In the midst of rising tensions between the United States and Saudi Arabia over the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict, the Gulf state has expressed its desire to join the BRICS bloc. During his visit to Riyadh last week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed the kingdom’s desire to join the BRICS. Other countries, including Turkey and Egypt, have expressed interest in joining the grouping, he told reporters in that country.
The issue of the bloc’s expansion will be on the agenda of the BRICS Summit, which will be held in South Africa under its presidency in 2023.
“However, the case of Saudi Arabia is both curious and intriguing. Saudi Arabia has long been a close ally of the United States in West Asia. However, the relationship has taken a turn for the worse in recent months. President Biden portrayed Saudi Arabia as a pariah state during his election campaign, citing Prince Salman’s alleged involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist. He changed his mind after assuming power and went to Saudi Arabia. “This visit was intended to ensure the low price of oil to punish Russia,” says Prof Rajan Kumar of the JNU School of International Studies.
As previously reported, Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez had approached Chinese President Xi Jinping about joining the group. Iran has also submitted a request to join. Both countries applied for membership in the bloc earlier this year, in June. Other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt, are expected to formally apply for BRICS membership.
BRICS represents more than 40% of the global population and nearly a quarter of global GDP, and its expansion will help to strengthen the BRICS bloc’s global influence. According to reports citing Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, many countries expressed interest in joining the BRICS bloc at this year’s summit. And stated that China actively supports the member countries in initiating the BRICS Plus Cooperation expansion process. Members discussed the procedure and standards for the expansion at the 14th summit this year.
South Africa and Saudi Arabia are holding talks
The talks took place amid a spat between Riyadh and Washington over OPEC’s decision to reduce production quotas by 2 million barrels per day.
According to reports rts, US President Joe Biden threatened Saudi Arabia with unspecified “consequences” while accusing the longtime ally of siding with Russia during the Ukraine crisis. US lawmakers have called for a halt to arms sales to Saudi Arabia and/or a withdrawal of military aid.
Saudi Arabia has refused to follow Washington’s lead
Prof. Rajan explains, “In a new development, OPEC-Plus, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, has resolved to reduce oil output to maintain high oil prices on the international market.” Washington interprets it as defiance and an obvious attempt to benefit Russia. This has irritated Washington, and Vice President Joe Biden has warned Saudi Arabia of the consequences. What the consequences would be, and whether the US would be able to punish Saudi Arabia in today’s world, remains to be seen. The American strategic influence has once again been exposed.”
Saudi Arabia’s desire to become a member of the BRICS could be seen as an effort to broaden the kingdom’s diplomatic horizons. He speculates that it is a tactic to show Washington that they have other options if things get difficult.
Membership in the BRICS
However, BRICS has yet to decide whether or not to expand its membership. It does not have a clear expansion policy. Previously, such attempts were rejected by some members. Russia and China would welcome Saudi Arabia into the BRICS, but other members may be less enthusiastic.
Prof. Rajan says, “India has close ties with Saudi Arabia.” However, it may be unwilling to consider expanding the bloc at this time. India, Brazil, and South Africa are concerned that such demands will be made by other countries as well. BRICS is made up of regional leaders who are wary of rival states becoming members of the organization.”
Karin Costa Vazquez, Executive Director of the Center for African, Latin American, and Caribbean Studies, told Financial Express Online: “Saudi Arabia’s, a traditional US ally, intention to join the BRICS signals to the West that the world is becoming more multipolar.” This is especially important after the United States failed to persuade its Middle Eastern allies to join other OPEC+ countries in cutting oil production and depriving Russia of its energy revenue. The United States geopolitically motivated efforts to set a price cap on oil are viewed as a dangerous precedent for commodity markets that could exacerbate global economic anxiety.
“All five of the original BRICS members must agree for the group to grow” Oil is a political and economic issue that both Saudi Arabia and India are interested in. In comparison to Argentina, which has weaker ties with New Delhi, it is easier for India to take a position on Saudi Arabia’s membership. “Or other nations whose inclusion in the BRICS could be viewed as a challenge to India’s influence and stature inside the bloc relative to China,” she argues.