BRICS bank, Greece & Ukraine headline BRICS/SCO summits – presidential aide
Q:Mr. Ushakov, it so happened that there will be two crucial events, an SCO summit and a BRICS summit, taking place at the same place at the same time. My first question is why are these two events happening at the same place at the same time. Do you think that they may possibly distract attention from each other? Or on the contrary, attract it? Also, could you please say a few words about the role these two organizations play today – especially considering the situation in the world today where we often hear about confrontation between various international organizations?
Yury Ushakov: The upcoming event is really important to our country. Russia currently presides in both BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. So, it was only natural for us to suggest it to our partners that we put these two summits together.
Another reason is that both these organizations have a very positive and stabilizing effect on the world. They both have positive agendas.
Also, Russia and China are members of both BRICS and the SCO, India is a member of BRICS and has observer status at the SCO. So, the leaders of these three countries were supposed to come together anyway, and it made sense to put these two events together and to have them in the same city.
I would also like to mention that we worked hard to prepare for these two summits, and we turned the city of Ufa into a very good platform for major international forums which we hope to host there in the future. So, this will be the inaugural summit for Ufa, and I really hope that it goes well.
Q:In addition to what you just said about this event taking some long and strenuous preparation. How do you expect the summit to affect the region and its development - not just Ufa but the whole of Bashkiria?
YU: Like I said, it is a major chance for Bashkiria to come into the spotlight internationally, getting new opportunities for hosting more international events. In fact, one such event is already scheduled for September: Ufa will host the Russia-Kazakhstan interregional forum featuring appearances by the presidents of both nations. It is an obvious advantage for Ufa, in addition to all the practical improvements that can be used in the future, such as the newly upgraded airport. Following its reconstruction, Ufa Airport is now one of Russia's best airports, capable of handling any flights. One more fact that is important for Ufa: seven new, world-class hotels have been built for the summit, with a total capacity of more than 1,000 rooms. Of course, Ufa had hotels even before that - I would frequently go there while the city was preparing for the summit - but they were all Soviet in style, such as would befit a second-rate provincial city. And now, Ufa is effectively a city that can host an international event at any level. That is very important.
Q:Could you tell us, what events are expected to take part during SCO and BRICS summits, and what key roles are given to Russia in them? What documents are you expecting to adopt? What documents will be signed during bilateral talks as well during summits? What development prospects do you see for these organizations in general?
YU: You are asking a very multi-level question. Firstly, I’d like to explain what our motivation was in planning the program for these summits. We invited heads of member states of the Eurasian Economic Union, so that the summits program could include discussions of major issues related to the Eurasian space. Except for South Africa, all other states are located on this space; so we’re providing an opportunity to discuss the issues that we’re concerned about and that should be discussed at this time. These include future cooperation of this Eurasian enclave with Europe, and other countries.
The BRICS countries make up 30 percent of the GDP. These five countries make up 40 percent of the world’s population, and cover one third of the dry land.
SCO is also developing. In our view, the main outcome of the SCO meeting in Ufa is that we’ve started the process of including new members to this organization. So far it had only six members, and we had quite lengthy and difficult negotiations on the participation of India and Pakistan in this format. So one of the main decisions, which is beyond the SCO forum framework, was to start the procedure of integrating India and Pakistan into SCO. Iran had also applied to join SCO. We reviewed it, and we decided to return to this matter when the Security Council sanctions are lifted as a result of successful Iranian nuclear talks. Then we’ll have the opportunity to include Iran in our cooperation as well.
We made a map that reflects the SCO coverage after the accession of the new member states, and it looks very convincing, covering a large homogenous space and bearing a lot of capacity and potential.
Q:Should sanctions be lifted, when would Iran be able to join SCO?
YU: When sanctions are lifted the process of consultations between the SCO member states will begin, which will determine a timeframe for accession. I also want to stress that India and Pakistan are not joining the SCO overnight either; this process has just started. In this process they have to get a working memorandum approved by the SCO secretariat. Then they have to sign 28 fundamental SCO documents. And only then, hopefully at the next summit that will take place in India, their membership will be finalized, and the SCO will consist of eight member states.
Q:So we'll have our own Group of Eight.
YU: That's right. A Group of Eight of sorts, which will later expand by including Iran.
Q:I wanted to ask you about the promising areas for economic cooperation within the framework of the BRICS and the SCO, particularly in light of Russia's recent foreign policy shift toward the East, the Asia Pacific, etc. There is a very promising project underway in China, namely the Silk Road [Economic Belt]. Russia has a very promising project of its own; the Eurasian Economic Union.There has been quite a bit of debate in favor of somehow merging these two projects. Indeed, this appears to be the most lucrative market. Will the leaders discuss integration at this summit, or at least convergence?
YU: This issue has already been extensively discussed, in part during the Russian president's recent meeting with the Chinese president on the sidelines of the World War Two victory celebrations in Moscow in May this year. It was then that the two nations signed a document that opens a discussion of posssibilities for the Eurasian Economic Union and the Silk Road initiative. They will certainly cover this in Ufa during an informal meeting for leaders of BRICS, the SCO and the Eurasian Economic Union. Not only will this matter be discussed; it might become the key theme of these talks.
Furthermore, BRICS is now also ready to form its own financial institutions. The previous BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil made a decision to do so. Now they will be discussing the functional details of the BRICS New Development Bank and the contingent currency reserve pool.
Q:Since we've touched upon the notion of BRICS developing its own financial institutions, there is an opinion that the BRICS Development Bank and other institutions would serve to counterbalance other global powerhouses, such as the IMF. Would you agree with that statement? And what would be the new benefits that BRICS' own financial institutions would have to offer?
YU: The New Development Bank and the foreign currency reserve pool do not constitute an attempt to oppose the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. These institutions are rather new instruments for addressing our shared objectives. BRICS is developing its common mechanisms that can efficiently stabilize our economies' capital markets at the time of a crisis, and provide additional opportunities for cross-border lending, and for promoting mutual trade and investment. We see the creation of these new institutions as our contribution to making the international financial architecture more stable and resistant. We do not intend to challenge any of the existing institutions. Besides, I'd like to point out that the New Development Bank is open for accession to any nation - though I do realize it may be too early to discuss that, as the bank has to set up operations first, and people have to see it perform before they make any decisions. In fact, we would have a better idea ourselves of what this bank should do in the future once we start doing practical things with it.
Q:Mr. Ushakov, there must be a lot of bilateral meetings planned during the summit; namely, the meeting with the Iranian president that’s been announced. What’s the agenda for this meeting? Are they going to discuss such matters as military cooperation and S-300 missiles supply?
YU: I’d say, the program for these two summits is not just intense; it’s overly intense. Frankly speaking, I don’t even know how the leaders, including the Russian president, will handle this amount of work. For instance, in addition to hosting these two summits, Mr. Putin plans on having 11 bilateral meetings. He also has planned a trilateral meeting with China and Mongolia as part of regional cooperation. This will be their second meeting. Last year, they met for the first time in Dushanbe. He will also meet bilaterally with all the other leaders, making it 11 meetings, as I’ve said.
Regarding Iran, this meeting will take place on July 9th and will definitely factor into the outcome of the Iranian nuclear program talks. We really hope these talks make headway, and so far things seem to be going that way. So the outcomes and prospects of Russia and Iran working together in view of those talks will be the key topic of the agenda. They will also cover various matters of bilateral cooperation in the trade, economic, and military fields.
All these bilateral meetings are going to be rather informal, with no clearly set agenda, so that leaders can bring up any issues. So in anticipation of your next question, I expect they will discuss such matters as Greece, Ukraine, the ISIS threat, among other topics.
Q:Since you mentioned Ukraine – indeed, it will definitely be discussed when journalists ask questions about it. What about the actual negotiations, will they cover Ukraine specifically?
YU: I believe Ukraine, as one of the hottest topics, will certainly not be ignored by leaders of such major states. They will obviously discuss the Ukraine crisis in a BRICS working lunch, or a BRICS closed meeting; I am sure the same goes for SCO meetings. Moreover, the declarations that are adopted at the end of the Ufa summit do cover this issue. In particular, there are three major points, which are of crucial importance according to Russia; and, importantly, our colleagues from India, China and other states share these views.
First, these countries don’t believe in a military solution to the Ukraine crisis. They call for diplomatic negotiations. And finally, as the documents emphasize, they insist that the conflicting sides fully comply with all 13 points of the Minsk Agreement of February 12th. The leaders will thoroughly analyse the Ukrainian situation based on these three points, which have already been approved. I believe they will appreciate Mr. Putin’s input when he shares his views on this situation.
Q:The Greek debt is another burning issue today, considering the country's strained economic situation. Do you think there is a chance that the two summits may end up with Greece announcing it wants to join the New Development Bank, and the BRICS nations, in turn, announcing that Greece can count on new loans to finance some of its projects?
YU: Like I said, the situation in Greece will be discussed at both summits, particularly during informal conversations. Especially now that the results of the Greek referendum are in, and there is intensive consultation underway within the euro zone. The Euro summit launches tomorrow, and the Greek issue will inevitably be on the table there. There has been speculation in the media that Greece may apply for accession to the New Development Bank. We know of these assumptions, but so far, no one has officially discussed such an option with us. Besides, like I said, the bank is just launching its operations, it still has to set out its priorities and start to function. And it certainly won't start its operations with Greece; it has its own tasks and challenges to deal with. So Greece will be discussed at the summit, but not in the context of its prospective accession to the New Development Bank, not even in the long term.
Q:So it's been mere speculation?
Q:We are looking at a lot of work to be done, including a lot of discussion and debate – even through BRICS and the SCO are sometimes described as clubs for the like-minded. It's probably great that our nations are able to discuss common issues while avoiding contention. We wish you success in your deliberations.
YU: Thank you. We are indeed looking at three days of hard work and intense deliberations, and I very much hope that both summits will prove successful.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.