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October 5, 2022
EDITORIAL

BRICS and the ‘hot mic’

Last week was rich in events. From the global summit on nuclear matters in Seoul with which the week started, which was an opportunity for a get-together of the important decision-makers of the planet, to the BRICS summit in New Delhi on March 29, 2012, events succeeded at a normal pace (meaning dynamic) for this period of transition, occasioning the identification of evolution trends in the ensemble of the international system. The New Delhi BRICS summit is expected to consolidate a platform of common interests for the formalisation of this group of states as a unique and stand-alone actor. Such a post-New Delhi BRICS development trend is definitely very important for the entire systemic evolution and the issue of the sustainability of the current global order forged after WWII surely continues to be the preferred subject of opinion comments.

Such an evolution wouldn’t have been outside a dynamic visible in the last two-three years. In March 2011, for example, when it came to voting on the UN resolution for the international intervention in Libya, a country experiencing uprisings down in blood, Germany abstained and so did Russia and China, which attracted comments on a rapprochement of Berlin to BRICS (although South Africa voted in favour of the resolution), therefore suggesting a new system power constellation. Developments within the ‘Arab Spring’ have also been watched through the magnifying glass of the position taken by ‘the two’ from BRICS on the UN Security Council, especially with regard to Syria. BRICS is an acronym invented by Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill to define ‘emerging markets’ at the time, a ‘collection’ of powers spread around the globe, but which actually represent almost 50 per cent of the planet’s population, one fifth of the global GDP and 75 per cent of the global financial reserves, but whose formalisation as a stand-alone group is in its heydays. Identifying a common denominator underlying the consistency of the group born to an economist’s imagination is actually no easy thing, in spite of the fact that common development trends are visible in the major and sustainable economic growth, multilateral potential they have (resources, technological capabilities, global political impact, positions in international institutions, etc). Summits such as the one in New Delhi this year started only in 2009 (Russia), being followed by those in Brazil and China (2011), when South Africa joined in. The theme of this year’s summit was ‘BRICS Partnership for Global Stability, Security and Prosperity’. Over the recent years, this process of formalisation of the group has included various agendas ranging from international terrorism to climate changes, energy and food security, financial crisis or issues of development. On the margins of the summits of the state leaders various meetings are held for foreign ministers (the first one in 2006), finance, agriculture and health ministers, as well as on various sector themes meant to consolidate cooperation among the members of the group. This year we could notice the development of a common denominator probably meant to stand for a major direction of evolution for BRICS in the future, to the extent to which the various interest of the composing parties allow it. That would be the challenge this group of countries raises to the current organisation of the international system of states, originating in the post-WWII period, practically standing for an institutional domination by the West. In the final summit statement it is said that BRICS ‘is a platform for dialogue and co-operation amongst countries that represent 43 per cent of the world’s population, for the promotion of peace, security and development in a multi-polar, interdependent and increasingly complex, globalising world.’ Equally important are the assertions made in this statement on the future of the multilateral management of the global system under conditions of a ‘strengthened representation of emerging and developing countries in the institutions of global governance will enhance their effectiveness in achieving this objective’. The Chinese President said BRICS has a huge global influence potential, that the group is ‘the defender and promoter of the interests of developing countries’, upholding South-South cooperation and securing ‘greater say for developing countries in global economic governance’. On the other hand, an Indian high-ranking official named the target of the group of states: ‘to create a new global architecture’. During the summit proposals were made for setting up a permanent BRICS secretariat and even a development bank with the purpose of augmenting the group’s global political impact.  Such bank could be seen as a possible competitor of the IMF targeting its current monopoly, as well as the basis for creating a competitor for the US dollar as the reserve currency of the global economy. In a way, BRICS seeks a role of balancing American (Western) hegemony in the system and, for that, it initiates an institutional construction competing with the exiting one.If it is true, we should wonder if there are any chances of success in this undertaking. Post-summit opinions show some serious doubts about the feasibility of this institutional competition against existing architecture. This view is supported by the argument that there are strategic differences within the group, currently kept under control, as well as the major disparity of political system between the composing states or in terms of economic performance. The current BRICS binder – visible at least for the present time – which is the contestation of the current global institutional network dominated by the West is therefore insufficient to determine the evolution of the group towards the standard of a single global actor, capable of designing, implementing and lead a new global architecture. Two words on the ‘open microphone’. Thanks to an electronic ‘happening’, the global public could listen word for word to the end of the talks between the Presidents of the US and Russia, Barrack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in Seoul. In his speech, Obama sent a reassuring signal to in-coming Russian president Vladimir Putin, on the ‘flexibility’ Washington was going to show after the presidential election in the US in bilateral matters, first and foremost with regard to the ballistic missile defence system in Eastern Europe. In exchange for that, Obama was asking for ‘space’ to secure his re-election as president in November this year. The capital question following this ‘electronic’ indiscretion is whether or not it was a concealed codification of the future relations of the two countries, with major consequences on the international system, therefore if we are looking at a proliferation of the ‘grand entente’ of the ‘two big ones’.In Eastern Europe, where the ballistic missile defence shield is deployed, this question is particularly meaningful: Is this ‘flexibility’ going to mean that Washington will give in to Russian claims in the field?

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