The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) bloc met for its annual leader’s summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 22–24, 2023. The highlight of the fifteenth summit was the agreement to admit six new member countries: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, who will officially join the group in January 2024. Ten Council of Councils (CoC) experts from BRICS members and beyond reflect on the future of the grouping and what expansion means for global governance. Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), is among them.
The BRICS Is Not an Anti-Western Association Per Se
When the world is experiencing an acute geopolitical conflict, any event is viewed exclusively through its prism—the United States versus Russia and China, the West versus the Rest, democracy versus autocracy, and so on. Accordingly, the conflict will always see a winner and a loser. The BRICS summit in South Africa is no exception, especially given that the contestation appears embedded in its composition. Now experts talk both about the success of the non-West, which is expanding, as well as the West’s victory, because the BRICS+ remains an amorphous, non-institutionalized group.
In fact, the outcome of the Johannesburg summit should be considered not from the point of view of rivalry but in the context of objective international trends. The supporters of turning the BRICS into an anti-Western association could not prevail. Apart from Russia, the members are not interested in direct conflict with the West. Moreover, interests of member states coincide only to a certain extent. The decision to invite new members is a choice of development model for the next stage. At the fork in the road between deepening and institutionalizing ties or expanding outward, the BRICS chose expansion. The accession of countries will now be regular. Judging by the set of first invitees, no clear membership criteria is established, only the matter of agreement among those at the table. Only one condition applies—no binding relations with the West.
As a result, the direction has been determined.
The grouping will expand the space of interaction bypassing the Western world and without the participation of Western countries. Each of the BRICS states is free to develop its relations with the United States and Europe, but it should not harm its relations with the BRICS states. Current and future BRICS members have one thing in common: they reject the right of the United States and the European Union to impose restrictions on other countries’ foreign policy and economic activities. The BRICS space can be developed as a tool for diversifying the world and moving away from Western domination toward a far more multifaceted scenario. It will be further enhanced and strengthened in the process, albeit a long process.
Global Memos are briefs by the Council of Councils that gather opinions from global experts on major international developments.