The BRICs and the Construction of the Multipolar System

Tiberio Graziani

An article by Tiberio Graziani, President of IsAG – Institute for Advanced Studies in Geopolitics and Auxiliary Sciences, director of Geopolitica, Journal of IsAG

Ten years ago, the acronym BRIC entered the lexicon of international economics and finance. Since then, cooperation among the emerging countries contained in that acronym has taken on an increasingly marked geo-economic and geopolitical record. The consolidation of relations among Brazil, Russia, India, China and, since 2010, South Africa has been possible not only because of the obvious common economic needs concerning modernization and development - typical of developing countries - but also by virtue of a shared vision of international politics. Policy coordination that has developed in the setting of BRICS in a few semesters is an element of acceleration of the uni-multipolar transition.

The BRICS between geoeconomics and geopolitics

In the fall of 2001, Goldman Sachs Investment Bank analyst Jim O’Neill, based on macroeconomic data in some emerging countries, particularly with regard to demographics, growth rate and strategic natural resources, coined the acronym BRIC acronym for a new potential geo-economic aggregate. The countries taken into consideration, as is known, are Brazil, Russia, India and China. According to O’Neill these nations would likely dominate the world economy in the new century. It was therefore necessary to incorporate them in the world economy, hegemonized, after the Soviet collapse, by the US-led Western system. The BRIC countries, as they were called, had sought unilaterally since then its own geopolitical position in the global arena. Some, notably Brazil, India and China, tried to increase their degree of freedom the world arena by leveraging a comprehensive set of economic and commercial agreements both regionally and internationally. The high growth of these nation-continents was, without doubt, the fuel needed for their new role in post-bipolar scenario. Russia, too, with Putin at the helm, tried to reassert at least in the former Soviet space, its own leadership, after the disastrous presidency of Yeltsin.

Over the past few years, the new geo-economic aggregate has grown from being a mere analytical hypothesis, useful for the description of the economic - financial scenarios of the 21st century, into a global player in all respects.

The agenda of the forum’s work in the BRIC countries now contains all the nodal points of the world economy: from the climate issue to that of the basket of currencies, from that inherent in the processes of modernization and innovative development to the safety of particular industries. Beyond these issues, the BRICs are also pronounced, with promptness and determination, part of the “hot” dossier, such as those relating to international conflicts and tensions. In 2011, just to give some examples, the BRICs have commented on the cases of aggression against Libya, and the isolation of Syria, primarily by the Euro-Atlantics, voted for the recognition of Palestine within UNESCO and requested reforms from the UN Security Council.

The coordination among the countries of the BRIC club, strengthened in 2010 with the inclusion of South Africa, has therefore taken an increasingly emphatic “political” nature, which has a profound effect on the current world balance. In general terms we can see that already just the formation of the new club has in fact accelerated the transition to a multipolar system, and likewise lays the foundations for its consolidation on a continental basis. The BRICS grouping seems, among other things, to confirm the geopolitical hypothesis  that the pillars of the new order under construction would be made up of Indio-Latin America and Eurasia.

The BRICS not only influence, as noted, economic, financial and industrial sectors, but also the geostrategic ones and, finally, those concerning the international legal order.

The BRICS club and the geostrategic environment  

With regard to the geostrategic context, consider that the coordination between the BRICS countries is on (and prefers) a nearly diagonal axis - proceeding from the east side of the Northern Hemisphere (Eurasia) to the south of the Western hemisphere (Indio-Latin America) - that could be called “asymmetrical” relative to those defined by the horizontal trajectories (east-west) and vertical (north-south), to which we had become accustomed in the news magazines of the bipolar and unipolar periods. This asymmetric NE-SW axis, on three nuclei made up respectively by the Eurasian pole, South Africa and the Brazilian pole will upset, foreseeable in the medium to long term, the lines of intervention of the US-led Western system, which is still dominant militarily.

The BRICS structure, for now only diplomatic and economic, could represent, owing to its military potential and its geo-strategic position, a first organized response to the “march” of the U.S. which has advanced along the “horizontal” Atlanto-Mediterranean line, pushing toward the countries of Central Asia. U.S. pressure on the Euro-Afro-Asiatic mass, it should be remembered, has over the last twelve years taken a distinctly military character. The militarization of the US-centered foreign policy system, implemented by various governments from  the elder Bush to Obama, is the main element of geopolitical practices of the entire Western system, directed toward the fragmentation of particular strategic areas such as the Near East and North Africa.

On the diplomatic, economic and military level, the BRICS club appears clearly biased in favor of its Eurasian component. This situation opens at least two possible scenarios. In one case, the imbalance could be, even in the medium term, a factor of tension within the political coordination of the new aggregation, with Brazil and perhaps South Africa returning under the U.S. umbrella. A second scenario, perhaps more realistically, considers the current imbalance a reason for the acceleration of the pro-continental integration of South America, anchored by the Brazil-Argentina-Venezuela pole. In this latter case, which would be desirable since it would strengthen the multipolar scenario being consolidated, the weakest element of the current composition of the BRICS, namely the Republic of South Africa, would assume, by virtue of its geographical location, a prominent function of geostrategic balance within the new world order.

A new model of multipolar cooperation  

In reference to the incidence of the BRICS on the international legal order, we agree with the position of Paulo Borba Casella, professor of international law at the University of Sao Paulo, according to which we are dealing with a model of innovative, independent and original cooperation.

Observes the Brazilian Professor, “the innovative character of the BRIC perspective is precisely the fact that these countries can take care of themselves while simultaneously formulating a new model of international integration and cooperation. The perspective is this. It needs to be put into practice.” The club of the BRICS countries introduces a cooperative practice that, respecting the cultural affiliations of its members, combines poorly with the settings of universalistic international structures which are, to name a few, the United Nations (UN), the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), based, as is known, on the individualistic and commercial criteria of Western-style concepts.

The new club, though born for obvious economic reasons, seems however to evolve towards a more concrete conception of relations between states, based on a similar cultural substrate that we might define as a solidarist kind, attentive to the State and to the concrete interests of diverse ethno-cultural communities that populate their respective nations.

The new perspective that the BRICS model introduces will be met, necessarily, with that of the so-called “global regulation” (the global governance of the Anglo-American school) which, since it is anchored in the individualistic conception of society and in the unique “democratic” thought,  rejects the cultural diversity of various peoples (except in instrumental terms of the doctrine of the “clash of civilizations”).

In fact, the new cooperation model promoted by the BRICS countries testifies to the end or the reorientation of the UN and the decline or restructuring of global organizations like the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.