Russia-Ukraine Conflict: BRICS at the Crossroad?

The leaders of the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, will navigate the crucial dilemma involving a common stance on the Russian-Ukraine conflict.

Russia-Ukraine Conflict: BRICS at the Crossroad?

The 14th BRICS summit will take place in virtual format on the 23-24th of June 2022 in Beijing. Russia’s conflict with Ukraine has dramatically complicated the agenda of the upcoming BRICS 2022 in Beijing. The focus of the forthcoming BRICS summit will be on this conflict and the association’s future. The leaders of the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, will navigate the crucial dilemma involving a common stance on the Russian-Ukraine conflict.

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How, then, should BRICS steer the dilemmas posed by the Russian-Ukraine conflict? Will it be a significant distraction from the BRICS agenda of rebalancing an international system dominated by the west? Will it advance the role of BRICS as the leading force for global economic governance reform? Or will its focus continue muddled by the geopolitical considerations of its members? Adapting BRICS to the new realities depends on whether the current crisis is seen as a game-changer and an opportunity to challenge the existing system dominated by unilateralism and exclusion?

The BRICS nations represent economically, militarily, technologically, socially, and culturally a powerful bloc in world power status. They have an estimated combined population of 3.23 billion people, which is over 40% of the world population, over more than a quarter of the world’s land area over three continents. They account for more than 25% of global GDP for $23.53 trillion, with the world’s two fastest-growing nations, India and China.

The new geopolitical reality, where so much is in flux and unclear, creates a space for powerful new narratives to emerge from the BRICS. The BRICS members could be the next potential target of a similar kind of total economic warfare deployed by the West against Russia. The current situation is an ideal time for a reckoning of the BRICS nations, particularly their often-problematic relations with the West. It is the time that BRICS and other like-minded countries should seriously work toward creating a parallel economic bloc that doesn’t rely on US-led institutions and the dollar.

Unity among BRICS partners is paramount at this juncture. BRICS partners are expected to stand by Russia to counter-sanctions, thereby in confrontation with the US and EU. It will be against the national interests of individual members who do not liken themselves to allies; they wish to avoid this confrontation. India, Brazil, South Africa, and China have much at stake in their relations with the West. So far, the west is not expecting that BRICS countries will adhere to the sanctions in equal measure. But thinking that they will continue with this attitude is naïve and unrealistic.

Can BRICS withstand the economic and institutional might of the West? BRICS has proved its status as a somewhat emerging powers club by successfully establishing the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) and Contingency Reserve Arrangement (CRA). However, despite China, India, and Russia in the group, the intra-BRICS trade accounts for less than 20 percent of global trade. The group is far from having payment mechanisms, international messaging systems, or cards. Initiatives such as New Development Bank should have given some competition to the Western lenders. Although BRICS cannot replace the West’s economic might in immediate terms, the western response to the Ukraine conflict reflects the utmost need to act fast and do more in dealing with similar financial turbulence in the future.

Undoubtedly, BRICS need to be strengthened. It needs recalibration of the structure and schedule. This is the time to revisit the idea of expanding BRICS by inviting new members. The developmental goals for BRICS to pursue its values and ideals to preserve will be enhanced with renewed vigour once new countries are included. The agenda of circumventing sanctions and creating financial, logistical, and other mechanisms alternative to the West should be actively promoted. It should turn BRICS into G20 for developing countries.

India and China have the distinction of being an economic success and powerful countries. Their cooperation is vital for the success of any future endeavour of BRICS. The border conflict with China is a significant concern for India. The Galwan episode has created a mistrust for China in India and might pose a dilemma and reluctance to confront the West. India, unlike China, is neither a UN Security Council member nor has significant tensions and confrontation with the West – or with any other BRICS member. India cannot be depicted as pro-West either; nevertheless, it enjoys reasonably good relations with the West. Unless Beijing and New Delhi dispel this distrust and moderate their territorial issues, the fear of sanctions from the West and hostile relations with China might lead to the subdued role of India in the BRICS formation and look beyond it. Thus, it is imperative that China and India need to recalibrate their approaches to bilateral relations, smoothing out their contradictions. Their coming together will enhance the chances of achieving the primary goal of emerging powers’ global governance reformism.

The emergence of an alliance of global South nations that breaks the West’s domination and hegemony over the world could be a game-changer and a turning point in World history. The central proposition of the BRICS bloc was and remained the assertion of their independence from a dominant West. The Ukraine crisis might lead to the realignment of the BRICS bloc politically, economically, militarily, and socially and the possible resurrection of a stronger BRICS. Will BRICS nations pull off this historic opportunity?

Mohammed Saqib
India China Economic and Cultural Council
Mob; 9810263772

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Russia-Ukraine Conflict: BRICS at the Crossroad?
The leaders of the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, will navigate the crucial dilemma involving a common stance on the Russian-Ukraine conflict.
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