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The 14th BRICS Summit: Did Pandora’s Box Open?

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International relations have been moving towards a new world order triggered by increasing competition. If we accept the unipolar Atlantic Order, which started during the Cold War and was shaped at the end of it, as the Thesis, it would not be wrong to agree with the Antithesis of this thesis as the rise of Asia in particular China and Russia started in the 2000s. Having completed the first two stages, the world entered the Synthesis or “New Hegemony War” period, which we can call the third stage, with the withdrawal of the United States of America (USA) from Afghanistan and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

The USA was the most effective figure shaping the international system throughout the thesis period, however during the anti-thesis age, China and Russia’s alliance in favor of a multipolar world order against the unipolar one became the decisive factor. As a matter of fact, the declaration “Russian-Chinese Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New International Order”,[1] which was jointly signed by both countries in 1997, is remembered as one of the most glaring indications of China and Russia’s desire to reverse the Western-based international system and redesign it according to their own interests.

In contrast to the first two phases, when we look at the Antithesis period we are in, we have been witnessing an era of turbulence, which has no main determinant actor, regional powers can intervene in the system, new geopolitical regions without hegemon powers are formed, bilateral and multilateral military, economic and diplomatic structures emerge, and hybrid vehicles are used. The significance of the period in question is that the order that will emerge in the future will be shaped by the steps to be taken today. For this reason, the analysis of current events, their geopolitical projection and their future effects are vital for academics working in the field of international relations.

From this perspective, 14th BRICS Summit, hosted by China on June 22, 2022, is considered important in the context of the current conjuncture. As it is known, BRICS is evaluated in formations such as Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AAIB) and Bao Form, which is created as an alternative to Atlantic institutions. BRICS, which is seen as a rival to the G7, undertakes a geopolitical task as well as an economic one in this sense. The formation, which was first brought to the agenda by Goldman Sachs Investment Bank President Jim O’Neill, with the word BRIC consisting of the initials of Brazil, Russia, India and China, was named BRICS with the getting involved of South Africa.[2]

The role and contribution of the BRICS, an institution representing developing countries is significant to the world economy in terms of population (40%), GDP (25% nominal and US$ 16.039 trillion), land coverage (30%), world trade (18%), and global forex (US$ 4 trillion).[3] The economic and political weight of the BRICS countries has increased over the years and has reached a level that can be seen as a substantial pole. Apart from the economy, however, the summit organized by the BRICS in 2022, was monitored within the scope of its political results rather than its economic outcome. Because, the developments in Afghanistan, and more importantly, the image that emerged after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine opened the door to a new order.

China and Russia, which have been gathering strength against the unipolar world order for years, have directly confronted the Atlantic system with the move of Moscow. In a similar vein, the West, particularly the USA and England, utilized diplomatic, military, and economic instruments to wear out Russia and China through Ukraine and started a war of attrition against other poles. The majority of analysts believe that the 2022 BRICS Summit will represent a challenge to the West in the current environment of escalating sharpening among blocs, increasing proxy wars, and an unforeseen conflict. When we look at the recent strategies of China, which is the dominant power in the BRICS, it is seen that Beijing supports initiatives that put itself and Asia in the center.

In this context, the aim of the Global Development Initiative (GDI), which was announced at the G-20 Leaders’ Summit held in Rome, the capital of Italy in 2021, and the Global Security Initiative (GSI) expressed at the Bao Forum in 2022 by Xi, is to make Beijing the most powerful pole in the multipolar world and to gather the countries around itself. The goal of China, which cooperated in harmony with the West in the 2000s, is to include the whole of Asia in its goal of weakening the Atlantic with Russia by deepening the separation of Asia and the West, in other words, the South and the North. Unquestionably, China’s next step is to dominate the world system as the only hegemon by 2049.

The summit also had meaningful results for Russia, another strong actor that participated in the 2022 BRICS Summit and opposes the unipolar order. For Russia and Putin in particular, who are in a hard situation due to the economic and political sanctions of the West, the Summit presented a unique opportunity in terms of both visibility and legitimacy. In addition, Putin, who was looking for an alternative in Asia against the market he lost in the USA and European Union (EU) countries due to the sanctions, gave important messages in his opening speech. Drawing attention to the increase in oil supplies to India and China, Putin directly targeted the foundations of the Atlantic System by saying that Russia is looking at “alternative international transfer mechanisms” with BRICS nations in order to reduce their dependence on the Dollar and Euro.[4] In addition, the fact that the BRICS leaders did not remarkable criticize Putin for the intervention in Ukraine was a noteworthy gain for Moscow.

It’s not inaccurate to argue that India, another BRICS member, benefited from the conference as well. Due to its recent neutral and objective policy, India is viewed as an independent actor that has gained prominence. Although it has strong partnerships with the West, New Delhi, which does not participate in the oil embargo imposed on another important partner Russia and as a result, receives oil from Russia at a discount, is on the verge of becoming a regional pole. On the one hand, India, which is a worthy actor of US-based formations such as QUAD, on the other hand, has proven its flexibility in foreign policy by participating in Asian-based formations such as SCO and BRICS, and has become an indispensable actor for the opposing sides.

When we look at the Beijing Declaration of the 14th BRICS Summit released after the two-day summit, it is seen that a comprehensive text has been created. Certain messages draw attention in the 75 articles gathered under 7 sub-headings. The statement made clear that it did not take a position in the Ukraine crisis and supported the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. It is possible to perceive this attitude as a maneuver in Russia’s favor even if it appears to be performing a mediating role. The developments in Afghanistan were also on the agenda of the summit. In article 23 of the declaration, the attitude of the member states on Afghanistan is explained as follows:[5]

“We strongly support a peaceful, secure and stable Afghanistan while emphasizing the respect for its sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, national unity and non-interference in its internal affairs.  We emphasize the need for all sides to encourage the Afghanistan authorities to achieve national reconciliation through dialogue and negotiation, and to establish a broad-based and inclusive and representative political structure.”

Considering the recent increasing tensions in Afghanistan and the difficulties that the Taliban have experienced in controlling some provinces, the BRICS countries give the message that a possible conflict atmosphere in Afghanistan is not desired by the countries of the region. The text, which also refers to the Iran nuclear agreement, calls for the positive conclusion of the Iran Nuclear Agreement and supports bilateral and multilateral negotiations to resolve all issues pertaining to the Korean Peninsula, including its complete  denuclearization, and maintaining peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

It was also underlined that the United Nations (UN), which has an Atlantic-centered structure, needs to change in order to increase its representative power. In particular, the change in the structure of the Security Council and the demand for further consolidation and strengthening of the working methods of UN Security Council Sanctions Committees to ensure their effectiveness, responsiveness and transparency, are mentioned in the declaration in this context. The main idea that should not be overlooked is to emphasize that the UN is not inclusive and produces a deadlock, rather than the goal of making the reform demand more inclusive.

Member countries support the strengthening of the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) mechanism and deepening the cooperation among the Central Banks of the member countries in order to improve the global financial system. In addition, the call for major developed countries to adopt responsible economic policies includes criticism of the West-based system in general and the sanctions imposed by the West in particular.

Although it has not been given a name yet, the world is now experiencing a West-Asia or North-South split in a multipolar framework. This process was sped up by Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and Moscow opened Pandora’s box. International organizations like BRICS, G7, SCO, NATO, and QUAD are symbolized like silk gloves, which serve as a shield in the new order, While the USA and China are depicted as fists of steel within the silk glove.

[1] “Letter dated 15 May 1997 from the Permanent Representatives of China and the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General.”, United Nations, https://digitallibrary.un.org/record/234074, (Date of Accession: 24.06.2022).

[2] Jim O’neill, “Building Better Global Economic BRICs”, Goldman Sachs, https://www.goldmansachs.com/insights/archive/archive-pdfs/build-better-brics.pdf, (Erişim Tarihi: 24.06.2022).

[3], Badar Alam Iqbal. “BRICS as a Driver of Global Economic Growth and Development.” Global Journal of Emerging Market Economies, 2022, (Date of Accession: 24.06.2022).

[4] Sayan Ghosh, “Russian oil supplies to China and India are growing noticeably, says Vladimir Putin”, WION, https://www.wionews.com/world/russian-oil-supplies-to-china-and-india-are-growing-noticeably-says-vladimir-putin-490706, (Date of Accession: 24.06.2022).

[5] “XIV BRICS Summit Beijing Declaration”, BRICS2022, http://brics2022.mfa.gov.cn/eng/dtxw/202206/t20220624_10709295.html, (Date of Accession: 24.06.2022).

Mustafa Cem KOYUNCU
Mustafa Cem Koyuncu, Karabük Üniversitesinde Uluslararası İlişkiler bölümünde Master öğrencisi olup Hint-Pasifik Bölgesi, ABD-Çin Rekabeti, uluslararası güvenlik, jeopolitik ve stratejik araştırmalar alanları üzerinde çalışmalar yapmaktadır. Karabük Üniversitesi’nde eğitimine başlamadan önce, Boğaziçi Üniversitesinde Lisans eğitimini tamamlamıştır. Özel sektörde yöneticilik tecrübesi kazanmasının ardından Cem, kariyerine ANKASAM’da devam etmektedir. Cem ileri seviyede İngilizce bilmektedir.