The 15th BRICS summit in South Africa came to an end on August 24. It resulted in a Declaration, which states that all of these nations will cooperate to build a global order based on equality, respect, and consideration for each other’s interests. The association has accepted six new members, and it will soon accept 15 additional states that have applied to join. It is known that 20 more developing countries are exploring increasing their engagement with the BRICS.
In simple terms, the struggle to create a new, more just world order has entered a significant new stage. In this regard, three points should be highlighted.
- This is a new trend in international affairs: developing countries’ desire for stronger solidarity in order to withstand incessant Western pressure and protect their interests more effectively.
- With the addition of new members, BRICS is quickly becoming an association of all major civilizations of the contemporary world, with the exception of the West. With the inclusion of Egypt, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, the current arrangement expresses the interests of all major civilizations; the Muslim world of nearly 2 billion people plays an increasingly important role in world affairs. In this sense, eminent American political scientist Samuel Huntington’s prediction is coming true: the West, having turned against Islam, will eventually turn against all major, leading civilizations.
- All further developments in international relations will highlight the modern world’s growing divisions: the collapse of Western nations will become more obvious, while the position of the Global South will continue to strengthen swiftly.
By the mid-1980s, it was evident that the advanced capitalist countries were in deep trouble. All of these trends were most clearly reflected in the relevant Club of Rome report. It emphasized that capitalism in its current forms is essentially obsolete: rich, powerful corporations parasitically rely on emerging economic phenomena to avoid paying taxes; the wealth gap is enormous and obvious; and it is getting harder and harder to stop the destruction of nature on Earth due to the greed of the largest monopolies.
The collapse of the Soviet Union, however, in 1991 provided a kind of counterbalance to the avarice of the wealthy comprador bourgeoisie and offered an alternative to the exploiting ambitions of the leadership of the Western nations.
The “golden billion” countries, particularly the United States, decided that they could impose their will on all other countries on our planet during this time, basically laying the groundwork for a unipolar world. The numbers speak for themselves: in 1990, there were 66 billionaires on the globe with a total fortune of $370 billion; in 2023, the number of these rich people has increased to 400 with a total capital of $4 trillion.
All of these processes, sadly, occur at the same time that the intellectual quality of the Western elite is deteriorating. At the end of the 20th century, the brightest young people in developed nations tended to choose either business (for quick personal enrichment) or science, where interest was stronger.
Typically, politicians were “low-performing students” who sought to stand out through their manipulations, impudence, and allegiance to the wealthy.
The inequality of this wealth distribution took on such horrific forms that workers in various countries gradually began to become increasingly involved in the struggle to safeguard their interests. By starting its special military operation in Ukraine, Russia has taken the initiative in this process. The ferocity with which the Western powers have joined and are currently engaged in a fight against Moscow demonstrates that the political elites in these nations are aware of the cost of Russia’s success in the Ukrainian crisis.
But Russia itself struggled to accept its new historical position since, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country’s authorities thought that the West would take them in and help them with their economic problems. To put it mildly, the calculation was significantly flawed, but it required a series of mistakes for this seemingly obvious fact to surface. Many believed that Russia’s transition to capitalism was effectively building the framework for strong ties with industrialized nations, and Moscow’s considerable nuclear arsenal was considered a guarantee of this potentially profitable cooperation.
As ideological divisions appeared to vanish at the time, the Russian government made efforts to forge positive relations with both the United States and Western Europe, even if it meant making certain sacrifices.
Only the most perceptive Russian scientists understood that, owing to the very nature of the West, fulfilling this goal was unachievable; they claimed that we essentially desired a cabin on the Titanic before it sank.
It required several years of thorough research to come to the conclusion that the Western powers were not interested in working together on an equal footing and consistently demonstrated that Moscow was a junior partner who should merely follow the directives of Washington leaders.
It was, in part, a reflection of a superficial comprehension of recent history and the fundamentals of Russian civilization. Russia is a distinct, independent civilization that would be appropriately referred to as Eurasian because we have incorporated numerous, occasionally extremely dissimilar characteristics of both European and Asian cultures.
Poor knowledge of socioeconomic history did not allow for clear conclusions that the two civilizations, Western and Russian, are based on fundamentally different ideas.
For nearly 500 years, the West has accumulated its wealth by violently exploiting developing countries’ resources, imposing its dictates on them, and attempting to keep them under its control by any means, from blackmail to military intervention. The events in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan are the most visible manifestations of this doctrine.
The current international tensions are explained by the goal of the United States and its allies, whom it took over, to govern the entire world and impose its unipolar system in order to continue collecting “tribute” from humanity, that is, to live in the neocolonial paradigm, when the West existed by exploitation; they aim to remove anyone who does not agree with this method and the West’s dictate, standing for honest cooperation, equal interaction, and respect for each other.
However, the expansion of the economic, military, technological, and scientific capabilities of the major developing nations, especially BRICS and others, has caused the balance of power to start shifting in recent years in favor of these countries. And this process will only gain momentum.
The relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have improved after several years of tense relations through the mediation of China. The founding of the core of a new group of developing nations in South Africa demonstrates that many global political problems may be resolved without the involvement of the West. BRICS leaders have also repeatedly stressed that their group is not an anti-Western bloc and that its members are prepared to cooperate on an equal basis with Western nations.
The fact that more and more nations in the Global South are starting to openly challenge Western hegemony is also significant. “In fact,” the Saudi newspaper Arab News wrote in August this year, “there have been growing voices recently criticizing Western democracy, saying that the model is going through an internal crisis and that it is losing sight of many of the values on which it was built.” The Western form of democracy has been criticized in numerous works, which also foresee its impending demise as a transnational model “that non-Western countries could follow and emulate.”
According to the article’s author, it is undesirable to judge a nation’s development and fairness through the lens of Western democracy; the time of Western supremacy should be fully abandoned because the globe of today is shifting toward a multipolar one.
The world is currently becoming more fragmented; in other words, the West is progressively pitting itself against the nations of the Global South.
As regards the long term development, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva recently stated in Foreign Affairs magazine: “While estimates of the cost of fragmentation vary, greater international trade restrictions could reduce global economic output by as much as 7 percent over the long term, or about $7.4 trillion in today’s dollars. That’s equivalent to the combined size of the French and German economies and three times sub-Saharan Africa’s annual output. There are signs that cooperation is faltering. As the Chart of the Week shows, new trade barriers introduced annually have nearly tripled since 2019 to almost 3,000 last year.”
Unilateral sanctions policies disrupt established supply chains. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, director general of the World Trade Organization, believes that such activities run the risk of leading us down a perilous path that might devastate the global economy and lead to a less affluent and safer world.
The criticism of the West’s behavior has become louder and more meaningful. A September 1 article on Al Jazeera’s website notes: “As many as 828 million people – or 10 percent of the world’s population – go to bed hungry each night… Some people in the Global South who are afflicted by war, starvation, oppression, or poverty set out on risky treks over the desert and the sea in search of safety and wealth in the Global North because they believe their suffering will never end. However, Western powers, who take pleasure in being the creators of the fundamental notion of human rights, consider these refugees as adversaries rather than taking action to preserve their rights.”
All of this is proof of the “endless hypocrisy of the Global North.”
The author concludes his piece by saying the following: “We can only develop a more inclusive, diverse approach to defining and protecting the fundamental rights of every human being by moving away from the West’s hypocritical use of human rights as a discriminatory principle in international politics.”
In a meeting with French ambassadors abroad following the recent BRICS summit, French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that the Global South no longer wants to rely solely on the West and is becoming more self-reliant.
The American elite is also starting to show signs of realism. On September 1 of this year, the New York Times published an article with the headline “American Power Just Took a Big Hit.” According to the author, this hit represents the growth of BRICS, which stands in for the decline of American hegemony. Sarang Shidore, the author, acknowledges that Biden’s theory of “democracy versus autocracy” has already been discredited. He advocates for a more realistic worldview, rejection of conventional concepts of American exceptionalism, and relearning the practice of cooperation.
This is a fascinating article, because prior to this, America’s preeminent political science publication had exclusively studied all events through the lens of how the US could better protect its leadership.
There is every reason to believe that the shift in power will occur at a faster rate. Additionally, given that the United States is already grappling with its own intractable domestic issues, Russia’s success in the special military operation in Ukraine will force American political elites to reevaluate their foreign policy stance.
Veniamin Popov, Director of the “Center for Partnership of Civilizations” in MGIMO (U) MFA of Russia, Candidate of Historical Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”