Putin couldn’t show up in person to the Brics summit in Johannesburg because his hosts would have had to arrest him under an international arrest warrant for alleged war crimes. So he appeared by video to offer more than 40 other non-G7 leaders a vision of a world in which the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa and potential joiners) form a cohesive trading bloc representing the “global majority” and cooperating “on the principles of equality, mutual support and respect for each other’s interests”. The Brics currently account for 40 per cent of the world’s population and could indeed represent a majority if it accepted new members. And it’s no secret Putin could use more “support and respect” for his unbridled nationalism and warmongering. But Brazil offered little of that – its President Lula da Silva promptly clarified that he didn’t see the group as a counterpoint to the West – and China’s Xi Jinping was a conspicuous no-show at yesterday’s main meeting. There’s an air of unreality about Brics-based development finance, too. Its New Development Bank has lent $33 billion since being set up in 2015. For reference, the World Bank lent $70 billion last year alone and the IMF’s rolling lending capacity totals about $925 billion.
Photograph Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images