The Geopolitics of the BRICS plus

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Title: The Geopolitics of the BRICS plus
Authors: Saalbach, Klaus
Abstract: This working paper analyzes the geopolitics of the expanded BRICS plus. The BRICS plus is an intergovernmental organization with the member states Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates. BRICS is an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa which exceeded in 2020 the share of the Western G7 of global gross domestic product (GDP) in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP). Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates joined on 01 January 2024, expanding the group to the BRICS plus. Saudi-Arabia did not join the BRICS yet, but has participated in all BRICS plus meetings in 2024 so far. While the BRICS were originally seen as an economic alternative to the established Western-dominated financial organizations (World Bank and International Monetary Fund IMF), the BRICS are meanwhile seen as the political voice of the “Global South”. The BRICS and now BRICS plus have no charter or a secretariat which provides flexibility for the member states and increases their political freedom of action without the pressures and demands of a bloc formation, but affects the organizational power. The lack of a common ideology or at least a clearly defined agenda blocks the formation of the BRICS plus as a counter-hegemonic structure or as a system of international norms like the Western institutions and norms. But a definition of values or a charter could be the first step to the construction of power structures by the leading actors what the BRICS plus members want to avoid. As permanent BRICS institution, the Shanghai-based New Development Bank (NDB) with a capital of $100 billion US dollar (USD) and a contingent reserve arrangement (CRA) with $100 billion USD as emergency lending during liquidity crises became active in 2015. In addition to the annual meetings of state leaders and BRICS outreach summits with states outside the organization, a variety of multilateral agreements, councils, forums, action plans, policy documents were established, including events like parliamentary exchanges, Working Groups, seminars/conferences etc. There are overlaps with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization SCO. While the SCO is explicitly a Eurasian project, the BRICS plus is focusing on the Global South. There is no official link between SCO and BRICS plus, but the triangle China-Russia-India is present in both organizations and can avoid disputes. It was argued that the BRICS expansion of 2024 brings new conflicts into the group and increases the heterogeneity. But the inclusion of Iran, the UAE and maybe Saudi-Arabia makes the BRICS plus to a major player in the oil and energy market while the (failed) inclusion of Argentina would have made the BRICS to a significant player in the food sector as well. The inclusion of the largest East African powers Egypt and Ethiopia secures (despite the critical relations between both powers) a prominent role of the BRICS plus in East Africa and overall, the relations to and influence on the African continent is steadily increasing while the Western influence is reduced.
Subject Keywords: BRICS; BRICS plus; Geopolitics; Global South; Multilateralism
Issue Date: 11-Apr-2024
License name: Attribution 3.0 Germany
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Type of publication: Arbeitspapier [WorkingPaper]
Appears in Collections:FB01 - Hochschulschriften

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