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(CNSNews.com) – Far from being isolated after fueling separatist violence in Ukraine and annexing Crimea 16 months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin this week is hosting two major summits of groupings whose overlapping membership accounts for two-fifths of the world’s population.
The back-to-back summits of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan) are being held in the southern Russian city of Ufa.
On the sidelines, Putin is expected to hold talks with leaders of many of those countries – as well as with President Hasan Rouhani of Iran, which is an observer and aspiring member of the SCO.
Russia has been subjected to several rounds of U.S. and European Union sanctions in response to its intervention in Ukraine, and its membership in the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries – now reverted to the G7 – has been suspended. Practical cooperation between NATO and Russia was also frozen.
Administration officials from President Obama down have characterized the measures against Russia as effective and the country as increasingly “isolated,” with the president saying that the U.S. has “mobilize[d] the international community to apply pressure on Russia.”
“Russia is already paying a high price for its actions, and that cost will go up if its pressure on Ukraine does not abate,” Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland told the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, in Washington in April 2014. “Across the board, Russia has found itself isolated.”
Putin’s hosting of the two summits calls into question the extent to which Russia is isolated, however.
The five BRICS countries comprise almost three billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population. The current SCO membership accounts for about a quarter of the world’s people, even without India and Pakistan, two other observer countries expected to be admitted to the bloc soon.
At a meeting of his state security council on Friday, Putin attributed the pressure which he said “some countries” were placing on Russia to the fact that “we follow an independent domestic and foreign policy and our sovereignty is not up for sale. This does not go down well in some quarters, but this is inevitable.”
“Recent events show that we cannot hope that some of our geopolitical opponents will change their hostile course anytime in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Putin argued that the economic pressures had failed to produce the results hoped for by those imposing them.
He said Russia was continuing to support “economic integration” in the region, and “expanding political, business and humanitarian ties with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS group.”