7 May 2024

After Expansion: The Prospects of BRICS as the Basis for a Fairer Multipolar World Order

Sergey Ryabkov

Sviatoslav Arov: What can explain the popularity of BRICS among so many countries of the world? Is BRICS an epitome of a multipolar world (in terms of relations between its members and their geographical location) in Russia’s view?

Sergey Ryabkov: The interest towards BRICS has been steadily growing against the backdrop of large-scale geopolitical challenges and dramatic changes taking place in the world today. The influence of BRICS countries, their successes in the economic, cultural, scientific and technical spheres speak volumes about the potential to shape the global agenda.

BRICS is an innovative format of interaction rather than just a union of individual states. BRICS partnership is built on mutual respect for each other’s interests and a common effort to promote the realization of developing countries’ aspirations on the whole. At the same time, BRICS does not oppose itself to anyone and is ready to build equal and mutually beneficial cooperation with all international actors. Such an approach, practiced by BRICS, attracts the majority of world states. This was clearly demonstrated by the summit held in Johannesburg on August 22-24, 2023, which was attended by the leaders of more than 60 countries of the Global South and, most notably, African countries.

Today, BRICS is seen as one of the pillars of a new, more equitable world order, which is designed to give all countries equal opportunities, to free the states of the Global South and Global East from the role of obedient suppliers of cheap labor and raw materials that the West imposes on them, and to consolidate the right of all nations for preserving their identity, self-determination, independent domestic and foreign policy, and protection of traditional values.

The Popular Decimation of India’s Democracy


India’s ongoing parliamentary election, in which nearly a billion people may cast their votes over a six-week period, should represent an extraordinary exercise of democracy. The bleak reality, however, is that the election appears poised to consolidate a decade-long process of democratic decay, which has included the decimation of liberal institutions and practices and weakening of political competition. After all, the leader who has presided over this process – Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – remains wildly popular.

Apart from the dedicated and disciplined ground-level work by masses of volunteers for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the fountainhead of the BJP, this popularity reflects factors sometimes similar to, but also quite different from, those fueling support for right-wing demagogues elsewhere.

As I noted in my 2022 book A World of Insecurity: Democratic Disenchantment in Rich and Poor Countries, such forces tend to find support primarily among less-educated, rural, and older populations. Yet Modi has the backing of educated, urban, aspirational youth. Whereas former US President Donald Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have struggled to carry major cities in elections, Modi had secured thumping victories in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore.

The China-­Pakistan-­Afghanistan Triangle

Claudia Chia

The intricate nexus between China, Pakistan, and Taliban-led Afghanistan has garnered considerable attention as these actors maneuver through a complex web of security concerns, diverging interests, and geopolitical pressures. From a security standpoint, both China and Pakistan view Afghanistan as a critical security buffer against the proliferation of threats and extremist activities into their respective territories. As a result, they have identified the Taliban, who have consolidated power and control in most parts of Afghanistan, as the best bet for safeguarding their interests.

The Taliban, however, have not been delivering well on their promise to combat terror groups, and their overtures to expand ties with other regional actors signify a desire to counterbalance Beijing’s and Islamabad’s influence. While each party seeks to advance its own agenda, the dynamics of this trilateral relationship will shape the future trajectory of Afghanistan and its broader implications for regional stability and prosperity.

Drones Changed This Civil War, and Linked Rebels to the Worl

Hannah Beech and Paul Mozur

In flip-flops and shorts, one of the finest soldiers in a resistance force battling the military junta in Myanmar showed off his weaponry. It was, he apologized, mostly in pieces.

The rebel, Ko Shan Gyi, glued panels of plastic shaped by a 3D printer. Nearby, electrical innards foraged from Chinese-made drones used for agricultural purposes were arrayed on the ground, their wires exposed as if awaiting surgery.

Other parts needed to construct homemade drones, including chunks of Styrofoam studded with propellers, crowded a pair of leaf-walled shacks. Together, they could somewhat grandly be considered the armory of the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force. A laser cutter was poised halfway through carving out a flight control unit. The generator powering the workshop had quit. It wasn’t clear when there would be electricity again.

Gendered Digital Repression in Myanmar’s Online Dissent - Opinion

Isabella Aung

Myanmar’s political history is riddled with violent military coups. On February 1, 2021, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing took control of Myanmar and reverted the budding democracy into a violent authoritarian regime. This is the third time that a military took control of the country in post-independence Burmese history, 59 years after the first coup led by General Ne Win and 32 years after the second ordered by SLORC. As much as the country’s history is rife with brutal military regimes, it is also filled with the people’s revolutions to fight against military rule, the most prominent being the 8888 Uprising, the Saffron Revolution, and currently the Spring Revolution.

The Spring Revolution is distinct from the previous revolutions in that it is the most durable anti-military political movement the country has ever seen. While both the 8888 Uprising and the Saffron Revolution lasted only for a few months, the Spring Revolution continues to gain momentum in 2024, more than three years after the most recent coup d’etat took place. Protracted conflict is still ongoing across the country. As of April 26, 2024, 4,946 civilians have been murdered by the regime, and 26,573 were arrested. Despite the violent crackdown, millions have taken to the streets to protest the military takeover. The ongoing Spring Revolution encompasses different actors and initiatives, including but not limited to the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), frontline protests, the National Unity Government (NUG), and the People’s Defence Force (PDF).

Xi’s Imperial Ambitions Are Rooted in China’s History

Michael Sobolik

When Richard Nixon defied expectations and went to China in 1972, Henry Kissinger, his national security advisor, packed the president’s briefcase. Among Nixon’s reading materials was The Chinese Looking Glass, a book by British journalist Dennis Bloodworth about understanding China on its own terms. In his opening pages, Bloodworth sets the stage by going back to the beginning: “The gaudy catalogue of China’s disasters and dynastic glories, whose monumental scale has given the Chinese much of their character … brings us to our true beginning.”

Russia and China: Evolution of Strategic Partnership

Vassily Kashin

Russia’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine and the subsequent collapse of the Russian-Western relations have had deep transformative effect on the Russian-Chinese relations. Even before the conflict the two sides enjoyed robust strategic relationship which was officially called comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination in new era, a unique status within a wide China’s network of strategic partnerships. The conflict in Ukraine together with the ongoing deterioration of the Sino-American relations have transformed this partnership into a rather close interdependence.

An important feature of this relationship is Russia’s emergence as an important partner of China both in security, political and in economic fields. In 2022 and especially in 2023, amid the decrease in the volume of China’s exports Russia became the fastest growing Chinese trade partner among the major economies. The two countries are reaching a new level of economic interdependence, with Russia getting the status of China’s main supplier of certain strategic commodities (grain, natural gas, oil) and at the same time becoming the key market for some of the Chinese industrial goods (automobiles).

Politically, China still avoids expressing direct support of Russia’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine but continues to underscore the special status of the relations established not just only between the two countries but between their leaders as well. Russia has at the same time supported the three global initiatives of the Chinese President Xi Jinping, thereby subscribing to the Chinese concept of the global governance which is supposed to provide an alternative to the rules-based world order dominated by the West.

The Evolution of China’s Naval Strategy

Bernard D. Cole

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has significantly modernized and expanded its naval capabilities, reshaping the maritime balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region. To shed light on the evolution and implications of the PRC’s naval strategy, Nai-Yu Chen and Jeremy Rausch interviewed Bernard D. Cole about the driving forces behind the transformation of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, its current concepts and objectives, and its future trajectory.

What were the original tenets of the PLA Navy’s role in the PRC’s military strategy, and how have these evolved over the ensuing 70 years?

When the PLA Navy was established in 1927, its only stipulated mission was to “carry out the political tasks of the [Chinese] revolution.” By 1982, its focus had shifted to “resist invasions and defend the homeland,” particularly along the coast. This coastal emphasis on supporting the army and operating in “near sea waters” formally changed only in 2004 under Hu Jintao, a shift that I discussed in both editions of my book The Great Wall at Sea.

China has long had a history of deploying strong naval forces, but on an ad hoc basis. An example is the fourteenth-century “Lakes Campaign.” As Edward Dreyer describes in his chapter for Chinese Ways in Warfare, this campaign occurred primarily on Lake Poyang, the largest freshwater lake in China. This was the scene of a large battle between ships of competing factions of the rebellion movement that was fighting to overthrow the Yuan Dynasty. The smaller Ming fleet led by Zhu Yuanzhang used cannon and fire ships to score a victory.

The Evolving Geopolitics of Economic Interdependence between the United States and China: Reflections on a Deteriorating Great-Power Relationship

Ali Wyne

A more u.s.-china-centric order

As difficult as it may be to remember now, it seemed at the beginning of 2020 that the United States and China might be poised to press pause on the deterioration of their relationship, at least in the economic realm. After a year and a half of escalating trade tensions, then president Donald Trump and Chinese vice premier Liu He signed an interim trade deal on January 15. But any goodwill between Washington and Beijing soon dissipated with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Trump administration argued that China had effectively loosed a deadly virus upon the world to sabotage the U.S. economy and damage Trump’s re-election prospects, while Chinese officials and their “wolf warrior” representatives on Twitter accused the United States of attempting to deflect attention away from its own mismanagement of the pandemic and even suggested that Covid-19 may have originated at Fort Detrick, a U.S. Army research facility in Maryland.

Tragically, rather than occasioning emergency bilateral coordination, the pandemic has served to bring the U.S.-China relationship to its lowest level since normalization. In addition, it has demonstrated China’s resilience: among the major economies, China’s was the only one to register positive growth in 2020, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that China posted the second-highest growth rate in 2021 (8.1%, behind India’s 8.9%).2 In 2020, the United States and China together accounted for 41.9% of gross world product, and the IMF estimates that that proportion will grow to 43.6% by the end of this year.

The Immigration Advantage in the U.S.-China Strategic Contest for STEM Talent

Jeremy Neufeld

The role of talent in innovation and power competition

Even with a vastly less efficient or productive innovation ecosystem, a country with a sufficiently large demographic endowment could surpass the United States in economic or scientific output. While there is no one measure for industrial, technological, or scientific “leadership,” China is rapidly advancing in numerous measures and is on track to surpass the United States in many of them, if it has not done so already. Despite lower average educational attainment, China since 2006 has produced more PhDs and master’s degree graduates in STEM fields each year than the United States, and it continues to expand the gap.

As a result of this expanding advanced STEM workforce, China’s production of peer-reviewed scientific papers has grown rapidly. From 2008 to 2018, the number grew by over 7% a year, during which time China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest source of peer-reviewed research.4 These articles are not as high-quality as articles by U.S.-based scientists in terms of impact, but quality is also on the rise: measured by the total number of publications in top natural science journals, China surpassed the United States in 2022. In physical sciences and chemistry, it took the lead in 2021.5 China now also has the most highly cited articles on the Web of Science platform.

Moreover, in 2023, China for the first time surpassed the United States in the top 100 high-intensity science and technology clusters, with 24 to the United States’ 21. In the top 25, however, China only has 1 (Beijing) to the United States’ 8 (San Jose–San Francisco, Boston-Cambridge, Ann Arbor, San Diego, Seattle, Raleigh, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh).7 These superstar clusters disproportionately drive scientific and technological progress through agglomeration effects, attracting top minds from around the world.

The dangerous new call for regime change in Beijing

Fareed Zakaria

The world is a tense place these days, with Europe consumed by its biggest land war since 1945 and conflict continuing to convulse the Middle East. These tensions would pale into insignificance, however, if a third arena were to erupt — in Asia, involving the United States and China. Those tensions have in fact calmed down in recent months as both Washington and Beijing have sought to stabilize their relationship. But there are now cries in Washington to change that.

In an essay in Foreign Affairs, Matt Pottinger and Mike Gallagher argue that the United States should adopt a Cold War-style containment policy toward China, a strategy whose goal should be a victory that would encourage the Chinese people to “explore new models of development and governance.” Pottinger acknowledged on my CNN show last week that “an effective U.S. strategy might naturally lead to some form of regime collapse.” Pottinger was Donald Trump’s senior-most aide on China policy, and Gallagher, a former congressman, chaired the House select committee on China. Their views will likely shape the next Republican administration.

Pottinger and Gallagher argue that President Biden’s strategy — managing competition with China — does not go nearly far enough. The authors accuse the Biden administration of pursuing a 1970s-style détente policy toward China when it should be pursuing a 1980s-style Reaganite policy designed to push Beijing to the brink. According to them, we should welcome more friction and tension with China.

The Death of a Treaty Could Be a Lifesaver for Taiwa

John Ismay

During a military exercise with the Philippines that began last month, the U.S. Army deployed a new type of covert weapon that is designed to be hidden in plain sight.

Called Typhon, it consists of a modified 40-foot shipping container that conceals up to four missiles that rotate upward to fire. It can be loaded with weapons including the Tomahawk — a cruise missile that can hit targets on land and ships at sea more than 1,150 miles away.

The weapon, and other small mobile launchers like it, would have been illegal just five years ago under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which prohibited U.S. and Russian forces from having land-based cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between about 300 miles and 3,400 miles.

China trying to develop world ‘built on censorship and surveillance

China is exporting its model of digital authoritarianism abroad with the help of its far-reaching tech industry and massive infrastructure projects, offering a blueprint of “best practices” to neighbours including Cambodia, Malaysia and Vietnam, a human rights watchdog has warned.

In 2015, two years after kicking off its massive Belt and Road initiative, China launched its “Digital Silk Road” project to expand access to digital infrastructure such as submarine cables, satellites, 5G connectivity and more.

Article 19, a United Kingdom-based human rights group, argues that the project has been about more than just expanding access to WiFi or e-commerce.

China Signals a Loosening of Data and AI Governance

Jonathan Dove

With the explosion of interest in artificial intelligence, policymakers around the world are contending with how best to mitigate against the technology’s novel risks without inhibiting its development. China has consistently declared its ambition to become a world leader in strategic technologies such as AI and quantum computing. It has also announced pioneering policies designed to leverage the power of data to fuel the digital economy.

At the same time, China has moved to implement some of the world’s strictest regulations on AI and data.

These regulations make frequent reference to striking a complementary balance between “security” and “development.” In the fast-moving digital economy however, the reality on the ground is more complex and uncertain, with security often taking precedence. Nonetheless, against the backdrop of a slowing economy, recent events indicate that regulators now appear to be shifting the scales in favor of development in their approach to data and AI governance.

Rocks and Reefs Aren’t Worth a War with China

Quinn Marschik

America is willing to sacrifice for uninhabited rocks and reefs in the East and South China Seas. This is one of the main messages from Japanese prime minister Kishida Fumio and Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos’ official visits to the United States. The Biden administration’s doubling down on advancing Indo-Pacific countries’ interests vis-à-vis China represents a reckless strategy in a region where Washington should be especially shrewd and savvy. Instead of fighting others’ battles and setting itself up to fail, Washington should adopt a restrained regional policy to secure its interests.

Primarily, the United States has no vital interest in the outcome of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands or the South China Sea territorial disputes. The islands, rocks, and shoals in question are unpopulated, small, and hold little strategic value. Military outposts on these disputed territories are highly susceptible to attacks, face resupply nightmares, and inherent environmental issues—making any existing or potential Chinese bases more distractions than threats. Additionally, while freedom of navigation in the East and South China Seas is a legitimate concern, Beijing is highly unlikely to halt commerce since it is the prime beneficiary. Not to mention, trade can be rerouted at monetary cost. No lives need to be sacrificed or the world destroyed for mildly cheaper goods.

Activist Groups Trained Students for Months Before Campus Protest

Tawnell D. Hobbs , Valerie Bauerlein and Dan Frosch

The recent wave of pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses came on suddenly and shocked people across the nation. But the political tactics underlying some of the demonstrations were the result of months of training, planning and encouragement by longtime activists and left-wing groups.

At Columbia University, in the weeks and months before police took down encampments at the New York City campus and removed demonstrators occupying an academic building, student organizers began consulting with groups such as the National Students for Justice in Palestine, veterans of campus protests and former Black Panthers.

They researched past protests over Columbia’s expansion into Harlem, went to a community meeting on gentrification and development and studied parallels with the fight over land between Palestinians and Israelis. They attended a “teach-in” put on by several former Black Panthers, who told them about the importance of handling internal disputes within their movement.

Silver Lining in the Clouds: Will the US Geoengineer?

David Shipton

Once denounced by former United States (US) Vice President Al Gore as “delusional in the extreme”, solar geoengineering is receiving greater attention from American scientists and policymakers. Increasingly pessimistic as to the prospects of existing strategies for addressing climate change and mindful of America’s acute vulnerability to its effects, these voices are challenging taboos by exploring alternative solutions to global warming. Solar geoengineering (SG) is a category of climate interventions which would mask the effects of global warming by reflecting incoming solar radiation. Amongst these interventions, the technology attracting the most attention is stratospheric aerosol injections (SAI), which mimic the cooling impact of volcanoes by injecting reflective aerosol particles into the stratosphere. In recent years, however, marine cloud brightening (MCB) has emerged as a credible alternative to SAI (increasingly considered a blunt and unwieldy environmental tool). Deployed at scale, MCB would alter the energy balance of Earth by seeding seawater aerosol above the ocean to produce more reflective clouds.

To its critics, SG is an unhelpful distraction from climate mitigation which risks unintended and uneven global effects and a dangerous securitisation of the environment. However, in light of the continued failure of climate mitigation and America’s tradition of scientific leadership and self-professed “exceptionalism”, this article explores the circumstances in which the US would deploy MCB to mask the impact of global warming in the coming decades. Whilst MCB appears practically feasible for a state with America’s resources, it is unclear whether there will be sufficient domestic support for its deployment, and the response of the international community is contingent upon its perceived impacts which are presently difficult to predict. This article identifies three conditions for a sustained US deployment of MCB and considers the circumstances in which they may each be met, outlined in turn below.

From teenage cyber-thug to Europe’s most wanted

Joe Tidy

A notorious hacker who was one of Europe’s most wanted criminals has been jailed for blackmailing 33,000 therapy patients with their stolen session notes.

Julius Kivimäki's imprisonment brings to an end an 11-year cyber-crime spree that started when he rose to prominence in a network of anarchic teenage hacking gangs at the age of just 13.

Tiina was cooling off after the customary Finnish Saturday night sauna when her phone pinged.

It was an email from an anonymous sender who somehow had her name, social security number and other private details.

“At first I was struck by how polite it was and how nice the tone was,” she recalls.

“Dear Mrs Parikka” the sender wrote, before outlining that they had obtained her private information from a psychotherapy centre where she was a patient. Almost apologetically the emailer explained that they were contacting her directly because the company was ignoring the fact that personal data had been stolen.

Cognitive and Information War and the “Gray Zone” =

Robbin Laird

An aspect of modern Western strategic thinking has been a focus on gray zone conflict.

This is an area I have always found confusing.

In a world which I would characterize as one of the rise of multi-polar authoritarian movements and states, their constant conflict efforts have indeed been in the gray zone punctuated with direct periods of violence against the West and its legacy of a “rules-based order.”

But as this is going on, it would be difficult not to factor in the domestic conflicts in both the UK and the United States which affects the AUKUS partners of Australia. So how well is Australia doing in the gray zone or information or cognitive warfare areas?

What’s Driving the Global Gold Rush?


Gold has returned to the international monetary system. Over 50 years ago, US President Richard Nixon “closed the gold window” (ended the dollar’s fixed-rate convertibility into gold), and the world moved on from its obsession with precious metals. A new era of fiat currency had begun. But now, fiat money is being challenged by fiscal worries and new technology (blockchains/distributed ledgers), and the price of gold has reached all-time highs above $2,400 per ounce.

Goldbugs, of course, argue that the metal remains an ideal investment for preserving value over the long term. But it is a mistake to believe that gold is uniquely stable. On the contrary, its price measures a fever curve of discord, with spikes indicating a rush for assurance in a world where other values are endangered. The price slumped in the 1990s, when the end of the Cold War – and the “end of history” – had instilled a new sense of peace and stability. At the turn of the millennium, the price was under $300 per ounce, and its rise since the 1970s was below the general rate of inflation. But the price surged after the 2008 financial crisis and after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic; and it has done so again this year.

For Biden, This Moment Is Bigger Than Gaz


Amid a surge in hostile clashes on college campuses across the country over the war in Gaza, President Biden on Thursday gathered reporters in the cramped Roosevelt Room across the hall from the Oval Office. In televised remarks, he said peaceful protests are an American tradition but “violent protest is not protected.”

As he walked out, a reporter asked if the protests had forced him to reconsider his policies in the Middle East. Biden was unequivocal.

“No,” he said.

Biden has stuck with Israel despite his own mounting frustrations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, widespread criticism of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing campaign in Gaza as well as its blocking of humanitarian aid to Palestinians, and increasing protests against his policy. He’s done so because Biden sees threats to Israel coming from beyond Hamas, says a White House official, and believes bolstering Israel’s security as pivotal to preventing current conflicts from mushrooming into a wider war across the Middle East.

Mark Helprin Asks: Are Americans Ready for War?

Barton Swaim

Free nations prefer peace to war, but that preference is complicated by the continued existence of nations led by criminals, ideologues and irredentists. In a fallen world, war eventually comes, wanted or not.

And it’s coming. Iran and its proxies, having started one war in Israel, don’t appear reluctant to consider another with the U.S. A Russian victory in Ukraine, even a partial one, would make eventual confrontation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization almost inevitable. China menaces Taiwan. And the possibility that Kim Jong Un isn’t plotting an attack on South Korea—or on the U.S.—is a bet only a fool would take.

Larry Summers Says Campus Uproar Buoys US Adversarie

Edward Dufner

Former Harvard University President Larry Summers renewed his criticism of college protests stemming from Israel’s war against Hamas, saying the increasingly chaotic scenes on American campuses were encouraging US adversaries.

Occupied buildings, disrupted commencement plans and scuffles with police send a terrible signal to countries such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea at the “most dangerous geopolitical moment” in decades, Summers said Friday on Bloomberg Television’s Wall Street Week with David Westin.

“It seems to me that anybody sitting in one of those countries has to be taking great encouragement from the spectacle that is being made by our young future elites on so many of our leading college campuses, and even more by the craven responses that are typifying university leaderships,” Summers said.

Former national security advisor gives chilling warning about World War Three


A former national security adviser has warned the globe 'could be on the cusp of another World War.'

General H.R. McMaster, who served as a special adviser to former president Donald Trump, urged Washington and the UK to increase their defense spending in anticipation of the global conflict.

He cautioned that a series of 'cascading crises' such as Israel's war on Hamas and the Russian invasion of Ukraine could spell disaster.

McMaster advised the White House to increase defense spending to 4 percent of GDP - twice as much currently required of NATO nations. The money should be spent on high-tech missile systems such as Israel's Iron Dome, according to the geopolitical expert.

The New Empires of the Internet Age

Daniel W. Drezner

The world today is a geopolitical hot mess. One source of that messiness is a lack of consensus among scholars and policymakers about the global distribution of power. Do we still live in a world of U.S. hegemony? Is it a bipolar or multipolar world? Or are states no longer the globe’s key actors, and do we instead live in an age of “technopolarity,” where corporate titans such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and billionaire Elon Musk are the new great powers?