“Starting with the global pandemic and continuing with the food crisis, soaring inflation, the conflict in Ukraine, the global economic system has shown weakness,” says Yusuf Erim, Turkish foreign policy expert and editor-at-large at TRT World, Turkey’s English language public broadcaster. “I think this is leading many countries to reevaluate their financial and economic positions, their financial and economic dependencies.”
According to Erim, a group like the BRICS provides an opportunity for other countries to diversify their economic alliances and join a club of rapidly growing emerging nations.
“Like it or not, the financial and economic US hegemony that we saw over the past century is coming to a close slowly,” the Turkish expert says. “Groups like the BRICS will definitely be eating away the US market share.”
Purnima Anand, the president of the BRICS International Forum, told Russian newspaper Izvestia earlier this week that Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are preparing to formally apply for BRICS membership
“I hope that the accession of countries to BRICS will happen very quickly, because now all representatives of the core of the association are interested in enlargement. So it will be very soon,” Anand said.
Previously, Li Kexin, the head of the Department of International Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, also hinted at the possibility of Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia’s accession to the bloc during a press conference after the 14th BRICS summit.
Growing Dissatisfaction With Washington
Riyadh, Cairo, and Ankara have good reasons to feel disenchanted with Washington and particularly the Biden administration. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah state” and pledged “no more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator'”, in reference to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over alleged human rights abuses.
Having assumed office, Biden halted support for the Saudi-led coalition and its military operations in Yemen, put US-Saudi arms deals on pause, started talks over the resumption of the Iran nuclear deal, and accused the Saudi crown prince of “approving” the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, something that Riyadh has resolutely denied.
In June 2021, The Wall Street Journal reported
that the Pentagon had been pulling approximately eight Patriot anti-missile batteries from countries, including Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. An antimissile system known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system was withdrawn from Saudi Arabia too, according to the newspaper.
Washington has monumentally failed to address Riyadh’s security concerns, according to Dr. Ali Demirdas, political analyst and a former Fulbright scholar who taught Middle East politics and Turkish foreign policy at the College of Charleston. After the US withdrew the Patriot missile system from Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s oil refineries were attacked multiple times by Yemeni Houthi rebels, according to the academic.
Likewise, the Biden administration froze out the Egyptian leadership for quite a while after taking the reins in January 2021. Washington cancelled $130 million in military aid to Egypt over “human rights concerns” in January 2022, just days after approving a massive $2.5 billion arms sale to the country.
Amid mounting criticism over human rights issues from Washington, Cairo is more eager to rely on Moscow, especially when it comes to food and wheat supplies, according to Demirdas. “Bread is everything for Egypt,” the professor highlights.
Turkey’s frictions with the two latest American administrations are also well-documented. Ankara remains outraged by Washington’s support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which the Turks see as an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Furthermore, Turkey, a longtime NATO ally, was expelled from the F-35 fighter jet program in 2019 and subjected to threats from the US over its decision to buy Russia’s S-400 anti-missile systems.
“America’s unwavering support for Turkey’s arch-enemy the PKK in Syria has led to Ankara’s complete departure from Washington’s orbit,” Demirdas says. “This is cemented by Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400s.”
With more and more countries now looking away from the United States and seeking to join other groups to provide economic support and diversify their markets, “this will be a blow to the United States,” according to Erim.
“We’re definitely in an era right now where the power center is shifting away from the West,” Erim observes. “We’re seeing many countries in the east, countries like India, China, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia becoming bigger players, becoming regional powers, becoming superpowers. Their economies are growing. Their defense capabilities are growing. Their network of diplomacy is growing. And as such, the old world order is just not effective anymore.”
While the US and its NATO allies are struggling with record-high inflation, major emerging economies, most notably China, have proven to be more resilient economically, according to Demirdas. Likewise, Russia has been able not only to weather the post-COVID economic turbulence, but also to withstand sweeping Western sanctions, he notes. Eventually, these sanctions have backfired on the Western bloc, accelerating energy prices and further fanning inflation.
“I am expecting a growing chasm within the EU/NATO members in that Western Europeans are going to start rebelling against Washington given the looming energy crisis and rapidly deteriorating economies that require cooperation with Russia and China. We are truly in a multipolar world where China, Russia and the US are the poles,” says Demirdas.
BRICS expansion has also been fueled by the Islamic Republic of Iran formally applying to join the group in late June. Iran’s BRICS admission would result in added value for the organization: the Islamic Republic holds the world’s second largest gas reserves and fourth largest oil deposits.
Some Latin American states are also seeking to join the bloc. In June, Argentine President Alberto Fernández told the BRICS gathering that his country “aspire[s] to become full members of this group of nations that already represents 42% of the world’s population and 24% of the global gross domestic product (GDP).” On June 28, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Argentina is already on track to become a member of the group along with Iran
“With the addition of new countries to the BRICS, the BRICS is obviously increasing its legitimacy as an economic actor globally, increasing its markets, increasing the portfolio of products it has, especially Saudi Arabia will be very, very important, bringing a huge amount of natural resources to the BRICS portfolio,” says Erim. “This will increase the BRICS power going forward when the group takes joint decisions, and it will definitely make them a more important player in the global marketplace.”
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey May Join BRICS ‘Very Soon’, Forum Chair Anand Says
In June, the Islamic Republic of Iran applied to join BRICS, the group of five industrialized non-European nations, after being invited to its 14th summit in Beijing, China. If Iran joined BRICS that would result in “added values” for all parties, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh emphasized, according to Tasnim News Agency.
BRICS International Forum President Purnima Anand has said that Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia could “very soon” join the group of major emerging economies
, which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, according to Russian national newspaper, Izvestia.
Anand said that China, Russia and India had discussed this issue at the 14th BRICS Summit, which took place virtually from 23 to 24 June.
“All these countries have shown an interest in joining and are preparing to apply for membership. I think this is a good step, because expansion is always perceived positively; this will clearly increase the influence of BRICS in the world… I hope that the accession of countries to BRICS will happen very quickly, because now all representatives of the core of the association are interested in enlargement. So it will be very soon,” Purnima Anand stated.
The President of the BRICS International Forum was said to be confident that Turkey’s, Egypt’s and Saudi Arabia’s accession would advance quickly, since these countries have already “begun the process.” However, she was reported as adding that they would not all join at the same time.
Anand’s statement are in line with remarks made earlier by the head of the Department of International Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, Li Kexin, regarding the -possible expansion of BRICS.
“There are several countries currently ‘at the door’ – for example, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina,” Li Kexin said at a press conference after the 14th BRICS summit in Beijing.
The BRICS countries agree that the bloc needs new members while retaining its original character, he added.
“I believe there is a shared understanding that we need to enlarge, get ‘new faces’,” Li said.
However, he emphasized that the goal of BRICS expansion is “not to create a new bloc”.
The South African ambassador to China, Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele, who spoke alongside Li, insisted that BRICS is about partnership rather than “big muscle”.
Argentina’s Ambassador to China, Sabino Vaca Narvaja, was earlier cited by the Global Times as saying that “the BRICS cooperation mechanism is of great significance for the building of a new, more multipolar and balanced world.”
“We are interested in joining BRICS because it is a cooperative mechanism composed entirely of emerging economies. There are no strings attached and all cooperation is mutually beneficial,” Vaca said.
In late June, the BRICS group of nations agreed at their 14th summit in Beijing, China, to take joint measures to strengthen and reform global governance, and safeguard international peace and security.
China is presently chairman of BRICS, and South Africa will take the rotating chairmanship next year.
Beijing invited leaders of 13 other developing nations to attend, including Iran and Algeria, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Malaysia and Thailand.
Speaking at the start of the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged the world to “reject hegemony, bullying and division.”
Ahead of the gathering, Iran announced its intention
to join BRICS, pointing to the the Islamic Republic’s “unique geographical position and its capabilities in the fields of energy, transit, and trade” and capacity to become a “golden route to connect” East and West.
“If Iran and other powerful countries join the grouping, it can be even stronger and challenge western policies,” Iran’s state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) added.