BRICS: Building the Future or Doomed to Crumble?

The BRICS nations, comprising of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, are attempting to challenge the global hegemony of both the United States and Western World. The annual summit for BRICS will be taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa in late August with the notable exception of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which has created a significant rift in the organization. 

But what is BRICS and what does this organization aim to do? 

BRICS is a political and economic alliance between 5 member states to rival the dominance of the United States in the political and economic realms. Together the BRICS nations represent 32.7 trillion USD in GDP or roughly 31% of all global GDP, compared to the United States at 24% of global GDP. While these 5 nations do outweigh the US economically, the current SWIFT system of international monetary exchange places the US dollar as the chief international metric, something they are eager to change. 

On the docket for the summit in South Africa is the discussion around creating a common currency to effectively challenge the US domination of the world economy as well as expanding the organization. South African officials are eager to use the BRICS alliance to be a champion of the developing world with the potential for nations such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Argentina, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo expressing interest in joining. By creating alliances with developing economies in Latin America and Africa as well as positioning themselves against the current US leadership they are hoping to gain favor with nations that are either unfriendly with the United States or those who are interested in joining other developing nations. An economic union of rising discontent would not just outweigh the economic power of the United States, but the entire G-7 economic powers put together. If BRICS was able to take the reins it could signify a radical change in political and economic direction from the US led western world to the developing economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. New York, London, and Tokyo could find themselves no longer the world financial centers being replaced with Rio, Moscow, and Beijing. 

However, NATO and the European Union are not the only international organizations with internal issues. Tensions surrounding the current war in Ukraine has caused a rift between BRICS members. South Africa, like many African nations, has expressed a position of neutrality in the conflict, actively calling for the war’s end. Tensions also rise as the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, which places South Africa in a difficult spot. If President Putin were to arrive in South Africa, they would be bound by international law to arrest him. The rising African nation being caught between its international obligations and its economic partnership with Russia had led to the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, to head the Russian delegation to the BRICS summit instead of Putin.

Written by: Administrative Intern, Charles Larkin

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Shifting Allegiances: U.S. and Chinese Competition for Strategic Partnerships in the Middle East

Tensions run high in the Middle East as a host of conflicts continue without end. Many Arab states are under the impression that the United States is making a strategic pivot in its foreign policy away from the Middle East and its partnerships with Arab and North African states. In the wake of a U.S. less committed to its partners and allies in the region, the Chinese government has taken up an interest in filling that void. According to the Arab Youth Survey in 2022, which surveys thousands of young people across North Africa, the Levant, and The Arabian Peninsula, 78% of respondents stated that they view China as a close ally, compared to only 63% stating that they view the United States as a close ally. This rise in popularity of the Chinese has emerged for a few key reasons.

Young Arabs remain skeptical of the United States’ dedication and support for Israel, which many Arab nations see as both an existential threat to peace in the region and many labeling the Israeli state their number one enemy. Where U.S. relationships between Arab states are dwindling, Israel remains one of the United States’ closest allies. Chinese recent accomplishments look promising and young Arabs are more open to working with the Chinese especially after the Chinese government brokered an end to hostilities between two major regional powers: Saudi Arabia and Iran, in 2023. The Chinese entrance into diplomatic affairs in the Middle East stood in contrast to the previous economic involvement that China had in the region and looks promising. The Chinese are also not stepping down their efforts, attempting to reach another agreement between long standing rivals Israel and Palestine. Economically, the previous Chinese economic assistance has been helpful in the past for Arab states creating a strong working relationship between Beijing and Riyadh that has fostered trust and respect. Finally, another reason for the rise in popularity of Beijing is the declining acceptance of Russia as an ally. The survey showed that Russia has fallen significantly among Arab countries when asked to list allied nations most likely due to the war in Ukraine and it will likely be a while before states feel comfortable listing Moscow as a friend again.

The Middle East has just opened into an even greater arena between the United States and China. Can the U.S. regain its support among Arab states as the great negotiator or will the peace between Tehran and Riyadh allow for greater Chinese involvement into the Middle East? Either way, the hegemony of the United States is being threatened as states are beginning to look for other leaders among the international community.

Written by Administrative Intern, Charles Larkin

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