The 2015 Ufa BRICS summit is unique in a sense that it proved to be a test of maturity of this association.
For the first time in the summits’ short history, there is a marked division in its members’ relations with the world’s current dominant force – a global West headed by the United States.
Russia’s relations with the West are on the verge of a full scale conflict, while increasing Chinese-authorized foreign policy, including its regional dimension in Asia is fueling US frustrations – which has considerably increased after the ascension of Xi Jinping to the seat of power in Beijing.
At the same time, the Indian government led by Narendra Modi, is pursuing a multi-vector policy, which includes rapprochement with Washington while trying to extract the most from other partners, including BRICS.
Brazil’s President, prior to the Russian trip, visited the US ending a period of chilly relations since 2013, when the Snowden revelations of US spying came to the fore.
With Brazil’s economic slowdown, and the internal political feud, Brasilia is now less than ever inclined to do something unpleasant to the USA, that includes too vocal a support of Russia.
South Africa, the S in the BRICS, is predominantly concerned with economic issues and still views BRICS as an instrument for promoting bilateral relations and the country’s global profile.
Therefore, we can hardly postulate that 2015 was about furthering the evolution of a common bloc of anti-Western nature.
Russia, of course, was strongly tempted to use the Ufa summit as proof of absence of its diplomatic isolation and solicit support in its standoff with the West- something that other BRICS member countries are reluctant to put on the forefront.
Russia therefore had to be extremely cautious not to put its BRICS partners in an awkward position, limiting their support to the Ukrainian standoff to pledges to solve the crisis in a peaceful manner by implementing the Minsk agreements.
Moscow is also genuinely thankful for the BRICS denunciation of sanctions- which, practically, can do little to change the Western policy of imposing sanctions at will.
So it is not likely the most favorable time to push the non-Western identity of the BRICS group.
However, lest we lose sight of this important fact — the leaders of the most populous countries agree on approaches to numerous regional conflicts and security. BRICS cooperation is, therefore, a manifestation of a shift in geopolitical reality.
The “double” summit of BRICS and SCO underlines the fact that a new power arrangement is being born in the globe’s “heartland”.
This is something that will aim to make a US -dominated unipolar world order less and less feasible.
However- and this is increasingly stressed by BRICS – it is not directed against the West- without cooperation with which their own development is impossible.
BRICS do not want the ‘destruction’ of the current global governance system, but rather, a fair place in it.
Frustratingly, however, the search of compromise with the West, for example within the G20 or IMF framework, has up till now been far from successful.
BRICS countries therefore have created parallel structures- like the New Development bank and Currency reserve arrangements, which are the first instances of getting out of the West’s egoistic dominance in world affairs.
More is to follow in different areas- ranging from independent rating agencies to information security system.
BRICS strategy is therefore two-pronged and is addressed both at the North and South.
At the same time, BRICS is consolidating its common approach to a number of global issues while its economic agenda becomes more comprehensive with each passing month.
A score of new agreements (including the formal “BRICS Economic Strategy” roadmap ) and intra-BRICS countries contracts and agreements are the result of the meetings in Ufa.
In successfully leveraging the summit, BRICS further consolidates its positions and power in reforming the global financial architecture.
New formats and areas of inter-BRICS cooperation have also been established during the Ufa summit.
However it should be pointed out that these formats are mostly for discussing issues rather than implementing solutions.
This might be a necessary step on the way for actual cooperation, but the issue of accountability in BRICS remain.
The widely published opinions in Western media that BRICS is declining and has no future are hence far from reality.
However the speed of moving to a more solid institutional and cooperative mechanism is slower than some of the members (namely Russia) would desire.
The cooperative spirit and equality as governing principles of BRICS, though, are a solid basis for a cautious but steady move forward.
A word of caution: the BRICS countries should be aware that the growth of BRICS power could lead to rising resistance from established centers of power.
This would, inevitably, include different methods aimed at undermining BRICS unity.