Russia plans to turn BRICS into a powerhouse alternative to the West

The Russian government is working on an integrated BRICS development programme that hopes to turn the bloc into a powerhouse alternative to the increasingly faltering West.

 

Kommersant has come into possession of a document entitled “Russia in BRICS. Strategic objectives and means to attain them,” which is expected to underlie the integrated programme currently being developed by the government on Russia’s participation in the bloc. The document shows that Moscow perceives BRICS as the key alternative in the post-crisis world to the faltering West.

The 133-page document has been compiled by the National Committee for BRICS Studies, which was set up in 2011 at the behest of then president Dmitry Medvedev.

The document coincides with the BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa, which will take place on 26–27 March. The summit will be attended by the leaders of the BRICS nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The document will later provide the basis for the “Integrated programme for Russia’s participation in BRICS with a view to promoting its economic development and consolidating its international political position,” which is currently being developed by the government.

The authors of the document assume that the global political and economic systems are in need of alternative power centres. The “key peculiarities of the contemporary international situation,” according to the document, include “instability, imbalance and the global regulation crisis.” They warn: “The hope that the Western world will be able to find new reserves and independently ensure a stable world order is fading.”

“The erosion of the old has paved the way for the emergence of the new […] The increasing likelihood of Europe losing its main advantage – its economic dominance – alongside its moral leadership has created opportunities for potential global players of a different geo-historical origin.”

In the opinion of the document’s authors, the emergence of BRICS has “shifted the global initiative towards what has recently been the fringe.” These countries will now have to “offer the world an alternative and take it upon themselves (either in cooperation with the West or without it, depending on its political will) to build the pillars of the new world order.”

The document states that each BRICS member has its own unique strengths. China has a powerful economy; Brazil has natural resources and environmental potential; India has demographic and scientific potential; and South Africa is the gateway to Africa. Russia’s strengths are its political and military power.

At the same time, each member has its own objectives in BRICS. “Russia regards BRICS as an opportunity to enhance its ‘negotiating potential’ and build up its capacity to lobby its interests and initiatives on the international stage,” the document explains.

BRICS is currently a predominantly economic bloc. But Moscow would benefit if the organisation increased its political weight.

The best-case scenario for Moscow is for the hegemony of the United States to segue into a “polycentric world order”. When it comes to economics, Russia and its BRICS partners should strive to reform “the outdated currency and financial architecture” and “introduce a more democratic and fair international economic regime.”

The document also mentions differences inside the bloc. The authors refer to the expansion of the UN Security Council (Russia and China are the two BRICS members of the Council, but India, Brazil and South Africa are not), territorial disputes between China and India, competition between member states for resources, and differences in approaches to climate change and trade discrepancies as “time bombs”.

There is no doubt that Moscow is capable of “defusing” these bombs. “Using its authority, Russia is capable of encouraging its BRICS partners to resolve disputes and disagreements,” the document reads.

The document provides a detailed description of arrangements to overcome disagreements inside the bloc and boost its influence. It is necessary to establish a permanent BRICS secretariat – a virtual secretariat to begin with (on the internet) and then the full-scale one – alongside a Development Bank (with $50 billion equity and headquarters in Moscow), an International Settlements Bank for the BRICS Member States (for payments in national currencies) and a specialised $240-billion anti-crisis fund.

BRICS members can combine their efforts to address security issues (to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, cybercrime, terrorism, drug trafficking and piracy) and environmental challenges. Inviting an Islamic country (such as Indonesia or Turkey) to join BRICS would “increase the humanitarian and inter-civilisation potential” of the bloc.

It is assumed that the West, concerned about its increasingly powerful rival, will try to thwart these plans in order to prevent BRICS from gaining a strong footing internationally. The document has provisions that will help block these attempts.

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