It’s getting harder and harder to stay in good mental health if you follow international news flow. Each day brings us more stories of deadly clashes, barbaric violence, unprovoked use of lethal force, and more newly cooked yet half-baked fake news. We regularly find out about the introduction of new sanctions, restrictions on international economic activities and limitations imposed on mass media, trade wars and provocations of all kinds. Global conflicts, unrest and turbulences once again prove that the initiative of establishing and developing BRICS was a timely decision of strategic value. Step by step, BRICS managed to evolve into an essential pillar of the contemporary world; became an island of stability in the troubled waters of international relations; showing an acceptable path towards new solidarity and mutual respect among nations. Time has come for BRICS to play a more prominent role in solving global problems and serve the purpose of promoting development worldwide.
1. Strengthening cooperation within BRICS is the best solution to mitigate trade wars, protectionism, unfair competition and the overall general worsening of international economic & political relations.
Originally, when establishing BRICS the first three, four and then five member-states aspired for a very simple and noble cause. They joined forces, pooled knowledge and capabilities in order to protect their sovereignty and independence more efficiently, to make their voices better heard in international and global affairs, and to foster their internal economic, political and social development based on mutual respect and recognition of their specificities. These are entirely legitimate tasks, fair and logical, compatible in all their aspects with the aims and principles of the United Nations Charter and contemporary international law. Recent situation in BRICS countries has shown that achieving these goals is feasible and attainable. Coordination of efforts, activities and policies of the member-states on a wide variety of issues produced positive impact on the development and stability in the world, the ongoing international negotiations and the functioning of international organizations.
Nevertheless, results could have been more impressive if the cooperation among BRICS members was stronger and deeper. BRICS could also achieve more, if its members were less susceptible to the influence of ideologically driven fake narratives, invented and promoted by the political and expert establishment of the USA and the European Union. If it were the case, then BRICS nations would have succeeded in advancing their own vision on how the world should be organized, developed and managed. It served the interests of the American and the EU political and business elite to convince all other international actors that the unipolar world and the liberal order was the only possible choice. It provided them with the set of arguments allowing labeling those in opposition to their unilateralism, intervention in the internal affairs of other states and inclination to adventurism as revanchists or opportunist powers, and anti-systemic players.
This concept was obviously false from the very beginning to the end. The contemporary system of global balance of interests, upheld by the UN Charter, vested exclusive responsibility for preventing the use of force in international relations and imposition of coercive measures to the Security Council consisting of 15 members, five of which have veto prerogatives in the decision taking procedure. The Council cannot function as a unipolar entity. The ambition to beсome a global self-proclaimed prosecutor, judge and executioner, all at the same time, contradicts the basics of contemporary international law. It is absurd to insist that the world is unipolar when nuclear deterrence is in the hands of several different key superpowers and middle-sized states. However, while the insistence that the world is drifting from a unipolar to a multipolar system and the liberal world order is challenged and is in deep crisis, BRICS and other nations silently followed and abided by the artificially imposed concepts mentioned above. Reproducing these ideological stereotypes would be a great mistake. It’s in the best interest of all BRICS countries to promote the actual state of affairs, and that is: the world has always been multipolar and the liberal order is just a socioeconomic cluster on par with many others.
Now there is this new narrative of a spreading chaos in the world, engulfing the existing system of international relations, which is followed by another fairy tale, claiming that ‘the rule-based international system is definitely at risk” or even gone. Under the new circumstances, it makes sense to have a free hand in international politics, enhance your superiority and force others to follow your orders instead of respecting the commandments of contemporary international law. This approach must be vehemently opposed. In order to effectively counter this self-serving egocentric logic, BRICS countries have to develop their own narrative calling for fair, inclusive and democratic world order, they need to move forward and foster their cooperation in accordance with these notions everywhere it could benefit them and all other nations.
2. Previous aid for development strategies turned up to be inefficient, biased and inconsistent.
Few would dare to pronounce it in public, but many people in Afghanistan share a common opinion that Russia (Soviet Union at that time) did a lot to develop different industries and education system of the country. In any case, it did much more than the international coalition that settled in the country in this century supposedly to fight Taliban. Same is true of China’s infrastructural and industrial projects in Africa. People from all parts of the Black Continent admit that recent Chinese projects made a much greater contribution to the economic development of their countries than all the former colonial powers, which now are part of the European Union, and the USA for more than seven decades when they were reportedly engaged in providing international development assistance.
Left-wing socialist scholars from the EU countries very well explained this phenomenon. Western countries in order to prop up the existing political regimes under their control and to promote only some sectors in agriculture, natural resources extraction and industrial production that were beneficial to their own economies used the so-called “assistance”. In addition, their companies thus ensured easy access to the internal markets of developing countries. International corporations are bigger, more efficient and competitive than local ones; they have more financial resources and rely on cheap financing as well as political protection from their governments. The consequences of these end-result disproportions are well known. They marginalize local producers and replace them on internal markets. Years later, the developing countries even in New Europe discovered that they have acquired unevenly structured, deeply fragmented economies, which depend on external supplies and foreign technologies.
If BRICS countries want international aid policies to serve their objective of making the developing world economically independent and thus overcome postcolonial syndrome, if they seek the international assistance programs to be transformed into one of the pillars of a fair, inclusive and democratic world order – and BRICS countries really do want it – they must act differently. Development assistance policies should be thoroughly reformed to support local companies, upgrade local governance, and provide expertise and stimulus for the local markets and local authorities to become efficient, diversified and competitive. This is the optimum roadmap for combatting poverty, economic dependence and underdevelopment.
3. Conditionality concept must be abandoned, and the markets should be opened only for those who need economic assistance instead of opening them from both ends.
Conditionality is the new word used as a cover-up for the implementation of postcolonial policies. The new generation of the EU association and partnership agreements comprises conditionality provisions related to human rights protection, democratic institutions, nonproliferation, fight against corruption, pollution, climate change, and illegal immigration. If taken out of the context of bilateral relations, all these matters are important and beneficial for countries in need of international development assistance. They are essential for ensuring successful and smooth development. Yet, the moment the “conditionality” clause is inserted into international agreements the value of the latter is diminished and sometimes transformed into their opposite.
Conditionality is the new symbol of dependence. It allows former colonial metropoles to position themselves as judges and supervisors over internal development of other countries. It gives them an excuse and authority to arbitrarily introduce restrictions and limitations, hindering the normal course of international relations. Thus, it kills any notion of equality between nations and sovereign rights. Conditionality becomes a stick in the hands of more powerful states, an allegedly legitimized instrument for exerting political pressure, an institutionalized tool to squeeze out concessions and command obedience. It has nothing in common with healthy world trade, global economy and modern politics. It is the heritage of the colonial past that everybody wants to forget, and it must be abandoned, especially if we are serious with our intention to create a fair, inclusive and democratic world order.
The same is partially true in respect of the requirements of the International Monetary Fund and the borrowing and reception of other nation’s legal and technical standards. There are many valuable academic studies proving that instead of helping national economies these requirements often end up making them less competitive or even destroying them, and, in general, they are intended to perpetuate economic and political dependence of these states (even in the case of Greece or Ukraine) and serve the purpose of intruding and conquering other nations’ internal markets. Given the disparity in economic development, applying same measures could have opposite effect in varying social and cultural environments, and whatever once proved to be helpful for some nations could be detrimental for others. However, there are measures invariably beneficial for all less developed nations without exception: e.g. preferential legal regimes, fair access to long-term and cheap financial resources, long-term investments, the abolishment of protectionist and administrative barriers, and ensuring easy access for their goods and products to the internal markets of the developed countries.
4. Fast development and modernization are the best way to win war against terrorism.
Grand celebrations about victories over international terrorism or Islamic state [outlawed in the Russian Federation] are misleading. Islamic state may have lost control over its previously occupied territories, but it continues to win more and more supporters in all countries around the world. It becomes more and more attractive to the deprived and frustrated. It spreads everywhere. Its fighters return home and establish sleeping cells and undercover networks. Islamic state is not going to abandon its terrorist activities. The widespread support of extremist organizations is due to two different reasons, and therefore humanity has to wage two types of war against international terrorism.
The first should target perpetrators of terrorist criminal offences. The united front of states is able to destroy international terrorist organizations and networks; basic international treaties can be applied; appropriate tools are well developed. However, in order to win the war against international terrorism the united front of states, first and foremost, must exist. Until now, major global and regional players have failed to establish it. Instead of pooling resources, some of the countries support groups of terrorists fighting against their peers and against legitimate governments as well. It is well known who gave birth to Taliban and who is responsible for the rise of the Islamic state. Yet, creating a united front is indispensable. In their areas of responsibility, BRICS countries are well positioned to take the lead. Even more, they will have to use their status and influence for this noble goal.
The second priority, which is essential in the long run, is to eliminate the breeding ground and sources of international terrorism. These are poverty, underdevelopment, oppression, and hopelessness. It is for BRICS countries to explain to everybody that the only way to cure it is to come up with a sensible international development agenda, international development assistance of the kind explained above, and genuine international cooperation.
5. Both of these lines of action directions are crucial in solving the future migration crisis. Russia has already acquired both positive and negative experience in this field.
2015-2016 will be remembered as the years of fudge migration crisis in the EU, which turned out to be a true disaster. It has changed the EU policies, perceptions, style of life and even the political landscape, and hardly for the better. Nevertheless, the EU is carrying just a small chunk of the burden of refugees, displaced persons and migration flows, compared to what the Middle East, Asian or African countries are taking up on their shoulders. Moreover, the EU case serves as a good example that appropriate management of migration flows cannot be secured by building walls. Especially if we take into consideration that, in accordance with estimates in the UN reports, there are more than 60 million migrants, refugees and displaced people in the world, and this number will grow tremendously in the coming one or two decades.
To cope with this global problem, we also need a working policy of world development as described above. Today, many nations perceive international migration as a threat – a threat to their cultural identity, traditions, security, social protection, etc. But using the right instruments to foster economic development in the world, humanity is able to transform migration into a normal freedom of movement. For that we need to achieve a two-fold aim: to narrow the gap between poor and rich people, and between poor and rich nations – that means to implement principles of social justice and achieve real economic decolonization, and to promote a fair, inclusive and democratic world order.
6. In order to find additional financial resources for further development, BRICS countries must accelerate the implementation of their agreements on establishing exchange mechanisms of the national currencies.
One of the key premises for faster development is free access to long-term and cheap financing, as we have pointed out above. Economists keep saying that most money in the world is under the control of rich world powers. It is only partially true. All BRICS countries have plenty of money at their disposal, and here China stands out. The priority now is to make this money work much more efficiently.
It’s entirely true that the United States have the dollar-pegged world trade and global currency exchange system under their control. It allows them to reap huge benefits – they print more money from cheap paper and all other nations have to treat it as if it were gold. One of the consequences of this dominance amounts to the often misuse of it by the USA, allowing them to arbitrarily punish other nations, impose restrictions on trade and financial operations as well as to impede fair competition.
Therefore, BRICS countries made a wise decision to settle mutual payments between member states in their national currencies. This decision must be implemented ASAP. If properly implemented and practiced, it can contribute significantly to both internal and external relations of BRICS countries.
7. A future-oriented framework for mutual payments must use blockchain technologies.
Next step must provide for the establishment of a pool of national currencies as the prime currency exchange tool for all significant items of their exports, starting with oil, natural gas and other commodities. BRICS and third countries will need to accumulate their currencies instead of the US dollars. As these currencies would gradually increase its share in global trade, even in situations when BRICS countries are not party to the transaction, and thus the fair, inclusive and democratic world order will begin to take shape.
To achieve these goals BRICS countries must also explore new cyber technologies and take the leading positions in developing them. Public institutions, financial corporations, companies in the manufacturing sectors of the economy should come to use them more often. It’s high time to launch a special program to design BRICS cryptocurrency for mutual financial settlements and agree on its legal status and properties.
8. Next generation technologies, reliable IC and other sophisticated high-tech solutions are likely to become the best vehicle for development and modernization.
One of the major achievements of BRICS countries is the emerging interfacing and interaction between the Economic belt of Silk Road and the Eurasian Economic Union. For the Russian Federation, it is the cornerstone for the All-embracing Greater Eurasian Partnership that Moscow started to advance just three years ago in May 2015.
Our vision is that large-scale trans-regional projects will foster rapid development of advanced industries with intensive use of the state-of-the-art technologies and new economy sectors in all countries of Greater Eurasia. Moscow is eager and ready to contribute to this partnership by offering Northern Sea Route capabilities.
In addition, Moscow shares the opinion that it would be a mistake to rely on obsolete models of manufacturing and development. All BRICS countries must put an emphasis on developing new IC and other state-of-the-art technologies putting them to practical use for the sake of creating the “new economy”. Russian state and private companies may contribute to building up this “new economy” by sharing with all BRICS and Greater Eurasia countries advanced technologies based on new physical principles, breakthrough technologies in nuclear, space, computer big data and other spheres where they enjoy a competitive advantage.
9. International intellectual property law must be put under review or even reinvented to provide wider access to intellectual property.
Existing international intellectual property protection conventions were agreed upon in the XIX century. Instead of serving mankind, they are likely to preserve and prolong poverty, dependence and underdevelopment. They pose a big challenge for BRICS countries as well as to the continuing development of all parts of the world. We think that it will be appropriate to establish a special BRICS research group with the mandate to make proposals about changing this situation to create a different political, economic and financial environment for better access to modern technologies for all.
Instead of a summary. To those who have read the article up to this point we have prepared a fairy tale that explains in a marvelous way what is going on and what are the prevailing trends in the world. The participants of the BRICS International Conference appreciated this fairy tale very much.
Far away in the mountains there lived and worked scientists exploring our Universe, and once upon a time they discovered that a huge asteroid will inevitably hit our planet Earth; nothing could be done and the cradle of our civilization would inevitably disappear. Spy agencies that were keeping an eye on valuable scientific activities immediately picked this up and reported to their superiors.
Of course, Mossad was the first to know. In two hours, Netanyahu, prime-minister of Israel, right after he called Washington on the red line, gathered a large crowd of compatriots on the central square in Jerusalem (regardless of Palestinian revolt) and delivered a brief speech. He said that he had two news to share with them. One is good, and another is bad. The good one is that the so-called Palestinian state, which all Jews in the world hate as much as he does, will disappear forever. The bad one is that, unfortunately, Mother Earth will disappear too.
If something is known to two men or two women, soon becomes known to everybody. Spontaneously, long rallies are held in Arab and Muslim countries. Addressing the crowds, mullahs said that they had wonderful news – the USA and the whole Western-Northern civilization will be entirely destroyed soon. The bad news is that Muslim fighters will not destroy the USA and the whole Western-Northern civilization and jihadists will have no role to play in ensuring such a bright future.
At the same time, the American president Donald Trump met with members of his close circle and Republican Party leadership in the White House. Being a genuine politician and exemplary showman, he ordered TV channels, the ones that supported him, to cover the meeting. Trump announced that he would unveil two news, one bad and one good. The bad news is that the Earth will disappear. But Americans must not be too upset by this misfortune because, according to classified information from Mossad and CIA, all of them being superior nations will directly go to Paradise. Unfortunately, it is highly likely that other nations will go to Paradise as well.
When the recently reelected Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared on all national TV channels, he told that everybody will go to Paradise like the Americans, and that there are two things to be remembered. First, oil and gas have no value in Paradise. But people should not be too pessimistic about it because sanctions are useless there as well.
In the meantime, Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, did not waste time on explanations. The extraordinary session of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee adopted a special resolution on the imminent disappearance of the Western-Northern civilization. The Chinese leadership prescribed to go ahead with the implementation of the Economic belt of Silk Road and Shared future for the mankind projects – calmly and resolutely. Simply because Americans and Europeans are too lazy – they have forgotten how to work hard while the Chinese people with other friendly BRICS nations are so dynamic that they will have plenty of time to build up prosperity for their countries and a prosperous world well before something happens to Earth.
Let us hope the big Chinese Dream comes true…
© Mark ENTIN
Professor at MGIMO University, Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) MFA Russia
76, pr. Vernadskogo, Moscow, Russian Federation, 119454,
Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University professor-researcher
© Ekaterina ENTINA
Associate Professor at National Research University Higher School of Economics
17-1, ul. Malaya Ordynka, Moscow, Russian Federation, 119017,
Russian Academy of Science Institute of Europe senior scientific researcher
* Authors input into the discussion at the 17th Wanshou Forum: 2018 BRICS Think Tank International Conference and its four main topics – 1. New International Development and Building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind; 2. Exploring New Mechanism and New Path of BRICS Cooperation; 3. BRICS Cooperation and Sustainable Development; 4. International Development and Cooperation: Best Practices from BRICS Countries. BRICS International Conference was convened by the China Council for BRICS Think Tank Cooperation and the University of International Business and Economics to implement the consensus reached in the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen to create more opportunities for BRICS academic exchanges and foster cooperation in dealing with BRICS issues.
 W.Ischinger. Panel discussion 4 “International Security “New normal” of Polycentric World Order. November 29, 2016 / International Forum Primakov readings proceedings 2016. – Moscow, 2017. P. 110.
 Lan Cao. A trade war the U.S. is actually winning, for now // The New York Times International Edition. April 28-29, 2018. P. 11.