The 15th BRICS summit has come to an end. Unlike the previous ones, a serious and even, one might say, historic decision was made at the summit. The “club of interest” of non-Western-oriented countries was enriched with six new members: the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia.
All newcomers are also not part of the collective West’s inner circle and generally try to pursue independent policies.
The enlargement can be considered a victory for China, which has long advocated the expansion of the organization and met resistance here, primarily from India, as well as Russia, which previously saw itself more as a European country gravitating towards global economies. Now the situation has changed, so the expansion can be credited to Russia, which is interested in creating a multipolar world and platforms outside the control of Washington and Brussels. In the words of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who represented Russia in Johannesburg, «the organization needs countries that believe in multipolarity, in the need for more democratic and fair international relations.» The new members largely meet these criteria.
The admission of new members to the BRICS is, first and foremost, to facilitate China’s access to the mineral resources and markets of these countries. At least, Beijing is clearly counting on this, together with the promotion of its global project «One Belt, One Road».
But the BRICS expansion is also politically beneficial for both China and Russia. Although decisions in this association are made by consensus, it is clear that the opinion of China, the most powerful nation, will have a strong influence. And given the coordination of foreign policy steps between China and Russia, this influence is growing. China, without saying so directly, seeks to create around itself various associations of allies and like-minded people to counterbalance the West. This task is also being accomplished by new members joining BRICS.
China expectedly praised the expansion of BRICS with six new members. «Thanks to their participation, the representativeness and influence of the BRICS cooperation mechanism will further increase, making the association one of the largest representative organizations for emerging markets and developing countries actively participating in global governance,» China’s Global Times wrote on the occasion.
According to the publication, the entry of the new members is «an important step» to strengthen the BRICS mechanism of cooperation and global governance. According to the authors, the association has «great potential to contribute to the development of global governance in a more equitable direction.» The publication emphasizes that despite the attempts of some Western media to inflame the divergence of opinions within the association on the issue of enlargement, as well as their claims that China allegedly wants to turn BRICS into a platform for expanding its influence, they «underestimated the commitment of BRICS members and other developing countries to unite and cooperate.» Here is a very important point. India also sees the BRICS as a platform for uniting the non-aligned countries of the so-called Third World.
Another thing is that the quality of this new membership is very contradictory. On the one hand, the most powerful economically and politically influential Saudi Arabia, whose GDP per capita exceeds 23 thousand dollars, or the UAE, whose income is comparable to Russia’s — about 10 thousand dollars. And on the other hand — Ethiopia, where GDP per citizen is about 1 thousand dollars per year.
In total, about 40 countries have shown interest in joining BRICS, with 22 having declared their explicit intention one way or another. The choice of only six new members appears to be a compromise between the views of China and India. There was a long discussion at the summit about the criteria for admission to the organization, but only a few points were announced. These are geography and ideological proximity. In this sense, the format of expansion is not quite clear. Especially since BRICS expected a rather powerful Indonesia, which also represents Southeast Asia and is trying to distance itself from the United States. But alas… Here, apparently, the voice of India, which fears the participation of China’s closest economic partners, played a role. Although the prospects for expansion remain. And we can assume that the process will continue at the summit in Kazan, which will be held next year under the Russian presidency. Especially since Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at the summit on August 23, said he was “happy to see great enthusiasm” for cooperation with the bloc and that the admission of new participants should be accelerated. «We should use BRICS cooperation to accelerate the expansion process so that as many countries as possible can join the BRICS family, gain wisdom and work together to push global governance in a fairer and more reasonable direction,» the Chinese leader said.
It is not by chance that the summit decided not to rename BRICS. Because soon it may happen that there will not be enough letters in any alphabet to designate all the member countries.
Although there has been some progress in the creation of a BRICS currency, the expected breakthroughs have not been achieved. However, one can hope that the declarations made at the summit on the transition to national currencies in trade will be filled with even more concrete content. This would be beneficial not only to Russia and China, which are under sanctions from the US and the EU, but also to the rest of the BRICS members. «Now all attention is focused on finding ways to ensure our mutual trade, mutual economic projects, investments in such a way as not to depend on the system controlled by the United States and Western allies,» Sergey Lavrov said. He reminded that within the BRICS framework there is a Pool of reserve currencies, which will form the basis for settlements in national currencies and an alternative payment system.
Of course, both Russia and China would like to give BRICS greater global significance so that it can help solve emerging problems. Although BRICS already covers more than 40 percent of the world’s population and generates about 36 percent of the world’s GDP in purchasing power parity terms, the union has so far failed to convert its total economic power into adequate political influence. The level of economic integration still lags far behind that of the collective West, with which most of the countries of the union have much greater economic ties than among themselves. But there is movement toward reorientation toward the non-Western world.