SI Conference: The BRICS Is Not Anti-West
Assessments on the strategic situation in the aftermath of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg were presented at the Sept. 9 Schiller Institute conference by many speakers, including the three of which we report a few highlights here:
* A War Prevention Medicine. Professor Georgy Toloraya is a retired Russian Senior Diplomat and current Deputy Chairman of the Russian National Committee on BRICS Research. He began by saying that although he has been dealing with the BRICS for 13 years, and expected the day would come when the group “would become a real actor in world politics”, he was “really amazed that this day came so soon.” In his view, the Johannesburg summit was “an historic event” because “the membership expanded twofold, which nobody, including myself, has expected”. But even more so, because “for the first time, the BRICS has declared itself to be on the way and be capable of creating a new world order”.
What contributed to the rapid rise of the BRICS, he explained, was “the open confrontation which started with the special military operation of Russia in Ukraine, in February 2022, and it signaled the real new chapter of history, when the Western countries tried to forcefully pressure the new centers of power, not to allow the emergence of a new world order.” But the great majority of countries do not agree that the West should “set the rules to which all others should obey”.
This is a new situation, he went on, where the Global Majority wants “a new model of international relations” with equal partnerships. “So this is a turbulent situation”, Prof. Toloraya stated. It may result in a protracted war over several decades, or even in a nuclear war among major powers, which would mean “the end of the world”. So the only solution is to “find a way to negotiate”.
Prof. Toloraya stressed that the “BRICS is not anti-Western. It’s not against the U.S. as a country. It’s not against the Western civilization. It’s not against Europe. BRICS has open arms to cooperate with these countries, to include them: BRICS is an inclusive structure. And so, it’s open to dialogue, it’s open to cooperation, but not on the terms of ‘master and servant’, on equal terms. And that’s what all of us should work for.”
* The Vulnerabilities to Surmount. Donald Ramotar, former President of Guyana and a collaborator of the International Peace Coalition, believes that the BRICS summit may turn out to be “the beginning of the end of neo-colonialism, and the advent of a new era of economic liberation”. This is all the more necessary as the United States, he said, has misused its power in the international economy and the role of the dollar to “impose its positions on other countries”. And those that refuse to go along are hit with sanctions, as seen in Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The most recent example is “the mother of all sanctions” that President Biden boasted he would impose on Russia. That spurred the use of national currencies in trade, which has been promoted by the BRICS. While there is now a tremendous potential with the BRICS, he warned, “we must not allow ourselves to fall into a false sense of security”. The U.S. and its NATO allies will certainly try to exploit any vulnerabilities of the BRICS to “frustrate and defeat this movement”.
Among those vulnerabilities, he mentioned the border issue between India and China, the tensions around the South China Sea, Armenia, and, in Latin America, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, where attempts will be made to remove President Lula from power.
* The Future of Africa and the BRICS. Prof. David Monyae, director of the Center of Africa-China Studies (CACS), University of Johannesburg, South Africa, spoke on “The Future of Africa, China and the BRICS”. After reviewing the antecedents of the BRICS group since the Bandung conference of 1955, Prof. Monyae considered more specifically the impact on Africa of the growing economic strength of the BRICS, and the response of developed countries to that reality. “At a time when the West feels it is losing space, losing legitimacy, losing leverage that they had, particularly in Africa”, and where China has been building infrastructure, it has launched an anti-China offensive. That includes the promotion by developed countries of “decoupling” from the Chinese economy, as well as “de-risking”.
In recent weeks and months, he said, “we have seen endless coups in West Africa: Burkina Faso, Central Africa, Sudan, Gabon, Mali, and terrorist issues. Peace and security are becoming critical. So, resource nationalism is on the rise, where these countries in Africa are arguing that they need more assistance and cooperation around infrastructure development. But more importantly, they do not want to sell only raw materials; they want beneficiation of the raw materials”, including critical minerals for the industrial revolution, such as lithium or uranium. “So, Africa will become an important player, and you are going to see more competition between the developed countries, mainly with China and Russia.”
On the Ukraine war, Prof. Monyae fears this could lead to “an early phase of a new Cold War” that worsens the situation, “where the United States continues to look at Africa through the lens of security instead of development”.
Therefore, Africans want more development. “You cannot separate development and security, therefore President Xi Jinping’s views on the Global Security Initiative, Global Development Initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative are critical concepts that are appealing to more African countries and the developing world in dealing with this.”