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The Chairman of the BRICS NRC board, Chairman of the Committee on Education and Science of the State Duma of Russia and Chairman of the Board of the Russkiy Mir Foundation Vyacheslav Nikonov has delivered a lecture to the participants of the BRICS International School, which opened in Moscow. The politician has shared his thoughts on what really unites the BRICS countries, the values of this organization and how BRICS challenges the liberal world order.
On August 27, 2019, the BRICS International School started in Moscow. It is a scientific and educational program for young diplomats, economists and political scientists, which is organized for the second time by the BRICS National Research Committee (NRC) together with the Public Diplomacy Support Fund named after Gorchakov and with the support of the Russkiy Mir Foundation.
Dialogue of civilizations
What is BRICS? The acronym BRIC, which stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China (South Africa joined the organization in 2011 and the abbreviation was transformed into BRICS) was first proposed by Jim O’Neill in 2001 in a research note by Goldman Sachs Bank. In his note, the analyst identified countries that would mainly ensure the growth of the entire global economy. The organization itself was created in 2006 during the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.
Photo credit: Andrey Sidelnikov
“Some time ago, no one could imagine such an association as the BRICS. When we organized the first BRIC summit (without the participation of South Africa - ed.), no one believed in its possibility, since the BRICS member countries have little in common: they have different economies, different cultures, these are different civilizations. That was at the beginning, now, 12 years later, there are already about 40 different formats of cooperation within BRICS,” Nikonov said.
According to him, there is no doubt now that BRICS is an important factor in the global economy and world politics. In addition, the scientific and youth directions of BRICS cooperation are becoming increasingly important. “We see that more and more people who are interested in cooperation, learn more about the BRICS partner countries and understand better what a different view of the world is, distinct from the Western perspective,” the politician emphasized.
The BRICS International School is the only program in Russia for training specialists in the field of studying this association.
The school's participants are young diplomats, scientists, students and journalists from Russia, Brazil, India, China, South Africa, as well as CIS countries aged 18 to 35 years. All of them have a unique opportunity to listen to a course of lectures by leading Russian and foreign experts on BRICS topics, expand their professional horizons, and get to know each other. Young specialists will take part in seminars, round tables, master classes in negotiating, meet with representatives of relevant ministries and departments, as well as get acquainted with Moscow and learn more about Russia in general.
Nikonov is sure: BRICS is much more than an abbreviation invented by a British economist. This is a kind of unity that has existed for centuries. “Historical ties between our nations have existed for centuries,” Nikonov recalled, "Buddhism has long since spread from India to China. Marco Polo traveled from Europe to China through the territory of Russia. Russian merchants visited India back in the 14th century. India and South Africa have had close ties for several centuries, and they are still connected - many Indians live in South Africa, have contributed to the development of this country, such as Mahatma Gandhi. "South Africa has long-standing ties with Brazil, which also became the first Latin American country with which Russia established diplomatic relations."
Photo credit: Andrey Sidelnikov
“In fact, we are bound by much more than we can imagine, so the BRICS is not a design invented by the Goldman Sachs, it is a reality, a dialogue of powerful civilizations that has been going on for many centuries,” he said.
A Pax Americana replacement
The political scientist is sure that the BRICS idea is very fruitful, because BRICS really changes the world. “Just 35 years ago, Western countries accounted for 80% of the global economy, now it is about 40%, and this is a big change,” he explained. - China is now the most powerful economic power in the world, India is growing rapidly and has already approached the United States. Although Western culture still dominates the world, nonetheless, each of our countries is proud of its cultural heritage. China is the center of East Asian civilization, Russia is the most powerful force in Eurasia, India is the strongest country in South Asia, South Africa is the leader of the African continent, Brazil is also the key country of its continent.”
Big changes have occurred not only in the economy - the BRICS countries are gaining more and more political influence while having their own vision of the world. It is by no means anti-Western, but it meets its own national interests. The military significance of the BRICS countries has also grown, some of them have become nuclear superpowers, and military power, in spite of everything, is still of great importance in the world.
Obviously, not everyone is happy with this state of affairs. “For centuries, Europe ruled the world, and the struggle for peace was actually a struggle within Europe ... But now everything has changed, and Europe no longer owns the world. And the internal struggle in Europe is no longer the center of world politics. The EU is the most economically stagnant region in the world, there is no growth. Europe no longer has subjectivity in the conduct of politics,” Nikonov said. In his opinion, the EU remains an economic superpower, but it no longer exists from political point of view.
The Western world is losing strength, Nikonov says. It is with this circumstance that he explains the extraordinary activity of the foreign policy of the United States in recent years. In his opinion, the reason is the same as the ancient Greek historian Thucydides formulated, describing the war of Athens with Sparta: “Why did Sparta start the war? Because Athens began to gain strength - for half a century Athens was becoming stronger, richer, acquired new allies. Sparta began the war to stop the growth of Athens. Now the logic is the same: the United States understands that their strength is fading: if China continues to develop as it does now, if Russia continues to develop, especially militarily, if India grows as fast as it does now, if Brazil becomes more independent, then where is Pax Americana? ”
The political scientist is sure that these countries can challenge the American unipolar system. The BRICS countries are now without a doubt one of the centers of world power in all its dimensions - economic, political, “soft power” (humanitarian influence). Moreover, in the international arena, they all began to act as countries that openly demonstrate their values that are different from Western ones.
What are these values? First of all, independence. “This means that the USA no longer has the right to do whatever they want in the world. We are sovereign in terms of politics, our national interests, the search for allies, our way of thinking. BRICS helps strengthen sovereignty,” Nikonov said.
The second important value is non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. “Meanwhile, the whole Western idea of the liberal world order just involves interference in foreign affairs, the purpose of which is to create an international liberal order,” the political scientist said. Russia does not interfere in anyone's internal affairs. Although the United States accuses Russia of interfering in their presidential elections, he noted, all this is difficult to discuss seriously.
BRICS members do not interfere in each other’s affairs; the association retains the right to its own path. “We undoubtedly belong in different cultures, we have different cultural matrices,” Nikonov said. - But it seems to us that this is not bad - on the contrary, it is good. It’s good to be special, the differences show us the world in all its colors. We have various religions and religious beliefs. “We have different views on the same things, but this is what we consider to be a national feature.” We do not evaluate this in terms of progress or regression, he stressed, we are just different - this is how the world works.
Another important value is the value of human life. Most wars were fought by Western countries, the political scientist is sure. For centuries, Europe has been the continent on which most wars have been fought.
Finally, dialogue is another indisputable value, because BRICS, Nikonov is sure, first and foremost means consensus. All decisions within BRICS are made by consensus. “We are ready to hear each other out,” he stressed.
According to Nikonov, BRICS provides the model that can be offered to the rest of the world. “This is just the model of how modern humanity should be arranged, in contrast to the liberal world order. If you want to be part of the value system that I described, you can join, but in this case you should look at the others as equals, which is so difficult for Western political culture. They cannot look at others as equals - we see each other as equal partners, as friends, and this is a way to look at the rest of the world,” he said.
The politician is sure that if the five BRICS countries somehow come to unity, it will be difficult for the rest of the world to disagree with them. “Because BRICS, as you know, is almost half the world's population. It is impossible to ignore them, and BRICS gives an advantage. We can live without each other, but why, if together we can act more efficiently,” Nikonov concluded.