In the last 15 years, the BRICS group has made good on its founding mandate of shaping a new global development pattern. The longevity and the increasing appeal of the BRICS group, as evidenced by many countries’ desire to join the group, have surprised many who dismissed it as a marriage of convenience, which would soon crumble under the weight of political, cultural, and historical differences when it was established.
The BRICS countries’ rapidly expanding global economic and geopolitical influence has made the West ill-at-ease as its grip over the global order has become insecure. Understandably, the West has been hard at work trying to divide and weaken the BRICS countries at every opportunity it gets. In May, two of the BRICS members, India and Brazil, were invited to attend the G7 Summit, and attempts were made to pressure them to pick a side in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
French President Emmanuel Macron was quoted as saying that the G7 Summit allowed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was also in attendance, to “express himself to powers of the world who at times are exposed to just one discourse. And I say that just a few weeks before a BRICS Summit.”
This is part of the Western manoeuvre to divide the BRICS group over the Russia-Ukraine conflict by pressuring other members of the group to join in isolating Russia.
BRICS members have consistently insisted on a non-aligned position on Russia-Ukraine conflict, arguing that only peaceful negotiations and diplomacy will restore peace between Russia and Ukraine. South Africa has also come under enormous pressure from the United States for its neutral position on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Over the last few months, the United States has criticised South Africa for holding a naval military exercise with two of its BRICS partners, China and Russia, in South Africa’s waters.
The United States has also accused South Africa of supplying Russia with weapons and, as a result, has threatened to suspend South Africa’s participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act through
which many South African firms are granted duty-free access to the US market.
South Africa has also been put under pressure over how it should handle Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant, when he attends the BRICS Summit in August. Some countries and South Africa’s main opposition political party, the Democratic Alliance, have called on South Africa to arrest Putin.
The United States has also issued stern warnings to India over its purchasing of Russian oil which has come under Western sanctions. All these theatrics are part of a sustained effort to divide and weaken the BRICS countries and blunt its challenge to the West’s global hegemony. Of late, the West has readily jumped on to the ill-fated rebellion by Russia’s private military outfit, the Wagner Group.
The Wagner Group, which has been fighting alongside the Russian forces in Ukraine, engaged in a rebellion when some of its forces marched towards Moscow on 23 June. The so-called rebellion was caused by some differences between the Wagner Group’s leaders and Russia’s military leaders over their handling of the campaign in Ukraine. However, the Wagner Group retreated and abandoned its march on 24 June after President Putin denounced the rebellion as treasonous and promised to crush it.
However, the Western media and leaders have rushed to conclude that the failed rebellion is a sign of weakness and instability within the Russian state and that President Putin is losing his grip on power. The “omnipresent” US intelligence even claimed to have known about the details of the impending rebellion long before it happened.
It did not take long before the discussions began about the Wagner Group mutiny’s impact on Russia’s relations with its BRICS partners. It has been argued that other BRICS countries will find it difficult to trust Russia as a partner in forging an alternative world order if its government does not have a monopoly of power in its own territory.
Russia has long been seen as a bulwark against Western hegemony. However, Russia has rightly downplayed the impact of the rebellion, and China has emphasised its support for Russia’s national stability. China characterised the short-lived rebellion in Russia as an internal affair which the Russian government has the capacity to address. It is important for BRICS countries not to get swayed by carefully choreographed Western narratives about their countries which are meant to spread distrust.
Last October, the US Embassy in South Africa issued an unprocedural warning about an imminent terror attack which was dismissed by the South African authorities. Such incidents are calculated to make BRICS countries look weak and thus promote divisions and distrust in the group.
David Monyae is director of the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa.
African Times published the opinion piece in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine. ChinAfrica BRICS articles