Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year precipitated a dramatic reshuffling of geopolitics. The West’s aggressive response has provoked a counterreaction, headed up by Moscow and Beijing, in the form of an increasingly cohesive network of states to varying degrees skeptical of the US-led global order. A number of large and commodity-rich nations in the Global South, including ones that were until recently stalwart Washington allies, have shown themselves willing to reconsider loyalties. In parallel to the emergence of this bloc, Washington and Brussels have attempted to reconsolidate Western hegemony, notably by expanding NATO.
The accession last week of Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Argentina to BRICS—the grouping of large non-Western economies headed up by Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—offered the latest confirmation of the coalescence of an alternative non-Western bloc. Around the same time, President Biden brought together the leaders of Japan and South Korea at Camp David to “strengthen trilateral cooperation,” suggesting Washington’s long-promised “pivot to Asia” is finally materializing in response to the growing Chinese threat. Will these diplomatic efforts be enough to counterbalance the anti-Western turn? The signs so far aren’t encouraging for Washington.
The expansion of BRICS was probably inevitable given demographic shifts alone: The premise of the grouping was that the West is growing less central to the global economy as emerging economies expand in population and gross domestic product. However, the West’s weaponization of its institutions against Russia in 2022 accelerated this process. Initially, it underlined the risks faced by nations that run afoul of Washington, but then, the failure of sanctions to bring Russia to heel emboldened upstart nations hoping to achieve greater autonomy. For the first time in recent history, the Western-led order had been challenged by another would-be great power, and the West not only failed to crush the challenger, but is arguably losing the test of strength that followed.
“There is only one country that will be undermined if these goals are made a reality.”