BRICS Takes Center Stage

Photograph Source: Bb3015 – CC BY-SA 4.0

BRICS countries account for 43 percent of the world’s population and more of its wealth than the G7. Until Augusts 2023, composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, BRICS has won the world popularity contest, with 40 countries clamoring to join, according to South Africa in July. Twenty-two nations have formally asked for acceptance, and an equal number have informally expressed interest. Why? Unlike the western axis, highly militarized by NATO, BRICS is overall a peaceful economic organization. It’s all about development, which naturally appeals to a Global South sick of western colonialist resource extraction.

At the BRICS confab August 22-24, Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Iran knocked on the door for membership and got it. They join officially in January. Some of these new members have lousy human rights records and vigorously oppress their populations. But BRICS has never been about interfering in the internal affairs of its sovereign members. It is about interstate development, trade and creating a gargantuan commodities bloc.

Specifically, with these new additions and the original five members, BRICS becomes an oil and gas colossus. When Algeria joins next year, that nearly merges BRICS and OPEC. When Venezuela eventually gets in, and it has already applied, BRICS will control over 65 percent of the planet’s oil production. Meanwhile, with nine more countries waiting in the wings in addition to Algeria and likely to be admitted at the 2024 get-together in the Russian city of Kazan, BRICS becomes truly formidable in fast-tracking peaceful development in the Global South.

Key to this peaceful approach is the BRICS bank, the New Development Bank headed by Dilma Rouseff, the leftist Brazilian president illegally ousted in a lawfare coup in 2016. A lot of hope is invested in this bank. Hope from Global South nations tired of International Monetary Fund and World Bank debt traps. Although so far the NDB may seem like a fairly typical neo-liberal institution, its explicit goals inspire some hope. With the NDB, good things could actually flow to the Global South.

Such as? Well, the NDB website says the bank focuses on clean energy and energy efficiency, transport infrastructure, water and sanitation, environmental protection, social infrastructure and digital infrastructure. The NDB has authorized capital of $100 billion, half of which derives from its five founding members. The bank’s membership is open to countries in the United Nations, while China and South Africa are its largest shareholders.

There has been much talk in recent months of a BRICS currency, backed by gold, to replace the dollar in its members’ trade. In fact, the dollar, due to the stupidity of Washington’s economic sanctions on foreign nations, has already been sidelined in a growing number of global transactions, as countries bypass it to conduct business in their own currencies. BRICS money, supported by gold, would likely be the final, fatal blow to the dollar’s world reserve currency status. Rumors were that a gold-backed BRICS currency would be addressed at the group’s August meeting in South Africa. However, this was only idle chatter. According to South African finance minister Enoch Godongwana August 25, BRICS is not currently considering creating a common currency. De-dollarization, on the other hand, remains very much in process.

That’s because the pressure to get this new currency exactly right would be intense. A common currency, RT quoted Godongwana, would require a central bank, “and that presupposes losing independence on monetary policies, and I don’t think any country is ready for that.” De-dollarization, however, continues apace, much to the detriment of the U.S. economy. Indeed, in his welcome address to the BRICS summit, Russian president Vladimir Putin proclaimed de-dollarization already irreversible. Not surprisingly, China and Russia have raced ahead with this and now conduct over 80 percent of their mutual trade in yuan and rubles.

The rest of the Global South duly follows. Because in recent years the world witnessed imperial Washington’s weaponization of its currency and concluded that holding their wealth in greenbacks was not safe, since displeasing the Empire means having financial assets stolen; in other words, non-westerners concluded that the Empire was not fiscally reliable. Similarly in its view of the Ukraine War, the Global South declined to follow Washington’s bellicose lead. Many of those countries saw little difference between the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – except perhaps that NATO in Russia’s front yard posed a dire military threat, while Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs were thousands of miles away from American coasts.

De-dollarization won’t happen all at once. Nope – the dollar will go out not with a bang but with a whimper (and we unlucky ducks who dwell in the heart of the Empire will be stuck holding the bag and probably penniless as a result), as the world incrementally conducts more and more business in local currencies. Expect Washington to try to sabotage these developments, rather than curb its insane sanctions addiction. Improving its behavior by ending sanctions or withdrawing the ever-present threat of brute force is anathema in the imperial capital. But still, awareness that its arrogance has got it into trouble now percolates through imperial elites. Word was that as part of the Empire’s recent Saudi diplomacy deal, Washington wants a guarantee that Riyadh will keep the petro dollar and not replace it with yuan. There was also the rumor that on her recent trip to Beijing, treasury secretary Janet Yellen implored the Chinese to buy over $800 billion worth of U.S. Treasuries.

Such an ask was of course a non-starter. Since vilification of Beijing became the entrée du jour on the U.S. foreign policy menu during the Trump years and continuing into the Biden ones, the Chinese have, naturally, ditched a ton of USTs and purchased gold. China is still the second largest U.S. creditor after Japan, and considering all the threats and insults hurled at it by idiot U.S. politicians and military men, no doubt Beijing views its UST holdings as an albatross, a huge liability, in the event of American sanctions. So no, Chinese leadership appeared unmoved by Yellen’s ridiculous pleas.

Financial prosperity serves as a marker of intelligent leadership. In 2022, the countries with the biggest increases in prosperity were Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia. The nations with the biggest financial market losses were Australia, Canada, China, Japan and, worst of all, the United States. Such stats incentivize BRICS countries to speed their separation from the west.

The original BRICS members all apparently want to expand the organization by taking in new applicants. Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for this during the summit. According to Xi’s statement, development is an inalienable right of all countries, and emerging nations are growing more and more relevant internationally. Xi urged BRICS countries to oppose “decoupling,” disrupting industrial and supply chains and economic coercion. Such exhortations contrast glaringly with the steady stream of Sinophobic sewage emitted by Washington in recent years. Xi also critiqued the so-called “rules-based international order,” arguing instead for principles of international law. Reasonable enough, considering that imperial Washington cooks up those so-called rules, which then everyone except the Exceptional Empire is supposed to follow.

In short, despite welcoming governments to which progressives object, BRICS offers an alternative to violent, oppressive, western hegemony. It has done so for 15 years, but now, in light of the Ukraine War, the weaponization of the dollar, Washington sanctioning 29 percent of the world economy over several decades and essentially having little to offer the rest of the planet, besides, as economist Michael Hudson has observed, the promise not to nuke it, provided it bows down and does what the U.S. wants – in light of all this, BRICS’ allure shines very bright. Africa wants in. Latin America wants in. So does West Asia. This is hardly surprising. Much of the world regards Washington as a not very smart gangster regime. The Empire has begun to reap what it sowed.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Busybody. She can be reached at her website.