October 11 and 12 saw the Serbian capital city of Belgrade host a High-Level Commemorative Meeting marking the 60th foundation anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his greetings to those engaged, noting the organization's positive potential, which is especially relevant amid an increasingly turbulent global situation. According to him, "the movement plays a very significant role in international affairs, consistently upholds the principles of unconditional equality of all nations, respect for their sovereignty and legitimate interests. It supports a constructive multilateral dialogue in strict accordance with the spirit and letter of the UN Charter." Putin also stressed that Russia's recently obtained observer creates new opportunities for cooperation in solving pressing regional and global issues, in ensuring safety and sustainable development worldwide.
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is an international organization comprising about 120 countries united by the principle of non-membership in military blocs. The Movement was officially established in September 1961 at the Belgrade Conference, with its informal leaders becoming Yugoslavia, India and Egypt and their leaders back then – Josip Broz Tito, Jawaharlal Nehru and Gamal Abdel Nasser. In the early days, ultimate activity was demonstrated by Indonesia, Egypt, Ghana, Burma, Afghanistan and some other countries. The movement gradually spread across the globe, engaging an increasing number of countries. By the mid-80s, it involved over a hundred countries. Today, NAM is the largest international association after the UN.
Despite Azerbaijan's current chairmanship, it was decided to hold the event in the Serbian capital, where the first NAM conference was held 60 years ago. Presidents of Serbia and Azerbaijan Alexander Vucic and Ilham Aliyev were there to deliver their complimentary speeches. The Belgrade forum brought together official delegations from 105 countries, including 50 heads of state, prime ministers and foreign ministers. The Russian delegation was led by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Our country's chief diplomat was invited by his Serbian counterpart Nikola Selakovich when they met at the UN General Assembly session in late September. In his Belgrade speech, Sergey Lavrov said, among other things: "Russia, like the members of the Non-Aligned Movement, regards the continuing attacks on the UN Charter as destructive and dangerous. The same goes for the attempts to replace the UN-centric architecture with non-inclusive concepts like the 'rules-based order,' which is actually based on double standards and threatens to take us back to the era of neo-colonial bloc politics and divides."
Russia's keen interest in the Movement's countries is no accident. Since 1995, our country has been visiting NAM forums as a guest before being granted observer status in July this year. It is for the first time that the Russian delegation is present at the high-level meeting. The Foreign Ministry said "this move vividly demonstrates that Russia and the NAM have close positions on many global issues."
Indeed, the 60 years of the movement's existence yielded regular issues with its participants that require developing a common stance. Sometimes it's not that easy. Consider Africa's national liberation struggle in the 1960s, the explosive Middle East situation and revolutionary movements throughout the world. The Cold War between East and West was also a tough period. Today, NAM's overriding priorities are poverty alleviation and sustainable development of emerging nations, as well as granting globalization a strong social dimension.
At the same time, it is fair to say that the Movement not always succeeds in working out a common stance on certain problems or crises. Why? Because of major geopolitical changes that have predetermined the emergence of various approaches by NAM member states. Besides, this association lacks well-defined structure due to their regular political and ideological contradictions. For instance, the Movement has no permanent secretariat or anything of the kind. Neither does it have a charter or budget, with decisions made at summits and ministerial conferences being advisory rather than mandatory.
Despite this, one thing is unshakable about the Movement's performance – all of its member states advocate non-alignment with any major power bloc. With each passing year it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the fundamental principle, though. Consider Serbia as Russia's strategic partner in the region. This Balkan country is on the verge of joining the European Union. During the recent EU-Balkans summit, head of the European Council Charles Michel reminded the Balkan partners that NATO is the European Union's security foundation, and all the new members have to join this military bloc first. This causes concern with official Belgrade, which is still committed to military neutrality and whom Russia constantly warns against the ill-advised move of joining the North Atlantic Alliance.
Here is another dramatic example. Washington, seeking to contain China in the Indo-Pacific region (IPR), has ganged up the so-called "Eastern NATO" aka QUAD, which comprises the United States, Australia, Japan and India. Interestingly, the US assigns the key role to neutral India while trying to play upon its contradictions with Beijing. The question whether Washington will succeed in dragging New Delhi into active QUAD activity is far from being rhetorical. Neither is another hot-button question as to whether India, being one of the NAM founders, proves able to withstand US pressure.