Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 49.2023
2023.12.04 — 2023.12.10
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
The Continuous Political and Military Threats Against Fair Multipolarity: A View From Venezuela (Постоянные политические и военные угрозы справедливой многополярности: взгляд из Венесуэлы) / Russia, December, 2023
Keywords: expert_opinion

As our world progresses into a new world order described by some as "fair multipolarity", we must acknowledge that such a transformation will not be met without resistance by the forces wishing to maintain a unipolar world order that is no longer sustainable. It is through decisive and concerted action by the countries most affected by unilateralism that we can advance towards the global equilibrium that the world requires.

A New Washington Consensus

In April of this year, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution which was quite revealing and could lead us to understand the current geopolitical moment and the implications it will have on a new arrangement and its key resource markets, such as oil. Sullivan laid out the idea that neoliberal globalisation as it had been laid out under the Washington Consensus, was no longer viable, and that a "new Washington Consensus" was needed for the US and the world to face today's current challenges effectively.

The challenge for the US, according to Sullivan, was to overcome the effect of neoliberal globalisation on the US economy: a significant deindustrialisation across the country that makes the US more dependent on foreign economies, such as China. Sullivan concluded, therefore, that a new consensus is needed to jump start the economy and give prosperity back to the middle and working classes. In truth, what this shift in policy indicates is that unilateral coercive measures – better known as illegal sanctions – are to be used together with supply-side government subsidies with the intent of promoting economic growth based on a military-industrial policy while placing limits on competitors.

Sullivan recognised signs of the decline of US economic leadership: growing inequality, economic stagnation, and the fact that US is losing supremacy in key technological sectors. The US must also confront the reality that both Russia and China are rapidly progressing in military and technological development, that strategic natural resources may no longer be readily available for US interests, and that important international players have engaged in cooperation – such as the BRICS+ countries – and are posing the possibilities of building a new financial architecture and discussing de-dollarisation. The US has begun responding by using all its tools to disrupt these processes and has engaged in promoting tensions, a Cold War mentality that would help it advance its interests.

Sullivan's "new Washington Consensus" calls for domestic investment in the military industry, which is extremely dependent on oil production, as the US defends itself from what it calls the "China shock." US public investment, therefore, is already being channelled towards the areas identified as those where the US might soon lose its hegemony: AI, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors, and critical resources. Coupled with a robust sanctions policy aimed at denying access to key technologies and critical resources, this strategy seeks to strengthen US growth and undermine its competitors.

Liberal International Order: Can It Be Saved in Today's Non-Hegemonic World?
Vladimir V. Makei
This article is an attempt to make a humble contribution to the debate on the Liberal International Order from the perspective of an "autocratic" state―Belarus, as it has been assigned to this category by the West and as the author of this article happens to be Belarusian Foreign Minister.

Creating Tensions around Oil

The fact that the US also claims to promote an energy transition does not alter its need to control oil markets. Oil continues to be a relevant resource for any military-industry development, but also for development in general. That is why the US is interested in shaping the energy market and does so through its illegal sanctions policy towards countries such as Venezuela, Iran and Russia. The ongoing special military operation in Ukraine has further distorted access to energy sources; to implement the new US strategy, alternatives are needed and constructed.

Back in 2015, ExxonMobil discovered important oil reserves in a region in South America that for over one hundred years was once subject to a territorial controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom, which was later inherited by independent Guyana. Ever since Guyana became an independent nation, this controversy has been dealt with peacefully, through a series of diplomatic channels and processes. However, ExxonMobil, with the support of the US Departments of State and Defense, began pressing to obtain maritime concessions that Guyana cannot legally grant, as the border has not been settled in a mutually-agreed process, as both countries previously agreed under the Geneva Agreement of 1966.

This US-supported push by ExxonMobil is creating political and military tensions for Venezuela and the region. Venezuela, under the administrations of both President Hugo Chavez and President Nicolas Maduro has reasserted control over its resources and conducted a production policy independent of US interests. Building tensions along the Venezuelan border is meant to not only tap into new resources, but to destabilise and threaten Venezuela as well. ExxonMobil lost its concessions in Venezuela in 2007 and is currently financing Guyana's case against Venezuela at the ICJ.

In January of this year, the US engaged in police training in Guyana, the Southern Command visited the country in July, and joint military exercises took place in September. On September 15, Sullivan met with Guyanese President Irfaan Ali and discussed the "migration and security crisis" in Venezuela. Unprecedented Guyanese rhetoric and defiance in granting concessions was noticeable during the week of the United Nations General Assembly debates, as was the State Department's support for Guyana's actions.

Along with many other interventionist actions against Venezuela over the last 24 years that include illegal sanctions on the oil industry, US national and corporate interests have stepped up border tensions as part of its efforts at controlling Venezuela's resources. Venezuela holds the world's largest proven reserves and has been a key energy player in the region. Its energy policy towards its Caribbean neighbours has been key in promoting development and in decreasing dependence on the US Venezuela is also a founding member of OPEC, a strategic partner to Russia and China, and an aspiring member of BRICS+.

It is no surprise that under the guidelines of the new Washington Consensus, political and military tensions and actions are used to prevent access to Venezuela's resources by US competitors.

Current oil prices are at their highest level this year, with an increase of 10% only in the month of September. Together with rising housing prices in the US, they can be expected to drive up inflation at a moment when OPEC+ countries (which sanctioned Venezuela and Iran and BRICS+ members Russia, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) have agreed to reduce production through 2024.

This will undoubtedly be a source of concern as the US prepares next year for a decisive presidential election.

Creating a Zone free of UCMs

The recent geopolitical shifts, especially the impact of the South African BRICS Summit in August, but also the emergence of an important group of countries denouncing US unilateralism and seeking to return to adherence to the principles of the UN Charter, which questions the call for a new "rules-based" order led by the US, allows for new opportunities.

The Group of Friends of the UN Charter has discussed the establishment of a Zone that is Free of Unilateral Coercive Measures: a space for engagement between countries illegally sanctioned by the US, including countries threatened with secondary sanctions, where they can freely pursue regular trade and investment transactions, through an alternative system. Such as space would seek to combat the extraterritorial implementation of the illegal sanctions and explore joint economic, commercial, legal, political, and diplomatic actions to guarantee commerce, financial exchanges, safe logistics and any other steps to mitigate the impact of these measures. It could also set the stage for concerted multilateral responses to this flagrant violation of international law that the US uses as part of its foreign policy. Together with initiatives like those discussed in the BRICS summit aimed at establishing independent financial tools, a UCM-Free Zone can allow for the consolidation of an energy market space free of US controls.

The Grand Split
Piotr Dutkiewicz
The relations of the so-called Rest with the collective West changed in time, moving from competition to confrontation to an open conflict that effectively breaks the current international arrangements. In short, this is a Grand Split.

Possibilities for the Future

In the likely scenario of a repeated confrontation between candidates Trump and Biden, it seems the objectives of Sullivan's new consensus would apply regardless of the outcome. Coming from the National Security Agency rather than a more political institution, this policy seems to reflect a shared hostility toward China and other US competitors, as well as a need to secure energy and other key resources to maintain US economic and technological supremacy.

Therefore, we can come to three important conclusions at this conjuncture:

First, as long as the US uses unilateral coercive measures as a foreign policy tool, it will continue to employ them in attempts to control the energy market and to prevent competitors from having access to resources that could help them surpass US development in key areas.

Second, there is a "new Washington consensus" promoted by US national security strategists directed at building back US technological leadership through public investment used to finance a military-industrial policy where access to oil is key. For this purpose, political and military pressures will be employed along with the sanctions toolkit.

And finally, in light of this new policy, countries must build geopolitical alternatives that diminish US influence on energy markets and financial transactions. Multilateralism and true cooperation are resources for combatting illegal unilateralism and guaranteeing that the multipolarity of our time can develop under a fair basis. The current conjuncture presents the opportunity so that new independent financial tools are created and for building an independent and international law-abiding UCM-Free Zone that does not give in to US pressures, where countries can safely carry out the transactions needed to sustain their development.

Valdai Discussion Club
                The Argentina of Javier Milei: A Return to the (Wild) 1990s? (Аргентина Хавьера Милея: возвращение в (дикие) 1990-е?) / Russia, December, 2023
                Keywords: expert_opinion

                In the Argentine context, deep economic instability, high inflation rates, unemployment, and increasing poverty have fuelled a widespread sense of indignation among the population. It is noteworthy that, amid these challenging conditions, candidates offering simplistic and inadequate solutions to complex problems often garner significant support, Boris Perius Zabolotsky writes.

                Javier Milei was recently elected President of Argentina, having run with a campaign platform promising ultra-liberalisation of the economy, privatisation of major state-owned companies, closure of the Central Bank, and dollarisation of the economy. Such policies, and their outcomes, are not essentially new for Latin American countries. Similar experiences were fully implemented during the Washington Consensus in the 1990s, including in Argentina itself during Carlos Menem's government. Nevertheless, Milei succeeded in orchestrating a campaign that resulted in his victory, emphasising the novelty of these measures and presenting them as the only possible means of overcoming the economic debacle that Argentina has been facing for decades. His approach reflects a new characteristic feature of the emerging global far-right: it aligns itself with the concept of the "outsider" and opposes traditional political elites as well as the political "system" itself.

                Indeed, the Argentine landscape has been instrumental in propelling the "meteoric" ascent of Milei. Periods marked by severe economic and social crises possess the ability to crystallise public discontent, paving the way for leaders who position themselves as catalysts for radical transformation. In the Argentine context, deep economic instability, high inflation rates, unemployment, and increasing poverty have fuelled a widespread sense of indignation among the population. It is noteworthy that, amid these challenging conditions, candidates offering simplistic and inadequate solutions to complex problems often garner significant support.

                Another issue that became even more evident in the Argentine elections is that traditional economic and political elites in Latin America, associated with liberal tendencies, do not hesitate to support radical and far-right candidates. This became apparent in Brazil with Bolsonaro and now also in Argentina. The facade of pragmatism and the defence of democratic values disappear when the opponent is a candidate considered "left-wing" or linked to workers' social movements. In reality, traditional "right-wing" parties in many parts of Latin America have been absorbed by more radical candidates, highlighting the global trend towards increasing political polarisation and the search for alternatives that challenge established structures.

                The next President of Argentina views the State as "an enemy" and self-identifies as an anarcho-capitalist and a libertarian. Throughout the campaign, he went so far as to endorse the sale of human organs as a solution to the organ transplant waiting list issue. Milei's campaign pledges might well resonate with the enthusiasm of Chile's Chicago Boys and adherents of the Austrian School of economics.

                The neoliberal experiment in Argentina is far from novel. Throughout the 1990s, Buenos Aires upheld "carnal relations" with the United States and the IMF. The complete prescription of the Washington Consensus was meticulously embraced by the Argentine leadership. The brief economic upswing in the 2000s proved inadequate to escape from the "debt trap" accumulated in preceding years. Indeed, the reliance on neoliberal structures appears to have not only colonised social and political dynamics but also the mindset of a substantial portion of the local elite.

                The shock therapies of fiscal austerity left Argentine leaders ensnared in a relentless cycle of dependence on the international financial system. The resolution to this economic deadlock would involve securing lines of credit and financing from alternative sources; nevertheless, the options were constrained, and international creditors were hesitant to extend substantial loans to a nation already burdened with heavy debt. In 2018, former president Mauricio Macri once again sought economic assistance from the IMF. The fiscal "bomb" stemming from this loan was passed on to Fernández, making the control of this debt virtually insurmountable.

                Alberto Fernández encountered a deadlock due to a shortfall in international reserves. The rise in social spending and government subsidies, aimed at easing the constraints imposed by the IMF and stimulating the economy, failed to yield the anticipated results amid macroeconomic controls mandated by the imperative to amortise external debt and the obligations to renegotiate debt with the Bretton Woods system. Consequently, the dollars generated from Argentine exports and its international reserves were funnelled into a seemingly unending abyss to meet debt interest payments.

                The scarcity of international reserves, aside from deterring foreign investments, posed obstacles to exchange rate controls and the implementation of countercyclical policies, contributing to the devaluation of the local currency. As a result, the Argentine peso plunged into a "free fall" cycle, leading to an uncontrollable surge in inflation, thereby intensifying the economic challenges confronting the country.

                Faced with the former Peronist government's inability to renegotiate the debt and control the inflationary spiral, the selection of Sergio Massa, the current Minister of Economy in a struggling economy, as a presidential candidate, set the stage for Milei's election. The recent endeavours of the Fernández government, such as initiatives to de-dollarise foreign trade with Brazil and China and Argentina's accession to the BRICS+, appear to have been implemented belatedly in the face of Buenos Aires' urgent fiscal needs.

                Certainly, the New Development Bank (NDB) and the financing platforms of the BRICS+ appeared to present alternatives to fiscal austerity and the constraints imposed by the neoliberal financial framework. However, for Argentina, this remains an uncertain path that might not be pursued by the new administration. Milei has consistently expressed his intention to close the Central Bank and implement the dollarisation of the Argentine economy as the sole remedy for his country's crisis. In a scenario where such measures are enacted, the plausible fiscal alternatives offered by the BRICS+ arrangements become unlikely, and thus, the role of the NDB would lose its raison d'être for Argentina.

                The unfolding reality in this situation underscores the challenge of overcoming the legacy of the 1990s and the unfulfilled promises of globalisation and the free market. In Argentina, the emergence of the "Milei option" was a direct response to the inherent contradictions within the neoliberal model, whose influence has left a profound imprint on the country. The proposed solution to address economic challenges has transformed into a more profound resurgence of a radical version of neoliberalism, where Argentine and Latin American elites appear to have developed a "Stockholm Syndrome". In Milei's perspective, the enduring "cure" for Argentina's affliction has always been the neoliberal "remedy". Previously, this "remedy" was administered intermittently in high and low doses; now, it must be taken in massive doses.

                If we consider only ideological aspects, it seems that Argentina's engagement with the BRICS+ nations, including its possible inclusion in the group, may experience a phase of restricted advancement. However, in Latin America, the situation is not entirely clear-cut. Just like Milei, Bolsonaro, the former Brazilian President, was elected with anti-China rhetoric that gradually softened, especially after Trump's defeat in the United States. Notably, while Brazil's stance towards the BRICS did not witness a definitive rupture, the trajectory of bilateral relations with these nations has seen limited advancement. This is attributed to the overarching focus of Brazilian diplomacy on Western structures, revealing the intricate dynamics where geopolitical realities intersect with ideological posturing.

                Buenos Aires' two main trading partners, China and Brazil, are founding members of the BRICS+, and Argentina maintains a trade surplus with them. These elements suggest that the anti-China and anti-Lula rhetoric which prominently featured in Milei's campaign may imply a potential alignment of interests rather than a complete disengagement. The potential election of Trump in the US is also likely to trigger an internal rearrangement aiming to return Argentina to the bygone era of "carnal relations'' with Washington. This would be the last note, envisioning a dramatic tango in economic and diplomatic terms, bringing the new administration of Casa Rosada back to the 1990s.

                              Brazil fully confident in Russian BRICS chairmanship, Brasilia's ambassador to Moscow says (Бразилия полностью уверена в председательстве России в БРИКС, заявил посол Бразилиа в Москве) / Russia, December, 2023
                              Keywords: chairmanship, quotation

                              "I believe that it will be very productive and results-oriented," Rodrigo de Lima Baena Soares added
                              MOSCOW, December 4. /TASS/. Brazil has full trust and confidence in Russia's upcoming chairmanship of the BRICS group in 2024, and expects Moscow to have a productive tenure in the role, Brazilian Ambassador to Russia Rodrigo de Lima Baena Soares said in an interview with media outlet RBC.

                              "As the chair nation, Russia plans to hold about 200 meetings in various fields, including the economy, technology, innovation, culture and sports. We have great confidence in Russia's chairmanship. I believe that it will be very productive and results-oriented," the envoy noted.

                              "I expect that the six new [BRICS] members will give our group more energy and a new impetus. They are important countries in their respective regions. We will now have Argentina, which is our main partner in Latin America, as well as important energy powers such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United Arab Emirates," he pointed out.

                              The diplomat emphasized that Brazil shared the idea of creating a more multipolar world order, as well as reforming international institutions, including the UN Security Council, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. "We are in consensus on the need to call for more inclusive, representative and effective international institutions," the envoy stressed.
                                            Vladimir Putin held talks with President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi (Владимир Путин провел переговоры с Президентом Объединенных Арабских Эмиратов Шейхом Мохаммедом бен Заидом Аль Нахайяном в Абу-Даби / Russia, December, 2023
                                            Keywords: vladimir_putin, top_level_meeting

                                            Vladimir Putin held talks with President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi. The agenda included the current state of multifaceted Russia-UAE cooperation and prospects for the further expansion of ties, as well as topical international issues with a focus on the situation in the Middle East.

                                            Before the consultations began, an official welcoming ceremony for the Russian President was hosted by the President of the UAE at the Qasr Al Watan Palace.

                                            Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Industry and Trade, Russian co-chair of the Russian-Emirati Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation Denis Manturov, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office – Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, presidential aides Igor Levitin, Maxim Oreshkin and Yury Ushakov, Russia's Ambassador to the UAE Timur Zabirov, as well as Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, Central Bank Governor, heads of the Roscosmos State Corporation, Russian Direct Investment Fund, Rosatom State Corporation, Rosoboronexport, VEB.RF State Development Corporation, and other officials took part in the talks on Russia's side.

                                            * * *

                                            Beginning of Russia-UAE talks

                                            President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (retranslated):

                                            Welcome, my dear friend Vladimir Putin, to the United Arab Emirates. I am glad to see you again.

                                            Let me begin by emphasising the historical nature of relations between the Russian Federation and the UAE. Over the past years, we have witnessed a substantial push to develop these relations in various spheres for the mutual benefit of our nations and people. I would like to express my great appreciation for your personal and effective contribution to strengthening our bilateral relations.

                                            In this context, I would like to say that the UAE is Russia's biggest trade partner in the Middle East and in the Gulf Region. Let me note that the UAE is a major investor in the Russian economy. Investment in the non-oil sector increased by 103 percent over the past year. I would like to specifically mention that this is an unprecedented breakthrough which demonstrates the special nature of relations between our countries. I will be glad to continue working together on strengthening bilateral cooperation in various spheres. Of course, promoting development in energy, infrastructure, and high technologies, as well as elsewhere has special priority.

                                            In addition to this, I would like to mention that the United Arab Emirates and the Russian Federation have been working together and cooperating within various international frameworks. For example, we work together within BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, where the Emirates were granted dialogue partner status in May 2023. We are also developing and promoting the strategic dialogue between the Russian Federation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

                                            This helps us reinforce our relations and expand them in various spheres, promoting a proactive exchange of views on key international and regional matters, as well as on key items on our bilateral agenda.

                                            Once again, Mr President, welcome to the United Arab Emirates. I wish progress and prosperity to the Russian Federation and its people.


                                            President of Russia Vladimir Putin:

                                            Your Highness, friends,

                                            First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting us and for this colourful and friendly welcome.

                                            The other day, the United Arab Emirates celebrated the 52nd anniversary of its founding.

                                            I want to congratulate you on this and I want to recall that the Soviet Union was among the first to recognise this independent, self-reliant, and sovereign state.

                                            Today, our relations – thanks to the position you have taken – have reached unprecedented heights. You and I are in constant contact, and our colleagues work together on a permanent basis.

                                            In fact, the United Arab Emirates is Russia's main trade partner in the Arab world. Last year, trade grew by 67.7 percent. This year, I think, the figures will be even higher. The same goes for investment activity.

                                            There is also progress in industrial cooperation, by which I mean cooperation to build certain industrial facilities in the United Arab Emirates and in the Russian Federation. A number of major oil and gas projects are being implemented. We also cooperate through OPEC Plus.

                                            We certainly attach due importance to humanitarian ties. Tourist exchanges are making headway: last year, almost one million tourists from Russia – a little over 900,000 – visited the UAE. A Russian school has been opened, and we are grateful to you for ordering land set aside to build a Russian Orthodox church.

                                            We also cooperate internationally. As a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, the United Arab Emirates makes a huge contribution to stabilising the situation in the world.

                                            We will certainly discuss with you the situation in the main hot spots, primarily, of course, the Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I will certainly inform you of the developments in the context of the Ukraine crisis.

                                            I am quite pleased that the United Arab Emirates is beginning to work within the BRICS system. In 2024, Russia will chair this organisation. We will continue contacts on this. We look forward to meeting you at the [BRICS] summit in Kazan in October 2024.

                                            The UAE is currently hosting one of the world's most important environmental forums. The first results of the effort to implement the Paris Agreement are being summed up. As expected, you are holding this event at the highest level, and very many people in the world, even those who do not identify themselves with environmental movements, are certainly grateful to you for this work. A Russian delegation is also involved in this work at the highest level.

                                            We wish you success. I have no doubt that it will be so.


                                                          Investment and Finance
                                                          Investment and finance in BRICS
                                                          The Rise of BRICS (Подъем БРИКС) / Russia, December, 2023
                                                          Keywords: expert_opinion

                                                          VALDAI DISCUSSION CLUB
                                                          There is a reason why six new members were tapped to be added to BRICS in Johannesburg. There is a reason why more than 20 countries so far have applied to join BRICS. These national aspirations resonate with a theme of the creation of another world system. I will go back to one of the most important founding principles of BRICS to address the nature of this pending new world system, which is, I quote, "the shared commitment to restructure the global political, economic, and financial architecture to be fair, balanced and representative, resting on the important pillars of multilateralism and international law."

                                                          In other words, the current incumbent world system is unfair, unbalanced, and is definitely unrepresentative. The unfairness, the lack of balance and the dearth of representation in the current system is not just a recent creation; it can be traced back hundreds of years. Four out of the five original BRICS members were victims of European colonialism for the better part of the past three hundred years. The period starting with the Age of Exploration in the 16th century and culminating with the end of the Second World War in the 20th century can be said to be one of the darkest, most grossly unjust chapters of human history, with the proliferation of sugar plantations, coffee plantations and slave trade at the hands of European colonists, even amidst the tremendous progress in science and technology, arguably also steered and led by the West.

                                                          The end of the Second World War didn't change that status quo in substance, although the victors could have worked towards this. Even the subsequent establishment of the international institutions by the US-led coalition, including the United Nations, the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank and many others, not only did not correct a grotesque historic wrong, but on the contrary continues and perpetuates that historic wrong, albeit not via naked force and violence, at least not ostensibly.

                                                          The so-called international rules-based order has failed spectacularly the hopes of the victims of colonialism, and it begs a fundamental question: whose rules, whose order, are we talking about here?

                                                          Yes, we have a United Nations and its charter. But count how many times regime changes in foreign lands have been orchestrated by the United States without UN approval. Yes, we have a WTO. But count how many times the WTO dispute settlement panel decisions are outright rejected and ignored by the United States, and to the extent that the appointment of that panel's succeeding members could even be blocked. Yes, we have an IMF. But count how many times the IMF rescue packages were acting as a political choke tool to encroach upon a sovereign nation's political establishment because of some ideological penchant of some countries. Yes, we have a World Bank. But count how many real ports, bridges, railways and highways the World Bank helped build vis-à-vis the so-called capacity building it is so fond of indulging in.

                                                          The architects of the current global governance system have failed the world. Not only didn't they redeem the sins of their ancestors, but we now have the leaders of the richest club in the world convening every year preaching to the rest of the planet about the rules-based order, while the rules are treated like tissues from a Kleenex box, usable at times but discarded when inconvenient. We are left with a compromised, negotiated division of power among a few Western capitals in the northern hemisphere. The vast majority, the Global South, the offspring of the victims of the colonial era, continue to be side-lined and marginalized in a global system that is working fundamentally at odds with their economic and political interests. A large number of developing countries in the South continue to struggle economically and politically as they did in the colonial era.

                                                          The root cause of the failings of the current system has everything to do with the unipolar world, or the almost-unipolar world after the Cold War. Unipolarity brews hegemony, and hegemony promises neither peace nor prosperity. The revered US statesman Henry Kissinger has this equilibrium theory for international politics. Those well-versed in game theory understand that there would be no equilibrium with a dominant player with a dominant strategy, which means he can act in his interest with no regard to other parties' interests.

                                                          The rise of the BRICS and this year's BRICS Plus expansion signify a new era coming, in which unipolarity no longer holds anymore, and in which the Global South calls for the end of the current, broken system. The endeavour of BRICS Plus to restructure the global political, economic, and financial architecture rests on the pillars of multilateralism and international law. BRICS Plus and the Global South in general do not seek a wholesale overhaul of the current system. It does not pursue a confrontational or revolutionary approach against the West to reach its goals. It recognizes and respects many of the international rules and laws developed over the last seven decades. It prefers a multilateral framework to work and cooperate with the West to gradually modify the shortcomings of the current system, in order to pursue a new system in which there is multipolarity, there are checks and balances, and hopefully there is a peaceful equilibrium.

                                                          In that sense, as scholars from the BRICS world, we call upon the leaders of the West to view the rise of the BRICS not through an antagonistic, geopolitical lens, but as an equal partner that deserves understanding and respect. The world has changed. No longer will the Global South accept the West's pompous, condescending lectures. Today, BRICS Plus already represents nearly fifty percent of the world's population and 36% of the world's GDP. It is time to reflect on the true state of the world we are living in and act accordingly.

                                                          Let's point to some concrete ways in which BRICS is developing, mostly from an economics perspective, as part of achieving the BRICS goal of achieving a new global order.

                                                          First, economic development underlies everything. In addition to making BRICS a political platform for advocating the Global South's interests in dealing with the West, the NDB, which is the BRICS' World Bank, needs to continue to make project loans, especially in infrastructure projects, at a relentless pace under its own set of loan standards.

                                                          Second, it must continue to support China's Belt and Road initiative and other countries' initiatives that provide infrastructure connectivity, connectivity in other soft infrastructure, and cultural, societal, and people-to-people exchanges. Needless to say, infrastructure provides the basis for economic development, which provides for economic and political power in international relations.

                                                          Third, find ways to facilitate trade and investment flows within the BRICS and with the Global South in general. Current global trade is undergoing a structural re-orientation, due to the conflict in Ukraine, America's big power competition with China and other reasons. Sino-Russian trade is a very good example; it has been increasing by 70% year-over-year so far this year. This kind of intra-BRICS trade and investment flows strength BRICS' economic base, which in turn translates into a political base.

                                                          Last but not least, the world's financial system is in desperate need of some reform. We have seen enough of countries, companies and individuals that are subject to arbitrary sanctions due to one country's unique role in the global financial system. There must be some initial developments within BRICS to circumvent that power, in terms of trade currency, currency transfers, settlement mechanisms, etc.

                                                          In short, the West' dominance in world politics over the last few hundred years is fundamentally based on economic and technological dominance. For BRICS to truly be a force to be reckoned with in world politics, it needs to step up in these areas as well.
                                                                        BRICS Pay: The latest development & integration updates (BRICS Pay: последние разработки и обновления интеграции) / Russia, December, 2023
                                                                        Keywords: economic_challenges

                                                                        With all the geopolitical and economic upheavals happening on what seems an accelerated daily basis, often important details get lost in the urgency of other events. Over the past weeks we have seen BRICS steadily growing, and just the Belt & Road forum has shown clear, goal driven results despite the nay-sayers. One aspect that is not being sufficiently recognized is the steady progress of what some have called a financial "pipe dream", namely the Brics Pay platform. In fact, substantial progress has been made, InfoBRICS informs.

                                                                        Brics Pay even released a video showing a bottle of South African wine being purchased in a Moscow store using the mobile Brics Pay app.

                                                                        It appears that Brics Pay has now been launched as a new financial settlement platform. It is hoped and seen as a vehicle that will change the volume of trade and the volume of financial transactions between the BRICS members by making payments easier.

                                                                        The original BRICS include Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. From January next year, they will likely be joined by Argentina, and five MENA influential countries: Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

                                                                        Payments and transactions however will not be denominated in US Dollars. Instead, the BRICS member countries are focused on de-dollarization and using their respective national currencies. The new Brics Pay system is likely to accelerate this process.

                                                                        The Brics Pay system itself is blockchain based, meaning it operates on a Distributed Ledger. It is not a Central Bank Digital Currency (CNDC) or a Cryptocurrency. It is designed as a Digital Service that does not have a single acceptable currency – it is designed so that any of the BRICS member currencies can be used. The main goal is to enable trade and financial transactions between the BRICS countries by bypassing the United States dollar and Euro, and reducing dependency on Western Financial systems such as SWIFT.

                                                                        Two of the BRICS members – Russia, and Iran have already been disconnected from the SWIFT network, and had overseas financial assets frozen, while threats to do so have also occasionally been made to some of the others, including China. That has placed a greater urgency in developing an alternative system, while planning to counter future potential political financial sanctioning.

                                                                        Brics Pay therefore endeavors to effectively replace SWIFT functionality while also giving member countries control over their finances, where no third-party actor would be able to pull global financial transactions networks away from them, nor seize their financial assets.

                                                                        Brics Pay serves several main purposes, primarily international trade cross-border payments between companies, investments, and micro finance. This is a major step towards making trade between the member countries easy and seamless and able to transact in real time as it is a blockchain based system. The new system shows that the BRICS nations are serious about their goal to move away from the United States dollar as much as they possibly can; and evade political / economic pressuring. Brics Pay has been adopted by several institutions and businesses in the BRICS countries, and the list is steadily growing.

                                                                        The State Bank of India has launched a Brics Pay based mobile app for cross border transactions, while Russia's Sberbank has partnered with Brics Pay so that its customers to make cross border payments. Likewise, Russia's VTB bank has also integrated Brics Pay into its systems allowing its customers to make fast and secure payments to other BRICS countries.

                                                                        The Bank of China has integrated Brics Pay into its systems, as has Beijing based ICBC, one of the largest banks in the PRC. It has also adopted Brics Pay for cross border transactions. In Brazil Petrobras has begun to use Brics Pay for cross border transactions as well. At the root core of Brics Pay is the New Development Bank, (sometimes referred to as the BRICS Bank as it is collectively owned by BRICS member countries) where all financial transactions between BRICS nations are processed.

                                                                        However, BRICS Pay is not just restricted to BRICS. The UK's Standard Chartered Bank has integrated Brics Pay into its digital payment platform to enable its customers to make payments to other BRICS countries.

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