Can the BRICS Become the New World Domination?


Opini | In an era marked by burgeoning economies, expansive populations, and soaring ambitions, the stage is set for the BRICS summit. Comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, this group of nations is poised to convene for a three-day gathering that is expected to attract global attention and captivate the world's capitals.

While the meeting is poised to occur in Johannesburg, South Africa, an intriguing absentee is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will join via video conference. This remote participation serves to avert the diplomatic predicament of hosting a leader facing an International Criminal Court warrant linked to Russia's actions in Ukraine. South Africa, as an ICC member, would have been compelled to arrest Putin if he were to visit in person.

As the backdrop to this summit unfurls, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the escalating geopolitical tensions between the United States and China cast a shadow. Within this context, the BRICS summit is positioned to foreground the group's growing influence as a formidable challenger to the long-standing, Washington-centric global order.

Central to the summit's agenda is the expansion of the BRICS alliance. This coalition, with over 40 countries expressing interest in joining—from Algeria to Argentina—holds allure due to its ascending economic power. Together, the five BRICS nations command a combined GDP greater than the G7 in terms of purchasing power parity. In nominal terms, these nations account for 26% of the global GDP. Yet, paradoxically, their voting power at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stands at a mere 15%.

Amidst these disparities, concerns have emerged in the Global South that the United States might wield the dollar as a weapon through sanctions, echoing its actions against Russia. Consequently, BRICS countries are striving to decrease their reliance on the US currency while augmenting bilateral trade in their own monetary units.

While consensus on the need for change exists, aligning on a collaborative approach is a distinct challenge. The tense border standoff between India and China since 2020 exemplifies the internal discord. Furthermore, nations such as India, Brazil, and South Africa seek robust relations with both Western nations and China and Russia.

Thus, a pivotal question looms: Will the BRICS evolve into an alternative economic and geopolitical force to counterbalance the US and its allies? Alternatively, could internal schisms limit the group's potential achievements?

The succinct answer resides in the likelihood of BRICS nations amassing influence, yet primarily offering piecemeal diplomatic and economic alternatives rather than executing a comprehensive replacement of the current global order. Analysts assert that this path could fuel additional tensions with the Western powers as BRICS leaders endeavor to carve an autonomous trajectory in a swiftly changing world. However, for these ambitions to flourish, the BRICS alliance must adeptly navigate the diverse priorities of its constituent nations—an intricate challenge.

This summit carries echoes of the "voice" of the Global South, as articulated by Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. He criticized the prevailing concentration of economic might as relegating numerous nations to the mercy of a select few. This sentiment resonates across the developing world, where the veto powers of the United Nations Security Council—rooted in a 1945 framework—are concentrated among five nations, a configuration reflecting the aftermath of World War II.

Evidently, shifts in this US-led model have gained momentum. China, wielding significant economic and military influence, is testing the bounds of US dominance. Notably, Russia's 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent fortification of ties between Moscow and Beijing have galvanized a schism with Western nations. Amidst this backdrop, a chorus of voices emerges from Africa, Latin America, and emerging Asian powers, advocating for a transformation of the post-Cold War unipolar system.

Russia and China have emerged as torchbearers of this transition away from the US-led order, positioning themselves as champions of a paradigm shift that addresses the perceived inconsistencies the Global South identifies in the existing order.

BRICS is an alluring prospect due to its capacity for transformation. Its five members have established a combined development bank, the New Development Bank (NDB), offering an alternative to US-led institutions such as the IMF and World Bank. The institution's formation in 2015 signaled a clear intent to challenge the established global financial architecture and placed the Global South on notice that alternatives are viable.

Moreover, the development of "BRICS pay," a payment mechanism facilitating transactions among BRICS nations without necessitating the conversion of local currencies into US dollars, underscores the coalition's commitment to cultivating an alternative financial system. However, challenges persist as the NDB's dependence on dollars becomes evident, particularly with the imposition of sanctions on Russia, a founding member. It is noteworthy that the US dollar comprises 60% of central bank foreign exchange reserves globally.

The discussion of a potential BRICS currency has gained traction, although South Africa has preemptively excluded it from the summit's discourse. Experts contend that de-dollarization initiatives within BRICS are geared towards offering alternatives to foster bilateral trade in local currencies, rather than an attempt to replace the US dollar outright.

Ultimately, the BRICS alliance seeks to furnish a parallel set of economic and diplomatic choices for nations. This endeavor does not necessarily entail undermining the US-led model but offers an additional framework through which countries can navigate global politics. In contrast to Western expectations of strict allegiances, the BRICS alliance refrains from demanding nations to make definitive choices between trading within BRICS or with the US. Rather, the coalition presents an adaptable mechanism that nations can leverage according to their specific interests and contexts.

As the BRICS summit unfolds, it is imperative to recognize that this coalition may not necessarily replace the existing order but offers an avenue for diverse voices to contribute to global discussions. This perspective necessitates listening and acknowledging the BRICS' capacity to represent a diverse range of interests—an evolution that was initially underestimated when the coalition was first formed in 2009. Consequently, the BRICS alliance demonstrates that in a world marked by divisions, it is possible to craft a platform that embraces diverse viewpoints and aspirations.

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