Picture: ANA – The West has been hard at work trying to divide and weaken the BRICS alliance. Just a few weeks back, 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, the writer says.
By David Monyae
In the past 15 years, the BRICS group has made good on its founding mandate of shaping an alternative global order as it has emerged as a credible and formidable challenger to the West’s G7 in terms of global influence and stature.
The longevity and the increasing appeal of the BRICS bloc, as evidenced by many countries’ desires to join the group, has 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. BRICS’ 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 alliance. Just a few weeks back, 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 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 West’s manoeuvre to divide BRICS over the Russia-Ukraine conflict by pressuring other members of the bloc to join in the isolation of Russia. BRICS members have consistently insisted on a non-aligned position in the Russia-Ukraine war, 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 war. Over the last few months, the US has criticised South Africa for holding a naval military exercise with two of its BRICS partners, China and Russia, in South Africa’s waters. Washington has also accused Pretoria of supplying Russia with weapons and, as a result, has threatened to suspend South Africa’s participation in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), 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 the issue of Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom the International Criminal Court issued a warrant of arrest when he attends the BRICS Summit in August. Some countries and South Africa’s main opposition political party, DA, have called on South Africa to arrest Putin.
The US has also issued stern warnings to India over its purchasing of Russian oil, which has come under western sanctions, while also threatening China with sanctions should it supply weapons to Russia. All these theatrics are part of a sustained effort to divide and weaken BRICS and blunt its challenge on the West’s 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 June. 23 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 June 24 after 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 Putin is losing his grip on power.
The ‘omnipresent’ US intelligence even claims to have known about the details of the impending rebellion long before it happened. It did not take long before the narrative about the Wagner Group mutiny was turned on to its impact on Russia’s relations with its BRICS partners, particularly China. It has been argued that China (and, by implication, 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 territory.
Russia has long been seen as a bulwark against the West’s hegemony. However, China has rightly downplayed the impact of the rebellion and emphasised its support for Russia’s national stability. Beijing 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 hooked on 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 Associate Professor of International Relations and Political Science, and Director of the Africa-China Studies Centre at the University of Johannesburg