Xi and Putin succeeded in targeting more Asian leaders to join the BRICS

As Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Premier Li Qiang wrapped up separate meetings in Southeast Asia this week, the two partners of the BRICS economic bloc faced an area of ​​interest in joining a bloc against Western-led institutions.

During an interview with Chinese media ahead of Li’s visit to Malaysia, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim announced his willingness to provide access to financing and political facilitation after doubling this year’s efforts to attract countries from the Global South. A place independent of Washington’s influence.

Thailand – last month announced its own bid to join BRICS – named after Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The group „represents a South-South cooperation framework that Thailand has long wanted to be a part of,” Foreign Minister Maurice Tsangyampongsa told reporters last week.

For countries seeking to reduce the economic risks posed by intensifying US-China competition, joining the BRICS organization is an attempt to buffer some of those pressures. In Southeast Asia, many countries rely economically on trade with China, while welcoming the security presence and investment offered by Washington.

But BRICS membership is a way to signal growing frustration with the US-led international order and key institutions firmly under the control of Western powers such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

„Some of us, including people like myself, think we need to address the unfair international financial and economic architecture,” former Malaysian foreign minister Saibuddin Abdullah said in an interview. „So BRICS could be one of the ways to balance things out.”

For Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, interest in the BRICS reflects their success in pushing back efforts by the US and its allies over the war in Ukraine and military threats to Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea and Japan. .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy struggled to convince Asian nations to come to a peace summit in Switzerland earlier this month, and Putin this week signed a security pact with North Korea, while giving him the right to arm U.S. adversaries around the world.

A club that for years had just five members expanded this January to include Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Egypt. It is often motivated as China tries to increase its influence on the world stage.

Another Southeast Asian nation, Indonesia, was seen as a favorite to join last year before President Joko Widodo indicated he would not rush to a decision.

Long time enemies of the US
However, the pace of adding new members continues. Representatives of 12 non-member countries appeared at BRICS talks in Russia this month, despite US and European efforts to prevent countries from dealing with Moscow. This includes longtime US adversaries such as Cuba and Venezuela, but also countries such as Turkey, Laos, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan.

Also present was Vietnam, which improved ties with Washington last year in a move seen as a push back against Beijing’s rising influence in the region. Hanoi is following the group’s progress „with great interest,” as Vietnam’s state broadcaster said last month.

„Vietnam is always ready to participate and actively contribute to global and regional multilateral mechanisms,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Pham Tu Hong.

Vietnam welcomed Russia’s leader this week, despite strong objections from the United States, on the grounds that „no country should provide a platform to promote Putin’s war of aggression” in Ukraine. Vietnam and Russia have ties that go back to the Cold War and the Soviet era.

In their joint statement issued at the end of their talks, Russia welcomed Vietnam’s participation in the talks earlier this month and said it would „continue to strengthen relations between BRICS countries and developing countries, including Vietnam.”

It’s unclear how much BRICS was part of Putin’s closed-door talks in Vietnam, although the two countries have pledged to increase defense and energy cooperation. China’s Li used his visit to Malaysia to deepen trade and economic ties and advance major projects.

Unwieldy group
After this year’s expansion, BRICS plans to invite non-member countries to participate in the next summit in the Russian city of Kazan in October. Hosting the event gives Moscow an opportunity to demonstrate to the world that it is not completely isolated by Western opposition to the war in Ukraine.

„It’s no secret that Washington doesn’t like members of the BRICS, especially Iran and Russia,” said Scott Marcial, a former US ambassador to Indonesia, Myanmar and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

At the same time, as large constituencies grow, there is less chance of consensus on key issues, he said. „My sense is that Washington doesn’t appreciate the move to engage with Thailand and Malaysia, but I don’t think it will cause massive heartburn.”

A State Department official said the U.S. was aware of Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam’s interest in the BRICS organization, adding that multilateral blocs should further advance United Nations Charter principles such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The potential benefits of joining the BRICS go beyond geopolitics.

$33 billion
Members of the group agreed to pool $100 billion in foreign currency reserves, which they could lend to each other in emergencies. The group also established the New Development Bank — a World Bank-style institution that has approved nearly $33 billion in loans since it began operations in 2015, mainly for water, transportation and other infrastructure projects.

That investment package could be useful in Southeast Asia, where official development funding is expected to drop to $26 billion in 2022, according to a report this month by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute.

Another attraction for membership, said Malaysia’s Saifuddin, was a lingering negative sentiment toward institutions such as the IMF, which pushed austerity measures in the region sometimes blamed for worsening the economic crisis caused by the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

Washington was not sitting still. It has deepened security ties in the region on issues such as counterterrorism and with countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, which are increasingly concerned about their disputes with Beijing in the South China Sea. But as great power competition intensifies across the board, there is also a recognition that the region must fend off its challenges.

„There is increasing room for maneuver for smaller countries,” former ASEAN secretary-general Ong Keng Yong said in an interview. „By joining organizations like the BRICS, countries are signaling that they want to be friendly with all parties, not just the US and its allies.”

Dodaj komentarz

Twój adres e-mail nie zostanie opublikowany. Wymagane pola są oznaczone *