Next week is poised to be a momentous one, as the BRICS countries gather in a summit hosted by South Africa in Johannesburg from 22 to 24 August, and literally dozens of ‘Global South’ nations queue up to join.
Add to that that both the Russian and the Indian lunar missions are expected to touch down in Earth’s satellite during the days of the club’s meeting, and you have what pro0mises to be an historical event.
South Africa’s President Ramaphosa will host Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazil’s Lula da Silva and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – Putin will participate via video link and will be represented by Foreign Minister Lavrov.
“BRICS leaders meet in South Africa next week to discuss how to turn a loose club of nations accounting for a quarter of the global economy into a geopolitical force that can challenge the West’s dominance in world affairs.”
BRICS are bonded by the skepticism about a world order serving the interests of the United States and its allies promoting international norms they enforce but don’t respect.
“Few details have emerged about what they plan to discuss, but expansion is expected to be high on the agenda, as some 40 nations have shown interest in joining, either formally or informally, according to South Africa. They include Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Egypt.
[…] China, seeking to expand its geopolitical influence as its tussles with the United States, wants to enlarge BRICS quickly, while Brazil is resisting expansion, fearing the already unwieldy club could see its stature diluted by it.”
Russia needs new friends to counter its ‘diplomatic isolation’ over Ukraine, and so is also willing to bring in new members.
“BRICS nations are keen to project themselves as alternative development partners to the West. China’s foreign ministry said BRICS sought to ‘reform global governance systems (to) increase the representation … of developing countries and emerging markets’.”
When Goldman Sachs coined the acronym BRIC in 2001, it could not imagine that it would become a real thing. Brazil, Russia, India and China held their first summit in 2009, and a year later South Africa was invited to join.
In the beginning, ‘the bloc would issue garbled communiqués about the perfidious West—which the perfidious West would promptly ignore’.
But now, as the 15th BRICS summit opens in Johannesburg, the group has gained a much bigger relevance.
The Economist reported:
“The meeting will underline how the bloc has been rejuvenated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising tensions between the West and China. BRICS members, led by Beijing, are considering whether to expand and deepen the bloc. Some middle powers see the group as a possible vehicle for their interests. The bloc says that more than 40 countries have either applied to join it or have expressed an interest in doing so.”
A “Big brics” could become a challenge for the West. China’s efforts to enlarge the bloc reveal the tensions and contradictions, as Russia is going along with it, but Brazil, India and South Africa are not as keen on it.
“The bloc offers support in isolated times, too. Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s former president, turned to the brics after his ally, Donald Trump, left the White House. These days Russia needs the brics more than ever. At the meeting of foreign ministers your correspondent tried to ask Russia’s ambassador to South Africa what the bloc’s purpose was for his country. “To make more friends,” he grunted.”
China’s position as the largest economy in the group is hard to ignore.
“Even as the bloc debates expansion, it is deepening its existing relationships. On top of the annual summit of bigwigs there is an increasingly long list of meetings involving academics, firms, ministers, ruling parties and think-tanks from brics members and countries friendly to them. Some of these might look like excuses for per-diems. […] But the importance of the connections to officials should not be overlooked, argues Oliver Stuenkel of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Brazilian think-tank. ‘These meetings are often dull but they allow bureaucrats to globalize their network’.”
The group has established a ‘Contingent Reserve Arrangement’, a mini IMF – a series of swap lines for central banks to get hard currency if they have balance-of-payments problems. Also created was a mini-World Bank – the New Development Bank (NDB).
Trending: A NATIONAL DISGRACE: Photos Leaked of Horrific January 6 Prisoner Abuse – Tortured 5 Months in Isolation in a Closet Room with Light on and a Bucket for a Toilet — Where are the ACLU, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch?
A common, gold-backed BRICS reserve currency is something Putin claimed the bloc has been working on a year ago, but it’s unclear when it would be launched.
The Johannesburg summit is expected to be a defining moment for the club.
The Nation reported:
“But another context for the meeting is the increased salience of the Global South, most sharply revealed by the nuanced reactions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to the Ukraine war.”
It created negotiating spaces where Washington and its core allies are not welcome — even if they invite themselves like France’s Macron tried to.
“The current moment appears to be the next fork in the road for BRICS, after its foundational years of 2009–10 and the creation of its development finance entity (the New Development Bank) in 2015. Two key items are on the August summit agenda—first, finding a way to trade and invest with one another by circumventing the use of the US dollar and second, admitting new states to the club.”
They aim to change the global financial system that remains dominated by the US dollar and heavily influenced by the US Federal Reserve.
That puts all other countries at the mercy of US interest rates and measures such as quantitative easing, and also enables a regime of harsh US-led sanctions.
“De-dollarization—even limited to trading between the five BRICS states—is an extremely ambitious goal, and significant progress is difficult to foresee. The preparation required to generate such a currency is formidable. This includes habits of much deeper coordination by the respective countries’ central banks, which do not yet exist.”
A deluge of interest has poured from ‘Global South’ states. No two news outlets agree on how many have been asking for admission, but the numbers go from 18 to as much as 40.
“However, there are differences on expansion within the grouping, with China pushing the hardest for enlargement with some Russian support. But India and Brazil are wary, wanting a much slower process in which expansion happens in stages and after an intermediate status of some sort being granted.”
This East-South grouping has nuanced relations with the west. While Russia and China are locked in a military and economic rivalry with the United States, the other BRICS states see the grouping as a way to create ‘parallel structures of power and influence’ in a world in which Washington has often been a disappointment and sometimes a major barrier to some of their core interests.
If all that was not enough, there is also the fact that both India and Russia have embarked on Lunar Exploration with their space missions. The landings in the Moon’s south pole are expected to happen during the summit, which will add a larger-than-life dimension to the event.
“India’s Chandrayaan-3 and Russia’s Luna-25 missions are geared towards propelling both nations into the realm of lunar exploration.
Chandrayaan-3, India’s third lunar mission, aims to successfully land a rover on the surface of the Moon. Simultaneously, Russia’s Luna-25 mission aspires to conduct a comprehensive study of the Moon’s surface and atmosphere.”