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Our Friday News Analysis | What the World Reads Now!
An Alliance of (Some) Sworn (Former?) Enemies? Why? The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend? What if the People of the World Want to Live Together in Harmony?
The Hague, 08 September 2023 | If you know of any story that is decisive, tell the world. We're still searching.
The group of rising world powers will more than double its ranks
Participants attend a news conference as Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his remarks virtually during the 15th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. © Sputnik / Grigory Sysoev
24 August 2023
Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are joining the BRICS group of nations after their candidacies were approved on Thursday by leaders of the current member states, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced.
The six newcomers will become full-fledged members starting January 2024. The club comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. BRICS expansion topped the agenda of the summit in Johannesburg this week.
“We value the interest of other countries in building a partnership with BRICS. We’ve tasked our foreign ministers to develop further the BRICS Partners Country model and a list of prospective partner countries,” the South African leader added.
BRICS expanded only once in 2010 when South Africa joined the organization. The admission was made without any prerequisites. One of the critical goals of this year’s summit was to agree to more formal criteria for new candidates.
The group touts itself as an alternative to Western-dominated international institutions, saying its approach reflects the emerging multipolar world better. Member states have blamed the US and its allies for abusing their position during the moment of unipolarity, which they enjoyed following the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Western influence dwindled, its leaders leveraged tools under their control, such as the dollar, to protect its hegemonic position, BRICS members claim.
The summit participants expressed confidence that the organization’s influence will continue to grow. BRICS seeks to maintain a balanced approach to its admittance policy so that all parts of the world are represented and have an impact on its agenda.
EDITORIAL | What’s the Mortar that Glues a Seemingly Unruly Lot TOGETHER?
Among Gorillas or Chimpanzees, Only One Can Be ‘King of the Hill.’ What About People, Clans, Tribes, and Nations?
Imagine 300 monkeys packed like rats in a B-757. Immediately after take-off, the grumbles will start. Upon landing, the chimpanzees will have left a bloody mess with all of them slaughtered, except for one and his harem. Chalk it off to the Rule of the Jungle.
If there is a will, people can work together in constructive partnerships toward harmony. It takes work. Unfortunately, the Rule of the Jungle often supersedes the Rule of Law.
In our times, we have George Bush’s Coalition of the Willing, roughly 50 countries pitted against the other 150 UN member nation-states. The Coalition of the Willing, often referred to as ‘the World Community,’ imposes upon the rest of humanity a form of theo-geopolitical homogenization. After all, the EU-US/NATO Axis has anointed itself as the single global policeman to forge global compliance with its definition of the Rule of Law, even if it employs autocratic and provocative schemes like war.
Bricks and Mortar
It’s a simple equation. Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) don’t want the King of the Hill to impose their single-focused Rule of Law upon them. Remarkably, more than 40 countries applied to be added to the BRICS Alliance. Recently, the first six nations – Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Emirates, Argentina, Ethiopia, and Egypt – were added to the Pact, re-christened as BRICS +. More will follow.
In short, the world's nations, including Taiwan, don’t want to be the next victim of Globalism, as defined by the King of the Hill. Globalism, as those in power practice it, is pasteurized NEO-COLONIALISM. Neo-Colonialism means: What is mine, is mine. What is yours is mine also.
Economic interests will likely help the expanded bloc iron out longstanding feuds within
Representatives of Brazil, China, South Africa, India, and Russia at the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, August 23, 2023. © Global Look Press/Keystone Press Agency
Ullekh NP is a writer, journalist, and political commentator based in New Delhi.
27 Aug, 2023 13:22
Ullekh Np is the executive editor of the newsweekly ‘Open’ and author of three nonfiction books: 1) War Room: The People, Tactics, and Technology Behind Narendra Modi’s 2014 Win; 2) The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox; and 3) Kannur: Inside India’s Bloodiest Revenge Politics.
Noted columnist Pankaj Mishra calls BRIC a “casual acronym” coined by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill in 2001 to draw attention to investment opportunities in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. But it became much more significant when Russia formed the eponymously titled global body in 2009.
A year later, South Africa joined them, making it BRICS. The whole exercise was conceived as a counterweight-in-the-making to the West-obsessed United Nations, the World Bank, IMF, and other multilateral organizations that follow – in terms of top-notch thinkers and economists – a neo-colonial policy with the US dollar as the reserve currency.
The BRICS nations, which had either rung out old monarchies or liberated themselves from colonial oppression, had long craved decolonization. Still, the US and its allies used every pretext to delay this overdue process. In the meantime, there were efforts such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that demonstrated the passion of multiple countries to break out of the clutches of American-centric global institutions, especially financial institutions, which had become instruments vigorously used by the US and certain former colonial powers to control the resources of other countries.
Any bid to question the hegemony of these global power structures was considered blasphemy, and the Western mainstream media promptly denounced any alternatives to the economic order of the day as non-starters or damp squibs. At the same time, they kept silent on the aspirations of the countries that had fought colonial and expansionist powers tooth and nail in the first half of the century to rewrite world history.
Including six new members of BRICS at the recently concluded Johannesburg summit attracted international attention. Still, the highlight of the discourse so far has been pessimism about the grouping’s potential success. Thanks to its expansion, BRICS, or BRICS+, has not outlined alternative institutions it plans to build. Neither is it an ideologically aligned entity like the G7. Nor has this grouping, which has been meeting annually on a rotational basis under the chairmanship of its member countries since 2014, chalked out any common aims in foreign policy. They do not have much in common except that they are aggrieved at being unfairly treated by the West and its satellite institutions since the end of World War II.
What BRICS has is a bank it created in 2015 called the New Development Bank (NDB), formerly known as the BRICS Development Bank, with the aim of “mobilizing resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in emerging markets and developing countries.” But it is still at an early stage.
So, what else does it have, Western commentators ask, some terming the summit “semi-farcical” and “meaningless.”
It’s simple. These countries don’t want to be denied certain advantages they are entitled to in the age of globalization. The times they are ‘a-changin,’ as Bob Dylan sang. The commentariat who see trade alone as the focus of BRICS+ must look at the political fragmentation in the world where each country – from Asia to Latin America to Africa – stands up to protect its interests instead of remaining loyally aligned to blocs, no questions asked.
Ethiopia – a new member of BRICS that, like the other five additions, will join the grouping on January 1, 2024 – is one of the fastest-growing African economies. The addition of Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the UAE will increase the BRICS' share of global oil production to 43%. Although politically volatile, Argentina has lately seen a mining boom, especially of the much sought-after critical metal lithium. For cash-strapped Egypt, this association is an opportunity to attract new investments for development without dollar transactions adding to its foreign currency pressure. According to Reuters, over 40 countries have expressed interest in joining BRICS.
This means the craving among countries from across continents to ride the BRICS bandwagon comes from the realization that US power is declining. Western columnists who endlessly insist on differences within the existing five members must pay attention to how, all through history, new economic interests have helped resolve longstanding feuds. Take the unlikely rapprochement effected by China between bitter foes Iran and Saudi Arabia! Similarly, for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, such new priorities could offer a historic opportunity to go down in the annals of world history as statesmen who gave peace a chance.
I spoke recently to Richard D. Wolff, a noted American economist, public intellectual, and radio host. This professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a visiting professor in the graduate program in international affairs at the New School told me in an interview that the short-term effects of the inclusion of new members to BRICS “include greatly expanding the knowledge and awareness across the world that a new world economy now exists, one no longer dominated by the US and its allies (G7).”
What is the Side of the Story that is Not Yet Decisive? Edited by Abraham A. van Kempen.
Adding new members is suitable for multipolarity but also a danger to cohesion within the group of rising nations
(From L to R) President of China Xi Jinping, President of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi at the 2023 BRICS Summit in Johannesburg on August 24, 2023 © Marco Longari / AFP
Kanwal Sibal, retired Indian foreign secretary and former Ambassador to Russia between 2004 and 2007. He also held ambassadorial positions in Turkey, Egypt, and France and was Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington, DC.
26 August 2023
The most important outcome of the BRICS summit in South Africa is the decision to expand the group. Six new members will join it on January 1, 2024: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Argentina, Iran, and Ethiopia, which more than doubles the original membership. It is a transformative outcome.
Originally, RIC (the Russia-India-China group conceived in 1998) and BRIC were a response to the emergence of a unipolar world following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. BRIC, comprising four economically rising powers (Brazil, Russia, India, China) from three continents, shared the agenda of making the global order more democratic and equitable, reforming the United Nations system, including its political and financial institutions, increasing the role of developing countries in the global system, promoting multilateralism with the UN as its centerpiece, and so on. South Africa was not a rising economic power, but its 2010 inclusion as a significant African country had the rationale of expanding the coverage of BRICS to four continents.
The world is no longer unipolar, though the US remains the world’s leading political, military, and economic power. Its failure to change the map of West Asia in its favor by regime change through military intervention or democracy promotion through the Arab Spring, or the disastrous end of the War on Terror exemplified by its retreat from Afghanistan, has reduced its international importance. It must strengthen its alliances in Europe and Asia to retain its global pre-eminence. This includes the reinvigoration of NATO in Europe and the partnerships with Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines in Asia, not to mention the political and economic role of the G7.
While the unipolar phase is over, new tensions have arisen with potentially dire consequences for global peace and security in Europe and Asia. The US is now pitted against Russia and China, obtaining full support from Europe against Russia and acknowledgment of a systemic threat to Europe from China. The US has not hesitated to use its financial power against Russia to isolate it and cause its economic collapse. It has gone to the extent of openly subscribing to the idea of regime change in Russia, a peer nuclear power. The US now sees China as its principal longer-term adversary and is taking steps to thwart China’s technological rise.
These tensions are affecting the international system. The drastic nature of the Western sanctions on Russia, especially the American weaponization of finance and the dollar as the world’s principal reserve currency, has, besides its very disruptive effects on the supply of food, fertilizers, and energy to developing countries, raised serious questions about the equity of a global order based on rules set by the powerful and not emanating from the collective will of the international community.
The evolution of RIC into BRIC and then BRICS always promoted multipolarity as a core agenda. Everything else (reforming the international system, giving developing countries greater say in global governance, promoting respect for different political and economic systems, exposing the double standards of the West concerning human rights and democracy, opposition to the West forcing its worldview on others as ‘universal values’) depended on diluting the West’s traditional hegemony through the emergence of new power centers and the resultant distribution of global power.
The West’s confrontation with Russia and China, the two most influential members of BRICS, explains the group’s drive for expansion. Adding more members is seen as a tangible movement towards multipolarity. With their solid Western links, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Argentina are signaling their willingness to be part of this transition, which shows how the mood in the Global South is changing. These countries want to reduce their dependency on the West, widen their foreign policy options, and be able to resist better Western pressures by joining multilateral groups that seek to counter the West’s hegemony over the current international system. They see value in joining a group of major non-Western countries that seek to re-balance a global political and economic system whose rules and standards have been determined by the West and enforced with punitive costs for transgression.
The inclusion of Iran – which is already a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, subject to Western sanctions, increasingly close to China and Russia, and at loggerheads with the US over nuclear, missile, and regional issues – would have been inevitable in any expansion of BRICS’ geographical area of influence. On the other hand, Ethiopia, riven with civil war and economic distress due to prolonged drought, does not seem to have any plausible credentials to merit inclusion other than its close partnership with China.
This raises the question of the criteria used for deciding on expansion. Were GDP size, growth prospects, population size, geographic location, or degree of regional influence part of the criteria? Barring Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are economically strong and are significant oil producers with major expansion plans as part of their 2030 Economic Vision, the other countries face serious economic problems. They can hardly be characterized as emerging economic powers. Egypt’s economy is also under stress, but Egypt, as a significant political, military, and cultural Arab power and the most significant population, is critical for maintaining a balance of power in its region. Its inclusion has an essential political resonance at the international level. Argentina is facing a severe economic crisis, too, but it has the distinction of being the second largest economy in South America, after Brazil, and a member of the G20.
Surprisingly, BRICS expansion does not include any Asian country. Indonesia was a candidate and would have been an obvious inclusion on all parameters. Still, it appears it withdrew its candidacy at the last moment to weigh the pros and cons of membership. Its last-minute hesitation may be due to external pressure and cohesion considerations within ASEAN. Nigeria would have been a far more creditable candidate in Africa than Ethiopia, but its vice president says it did not apply for BRICS membership. Neither did Mexico, which would have been another plausible candidate from Latin America. The absence of Algeria, which had applied for membership, is notable. The expansion is regionally lopsided, with four of the six new members from one region.
The summit’s joint statement adds to the confusion over the criteria, stating that the BRICS leaders tasked their “Foreign Ministers to develop further the BRICS partner country model and a list of prospective partner countries and report by the next Summit.” The reference here is not to new members but to a “partner country model” and “prospective partner countries.” If the criteria have already been agreed to and the announced expansion is based on them, why is the need to “further develop the BRICS partner country model”? Is the present expansion essentially ad hoc, as consensus was possible only for the six countries?
While expansion undoubtedly boosts multipolarity, will it make the new grouping less cohesive? Even earlier, BRICS had problems with internal cohesion, especially with continuing India-China differences. The two countries are involved in a military stand-off on the border, contradicting many of the principles that BRICS espouses. Brazil’s commitment to BRICS under President Jair Bolsonaro was not as strong as President Lula's before him. The fact that President Putin could not personally attend the summit in Johannesburg because South Africa could not reconcile its obligation to BRICS and the International Criminal Court shows that the group is not entirely in control of its collective vision.
Now, with additional cleavages and rivalries entering the expanded BRICS grouping, such as those between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the UAE and Iran, Egypt, and Ethiopia, Egypt and Iran, and also, to a degree, between Brazil and Argentina, will it make consensus building within the grouping more difficult, or reduce it to the lowest common denominator? On the other hand, can the expanded BRICS help in bridging these divides? It remains to be seen.
India has welcomed the expansion as it will strengthen the grouping and increase confidence in a multipolar world order. Prime Minister Modi said India enjoys warm relations with the six countries joining. India has a strategic partnership with five new entrants and traditionally very close ties with Ethiopia. In Modi’s view, the new BRICS will be – Breaking barriers, Revitalizing economies, Inspiring innovation, Creating opportunities, and Shaping the future.
DMITRY TRENIN | THE FOUNDER MEMBERS OF BRICS FACE A HISTORIC DECISION AS THEY ATTEMPT TO RESHAPE THE WORLD ORDER
Expanding the membership and working towards financial independence from the West are two critical challenges to be discussed at the Johannesburg summit
FILE PHOTO. BRICS Summit in Xiamen, southeastern China's Fujian Province, on September 5, 2017. © MARK SCHIEFELBEIN / POOL / AFP
Dmitry Trenin is a Higher School of Economics research professor and a lead research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations. He is also a member of the Russian International Affairs Council.
21 August 2023
Never has the BRICS group attracted so much interest worldwide as in the run-up to the 15th leaders’ summit this week in Johannesburg.
This shows the growth of the bloc's importance since its first gathering – at the level of economics ministers – on the margins of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum in 2006 and the initial proper summit in Ekaterinburg in 2009.
About 20 countries are reportedly seeking admission to the five-member organization, and the list of countries that will be represented at the meeting in South Africa is three times as long. This is a sign of the times and points to two things: the yearning of many non-Western nations to become more consequential to how the world is run and the growing pushback against self-serving Western dominance in global politics, economics, finance, and the media.
This does not mean, however, that BRICS (an acronym made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) will have an easy run in reshaping the world order. Ahead of the Johannesburg summit, two issues emerged as the main challenges to the group’s further evolution. One is expanding membership. Many countries from all over the globe have lined up at BRICS' door, ready to walk in. These include Algeria, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Going for a considerable bang enlargement would be a loud statement that an alternative to the US-led system of alliances and partnerships is being built. However, the question is, would such an expansion make a much more diversified BRICS immediately stronger or not?
Within BRICS itself, views on enlargement differ. Yet, there is a model that can prove helpful. Another non-Western group, with some of the same participant states, did manage the enlargement issue without diluting effectiveness. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization started with Russia, China, and three Central Asian states. Over time, the SCO has found a formula for categories of participating countries and criteria-cum-processes for admitting new full members. The organization extended its full membership to India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran, with several others in line for admission. If BRICS adopts the SCO approach, this could be a solution.
The other challenge for the bloc is developing new financial instruments to reduce the non-Western economies’ dependence on the dollar. Washington’s weaponization of its currency in its Hybrid War against Russia and its concurrent manipulation of trade and technology against China have made the issue urgent. Western restrictions have hampered the activities of the BRICS New Development Bank. Calls have been made for the group to create a common currency to break the dollar's monopoly in world finance. Yet, it is self-evident that creating a reserve currency for five very different economies, of which China accounts for two-thirds of the combined nominal GDP of the group, will run up against the jealously guarded principle of national sovereignty. The original goal of achieving financial independence will not be met.
A more practical way would be to improve the growing practice of using national currencies in trade between BRICS countries. The yuan and ruble account for more than half of Sino-Russian commercial turnover; Russia accepts the rupee for the oil it ships to India; Brazil trades in yuan with China; and so on. While these transactions have the merit of being free from third-country interference, they can and do incur costs due to problems with the convertibility of some currencies, their limited use outside the issuing country, and the instability of the exchange rate. These are the issues that need to be addressed. While a BRICS currency is still a long way off, it would make more sense to work on improving the group's international payments and settlements system.
BRICS is often compared to the G7. Yet, although in some ways the comparison can be justified, the two groups are fundamentally different in their ambition, structure, and evolution. The G7 is politically, economically, and ideologically homogenous, while BRICS is rich in diversity on all counts; the G7 is essentially led by the United States, with the others, the ex-great powers, unquestionably accepting that leadership, whereas, in BRICS, China’s economic weight does not translate into a Beijing hegemony. The G7 is globalist in the sense of seeking to project its models and morals on the rest of the world, and BRICS countries are wholly focused on their national sovereignty. At the same time, the G7 is exclusive, with the West sitting clearly above the rest, while BRICS is just the opposite: it embraces the diversity of different civilizations and cultures.
The G7’s role is to preserve the old order in which the West is dominant; the BRICS members’ ambition is to build elements of a new, more diversified, and better-balanced world order – first of all among themselves and then to further impact the evolution of the world system. BRICS is not an attempt to create a zero-sum alliance. It is the core of what one can call the World Majority that aims at development rather than dominance. The going will be hard and not unopposed, but with more pieces to the puzzle affixed, the foundation of a more open and inclusive world order will eventually emerge.
If the group of rising powers tries to usurp global governance, it will collapse under its weight
Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi at the BRICS/SCO Summits on July 09, 2015, in Ufa, Russia © Iliya Pitalev / Host Photo Agency/Ria Novosti via Getty Images
M. K. Bhadrakumar is a retired Indian diplomat who has served in Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, West Germany, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan before retiring as Indian Ambassador to Türkiye.
21 August 2023
A famous incident narrated by Bob Woodward in his book Obama’s Wars comes to mind: President Barack Obama, disregarding the protestations of Chinese protocol officials, burst into a closed-door meeting of Chinese, Indian, and Brazilian leaders on a late Friday afternoon in Copenhagen, a week before Christmas in 2009, where the three BRIC leaders (this was before South Africa joined and the group became BRICS) were negotiating in secret a joint position at the climate talks, which were on the verge of complete meltdown.
Obama had wanted the three leaders of the most powerful nations of the “Global South” – and South African President Jacob Zuma – to meet him individually rather than collectively and was frantic that his ploy was upended. Eventually, Obama joined the four leaders, and the negotiations resulted in a meaningful agreement.
That incident, just six months after the first BRIC Summit in Yekaterinburg in June of that year, underscored a cardinal truth that although the signs were there already that the West’s decline had begun, no one had any doubts that the United States and Europe would continue to determine the characteristics of the world economy and international politics for a long time.
Today, when India’s approach to the upcoming BRICS Summit has become a matter of some controversy – with Reuters even floating a mischievous rumor that Prime Minister Narendra Modi might not travel to Johannesburg – what is being overlooked is that there is a remarkable consistency in India’s conception of the grouping: that BRICS was a community of revisionist powers who were not seeking the destruction of the world order, but the inclusion of their interests in this order.
However, time didn’t stand still. Globalization is moribund, and the system of international institutions that provided its underpinnings is no longer inclusive. Russia and China are under US sanctions. On the contrary, India’s relationship with the US is perhaps at its highest point in history – almost a quasi-alliance – and Washington describes it as the “defining partnership” of the century. Arguably, the US sanctions against China could even hold advantages for India. The close bonding between the two countries in the chip industry pipeline is a case in point. Suffice it to say, life may even be getting better for India, and the country’s elite would see no reason to trade its modest revisionist wishes for a most fundamental restructuring of the existing international order, let alone its destruction.
The bottom line is that India is content if the influence of BRICS in shaping the main aspects of the global agenda can make the world more just and stable. Indeed, that is not a far-fetched dream, as BRICS is on the right side of history. None of the group’s members have economic opportunities and political influence grounded in a history of bloody wars conducted to establish regional and global dominance centered around the wealth accumulated over several centuries. India feels at home.
This brings us to the core issue of the attraction that BRICS holds for so many countries today that are so patently divergent in their national characteristics, values, and interests – from Indonesia to Iran, Egypt to Saudi Arabia – who tend to regard the grouping as if it is poised to pick up the banner of global governance from the West. Such expectations are irrational, as they are premised on the evolution of the entire international order in a specific predetermined direction, which is not the case.
Thus, it is only natural that Brazil – or India, for that matter – may feel troubled about how, moving forward, BRICS’ contribution to global governance can genuinely be decisive. Fundamentally, there is uncertainty as to whether, in the current circumstances, it is even possible for BRICS to maintain the revisionist behavior of the past. The issue is not about the outcome of the Ukraine conflict, which Russia cannot and will not lose, but that even after a catastrophic defeat, its adversaries are highly unlikely to change their views on the world.
Therefore, if BRICS expands, devoid of norms, the unity of the grouping could be impaired, rendering it diffuse and ineffectual. That was what happened to the Non-Aligned Movement. Yet, this is also a transformative period where “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” to borrow Yeats’ anguished formulation of an eternal principle of politics.
The predicament is acute against the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict and the Biden administration’s dual containment strategy against China and Russia, two founding members of BRICS. Unsurprisingly, Chinese and Russian world views have dramatically changed recently and robustly counter US hegemony. The “no limits” friendship between these neighboring giants sets them apart somewhat within BRICS, which cannot but affect the alchemy of the grouping – although the collegial spirit continues, thanks to their pragmatism and sagacity.
Curiously, many aspirants who seek association with BRICS could even be attracted to the grouping principally for that reason – a sort of second pillar that upholds a more just and less selfish global governance with the small and medium-sized states of the world.
Make no mistake that all the experience of solid institutions and global governance happens to be the experience of the West based on common values and shared interests. Ironically, it also accounts for their “bloc mentality.” On the contrary, BRICS lacks such cohesiveness and the capacity to set the world agenda, which the G7 has been doing for decades. That is why a country like India will always expect BRICS as a community to aim not to destroy the existing world order but to improve it. India does not want globalization, institutions, and international law to collapse. Put differently, India prefers to create rules, norms, and ways of cooperation within the existing order to preserve its advantages and eliminate its shortcomings.
For India, this is both a matter of tactic and strategy. The prevailing rules-based order gives India a sense of security and strengthens multipolarity in Asia. It is a misconception that India is under pressure to bandwagon with the US. That might have been the case previously, but present-day India, under the current leadership in particular, is consciously expanding its relations with the US, which it considers to be in its national interests. It is a logical outcome of the trajectory of politics in India since the 1990s, and it enjoys a “bipartisan consensus” between the ruling party and the main opposition party. And it has become a long-term trend that already seems irreversible.
Several factors are involved here, and one main factor is, paradoxically, the phenomenal rise of China, India’s BRICS partner, which raises alarmist sentiments in the country. The partnership with the US is one of the few ways India hopes to address the security paradigm. That said, India’s BRICS partners can and should trust India to continue to pursue an independent foreign policy based on its national interests. There is no reason to doubt that India reposes faith in the decisive influence of the BRICS in shaping the main aspects of the global agenda that will make the world more just and stable.
Argentina’s upcoming presidential election highlights the international group’s primary challenge
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with fellow BRICS leaders President of China Xi Jinping and Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi © Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images
Bradley Blankenship (@BradBlank_) is an American journalist, columnist, and political commentator. He has a syndicated column at CGTN and is a freelance reporter for international news agencies.
24 August 2023
The 15th BRICS Summit in South Africa has finally kicked off, and many murmurs are making their way through the media. Most of us in the political commentary business planned for this, as, after all, it has been one of the most hotly anticipated events this year. Governments like China are pushing to make the bloc, comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, a rival to the G7. In contrast, Western governments do not want that to happen.
With the growing trend – both in absolute terms and in terms of policy planning – of de-dollarization, the South Africa summit was billed as a watershed moment for the greenback since the expansion of BRICS – which is mulling a basket currency for international trade – was to be the most important agenda item, as countries fall over each other to join. And now, as the event continues, we are already seeing people inject their hopes and fears into what’s happening. While it would be prudent to refrain from overt speculation or promises that the Global South is throwing off the chains of ‘imperialismo norteamericano,’ one issue has sent rumors swirling in the run-up to the summit: Argentina.
Buenos Aires is slated as a pivotal addition to the bloc, one of the first six new members to be taken on board since BRICS’ only previous expansion in 2010. Closed-door discussions of the beleaguered country’s accession were reportedly high on the ongoing summit’s agenda. We do know that, for one, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva voiced his support for Argentina’s membership.
But we also know that Argentina didn’t send its delegation to South Africa even though President Alberto Fernandez was invited to be a speaker. We also know that the country’s economy minister (and presidential candidate), Sergio Massa, instead went to the US to meet with officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about the country’s debt. An Argentine official in Washington was quoted in the media as saying that “the IMF and the BRICS are two very different families,” suggesting that Buenos Aires cannot be in both.
It also must be said that Argentina faces a tough presidential election in October of this year. The far-right economist Javier Milei won a stunning primary election and will face off against the center-left Massa, shocking markets and polite society alike. He has promised to cut off trade relations with China and reorient Argentina toward the “civilized world,” or “the West,” as he said, and to implement a radical market-driven economic policy similar to Chile’s former dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Milei also spoke last week to IMF officials, assuring them that he’s their man.
Finally, we know that BRICS has formalized six new members, including Argentina. Their membership is set to be finalized in January 2024. But if Milei wins the presidential election in the interim, it is almost certain that his country will be suddenly withdrawn from the bloc. This would hurt every group member and irrevocably harm BRICS’ image. For the center-left in Argentina, aligning with the West is an undesirable situation. They see it as a foolhardy move because the IMF debt lopped on the country by Washington, and their yes-man former president, Mauricio Macri, is essentially the cause of Argentina’s current woes.
The overarching reality highlighted by Argentina’s situation is that, despite all the hype around this latest BRICS summit and the membership growth spurt it has brought, every member nation has to contend with the realities of its own geopolitics and foreign policy.
Brazil’s Lula, considered a democratic partner of the West sometimes and voice for an independent Global South other times, has to balance these conflicting identities. He does not want to overthrow the existing order of international relations – but he also wants to see some changes, which is understandable. India has also positioned itself against BRICS expansion, hoping to dampen the organization’s push for an independent financial system. It has a strong strategic relationship with the US while still being a vital member of the Global South. Accepting six new members was essentially a compromise for these two countries.
Ultimately, one thing is crucial in international relations: Countries pursue their self-interest. It’s as simple as that. Expanding BRICS is in the profound interest of Russia and China, the former of which is being cut off from Western finance over the conflict in Ukraine, and the latter is in the crosshairs for a similar fate, which the other current BRICS members are not facing – at least not right now. Russia and China are also far more consolidated in state power than governments in the Global South that are susceptible to foreign influence and coups.
One of the strengths and weaknesses of BRICS is that it is not ideological. Non-ideological cooperation is a blessing because it can withstand the test of elections. Still, it’s a liability because it means that the general enthusiasm for building a long-term project is lower, plus an election (or a coup) can also upend it if an extremist is elected. This ultimately means that for BRICS to remain worthwhile, it must produce tangible results that politicians can show their domestic audiences. Perhaps, to that end, if Argentina is promised fresh cash, it will join whatever the outcome of its presidential election.
However, the unpredictability and the resulting fragility of some Global South governments will undoubtedly be the perennial challenge for BRICS.
GOING UNDERGROUND | GAME CHANGER: BRICS WELCOMES SIX NEW MEMBERS, MORE ECONOMIC CHALLENGES COMING FOR THE WEST
On this episode of Going Underground, we speak to Yaroslav Lissovolik, founder of BRICS+ Analytics, after a game-changing BRICS Summit, which saw the organization welcome the UAE, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and Ethiopia as new members. In this interview conducted by Afshin Rattansi, Yaroslav discusses how BRICS will pose a more significant challenge to the US and European economies, the BRICS currency project, the possibility of Bretton-Woods institutions such as the IMF and World Bank working with BRICS, the dangers facing the BRICS alliance, and much more.
SCOTT RITTER | A COMPREHENSIVE UKRAINIAN DEFEAT IS THE ONLY POSSIBLE OUTCOME OF ITS CONFLICT WITH RUSSIA
Kyiv was offered a peace deal long ago but chose war instead, egged on by its Western backers. Now, its fate is sealed
Ukraine's President Vladimir Zelensky attends a ceremony marking Ukraine's Independence Day in Kyiv © Handout / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP
Scott Ritter (@RealScottRitter@ScottRitter) is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of 'Disarmament in the Time of Perestroika: Arms Control and the End of the Soviet Union.' He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.
HomeRussia & FSU
3 Sep, 2023 16:33
September 2 marked the 78th anniversary of the World War II surrender ceremony onboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. This moment formalized Japan’s unconditional capitulation to the United States and its allies and marked the end of the conflict. From the Japanese perspective, it had been ongoing since the Marco Polo bridge incident of July 7, 1937, which started the Sino-Japanese War.
There was no negotiation, only a simple surrender ceremony in which Japanese officials signed documents without conditions.
Because that is what defeat looks like.
History is meant to be studied in a manner that seeks to draw out lessons from the past that might have relevance in the present. As George Santayana, the American philosopher, noted, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” When considering its current conflict with Russia, the Ukrainian government in Kyiv would do well to reflect on the historical precedent set by Japan’s unconditional surrender and Santayana’s advice.
First and foremost, Ukraine must reflect honestly on the causes of this conflict and which side bears the burden of responsibility for the fighting. ‘Denazification’ is a term the Russian government has used to describe one of its stated goals and objectives. President Vladimir Putin has made numerous references to the odious legacy of Stepan Bandera, the notorious mass murderer and associate of Nazi Germany who modern-day Ukrainian nationalists fete as a hero and all but a founding father of their nation.
That present-day Ukraine would see fit to elevate a man like Bandera to such a level speaks volumes about the rotten foundation of Kyiv’s cause and the dearth of moral fiber in the nation today. The role played by the modern-day adherents of the Nazi collaborator's hateful nationalist ideology in promulgating the key events that led to the initiation of the military operation by Russia can neither be ignored nor minimized. The Banderists, with their long relationship with the CIA and other foreign intelligence services hostile to Moscow, used violence to oust the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, from office in February 2014.
From the illicit politicized violence came the mainstreaming of the forces of ethnic and cultural genocide, manifested in the form of the present-day Banderists, who initiated acts of violence and oppression in eastern Ukraine. This, in turn, triggered the Russian response in Crimea and the actions of the citizens of Donbas, who organized to resist the rampage of the Bandera-affiliated Ukrainian nationalists. The Minsk Accords and the subsequent betrayal by Kyiv and its Western partners of the potential path for peace that these represented followed.
Ukraine cannot disassociate itself from the role played by the modern-day Banderists in shaping the present reality. In this, Kyiv mirrors the militarists of Imperial Japan, whose blind allegiance to the precepts of Bushido, the traditional ‘way of the warrior’ dating back to the Samurai of 17th century Japan, helped push the country into global conflict. Part of Japan’s obligations upon surrender was to purge its society of the militarists' influence and enact a constitution that deplatformed them by making wars of aggression – and the military forces needed to wage them – unconstitutional.
Banderism, in all its manifestations, must be eradicated from Ukrainian society in the same way that Bushido-inspired militarism was removed from Japan, including creating a new constitution that enshrines this purge as law. Any failure to do so only allows the cancer of Banderism to survive, rotting inside the defeated body of post-conflict Ukraine until some future time when it can metastasize once again to bring harm.
This is precisely the message that was being sent by Putin when, during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum this past July, he showed a video where the crimes of the Banderists during the Second World War were publicly displayed. “How can you not fight it?” Putin said. “And if this is not neo-Nazism in its current manifestation, then what is it?” he asked. “We have every right,” the Russian president declared, “to believe that the task of the denazification of Ukraine set by us is one of the key ones.”
As the Western establishment media begins to come to grips with the scope and scale of Ukraine’s eventual military defeat (and, by extension, the reality of a decisive Russian military victory), their political overseers in the US, NATO, and the European Union struggle to define what the endgame will be. Having articulated the Russian-Ukrainian conflict as an existential struggle where the very survival of NATO is on the line, these Western politicians now have the task of shaping public perception in a manner that mitigates any meaningful, sustained political blowback from constituents who have been deceived into tolerating the transfer of billions of dollars from their respective national treasuries, and billions more dollars worth of weapons from their respective arsenals, into a lost and disgraced cause.
A vital aspect of this perception management is the notion of a negotiated settlement. This process implies that Ukraine has a voice regarding the timing and nature of conflict termination. However, Kyiv lost this voice when it walked away from a peace deal brokered between its negotiators and Russian counterparts last spring at the behest of its NATO masters, as communicated through then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The decision to prolong the conflict was predicated on providing tens of billions of dollars in military equipment and assistance to Kyiv. The authorities duly staged a mass mobilization, meaning Ukrainian troops vastly outnumbered their Russian counterparts.
Russia ducks confrontation with NATO as it tightens its hold on eastern Ukraine
A view of the site after a private jet carrying Wagner paramilitary group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino on August 23.
/ Photo by Investigative Committee of Russia/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.
By Seymour Hersh
07 September 2023
Over the past two late summer weeks, we’ve looked back at past American military disasters, so it's time to bring you up to date on the continuing madness in Ukraine.
Let’s start with the fallout from the death last month of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group. The mercenary made a fortune renting out his forces as guns for hire, mainly in Central Africa, and the group took enormous losses in brutal and successful house-to-house combat earlier this year in the city of Bakhmut against an equally courageous Ukraine army. Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged in late June that the Kremlin had paid Prigozhin’s army, many recruited from the country’s prisons, nearly $1 billion between May 2022 and May 2023. I have reported in previous columns that the rebellion Prigozhin launched in June was far from the threat to Putin's standing that the Western media consistently reported. It was, instead, a historically Russian way of sidelining an often troublesome mercenary leader.
Prigozhin and his reduced Wagner force were left limbo after the aborted revolt, and many Wagner members were absorbed into the Russian military. Putin arranged for Prigozhin and what was left of his mercenary force to be driven into exile in Belarus.
But Prigozhin did not stop there. By early August, there were reports of border tensions as the remnant of the Wagner Group made a series of intrusions into the airspace of Poland and troublesome threats at the borders of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. For Putin, triggering complaints from NATO countries was an unforgivable breach. “That was it,” a knowledgeable US intelligence official told me.
Viktor Orbán, the right-wing prime minister of Hungary close to Putin, was one of the few Western leaders to dismiss the importance of Prigozhin’s brief rebellion publicly. In an interview with the Bild, a conservative German daily, Orbán said, “When [the rebellion] is managed in 24 hours, it’s a signal of being strong. . . . Putin is president of Russia, so if somebody speculates that he could fail or be replaced they don’t understand the Russian people and the Russian power structure.”
“Prigozhin was provoking NATO, and he had to go,” the US intelligence official said. “The last thing Putin wanted to do was to give NATO further cause to shelve its growing doubts about the endless financing of [Ukraine President Volodymyr] Zelensky.”
So, the official said, “Putin did it.” Prigozhin had become too dangerous.
The Wagner Group plane carrying Prigozhin was blown apart shortly after takeoff from Moscow on August 23. Along with Prigozhin, six subordinates and three crew members were allegedly killed. The plane had been abruptly pulled off its flight line and serviced the day before. Then, the intelligence official said, it was then that bombs with delayed fuses bombs were placed in the wheelbase. The bombs were set to explode after the wheels were retracted.
The official also took sharp exception to recent waves of American and European reporting that the Ukrainian counteroffensive, launched in early June, has begun to make significant progress in penetrating Russia’s three layers of defenses in the past few weeks. “Where are the reporters getting this stuff?” he asked. “Stories are talking about drunk Russian commanders while the Ukrainians are penetrating the three lines of Russian defense and will be able to work back to Mariupol.” On the northern coast of the Sea of Azov, the port city of Mariupol was besieged by Russian forces in the spring of 2022 and fell after three months of bitter fighting. Once a city of 450,000, it is being rebuilt as a model Russian city and was visited by Putin and Russian TV crews last March. Russia annexed it in Donetsk Oblast, one of four provinces in Ukraine, last September. He has since tightened Russian political and military control of the region.
“The goal of Russia’s first line of defense was not to stop the Ukrainian offense,” the official told me, “but to slow it down so Russian commanders could bring in reserves to fortify the line if there was a Ukrainian advance. There is no evidence that Ukrainian forces have gotten past the first line. The American press is doing anything but honest reporting on the failure thus far of the offense.
“What happened to the use of cluster bombs by Ukraine? Weren’t they supposed to open the door? And Zelensky is now claiming Ukraine had hypersonic bombs. He’s been bullshitting us like this, as he always does. Where are the engineers and scientists manufacturing them? In a bunker somewhere? Or in Kyiv? He’s pretending—stalling as long as he can?
“Here is the key issue,” the official told me. “This kind of reporting from the military intelligence community is going to the White House. There are other views,” he said, referring to the Central Intelligence Agency, that do not reach the Oval Office. “What is going to happen? Will we be supporting Ukraine as long as it takes? It’s not like we are fighting the Führer in Germany or the Emperor of Japan. The other day, former vice president [Mike] Pence said that Russia will come after Poland next if we don’t defend Zelensky in Ukraine. Is that the White House’s policy?”
If so, the official said, it will not be a winning one. “Zelensky will never get his land back.” The Ukrainian leader recently fired Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov amid repeated accusations of corruption. He replaced him with Rustem Umyerov, an opposition party member who, as a Crimean Tatar, will be Ukraine’s first Muslim to serve as a senior government minister.
In a front-page story this week, the Washington Post framed the move as a significant step in combating corruption. Umyerov served as head of Ukraine’s privatization agency for the past year and “gained praise for instituting massive audits and weeding out alleged corruption and misappropriation of funds.”
The intelligence official had a much different view of the new defense minister. “The new guy,” he told me, “is even more corrupt. He ran the sale of government property and made a fortune. Has a huge villa in Majorca.” During a secret meeting in January, Umyerov was not on the list of thirty-five corrupt Ukrainian officials that CIA Director William Burns presented to Zelensky. “He was not on Burns’s list,” the official said. “The list was not a telephone book of crooks; just the ones receiving US military and economic financing.” (I wrote about Burns’s meeting with Zelensky in an April column.)
Washington has not talked about the need for a ceasefire and peace talks. As President Biden seeks $40 billion in further aid for Ukraine from an increasingly dubious Congress, we hear from the Pentagon and the White House that we are in this war for as long as it takes.
Meanwhile, the official said that Putin has not been mobilizing his forces based on “our political objectives. He is running a ‘Great Patriotic War’ and does not care if public opinion polls in America see him as another Adolf Hitler.”
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