members.

Denying the existence of a multipolar world with equal actors building their relations on the basis of trust and respect for sovereignty is already costing the European Union dearly.

Playing with sanctions has already boomeranged on the EU when Washington punished European businesses for participating in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Russia is interested in having the EU as an independent player on the international arena, capable of promoting mutually beneficial cooperation. An EU that would not be senselessly searching for a "fifth column" and imaginary foreign enemies.

Basically, an EU that would live according to its own agenda.

Russia, for its part, learned the necessary lessons from a recent painful period of its history and thus is again able to act as a leading world power.

Russia is not acting against anyone on the international stage. My country defends its own sovereignty and interests, building trustworthy relations of mutual respect with its partners.

It is our choice that makes a significant contribution to reviving collective security in Europe and beyond.

We expect the EU, as a responsible and important actor in international relations, to make its own sovereign choice. It is our duty to provide next generations of Europeans with a world free of danger of new military conflicts.

I find it crucial to reiterate this point today, on the eve of a glorious anniversary.

We need to trust each other and cooperate. The choice always remains with every responsible participant of international relations. And Russia always keeps the doors open to dialogue on an equal footing.

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