Global Alternatives 2024
BRICS Expansion and the Political Positions of Possible Candidates

It remains unclear whether a new round of BRICS enlargement will occur or not. Should this happen, the BRICS leaders would utilize their own criteria, which are not public. It is likely that a decision will be reached by consensus, implying that the interests of all BRICS members would be considered, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Oleg Barabanov.

In 2024, the enlarged BRICS group started its operations. In the autumn, Russia will host the inaugural summit of this alliance. From time to time, media reports have indicated that the expansion of BRICS is not expected to end there, and that perhaps new decisions in this regard will be taken either at the Russian summit or at a later date.

In this regard, the issue of internal consolidation within BRICS after enlargement is of additional interest. We have already addressed it earlier. In that article, we examined this topic in the context of voting by new and “old” BRICS members on anti-Russian resolutions at the UN General Assembly. If we take the seven UNGA resolutions approved by that time and adopted after February 24, 2022, then, let us recall, the situation was as follows. Russia itself voted against all 7 times. Of the “old” BRICS members, China was against 3 times, and abstained in other cases. India and South Africa abstained throughout, while Brazil voted in favour of the resolutions four times and abstained from three. Of the six countries that were invited to BRICS in the summer of 2023, Iran and Ethiopia were against 3 times. On the contrary, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia voted in favour 4 times, and Argentina was in favour of the resolutions all 7 times.

Thus, Argentina stood out sharply, both in these resolutions and in others also discussed in the aforementioned text. Therefore, in the context of achieving the internal consolidation of the expanded BRICS (and from the point of view of Moscow, it is clear that a pro-Russian consolidation and solidarity are desirable), the refusal of the new Argentine president to join BRICS has, perhaps, a positive significance. The fact that a country that was so sharply at odds with Russia on key issues will not be a plus in BRICS for Moscow, but a minus. By the same logic, Saudi Arabia’s ambivalent statements at the beginning of the year regarding its membership in BRICS can also be viewed not as a minus, but as a plus.

Global Alternatives 2024
BRICS and Global Alternatives in the Modern World
Oleg Barabanov
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.

In this same context, it is of interest to consider candidates for the possible future expansion of BRICS. At the previous summit of the association in South Africa, the criteria for admitting new members were not publicly announced. At the same time, it was said that the leaders of the countries developed these criteria for themselves. The only thing to note is that prior to the summit, media reports suggested that a potential criterion for inclusion could be a population of over 100 million, however, it is difficult to determine whether this was merely speculation or not. Nevertheless, four of the six countries invited had populations below this threshold. Iran’s population is approximately 84 million, Argentina’s is 46 million, Saudi Arabia’s is 32 million, and the United Arab Emirates has 9 million inhabitants. Therefore, it appears that the actual criteria were flexible. Nevertheless, one thing can be inferred with a high degree of certainty: decisions were likely made through consensus. One point indicative of this is the publication of various shortlists for potential expansion candidates in the media prior to the event. These were presumably also speculative or expert estimates. Nonetheless, five of the invited countries were included in one or more of these shortlists. In fact, the inclusion of only one additional state was a near-complete surprise for the general public. This was Ethiopia. It is worth noting that, along with Iran, Ethiopia has been the most supportive of Russia in the General Assembly of the United Nations among these six countries. The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, actively participated in the second Russia-Africa Summit last summer.

If we extend this hypothetical scenario to a possible future expansion of BRICS, then we can assume that the consideration of factors such as solidarity with Russia may be taken into account in the selection process for new members.

With regard to the outcome of the vote at the UN General Assembly, the seven resolutions mentioned above correspond to six resolutions (ES-11/1 to ES-11/6), adopted in 2022 and 2023 during the 11th special emergency session of the General Assembly dedicated to the situation in Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, resolution 77/229 was adopted at the regular annual session of the Assembly in December 2022, concerning human rights in Crimea. Since then, the UN General Assembly has adopted another resolution – Resolution No. 78/221, dated December 19, 2023 – which is dedicated to human rights in Crimea and the new territories of Russia. This resolution was not voted on at a special emergency session of the General Assembly, which had not met since the first anniversary of the conflict, but rather at the regular annual session of the Assembly at the end of December, where a block of resolutions on human rights in various countries is usually debated.

This has been a part of the Assembly’s agenda for many years; the year prior, Resolution No. 77/229 on the same topic was adopted. This year, resolutions on human rights in Iran and Syria have been adopted in conjunction with the resolution on Crimea. This current resolution takes a more severe and condemning stance towards Russia than last year’s resolution. It is also larger in length (the Russian text of the current resolution on the UN website is 17 pages, compared to 14 pages a year ago). Unlike last year’s resolution, this one focuses not only on Crimea and Sevastopol but also on newly acquired territories. If we consider the voting results for Resolution No. 78/221, we can see that 78 countries supported it, 15 countries were against it, and 79 countries abstained. It is worth noting that the number of countries in favour, 78, is the lowest among all eight resolutions that have been adopted by the General Assembly since the beginning of the current conflict.

The year prior, 82 countries voted in favour of a previous resolution regarding human rights in Crimea. At the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly, the number of votes for resolutions ranged from 93 to 143. The number against (15) is not the highest among these resolutions. One year prior, there were 29 votes against a resolution on Crimea and 24 against a resolution ES-11/3 suspending Russia’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council. For other resolutions, the number against ranged from 5 to 14. Furthermore, this latest resolution has received the highest number of abstentions – 79, compared to the previous range of 32-73, as well as the highest number of states that did not vote – 21, compared to the previous range of 10-19. Therefore, we can observe a certain increase in apathy among non-Western countries with regard to this conflict. The voting results among African nations are particularly illuminating in this regard. While between 10 and 30 African countries supported the six resolutions from the emergency meeting, and five other states backed the prior resolution on Crimea, only three African nations have now supported the current resolution. These are Cape Verde, the Seychelles, and Sierra Leone.

Five nations have now opposed the resolution: Burundi, Zimbabwe, Mali, Niger, and Sudan. All other nations either abstained from voting or did not participate, including the three African countries that previously supported all seven resolutions. Liberia, Malawi, and Chad, who previously supported all previous resolutions, have now opted not to support the current one.

Based on these findings, it is clear that the last year's Russia-Africa summit was worthwhile. Accordingly, among the African countries (excluding the BRICS members), in relation to these eight resolutions, the countries that showed the strongest solidarity with Russia and never voted “for” were: Eritrea (on seven occasions), Mali (on five occasions), Zimbabwe (on four occasions), Burundi, the Sudan, and the Central African Republic (on two occasions each), Algeria and the Republic of Congo (on one occasion each), and Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cameroon, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda (never voted). This could constitute a possible Russian “long list” of African candidates for future expansion of BRICS. For other regions of the world, the following situation prevails. In Asia, outside the former Soviet Union (excluding BRICS members), North Korea and Syria have voted against all resolutions (8 times in each case), Vietnam and Laos have voted 1 time each, Mongolia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have abstained. It should be noted that Myanmar’s current government’s authority is not recognized by the UN General Assembly, and opposition representatives of the former government voted.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Moscow’s nominal supporters included Nicaragua (6 votes against), Cuba (4 votes against), Bolivia and El Salvador, which abstained or did not vote at all. Venezuela has been suspended from voting at the UN General Assembly due to non-payment of membership fees.

Lastly, in the former Soviet space, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have all voted against resolutions, while Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have abstained or not voted. It is evident that this pro-Russian “long list” is merely hypothetical. It remains unclear whether a new round of BRICS enlargement will occur or not. Should this happen, the BRICS leaders would utilize their own criteria, which are, I reiterate, not public. It is likely that a decision will be reached by consensus, implying that the interests of all BRICS members would be considered. This, naturally, might not align with Russia’s stance. However, if we correctly interpret Ethiopia’s example, then solidarity with Russia could play a role in future enlargements. This factor might be significant for strengthening internal cohesion within BRICS (although only in the context of our subjective understanding of Moscow’s possible official stance in this process). Should there be a new BRICS expansion, it would be interesting to observe who from our “long list” would be among the invitees.

Norms and Values
BRICS: Together Against Inequality
On December 19, 2023, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion dedicated to Russia’s chairmanship of the BRICS in 2024, together with the presentation of a new Valdai Club report titled  “Global Inequality: Will the BRICS Countries Succeed in ‘Steering’ the Global Economy?”
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