As the imperialist crisis continues to play out through unwinnable war and self-defeating sanctions, there are unmistakable signs that the long drawn out saga of the United States of America’s decline is now speeding to an irreversible climax. This is nowhere more starkly revealed than in the rush of applications to sign up to Brics, the alliance founded by Russia and China and incorporating Brazil, India and South Africa.
Brics takes centre stage
Since Brics was founded in 2009, it has gathered increasing clout in the developing world. From May this year, China has been agitating to welcome other countries to join the fold, and successful applicants could be enrolled next year.
This has aroused a host of eager applications, especially from those countries who have been failed by one or other imperialist-oriented alliance. Many would echo the sentiments of one applicant, Algeria, which dismissed its 2005 association agreement with the European Union as a “failed bet.” Other potential candidates include Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and Iran.
The stats on GDP growth racked up collectively by Brics are impressive. “According to World Bank data for 2019, the five current members of Brics represent 42 percent of the world’s population, 24 percent of the world’s GDP and more than 16 percent of global trade. Between 2009 and today, Brics has managed to increase its coverage of the global GDP to just over 25 percent.” (Algeria formally submits application to join Brics by Ahmed Adel, Infobrics, 8 November 2022)
Undoubtedly, there will be large disparities in development between different member states, but the strength and unity of Brics resides precisely in its emphasis on reciprocal trade and development deals that do not put countries at a disadvantage or come with political strings attached.
Ditching the dollar
Most worrying from the imperialist viewpoint are the plans, already far advanced, to get out from under the cosh of the yankee dollar.
Together with the related Shanghai Cooperation (SCO) alliance (led by China and Russia and incorporating ‘the Stans’ of central Asia), Brics is overseeing a joint exercise to bypass the mighty greenback. The State Bank of India is dodging anti-Russian sanctions by funnelling its Russian business through special rupee accounts, whilst Turkey, another applicant for Brics membership, is buying Russian gas in rubles and lira.
Meanwhile, Russian banks, barred from the Swift system of international money transfers, are conducting their Chinese business in a combination of rubles and yuan. For their part, Iran and Russia have found a way to conduct business in a mix of rubles and rials, whilst Egypt (another Brics hopeful) is trading in a mix of different currencies, including some gold.
Breaking imperialist monopoly of materials and technologies
Saudi Arabia’s application for membership of Brics could prove to be a tipping point in international relations, marking a decisive moment in the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world.
Coming at the same time as the Saudi-led Opec+ decision in October to cut oil production by another 2m barrels a day, bumping up Russia’s oil revenues and opening the prospect of sky-high pump prices, Riyadh’s application to join Brics can only add salt to the US wound.
Not surprisingly, President Joe Biden declared that he had no plans to meet with the de facto Saudi head of state, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka MBS) at November’s G20 summit. By contrast with this snub, China’s president Xi Jinping trekked halfway across the planet to visit MBS in Riyadh itself.
Implicitly commenting on the refusal to flood the market with Saudi oil to bring down prices (thereby helping to cushion the sanctions mongers whose own economic aggression is directly responsible for the upward pressure on oil prices), Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi praised Riyadh’s “pursuit of an independent energy policy and its active efforts to maintain the stability of the international energy market”.
Brics, if it goes ahead with its planned expansion, will include members with a history of mutual antipathy, drawn nonetheless to participation with an alliance which aims to be inclusive and affords a space for developing economic and political relations away from the domineering influence of the USA. So we find Iran jostling in the same Brics entry queue with Saudi Arabia, observing a pragmatic truce founded on a shared disinclination to truckle to US diktat and the practical recognition that Uncle Sam no longer calls all the shots.
One recent report cited diplomatic sources as confirming that “the day after the US pulled out of Afghanistan, MBS’s envoys started seriously negotiating with both Moscow and Beijing”. (Everybody wants to hop on the Brics Express by Pepe Escobar, The Saker, 28 October 2022)
In the early years of MBS’s ascendancy, Riyadh was eager to strengthen its ties with Nato, happy to have the USA cover its back whilst it committed genocide against the Yemeni people and murdered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In exchange for this unconditional support, the US war industry enjoyed unrivalled access to the Saudis’ insatiable demand for its products.
But now, with the likelihood of Saudi membership of Brics and the development of closer economic and political relations with China, that relationship could be compromised. Beijing has already signed memoranda of understanding on nuclear energy projects with Riyadh and supplied it with ballistic missile technology and drones.
Whilst this will account for only a tiny fraction of Riyadh’s gigantic arms budget, it already puts a dent in the implicit deal whereby Washington acts as guarantor of the Saudis’ national security – so long as the Saudis remain in lockstep with US imperialist aims, which most certainly do not include entering alliances led by China and with Iran on the waiting list of hopefuls.
Another Brics hopeful, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has President Putin’s personal seal of approval for his proposed installation of a gas hub on Turkish territory, linking with the existing Turk Stream network to pump gas from Russia to Germany. It is doubtful whether those persons unknown who wrecked the Nord Stream pipelines will still be cheering if it turns out that the supply of Russian gas to western Europe is henceforth to be turned on or off under the watchful eye of fellow Brics member Turkey.
As the creeping decline of the USA accelerates to an acute stage, the system of enforced alliances that once staked out the hegemonic control of the world – Nato, the EU, ASEAN, the OAS etc, etc – are still hanging around as decaying reminders of the USA’s glory days.
But history has moved on, requiring the formation of a different set of acronyms more in tune with the real balance of forces.