The picture above shows the foreign ministers of the five existing BRICS members (seated) during their recent meeting in Cape Town. Behind them are ministers from 10 of the 13 states believed to be applying for membership.
In recent weeks, JWE President Helena Cobban has been exploring the rapidly expanding role that the “BRICS” group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has been playing in world affairs. On Moday night, he was a panelist in a webinar on “Shifting Power Dynamics: Ukraine, Russia, and US-China Relations in a Multipolar World” that was presented by the Committee for a SANE US-China Policy , of which he is a member. member. The other panelists were Michael Klare, a veteran Five Colleges peace educator, and Australian academic Joseph Camilleri, and Joseph Gerson, who heads the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, ably moderated the discussion.
Then, yesterday, a short article that Ms. Cobban wrote last week, “How the BRICS countries help define a truly new world order,” was published by The nation.
In it Nation In the article, Ms Cobban provided some useful background on the history of the BRICS grouping, which was founded (as “BRIC”) in 2009, after the global financial crisis of 2008. She also focused on what happened in the ministries of Foreign Relations’ bloc meeting held in Cape Town in early June, as they prepared for the group’s 15th summit meeting, scheduled to be held in South Africa at the end of August.
She noticed that,
Last year, the combined economic output of the five BRICS members, measured in purchasing power parity, surpassed that of the US-led G7 for the first time. And this year, the BRICS is poised to step into a much more powerful role in world affairs: it appears that another 13 significant nations from the Global South, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, may be admitted to the grouping at its next summit…
She wrote about the BRICS that,
All of its member nations (except Russia) have deep and vivid memories of the damage their peoples suffered during the first centuries of white Western rule over their countries. In that, they are similar to the Non-Aligned Movement of the 1960s. But the BRICS leaders… define their interests and goals primarily in economic terms, avoiding as much as they can the question of military alignment or non-alignment. (They demonstrated this in the agnosticism they expressed in Cape Town on the issue of the war in Ukraine.)
In Monday’s webinar, Ms. Cobban was able to expand on several of these points. She was also able, during the first of the two 7-minute time slots allotted to her, to present charts that helpfully illustrated some of the points she was making about the growing reach and power of the BRICS. The second of her time slots (36:15-> 44:10) was devoted to the topic of the effect the conflict in Ukraine has had on the global balance of power.
The discussion between the three panelists was rich, in the course of which they explored some of the differences that had been revealed between them, especially on the crucial issue of whether military power still has any value in world affairs.
Ms. Cobban later noted that the work she has been doing writing the essays she has been publishing as part of JWE’s “Globalities” project had prepared her well for these two recent assignments.
She told JWE:
I have been thinking deeply about global balance for many decades. And for the last three years or more I have focused specifically on this issue of the hegemonic role that a handful of nations of Western European heritage have exercised over the affairs of all humanity: how was that hegemony built in the first place, beginning a few years ago? 500 or 600 years, and what’s happening now, as it falls apart faster and faster. These were two good forums to explore some of these issues in a more public way. Do these projects with The nation and with the US-China SANE Policy Committee has been very enriching!