By the end of the BRICS summit that took place from August 22 to 24 in South Africa, the BRICS group, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, had added six new members: Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran.
The expansion undercuts mainstream Western media reports hyping divisions within BRICS.
BRICS has surpassed the Group of Seven (G7) in global share of GDP. The addition of the six new members means that BRICS now makes up more than 46 percent of the world population and 43 percent of global oil production. BRICS countries have also moved forward with plans to begin trading outside the U.S. dollar.
Still, stats and statements alone do not tell the full story.
The group's expansion marks the decline of U.S. hegemony and its ideological bedrock, "American exceptionalism." This exceptionalism posits that the United States is the "best" country in the world and portrays American dominance as a permanent feature of global politics.
Presumed allies and adversaries alike are expected to follow the economic, political and military dictates of U.S. policymakers no matter the consequences for their own sovereign development.
The six new BRICS members are a powerful sign of a multipolar world order in which no single nation calls the shots. While BRICS does not target third countries, its expansion is in part a response to the dangers that U.S. hegemony has brought to the world. The inclusion of Iran in the first multi-country expansion of BRICS is a testament to the mechanism's opposition to unilateral sanctions and its commitment to peaceful development.
Argentina's admission to BRICS cannot be separated from the U.S. foreign policy of treating Latin America as its "backyard." Neoliberal reforms pushed forward by the U.S. under the "Washington Consensus" have contributed greatly to the impoverishment of Argentina's economy. This consensus basically comprises a set of economic policy recommendations for developing countries, particularly those in Latin America, that gained popularity in the 1980s.
Powerful Wall Street hedge funds called "vulture funds" have exploited Argentina's debt burden by siphoning the nation's wealth with the support of the U.S. judicial system. Argentina's BRICS membership is a major step toward economic sovereignty.
The addition of Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE to BRICS represents a significant shift in the geopolitical calculus on the African continent and in West Asia.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. declared "the end of history" and moved quickly to secure its hegemonic interests in these resource-rich regions of the world. This led to devastating invasions of sovereign countries and persistent attempts to develop deep and unequal relationships with "friendly" governments.
Saudi Arabia, for example, has been one of America's most important geopolitical relationships.
The U.S. has long dominated the global energy market by purchasing Saudi Arabia's vast oil reserves in U.S. dollars, the world's main reserve currency since the end of World War II.
Egypt, Ethiopia, and the UAE have been important to the U.S.' broader interests of maintaining
dominance over North Africa and West Asia. U.S. interference in the affairs of these nations and the broader region played a role in their interest in joining BRICS.
Plus, many African and West Asian countries have been warned by the U.S. that continued trade with Russia during the Ukraine conflict will result in sanctions and penalties.
The truth is, however, that the BRICS grouping is not simply a rejection of U.S. policy.
Countries in the Global South, usually defined as those nations of the world considered to have a rather low level of economic and industrial development and typically located to the south of more industrialized nations, share common interests and, in many cases, complementary economies.
BRICS not only offers win-win alternatives to the U.S.-led financial system, but also follows a policy of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs.
Diversifying relations is therefore in the interest of the Global South, regardless of the status of each country's relations with the U.S.
BRICS is but one of many examples of the multipolar world's growing strength. Multilateral mechanisms in all spheres of development are also developing, from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to China-led projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, an initiative that aims to boost connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes.
The recent historic expansion of the BRICS group thus injects even more hope and inspiration into a world order that has seen so much devastation from U.S.-led unipolarity and its ideological foundation of American exceptionalism.
The author is an independent journalist in the U.S. and co-editor of Friends of Socialist China
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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