BRICS: New Geopolitical Model and Russia’s Foreign Policy Priority

Another annual BRICS summit wrapped up on March 27 in South Africa. A cycle of top level events taking place by turns in the member states capitals is over. This time it was of special importance for Russia. In early February Russian President Vladimir Putin approved the new Foreign Policy Concept, which states that BRICS is a key long-term vector of Russia’s foreign policy and reveals the strategy for BRICS cooperation. At the summit Putin came up with a proposal to work out a common concept of international strategy for BRICS development, the idea welcomed by other participants…

Even now the advent of «great geopolitical revolution» is voiced; its main feature is the new role of developing countries, which are ahead of the so-called developed ones in many areas.  In 2007 the average global GNP growth was 2.3%, but the figure was 7.5% for developing states. In 2008 the joint GNP of developing countries exceeded the one of the developed ones for the first time in history.

In 2012 the average GNP growth for BRICS was 4 % (in comparison to 0.7% for G7), based on purchasing power parity it was 27% (and constantly growing). In 2010-2013 the average growth was 5.6% for BRICS (1.85% in the developing countries).  The total BRICS economy increased 4.2 times during the last ten years (61% in case of developing countries)

The new 2013 foreign policy concept says «Russia attaches great importance to ensuring sustainable manageability of global development, which requires collective leadership by the major states of the world, which, in turn, should be representative in geographical and civilizational terms». The Policy Concept on Russia’s Participation in BRICS (national concept of Russian policy towards BRICS and within BRICS) elucidates the gist of it. The document stresses «The establishment of BRICS reflects an objective trend in the global development, the one towards the formation of a polycentric system of international relations, which is increasingly characterized by the use of non-institutionalized mechanisms of global governance and network-based diplomacy, and the growing economic interdependence of states». It is fully reflected in the Russia’s 2013 foreign policy concept. Globally BRICS is viewed as a new model for international relations. 

The core function of BRICS model is the intent to reform the obsolete international economic and financial structure of contemporary world. The main thing to mention here is that the prospects for BRICS development are determined by a number of fundamental factors of long-term character facilitating the rapprochement of the participating states, which includes a common desire of the partners to reform the obsolete international financial and economic architecture which does not take into account the increased economic power of emerging market economies and developing countries. The main goal is to create a new system of reserve currencies  and augment the role of national currencies in mutual payments between BRICS states and to develop cooperation in the area of financial markets in order to improve the financial stability and efficient interaction on the basis of international principles and standards. 

The Durban summit gave a go-ahead to the New Development Bank.  This decision was necessitated by the activities of some world actors (the USA, Japan, Europe) resulting in a spill-over of negative trends encompassing other countries. The leaders endorsed a $100-billion contingency reserve arrangement that will be deployed when any of the five member-nations faces a crisis. According to BRICS leaders, it will «contribute to strengthening the global financial safety net and complement existing international arrangements as an additional line of defence».

The participants were extremely tough on international finance and trade institutions, first of all the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It is important the BRICS don’t view these bodies as the basic elements of the United Nations, they prefer to give priority to UNCTAD instead, «We reaffirm the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) mandate as the focal point in the UN system dedicated to consider the interrelated issues of trade, investment, finance and technology from a development perspective. UNCTAD’s mandate and work are unique and necessary to deal with the challenges of development and growth in the increasingly interdependent global economy. We also reaffirm the importance of strengthening UNCTAD’s capacity to deliver on its programmes of consensus building, policy dialogue, research, technical cooperation and capacity building, so that it is better equipped to deliver on its development mandate».

There was a special statement added to the eThekwini Declaration by the Russian Federation. It says the efforts will continue to make precise the concrete principles, conditions and parameters related to the creation of the new bank. The issue will be reviewed at Saint-Petersburg on the side-lines of G-20 summit in September 2013.

BRICS-Summit-2013Gradually a set of international issues the member states agree on is taking shape. The BRICS states recognized the right of Palestine to statehood. They emphasized the resolution of the conflict in Syria should be based on the Geneva Communiqué instead of the decisions taken by the League of Arab Nations, they stressed that the African conflicts management is the priority for Africa, the leaders also pointed out that Iran has a right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It’s important BRICS supported the activities of African Union and ECOWAS in Mali, ostensibly shying away from buttressing France and some other Western states which intervened without the United Nations approval…  Finally, Russia and China supported Brazil, India and South Africa in their efforts to have more clout in the United Nations. The wording can be construed as an unambiguous support for permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council. 

The BRICS action plan is really impressive. Aside from economy and finances, the agenda includes health, energy, sports, tourism, fight against terror and drug trafficking, information security, science, corruption and many other issues. It all goes to show that BRICS is on the way from an association to an international organization or becoming an international entity. The first step has already been done – BRICS made a decision to establish a Secretariat (virtual for the time being).

BRICS also faces contradictions. So far the members have failed to shape a real common foreign policy.  There is a problem of unequal representation in the United Nations Security Council, the territorial disputes between China and India, the difference of approaches to climate change, etc.  The economic interdependence of member states pales in comparison with their dependence on the very countries BRICS is destined to become an alternative to.  It’s important BRICS strives to change the situation. Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the problems inside BRICS are not delayed action mines and do not hinder the effectiveness of the organization’s activities.

There bumps are created by outside forces too. That’s what the Russian BRICS policy concept puts straight.  It says «the scale, depth and dynamics of cooperation within BRICS can be affected by centrifugal forces existing in the association, as well as by negative influences from the outside».  The document points out that one of the goals is «to enhance in every possible way interaction within the UN as well as to preserve and strengthen the UN Security Council’s role as a body bearing the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security; to prevent the use of the UN, first of all the Security Council, to cover up the course towards removing undesirable regimes and imposing unilateral solutions to conflict situations, including those based on the use of force».  This is the policy of the West pursuing certain goals and it requires counteraction. Let’s not forget that the US National Intelligence Council’s 2025 Project Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World report includes a special section devoted to BRICS Bust-Up. BRICS is a unique global project. Its success or failure will be a success or failure for the whole world civilization.

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