Skip to main content

Commentary

Commentary

BRICS going nowhere, especially with new members

Aug 25, 2023

Share

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa held the BRICS Summit from Aug. 22-24, hoping to reduce the world’s reliance on the U.S. dollar. Although some incremental strides might have been achieved in this direction, a more significant development revolves around the bloc’s outreach to six new countries.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan explains why the inclusion of Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia in BRICS guarantees the bloc will not accomplish anything meaningful.

Excerpted from Peter’s Aug. 25 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Have you ever seen a couple of 3-year-olds sitting on the playground talking gibberish and acting like they’re making life-changing decisions? Well, that’s what’s going on at the BRICS summit in South Africa this week.

BRICS comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and if you’re struggling to find some overlap between those countries…you’re not alone. With limited economic ties and diverse interests, this group of countries struggles to connect on anything meaningful.

To complicate matters further, BRICS is looking to add some new members to their ranks: Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina. I urge you to try and come up with a worse list of mid-tier countries to bring on if you want to expand your geopolitical influence.

The varying interests of the current and new members will likely halt any meaningful conversation. The practical significance of this summit and BRICS as a whole is – limited – to say the least. And if you were hoping this would shake up the global landscape, I’m sorry to burst your bubble.

Everyone Peter design here today we’re going to talk about the BRICS summit. It was originally intended to be a two parter one during the summit and one after but because progressing got shut down yesterday, we’re combining this into one. So it seems a little bit disjointed. That is why. And here we go, Hey, everybody, Peter Simon, coming to you from the shore of Lake where I have been visited by a whole bunch of goats, they were very curious. Anyway, today, we’re going to talk about something that is in progress. And that’s the BRICS summit in South Africa.
They’re trying to come up with a series of plans of what to do, they’re trying to consider whether they should let in new members and odds are that this is just gonna be a really stupid Summit, that’s gonna mountain nothing, but it’s still worth talking about, because it’ll give you an idea of the architecture of the international system. And you never know, they might be able to pull something out of the fire. So the reason I have primarily been dismissive of the BRICS, since the beginning is because it was never an organization. It was never a grouping that was founded by its members. It was some finance guy who’s like, look, we’ve got all this capital because the baby boomers haven’t retired yet, we should put it into bonds. And where are some big bond markets? Oh, yeah, Brazil, Russia, India, and China. That’s it. That’s all it was. And then, a decade or two later, they fled in South Africa in a fit of peak.
Nothing’s going on here. There’s never been any meaningful deal. They have formed a development bank, but no, for 90% of the capital comes from China. And there are reasons for the BRICS to talk with China, it is a significant trading partner, but there’s no reason for them to speak with one another. Brazil, aside from exports to China doesn’t trade with the rest of them at all. Same with South Africa. Same with Russia.
India is a special case. And if there’s one country that doesn’t like
that would be India. And you know, every once awhile, you’ll hear them talking about a forming a global currency, or a new alternative currency to challenge the dollar. And then they start talking about details and all falls apart. So right now, India, China, South Africa, and the BRICS own bank are on record saying that they’re not interested in a global currency. The only two countries are left or Russia who thinks that everyone should use the ruble Of course, and Brazil. How can I qualify describe Brazilian foreign policies these days, especially on economic issues kind of Lottie, da, not a lot of substance beneath rhetoric. Anyway. So the purpose of this summit is to bring in dozens of leaders from other countries, and see if they can kind find something that they can all agree on. A History suggests the answer will be no, and everyone is coming with their own list of grievances and desires. The Russians want everyone to sign up with them and boycott the West, until the West agrees to give them their way on Ukraine. Of course, Russia is not included in that Russia is still allowed to
have her she is still allowed to trade with whoever they want. The Chinese are hoping to get enough countries on board that they can then walk into Washington and demand trade concessions. They don’t care about all the other countries, they just want them for themselves. The Indians are there because they are more of a classic 911 online power. But as the Chinese become more rambunctious, the Indians have become more and more Ed Jean towards being in the American camp. So the normal rhetoric that you would expect to see out of the Indians just isn’t there. The South Africans who are hosting are pretending to be neutral and all this and say they don’t have an opinion. The Brazilians are very Lottie doll.
And that’s it. Okay, I’m gonna turn around here, anyway.
Why might this one’s back? Why might distill matter? Well, if you look back to the Cold War period, and when we had the non aligned movement, that’s what a lot of these countries are from, not Russia, not China, but a lot of the ones who are now showing out.
They saw themselves as not east, not West, not first or second world, but as something else. And they try to come together for a common thing called the new international economic order. And the idea was that the West should restructure their trade practices in order to benefit some of their former colonies. It didn’t amount to much at the time, eventually, it became known as the AC key group, Africa, Caribbean Pacific, a former colonies of the Europeans, who have a degree of preferential trade access when it comes to European markets. But it never got the restructuring that they really wanted. The reason I’m even less optimistic this time around is because the interests of the groups that are showing up are far more diverse than anything that we had in the early post colonial era, back in the 60s and 70s. So if they do decide if BRICS does decide to do something, it will probably be about expanding their membership. And that would be one of the most effective ways that I can think of to make sure that BRICS never achieves anything at all because they don’t agree on anybody right now. So this is probably going to be an unofficial two parter. We’re going to wait to see what comes out of the summit. And then I will let you know
What I think about the new roster. All right, that’s it. Bye. Okay, here’s part two. So BRICS did decide they wanted to expand to involve six members and the six countries they involved indicate to me that BRICS has no plans of doing anything useful in the future. Those countries in no particular order are
Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Argentina. And I mean, honestly, folks, this, this is hilarious. Okay, so let’s start with what the naysayers are going to say about how this does matter and explain why it doesn’t. They’re saying that because of the addition of the three countries in the Persian Gulf region plus Egypt, that this grouping bricks now produces about half to 60% of global oil. And that means the downfall of the dollar, the formation of an alternative currency, the end of the petro dollar investment, the United States, and it’s the end of an era. And you know, the short version is absolute bullshit. Number one, Saudi Arabia does sell a few loads to China in yuan. And Russia does sell a few loads in yuan, or rubies in order get around sanctions. But the Russian system is kind of
by itself. And as Russia follows no one asked for the Saudi Arabians and the Emiratis, that might be a little different. But you got to look at why they’re considering doing anything in non US dollars. They’re looking for security guarantor, they’re afraid that the United States is going to leave the region. And if it does, they’re on their own. And since they don’t like to be outside of air conditioning, national defense is something they’re not very good at. So they’re basically open to all potential takers, when it comes to not oil sales for sale sake. But as a way of getting into your security planning. The Saudis have gone with the US dollar for the last several decades, not because it was the global currency, not because they’re part of a caucus group. That is basically what the BRICS is. And they’re not in any sort of meaningful organization in which the US and Saudi Arabia are members, they have a bilateral relationship that was based on security. And that was the reason why they use the US dollar. That’s the reason why they bought refineries in the US Gulf Coast, because they saw the United States is the country that ultimately would bleed and die for them. And they’re looking for alternatives, not because they want an alternative, but because the US is probably not interested in that role anymore. There are also right now, trilateral negotiations going on among the Americans, the Saudis and the Israelis, when which the Saudis are seeking a Japan style security guarantee for themselves. Now, they’re probably not going to get that they’re probably not gonna get a lot of things that they’re after. But the bottom line is that for the Saudis, this has never been about the money. It’s never been about the currency, it’s about who’s going to take a bullet for them. And the Chinese simply lack the capacity to deploy at range in a way that the Saudis would be willing to accept and believe, especially since the primary foe that they’re worried about is none other than Iran, which is out has been added to bricks as well. That brings us kind of the second problem here.
The bricks have realized that if you’re going to add a country like Iran, that is, how should I say has some firm opinions about security issues, for example, that it should be in charge in the Middle East? Well, then you have to add anyone else from that region at the same time. Otherwise, you can never add any of them because the Iranians would do the vetoing. So that’s adding the UAE, Saudi and Iran same type. It guarantees that you can expand the organization in the future, but it also guarantees that on all significant issues, you now have members inside the organization that are gonna be in diametrically opposed positions for ever. So we already know that BRICS can’t have a meaningful energy policy, because now you have a number of opposed powers Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabian, UAE Hello. And at the same time, what a shit show. Okay, next up Argentina and Ethiopia. Ethiopia brings very little the table. It’s one of the 10 poorest countries in per capita terms in the world. It’s landlocked, it’s one of the handful of countries in the world that is not part of China’s One Belt One Road because even the Chinese like there’s no investment case there. So they added new in order to get a little bit of African flair into the organization. And that’s about it. Argentina is not poor. It has a entitlement complex, in which it thinks that everyone should give it money and should never have to give any of the money back. And the reason they applied for brick membership is because they’re hoping to get Chinese money. It’s not that the Argentinians are anti US dollar in any meaningful way. It’s just their anti paying back their debts. And so they’re always looking for a new financial access point in order to leech off of it until it goes away as well. So honestly, you know, best of luck with those two because they’re definitely a drain on the organization. And they really don’t bring much to the table. Okay, who am I leaving? Oh, yeah, Egypt. Egypt is basically a US satellite state.
The US basically pays Egypt and Israel and Jordan for that matter to not go to war with one another. So thinking that there’s a security play here from bringing the Egyptians and no, if anything, it’s a bit of a Trojan horse. It is a large developing country, I would argue that the reason it got brought in is because of India, which still has a lingering love of the non aligned movement in which Egypt was a reasonably potent player politically, but economically, strategically, I’m afraid not. All right, is that everybody? Yeah, that’s everybody. When an organization expands, usually one of two things happens either one, you’ve got an overwhelmingly powerful single member of Congress decides how things go. And that would be the United States and NATO, for example. Option number two is you expand that with each member, you bring in differing viewpoints, and eventually it paralyzes the organization from doing really much of anything. And the BRICS is definitely firmly in that category right now. This is really only going to amount to anything in the midterm. Now, if one of two things happens, number one, the Chinese pay for everything. And that means subsidizing the existence of the Argentinians as they believe they should be subsidized, which is a hefty price. And very, very poor countries like Ethiopia. The last time a major power tried to do this, it was the Soviet Union, it was the 1970s and it broke the bank. So not very likely that the Chinese are going to pay for influence in places that they actually can’t control.
And don’t really bring them much if they did. The second option is we could see this very, very rapidly expand to basically become the new nine non aligned movement. Of course, it would be different this time, because the Chinese very clearly have alignments in mind. And the Russians very clearly have some goals in mind. And it’s difficult to imagine a lot of the world’s middle and lesser powers following the lead of these two countries. I mean, yes, a lot of the global south has not been interested in condemning the Russians for what’s going on in Ukraine. That doesn’t mean they want to follow them. And anyone who’s not blind realizes the Chinese has some very clear, very nationalist, very, almost hateful, domineering goals for the Chinese rise. And in that sort of environment, no one wants to be a pawn because all of a sudden the non aligned movement is going to align with a global poll now. So where does that leave us? Well, I think if you look at what really went down at the summit, you get your answer. Chinese President Xi Jinping didn’t even show up to some of the opening ceremonies where he was expected to give a poll speeches.
The Chinese don’t see this as a useful vehicle, except rhetorically, and that means you shouldn’t treat it as anything else. All right. That’s it for me. Bye.

Video Library

Latest Commentary

We know it is important to hear from a diverse range of observers on the complex topics we face and believe our commentary partners will help you reach your own conclusions.

The commentaries published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.


Latest Opinions

In addition to the facts, we believe it’s vital to hear perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. We hope these different voices will help you reach your own conclusions.

The opinions published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Weekly Voices

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Wednesday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Thursday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Friday

Left Opinion Right Opinion