In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden said that “the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
However, that’s not entirely correct. While the U.S. and the European nations have voiced their outrage and mobilized sanctions against Russia, China was the largest economic powerhouse not among those finding fault with Russia — even going so far as to insist the Russian army didn’t invade Ukraine.
“You are using a typical Western media question method of using the word ‘invasion,’” said Hua Chunying, spokesperson at China’s foreign ministry, at a press briefing, adding that Beijing was calling “on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent the situation from getting out of control.”
The leaders of five major economies have strayed from Biden’s lead by pointedly refusing to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin, preferring to maintain their respective economic relations with Russia rather than express outrage over the military invasion of Ukraine.
Brazil’s Response: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro infuriated the Biden administration when he met with Putin in Moscow on Feb. 16.
“I told Putin that Brazil supports any country that seeks peace, and that’s his intention,” said Bolsonaro after the meeting.
According to a Reuters report, Bolsonaro was less interested in Ukraine and more interested in agriculture and energy assistance, particularly in small nuclear reactors made by Russian state-owned firm Rosatom. Putin responded by stating Rosatom was “ready to participate in construction of new power units in Brazil, including low-capacity nuclear power plants, both on land and in floating versions.”
Brazil was part of Monday’s United Nations Security Council meeting on the Russian-Ukrainian issue, but its ambassador didn't mention Russia by name and didn't condemn the country’s antagonism towards its smaller neighbor.
India’s Response: India was also part of the Security Council meeting and its ambassador echoed the Brazilian approach by not mentioning Russia by name nor criticizing its actions. Roman Babushkin, the Russian chargé d’affaires in New Delhi, praised India for its “independent and balanced” consideration of the matter.
Last December, India and Russia signed a 10-year agreement covering defense and expanded economic cooperation. The agreement included goals of $30 billion in trade and $50 billion in investment by 2025.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has barely acknowledged the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. According to Nikkei Asia, his first (and, to date, only) comment occurred on Tuesday when he remarked, "The world is witnessing a [period of] turmoil currently and India needs to be stronger not only for itself but for the whole [of] humanity during such times."
Indonesia’s Response: The Indonesian government called for a renewed effort to secure a diplomatic solution but stopped short of sanctions on Russia.
Channel News Asia Asia reported Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Teuku Faizasyah stated the government “condemns every act which is a clear violation of territorial integrity and sovereignty of a country” and “urges all sides to prioritize negotiation and diplomacy to stop conflict and put forward peaceful resolution.”
He also added Jakarta wasn't following Washington’s foreign policy.
“We will not blindly follow the steps taken by another country,” he said. “We will make a decision based on our domestic interests and (the consideration) of whether sanctions would solve anything. We see time and time again that sanctions do not mean the resolution of a particular issue.”
In December, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was the subject of a diplomatic embarrassment when he arrived in Jakarta to find Nikolay Patrushev, Putin’s national security adviser, was in the Indonesian capital to hammer out an information security agreement. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi downplayed the bad timing by insisting his country would “continue to develop strategic trust with all countries, all Indonesia’s partners.”
South Africa’s Response: The South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation issued a statement expressing it was “concerned” about the “ongoing tensions,” and urged all parties to “devote increased efforts to diplomacy.” However, it offered no specific condemnation of Russia and no specific defense for Ukraine.
Russia is an important partner in South Africa’s agricultural economy. According to the trade news site Fruitnet, South African exporters of fresh fruits including citrus, pears and table grapes “have built a substantial business with Russia.”
If trade between the countries becomes disrupted, at least one leading South African agriculture exporter is looking to other markets to fill the void.
“We are excited about prospects in Africa because there is room to expand to more countries,” said Roelf Pienaar, marketing managing director at TruCape. “In the east we are excited about the prospects for our pears in China, and we also see opportunities in Indonesia, India and hope we can return to Thailand soon after about ten years’ absence.”
United Arab Emirates’ Response: On Feb. 23, hours ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan conducted a telephone meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to reaffirm the friendly relations and economic partnership between the two countries.
The UAE foreign ministry noted the conversation also “reviewed a number of regional and international developments and issues of common interest,” but didn't mention if Ukraine was raised. The UAE was also part of the Security Council meeting on Monday and it followed the Brazilian and Indian responses in not singling out Russia for criticism.
Last November, the two countries coordinated an agreement between the UAE-based logistics company DP World and the aforementioned Russian company Rosatom to co-develop and operate cargo services along the Asia-Europe route. According to the nonprofit think-tank The Arctic Institute, this development was crucial because “as a maritime nation and a global shipping hub, the UAE’s involvement in the Arctic maritime domain is part of its wider strategy of fomenting its position as a key player in the Asian cargo and logistic sectors. Considering Asia as its key growth market, DP World has a vital interest in the development of the Arctic routes since they considerably shorten the transit time between Asia and Europe.”
Photo: Global Panorama / Flickr Creative Commons
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