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BRIC Summit’s Empty Gestures

Dmitry Medvedev’s ambitious claiming of Russia as ‘the epicenter of world politics during this week’s BRIC summit isn’t carrying much weight in the Western press, with many observers disparaging Russia’s role in the talks.  At best, the summit was seen as being ‘mostly confined to symbolic gestures.  The British press takes the most vitriolic line (as it so often does, reflecting what seems like an endless succession of discordant issues between Britain and Russia), with a particularly scathing opinion piece in The Times calling the country ‘a spoilt child angry that its new toy is broken’.  

Why is the quartet struggling to make much headway?  The economies of Brazil, China and India are all recovering, but that recovery coincides with recession in the rest of the developing world.  The Economist says that the BRICs are too disparate to produce any relevant economic discussion, pinpoints Russia’s economy as the biggest weight dragging the summit’s heels, and wonders why the countries’ leaders bothered to meet at all:

The largest emerging markets are recovering fast and starting to think the recession may mark another milestone in a worldwide shift of economic power away from the West. Estimates for their national incomes in the first quarter were better than expected. In the year to the end of March GDP rose by around 6% in China and India. The two accounted for no less than half the world’s increase in wireless-technology subscriptions in that period. In Brazil gdp fell slightly in the first quarter but it is growing faster than the Latin American average and most economists think growth will return to its pre-crisis level as early as next year. In contrast, output in most large industrial economies is still falling. The exception in the BRICs is the host: dragged down by plunging oil prices last year, Russia’s economy shrank by 9.5% in the first quarter, the worst performance in the G20 after Japan.