Global Alternatives 2024
BRICS and Global Alternatives in the Modern World

Both during the Russian presidency and in subsequent years, the task of further optimising the BRICS+ format, as well as possible new rounds of expansion, is slated to become a priority, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

The current geopolitical confrontation between Russia and the West, which obviously won’t end in the coming years, urgently puts on the agenda the issue of global alternatives. This question has now acquired more than just theoretical or futurological significance. For Russia, it is directly related to how successfully the country can develop in the current situation. Therefore, we are talking primarily about the feasibility, sustainability and effectiveness of alternative models of global socio-economic development, the world order and the perception of value narratives.

Russia is now testing all these models in its own practice. Naturally, the viability of such models in the future will depend on its success or failure. The key moment here is to what extent these alternative models will be accepted and supported by other countries of the Non-West and Global South. To what extent does the Russian approach (even taking its military-political aspect out of the equation) meet their national interests, and is it harmonious with their aspirations? Russia’s BRICS presidency in 2024 will obviously raise questions about the promotion of these alternatives both in the value dimension and in the political practice of the Global Non-West and South.

In this regard, the directions for the further evolution of BRICS, which has already become a symbol of a global alternative, are of particular interest. Moreover, it is quite an attractive symbol, judging by the intention of a number of countries to join BRICS. All communiqués of various BRICS summits over the past years focus on the value alternatives.

In this regard, it is quite possible to talk about a completely holistic and systemic value platform for BRICS.

It is based on the principle of equality in the global economy and politics, on the confirmation of the right to development of all countries of the world, and not just the “golden West”, on the struggle against exploitation and neo-colonialism. There is also a more or less explicit emphasis on the moral duty of the “golden West” and its moral obligation to assist in the development of the Global South. In recent years, in connection with large-scale plans for a global green transformation, one can increasingly see in these documents a concern that developing countries could become victims of the policies being pursued. This is because measures to limit and phase out the use of fossil fuels and restrictions on livestock farming to reduce methane emissions could become a serious obstacle to the future development of countries in the Global South if they are not provided with compensating mechanisms. Thereby the very right to development, which underlies the BRICS value platform, will be undermined.

At the same time, if these BRICS value priorities themselves do not cause differences of opinion, and all countries are unanimous in their approval, then the question of the readiness of various countries for their political advancement is more dialectical. Sometimes in the media and in the expert community one can see the question: what has BRICS really done over all these years, except for publishing communiqués on values? Here we can really say that all BRICS member countries pursue their own sovereign policies, which do not completely coincide with each other. BRICS itself is not an intergovernmental organisation; it operates in a much more informal and free association format. We have already examined the problem of political solidarity (or lack thereof) between BRICS members using the example of these countries voting for resolutions in the UN General Assembly. And there, to put it mildly, this situation is not so clear. It becomes even less clear if you look at the voting results of the new BRICS members who will join the association on January 1, 2024. Thus, the topic of internal political consolidation of the BRICS countries becomes really important if we talk about the fact that the association not only puts forward its own value programme, but also jointly fights for its implementation.

Norms and Values
BRICS Expansion as Non-West Consolidation? The Example of Voting in the UN General Assembly
Oleg Barabanov
The expansion of the BRICS and the announced admission of six new states to the group has become an important event in world politics. About two dozen more countries have also applied to join the BRICS. In this regard, the media and the expert community have begun to talk about a qualitative change in the geopolitical balance of power. Comparisons are made of the total GDP between the BRICS and the G7, their resource endowment, etc. All this is true. But aside from the move’s effect on economic indicators and symbolic strength in establishing a value alternative, the issue of internal consolidation is no less important for the political power of any international structure. BRICS is no exception.

If we move from geopolitics to socio-economic projects, here BRICS, too, from a certain point of view, is only at the beginning of its journey. The New Development Bank is intensifying its work. In addition, one of the key tasks for 2024, written down in the communique of the previous summit, is the development of efficient mechanisms to increase the use of national currencies in mutual trade between BRICS members. For Russia, for obvious reasons, this topic is acutely relevant. In this regard, the next step in the economic consolidation of the BRICS will be judged by how successfully and consistently these new mechanisms can be implemented.

However, returning to the beginning, one cannot help but note that even in its current state, as a value platform, BRICS is very important for world politics. This explains the large number of applications for membership from countries of the Global Non-West. Moreover, it is important that almost all of the applications were submitted after February 24, 2022. Therefore, both during the Russian presidency and in subsequent years, the task of further optimising the BRICS+ format, as well as possible new rounds of expansion, is slated to become a priority. It is important here not to alienate from BRICS those countries that applied but were not accepted, so that they do not end up with grievances and misunderstandings.

By the way, in these two vectors of BRICS development (consolidation and expansion) one can also see a kind of dialectical contradiction. For the tasks of internal consolidation, as integration theory teaches us, by and large, the fewer countries involved, the better. It is much more important here that these countries share common goals in practical politics and economics. But on the other hand, for the value platform the situation is the opposite, here the more countries that join, the better.

This is extremely important in emphasising the global and inclusive nature of BRICS.

Incidentally, to some extent, the current situation for BRICS can be called similar to what the European Union faced in the early 2000s, when it put forward its “Deepening and Widening” strategy. It is clear that formally such an approach contradicts the laws of physics, but global politics is not physics, and the world political system (if a system analysis is applicable to it at all) differs from physical and chemical systems. It has its own dialectics and its own interpretation of the laws of thermodynamics. Only time will tell.

We should not forget that in addition to BRICS in general, regional trends in the formation of alternative socio-economic and political development in the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America also attract great attention. One should not discount those alternatives to the neoliberal mainstream that are now being formulated within the West itself. It seems that 2024 will bring a lot of new indicators in this sense. All these issues will be the focus of the “Global Alternatives” expert programme of the Valdai Discussion Club in the coming year. We hope that our readers and viewers of our videos find it interesting!

Norms and Values
Global Inequality: Will the BRICS Countries Succeed in ‘Steering’ the Global Economy
Maria Apanovich, Ndivhuho Tshikovhi, Nirmala Dorasamy
The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are important in the context of addressing global inequality. Together, they occupy a huge proportion of the Earth’s population and geographical space. Therefore, “inequality” and “equality” within the BRICS have global significance.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.