After Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, Western leaders led by President Joe Biden vowed the Kremlin would face historic isolation that would bring its war machine to a halt and cripple Moscow’s economy. However, nearly seven months into the war, Russia has maintained its economic strength as Moscow has found several partners worldwide.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a conference of 14 world leaders in Uzbekistan. The countries at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Samarkand make up over half the world’s population and a quarter of the global economy. The SCO is the second largest global body after the UN.
As the summit opened, Iran signed a Memorandum of Obligations to become a full SCO member. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi noted the growing relationship between sanctioned countries is helping to overcome problems. "The relationship between countries that are sanctioned by the US, such as Iran, Russia or other countries, can overcome many problems and issues and make them stronger," he said in Uzbekistan. "The Americans think whichever country they impose sanctions on, it will be stopped. Their perception is a wrong one."
Putin held two high-profile bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the SCO meeting. First, Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. XI said Beijing and Moscow would work together to assume the roles of great powers. "China is willing to make efforts with Russia to assume the role of great powers, and play a guiding role to inject stability and positive energy into a world rocked by social turmoil,” he said.
The second meeting was with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his meeting with Putin, Modi discussed the growing ties between New Delhi and Moscow. "Relations between Russia and India have significantly improved. We believe they are extremely important. We are friends, and for decades we have always stood shoulder to shoulder," he said. Modi continued, "[t]he whole world is aware of the nature of Russian-Indian relations, and the world also knows the deep friendship, in particular the personal friendly ties that bind us. We first met in 2001 when I was in state government in India, and our friendship has only grown stronger ever since."
Both XI and Modi raised the issues of the Ukraine war with Putin, though both stopped short of condemning the Russian invasions. In his statements, Putin acknowledged the war in Ukraine but deflected blame to Kiev and the West. While the Western press has emphasized Modi’s mention of an "era of peace," it failed to note the growing economic ties between Russia and India. In just the energy and fertilizer sectors, New Delhi has vastly increased its import of goods from Moscow over the past six months.
In March, Biden declared Putin would be "isolated from the world." Putin’s ability to travel abroad and attend major summits with world leaders shows Biden’s vows to isolate Russia have so far failed.