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It seems like a trivial matter for a man to rule a country spanning eleven time zones

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These efforts have failed. But the man who started a disastrous war now finds his travel options extremely limited. Once upon a time, Russian President Vladimir Putin was the one who saw: In the weeks leading up to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, world leaders took turns traveling to Moscow to urge the Kremlin chief to withdraw and cancel all plans to attack.

It seems like a trivial matter for a man to rule a country spanning eleven time zones. After all, Putin has an open door to Beijing, and Kremlin-friendly leaders in Central Asia and Iran have rolled out welcome rugs since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. And of course, he will always have Minsk:
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who provided the launching pad for the Russian invasion, also hosted Putin.

But it is worth noting that Putin will be absent from an important global forum this week, the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. His absence says a lot about Russia’s isolation — and Putin’s narrowed vision.

The leaders of other members of the BRICS economic bloc – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Brazilian President Luiz Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – are all expected to attend. will be present.

But last month, Ramaphosa’s office said Putin would not participate “by mutual agreement”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov replaced him, although Russian state media said Putin would appear via video link. Does it really matter that Putin calls this? Participating in an international town hall can be a convenient way to act like a player on the world stage, but Putin is missing more than another group photo.

Putin is a staunch supporter of what he calls a “multipolar world order,” promoting structures like the BRICS as a counterweight to U.S. and Western-led institutions that harshly condemn Russia for war with the EU.

An aerial view of a manganese mine in the Kalahari Desert.
South Africa’s stance towards Russia makes many people curious. Can a mine in the desert hold the answer?
And while Russia’s actions may be widely condemned by the West, the country remains locked in a campaign of international influence and support, especially in the Southern Hemisphere.

Building such support amid the war in Ukraine was one of the main goals of Putin’s recent Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg. The attendance of African leaders may disappoint the Kremlin – less than half of the heads of state attending a similar conference in 2019 showed up for the event last month – but policy Russia’s foreign policy is still betting on diplomatic and political support from countries in Africa, Latin America, the Americas and Asia.

So why did Putin miss another opportunity to advance his vision? Well, for starters, there is no small matter of the mandate of the International Criminal Court.

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