TO : Nydia Zuraya, international editor of Republika.co.id
REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, The BRICS Group just held a three-day summit (summit) in Johannesburg, South Africa (August 22-24, 2023). This alliance is controlled by five countries namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
There is something special about this year’s BRICS summit. The BRICS group will receive six new members.
Membership of the six new countries will come into effect on January 1, 2024. The six countries are Argentina, Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Calls for more BRICS membership dominated the agenda of the three-day summit. The alliance last welcomed new members in 2010, when South Africa joined.
About two dozen countries have officially applied to join the BRICS. However, only six countries have received approval of their letters of application from the current five BRICS member states.
The increase in the number of member countries is aimed at expanding the influence of BRICS in the African and Middle East regions. Experts see BRICS as a worthy counterweight to the G7, a powerful US-led political forum that includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK.
BRICS really wants to overhaul the world economic order, which is considered quite unfair for third world countries. Moreover, the BRICS countries, with a population of 3 billion, now provide almost 26 percent of global GDP.
In addition to membership expansion, another issue that arose at the 15th BRICS summit was the issue of reducing dependence on the US dollar. Speaking in a virtual speech at the BRICS summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the use of the US dollar in trade transactions between the BRICS member countries has declined.
Putin also signaled that the downturn will continue as the BRICS countries seek to use their national currencies to trade among themselves. He said that the use of the US dollar in trade between the BRICS member countries in 2022 was only 28.7 percent.
To reduce dependence on the US dollar, the BRICS created a joint financial institution called the New Development Bank. The presence of the New Development Bank is an alternative to Western financial institutions.
The desire to reduce dependence on the use of the US dollar has the full support of the old and new members of the BRICS, most of which are enemies of the US (USA) and its allies. The BRICS want to use the local currency to trade among themselves.
Iran was one of the new members to express their support. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that his country supports the efforts of the BRICS to get rid of dependence on the US dollar.
Iran’s BRICS membership comes amid rising tensions between Tehran and Washington, the deadlocked 2015 nuclear deal, and tensions between the two sides in the Persian Gulf.
The decision of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to join BRICS came after concerns that the United States was less committed to security in the Middle East region. In addition to the increasingly close bilateral relations between the two countries of the Gulf region and China in the economic sphere.
Russia and China, as the initiators of the BRICS group, really need more alliances with countries hostile or disillusioned with US policy. Moreover, Russia is now in conflict with Ukraine, which enjoys the support of the United States and European NATO members.
President Putin used his speech at the BRICS leaders’ summit to defend Russia’s war in Ukraine. He called this group a counterbalance to US global dominance.
Meanwhile, China is embroiled in a conflict in the South China Sea that also involves Taiwan, a key US ally. Tensions in the South China Sea region are on the rise ahead of the BRICS summit in Johannerburg.
The United States and its allies are actively conducting joint military exercises in the South China Sea region. The Chinese military did the same.
Although currently BRICS is still focused on economic cooperation, it does not exclude the possibility of expanding this group in the field of cooperation or even military alliances.