Paranoid Putin is packing for Pretoria, but Russia has little to offer South Africa

The eyes of the international world are once again turning to South Africa after Russian President Vladimir Putin has been given diplomatic immunity to attend the upcoming BRICS summit. BizNews talks to Prague-based analyst and host of The Geopolitical Pickle podcast, Ronan Wordsworth, about the logistics and implications of such a visit: an advance party of Russian security agents to keep the paranoid Putin safe from assassination – and maybe even a body double or two. Wordsworth says South Africa is sending a strong message to the West, but warns that Russia may not have much to offer South Africa in return for its support. He also speaks about the return to Cold War dynamics on the Continent – and tots up what Russia, China and the US are bringing to the table.

Watch here

Listen here

South Africa is sending a “strong” message to the West by giving Russian President Vladimir Putin diplomatic immunity to attend the upcoming BRICS Heads of State Summit.

So says Ronan Wordsworth, an analyst and the host of “The Geopolitical Pickle” podcast based in Prague in the Czech Republic.

Diplomatic immunity will help South Africa bypass a legal obligation to arrest Putin in compliance with an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for crimes committed in the Ukraine.

Read more: SA granting diplomatic immunity to BRICS attendees – Still legally obliged to arrest Putin

Says Wordsworth: “…now they’ve finally figured out a way that they can approach it while still being a signatory of the ICC…”

Wordsworth notes that the African National Congress (ANC) is now moving beyond its publicly stated stance of neutrality on the war between Russia and the Ukraine.

“…I think it does show that the ANC have kind of … even though they claim some sort of neutrality with the war, they’re actually definitely making a marked shift towards having palatable relations with Russia, entertaining the president; (this) obviously sends that signal to the West.”

Read more: SA faces threat of sanctions over Russia-Ukraine stance: Consequences could prove catastrophic Reserve Bank warns

However, he warns that Russia may not have much to offer South Africa in return for its support.

“I think, as we’ve been saying, the ANC has been moving more towards Russia, but I really don’t think Russia has that much to offer South Africa. So overall, maybe it’s a posturing thing, but they can’t actually necessarily offer any tangible benefits for their support.”

On Putin’s possible vulnerability to assassination in South Africa, Wordsworth says: “I think that could always be a risk, but the security precautions that will be put in place around his visit will be immense. 

“The ANC do not want the assassination of a foreign president on South African soil because that doesn’t really set a good look for the country’s security situation. There will be, I’m sure, a lot of Russian security agents coming to South Africa in the lead-up to make sure that the security situation is okay for him to visit before any such visit would even take place.”

Asked about rumours that Putin often sends “body doubles” to summits and international meetings, Wordsworth says: “I think it definitely is true. I think he is quite a paranoid leader…

And I mean, it’s understandable. Not only is a lot of the world against what’s happening. But I mean, I’m sure there’s a lot of internal issues within Russia and a lot of people within Russia that wouldn’t want him to be still there. We’ve got a lot of oligarchs losing a lot of money because of the war.”

Read also: