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BRICS looks to Russia in anticipation
April 7, 2014, 6:21 pm

The conflict between Russia and the West over Ukraine could lead to a paradigm shift in the current world order, and usher in a possibly more dangerous era of confrontation.

This would have direct bearing on future global governance, the reform of which gave rise to the BRICS as a geopolitical entity in the first place.

The political elite in BRICS countries have always presumed that the evolution to a new and more just world order should be gradual, and based on compromise.

Therefore, the Western over-reaction with regard to Crimea’s reunification with Russia puts the other members of BRICS in a dubious position.

Most analysts in India, China, and South Africa – and to a lesser degree, Brazil – understand that the real underlying cause for this dramatic turn is the geopolitical rivalry in which Moscow is the defending side against Washington’s decades-old plan to tear Ukraine away and consequently weaken Russia’s international clout.

The other members of BRICS recognize that Russia had grounds for its actions in Crimea, and acted prudently.

Many go as far as to suggest that the West should not have supported an anti-constitutional coup in Ukraine.

They acknowledge that the current stand-off with the US and its allies is the result of sheer Russophobia based on the desire to undermine a strategic competitor.

Avoiding conflict

However, BRICS countries – perhaps, more than others – would not like the current situation in Crimea to become a pre-cursor to a Third global war, even if it were to be a cold one.

The other leaders of BRICS are wary that a possible further deterioration of the situation in Ukraine could produce a domino effect.

The possible break-up of the country and the need for Russia to bring the Eastern Russian-speaking provinces under its realm could lead to a crisis in relations with NATO.

No one needs a direct conflict. However, for many reasons, it is difficult for the other four BRICS countries to play an active role in deescalating tensions.

On the one hand, territorial integrity, non-interference and respect for international law are the sacrosanct foundations which helped BRICS evolve into not only an economic union, but a geopolitical project and quasi-organization.

Political strategists in most BRICS countries are therefore concerned that Russia’s maneuver in Crimea could resonate in places like Xinjian, Tibet, Kashmir and other troubled regions.

They cannot afford to accept the precedence of Crimean referendum as a legal method of separating from one country and joining another – even if they fully understand that Crimean case is special and this development is justified from the point of view of historic justice, human rights and peace preservation.

In search of a plausible explanation, some Chinese experts suggested that Crimea is a Taiwan of sorts – a territory lost by Russia proper as a result of Western plots in the wake of the Soviet Union’s breakup – which has now returned to the motherland.

For fear of a revived Cold War

The other members of BRICS are also wary that the possible revival of the Cold War could force them to “take sides” and weaken possibilities for compromise solutions to the global problems they were meant to overcome.

They also fear that such a revived confrontation could derail efforts for the creation of a new system of global governance.

Therefore, publicly policy-makers in Brazil, India, China and South Africa avoid discussing the Russia-Ukraine conflict and are wary to express their attitude towards recent events.

The official reaction is cautious at best, but at the same time not critical of Russia.

Nevertheless an “understanding” of the historical aspects of the Crimean situation was expressed at The Hague meeting of Foreign Ministers of BRICS countries at the end of March.

The ministers also condemned US and Western sanctions against Russia and strongly opposed any ideas to “expel” Russia from the G-20.

They also condemned the G-7 for boycotting Russia. This support earned public gratitude from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Geopolitical alternative?

On the other hand, many among the political elite in BRICS countries, as personal discussions and contacts show, are secretly satisfied with the fact that the US was snubbed by Russia’s actions because they reveal the limits of Washington’s power as a global hegemon.

Some go as far as to praise President Vladimir Putin for taking a challenge and demonstrating Russia’s returned power and pride; perhaps, seeing it as a sort of example for their own nations.

One should therefore not exclude the possibility that the events in Crimea could give rise to a long-term tendency to raise national spirit in BRICS countries, and more assertive foreign policies.

Can BRICS become a geopolitical alternative to the “collective West” for Russia?

Some analysts see such a prospect, but I doubt that any kind of “bloc” can be formed – the differences between the countries are too great and none would like to alienate itself from the West.

There is a danger that the US could try to exploit these differences to undermine BRICS at least as a political force.

However, there is room to predict that at the G-20 BRICS would be more united and opposed to unilateral G-7 positions on economic and financial issues.

For Russia, being dropped from the G-8 might be a blessing in disguise.

The institutionalization of BRICS to regularly exchange information and assessments and coordinate positions then becomes more essential.

In this breath, the creation of the BRICS Development Bank should be hastened; Russia should demonstrate more activity in this direction.

If we were to try to interpret the BRICS role in solving the Ukraine-related international crisis as a test for the group’s ambition to become a new “power center” or “decision-making pole” in a new global order – in this case, we should admit this test has failed.

However, the crisis did unite BRICS as an entity opposing power politics, sanctions and arm-twisting.

This may lead to a new assertiveness among BRICS countries to defend their national interests.

Such a development could create manifold repercussions for the global order which would be felt long after the Ukrainian crisis has faded into history, like many geopolitical conflicts before it.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.

10 Responses to BRICS looks to Russia in anticipation

  1. Reinhold Reply

    April 7, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    A wonderful, calm, intelligent and thought-provoking contribution. The worldorder is definitley about to change. But as a german I´m afraid, that there is not much hope that intelligent and peaceful changes will be generated from the western states. They rushed to finish their Ukraine-project – and failed. Since some time I have the feeling, that what Putin has done most of all, is to hold a mirror to the West. Now they see their own face, a miserable and powerless one.

    As mentioned above, this crisis will be history once (hopefully without a big war in between). Maybe and hopefully we will see, that the events in Ukraine were pivotal to create a better future worldwide and for all people.

    And unfortunately, I think Bill Clinton was right, when he said: It´s the economy, stupid. Let´s hope for the best.

  2. Russian-based economist Reply

    April 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    While an interesting article, the author makes a plainly false (or at least blatantly unsupported) assertion: “Most analysts in India, China, and South Africa – and to a lesser degree, Brazil – understand that the real underlying cause for this dramatic turn is the geopolitical rivalry in which Moscow is the defending side against Washington’s decades-old plan to tear Ukraine away and consequently weaken Russia’s international clout.” Ukraine was a failing state, is a failing state, and without reform (and with Russian intervention) will continue to be a failing state. The “decades-old plan” was to stop Ukraine being a failing state, while it appears the Russian plan over the past decade was to keep it as such, so that it was pliable. It is a variant of Pakistan’s strategy in Afghanistan, of keeping a weak and divided neighbor on its doorstep. There is no justification for saying that Ukraine was some sort of pawn in a US-Russian power struggle. In fact, the dirty little secret is that the US didn’t really care too much about Russia when it wasn’t attempting to destabilize the region… and there certainly wasn’t a strategy to pry Ukraine away. There were simply more important issues to deal with.

    • softplacetoland Reply

      April 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      You don’t seem to have much knowledge about geopolitics and seems somehow missed all USA history.

      But I doubt you are that ignorant. Especially about who is well known interventionist in this world. Publicly or covertly.

    • basho Reply

      April 19, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      you seem to have conveniently forgotten huge chunks of recent history to come to your conclusions. you might to start your education by googling terms like NATO expansion, ‘end of cold war’, ‘orange revolution’. i’m sure you get the idea.

  3. Larry Shorter Reply

    April 8, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    As the USA fades into the night many changes are about to take place on this earth. Our economy has been sold to the lowest bidder with those at the top reaping the benefits. This will change as China continues to use our currency against us and build its gold reserves. When the US does crash I am afraid that all those willing dupes who for the love of money sold their souls to us will cry out for war and more war. That is all we seem to know as humans. If we listened to obamas speeches when he first ran for president you would have thought he would be the most peaceful president in history. Instead it is more of the same with our target now being Russia. How foolish are the “leaders” of the USA!
    Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I believe we are in for a wild ride very shortly

  4. James Reply

    April 19, 2014 at 3:04 am

    The hypocrisy of the Western media is blatant & obvious for those that have an open mind.As an Australian Citizen I get totally pissed off with our Australian Media.They almost always present the US spin & lies as the truth of the matter. Consider the following from articles published on other sites.

    Veteran New York Times reporter Steven Kinzer notes at the Boston Globe –
    “From the moment the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the United States has relentlessly pursued a strategy of encircling Russia, just as it has with other perceived enemies like China and Iran. [Background here, here and here.] It has brought 12 countries in central Europe, all of them formerly allied with Moscow, into the NATO alliance. US military power is now directly on Russia’s borders.”

    Stephen Cohen – professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University who has long focused on Russia – explained this weekend on CNN:

    “We are witnessing as we talk the making possibly of the worst history of our lifetime. We are watching the descending of a new cold war divide between west and east, only this time, it is not in far away Berlin, it’s right on Russia’s borders through the historical civilization in Ukraine. It’s a crisis of historic magnitude. If you ask how we got in it, how we got into the crisis, and how therefore do we get out, it is time to stop asking why Putin – why Putin is doing this or that, but ask about the American policy, and the European Union policy that led to this moment.”

    America is as always the real Terrorist Threat to this Planet. They have destroyed Afghanistan & before that Iraq & Libya – and have totally F$#@ed Syria.I fully support Russia for its stand against USA interference on its borders.

    Read the full article (above quotes) at:

    And this One today from Paul Craig Roberts:
    Washington Drives The World To War

    • basho Reply

      April 19, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      it’s not much consolation to tell you that the european media has gone totally russophobic. whether it’s the BBC(web+TV), Die Zeit(no reader forums), Der Speigel(web+print+censored online reader forum) or Swiss(TV+newspapers, they have all gone bonkers. The fear is palpable. On occasion it is funny to watch as the talking heads try to stuff square pegs into round holes to make the news fit in with the editorial policy.

  5. Roacheforque Reply

    April 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    A very well considered and thoughtful treatment on April 7.

    I wonder if the same measured opinion exists today on April 24?


  6. Francisco Reply

    April 26, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Many haven been cracking down the system as we know it, and obviously as China and other states were finaly able to cross the prepetuous place of the last in line this already changed the all prepective of the system. The BRICS by thenselfs are not the alternative, since all that really connects then is the common strugle against west monopolised world institutions. The BRICS have alot of potencial in a gradually changing world, even as one could sucure argue that it is a pueril hope, but in a abrupt changing situation just China and Russia are really prepared and secured. Brasil, South Africa and India are extremly exposed to the ONGs “mind controle” (or the informal huge potencial to create protest inside a comunity).

    The 2008 crisis showed, though later, the enormous power of moneterisation the euro/dolar system have. And if the 2008 crisis was an opportunity for BRICS to come overm the solutions to battle this crises are also the danger to get back to poorer economic positions as before 2005. Underminig the euro/dolar system will mean the breack down of the american post war empirer. But even if BRICS represent 25% of the worlds economy, will they be by then selves able to survive. I presume the american made some calculations inbetween, it is clear there choice goes for clousere of the westhern economies, before the failure of the euro/dolar system, cracking down the BRICS economies as an all.

    These are very trouble times.

  7. Igor Pospekhin Reply

    August 12, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    In 2016-17 China overtakes USA economically, India will outstrip Japan by about the same time, Russia will overpower Germany and Brazil will shoot ahead of UK. So the power of the West is shrinking very fast and unless a major war is unleashed on BRICS, the dollar will cede its positions to the Chinese Juan as the main reserve currency. While at present BRICS account for about 30% of the world economy and the West (with Japan) for 45%, in just about five years or less their contribution to the world economy will reverse, with the West providing 30% and BRICS – 45%. The only way to prevent this outcome for the West is to unleash a major war on the BRICS nations.

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