Mr. Scholz goes a-wooing BRICS – the meaning of multipolarity

Olaf Scholz, chancellor of Germany, pictured in 2019. (Photo: MSC /Flickr)

By Hari Kumar, Red Phoenix international correspondent.

The German Chancellor has been a busy traveler lately. As he flies around he drops words of a “multipolar” world. What does this mean? It means developing a third force including Germany, in alliance with the BRICS. The pace of these attempts was increased after the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

In 2022, at the elite club at Davos, Olaf Scholz warned against the sole hegemony of two powers, the US and China:

“What (does) it mean to live in a multipolar world? The bipolarity of the Cold War is just as much part of the past as the relatively brief phase when the United States was the sole remaining global power – even though the United States will, of course, remain the dominant power factor in the world… I don’t give any credence to the reports of a new bipolarity between the US and China, either. Of course, China is a global player – ‘once again’… that does not mean that we need to isolate China, neither does it give rise to the claim of Chinese hegemony in Asia and beyond. Particularly since we are seeing new and ambitious powers emerging in Asia, Africa and Latin America. …When we realize that our world is becoming multipolar, then that must spur us on to even more multilateralism, to even more international co-operation.”

Scholz fights hard for German capitalism to remain in pole position leading EU capitalists. This year Scholz reiterated warnings against the United States’ new drives to protectionism, and German industrial intent:

“(Under the) Inflation Reduction Act… some 370 billion dollars have been earmarked for energy and climate change mitigation over the next ten years. … Through the German Climate and Transformation Fund we have made almost 180 billion euro available ourselves for the period 2023 to 2026.”

The Chancellor and the EU know they have to heavily invest to keep pace with the US:

“The Chips Act has brought about a new start for chip manufacturing in Europe… To remain competitive, we will have to make European legislation on state aid more agile and flexible – just as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed.”

Indeed EU President Von der Leyen had already set “sovereignty” as the future slogan, in her 2021 State of the Union address. “Europe must shape economic restructuring ‘according to our own rules and values.’… (while) EU officials listed all the places where the bloc has become vulnerable… For example, 90 percent of European data is held in the cloud services of U.S. corporations such as Amazon or Microsoft. Europe’s market share in the manufacture of semiconductors is only around 10 percent.”

This year Scholz issued a dire warning against “fragmentation” or protectionism:

“Over all of this hangs a sword of Damocles: the danger of a new fragmentation of the world, of deglobalization and decoupling… I am doing my utmost to ensure that the free trade agreements we have successfully negotiated with Canada, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, and Chile will soon be followed by new ones: with MERCOSUR, India, and Indonesia. And we are also open to discuss a tariff agreement for the industrial sector with the United States… This is also the aim of the international Climate Club we launched during Germany’s G7 Presidency. A Secretariat has recently been set up at the OECD and the International Energy Agency. So the Club is now open to new, ambitious members.”

Scholz proactively opened this “Club” by inviting South Africa, Senegal, and Niger to discussions with the G7 under his presidency. His approaches to Africa have not been unproblematic. In particular Mali and Burkina Faso not only kicked out the French army (their former colonial masters) and welcomed in Russian forces including the brutal Wagner forces, but also refused German Bundeswehr drone flying rights.

Unsurprisingly Scholz focused recently on BRICS. The term “BRIC” was coined in 2001 by an economist Jim O’Neil for bankers Goldman Sachs. In 2014 the “S” was added for South Africa. O’Neill advised investors that BRIC represented a large and growing portion of world GDP. In 2018 BRICS had “a combined nominal GDP of US$26.6 trillion (26.2% of the gross world product), a total GDP Purchasing Power Parity of around US$51.99 trillion (32.1% of global GDP PPP), and an estimated US$4.46 trillion in combined foreign reserves.”

“The group accounts for 40% of the world’s population and just over a quarter of global GDP… the G7 countries with a far smaller population base constitute just over 30% of global GDP on purchasing power parity.”

Many other countries queue to join BRICS:

“BRICS International Forum president Anand reported… Egypt and Turkey along with Saudi Arabia — could join the BRICS group very soon’…. (In) earlier announcements Iran and Argentina had formally applied for membership.”

All so-called MINTS (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey) will probably end up within BRICS. In 2014 BRICS established alternative banking systems:

“An agreement to establish a ‘New Development Bank’ (NDB) and a ‘Contingent Reserve Arrangement’ (CRA)… reiterate(s) their dissatisfaction with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the role of the dollar in the global monetary system. The BRICS possess just 11% of the votes in the IMF, despite accounting for more than 20% of global economic activity.”

Obstructions were placed in the BRICS path. For example, the US-engineered President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff’s downfall and the trial of Lula da Silva. Lula’s re-election in Brazil uplifted BRICS. Brazil and India, which Scholz recently visited, both have grand visions.

President Lula’s foreign policy adviser, Celso Amorim, was an architect of ‘multipolarity’:

“Amorim is considered the intellectual originator and architect of the multipolar strategy.. he believes that Brazil benefits from having several power centers determine world politics and therefore advocates good relations with all international players. For this reason, he expanded South-South relations.”

Lula aims to reweld several South American nations into Hugo Chavez’s original Union of South American Nations (USAN, or UNASUL) by reconfiguring the free trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur. As a measure of Lula’s determination to be ‘independent,’ Lula has rejected the USA led shunning of Russia:

“Lula did not want to comply with Scholz’s request to pass on tank ammunition to Ukraine. ‘Brazil has no interest in passing on the ammunition to be used in the Ukraine-Russia war… Brazil is a land of peace. And that’s why Brazil doesn’t want any involvement in this war, not even indirectly.’ “

That sentiment alarms Western imperialists who recognize:

“As was reported in the Munich Security Report… not a single state from Africa or Latin America – and hardly a state in Asia – supports the West’s sanctions policy against Russia. If serious setbacks are to be avoided in the global power struggle against Russia and China on a long-term basis, one must win back at least a few of the Global South’s countries. After all, in many countries of the South, the ‘Western-dominated order’ is in many states in the Global South, characterized by ‘postcolonial domination’ which engenders sympathy for a ‘post-Western’ global order.”

India is also a leading economy meriting it as a destination for Scholz. For example, “Over the past few years, the Indian economy has grown strongly and, in the meantime, reached the fifth-largest in the world – surpassing even Great Britain, the former colonial power.”

India recently hosted the G20 meeting, as it entered the presidency of the BRICS. As Brazil, India refuses to deep freeze Russia. Indeed oil exports that Russia barred by the EU now largely go to India. Moreover “During the first ten months of India’s fiscal year (April-January), India’s imports from Russia have jumped to US $7.31 billion, five times that of the previous year. Russia ranks fourth on India’s list of suppliers, just behind the USA.”

But BRICS ‘independence’ from imperialism is constrained. Patrick Bond sees the BRICS as collaborators with Western imperialism:

“The BRICS are ‘collaborating actively with imperialist expansion, assuming in this expansion the position of a key’ bloc, whose own interests also rest in sub-imperialist stabilization of international financial power relations, for the advancement of their own regional domination strategies.” (Third World Quarterly, 2016 Vol. 37)

But an even more important dimension is of course that BRICS includes Russia and China. Both imperialist nations. Hence, the BRICS itself is simply another imperialist formation – just as is the EU, and the nations led by the USA which in Europe at least – revolve around NATO.

China also woos the same areas that Western imperialism is doing:

“Three days before the Ukraine paper, Beijing presented… its ‘Global Security Initiative.’ This concept, announced by Xi Jinping a year ago, is a political continuation of the so-called Silk Road Initiative, Beijing’s almost global economic and development program…The text… argues against ‘unilateralism, bloc confrontation and hegemonism’ and advocates guaranteeing security not through military alliances but through individual agreements. At the same time, Xi lists where the focus of Chinese foreign policy will be in the future: in the countries of Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.”

In conclusion

No doubt American imperialism is by far and away still the most dominant. This is measured by its economic, military, and political reach. While its leaders fret over the growth of China, objectively the distance between ‘top dog USA’ and its imperialist rivals is enormous.

But things change; they are right to be anxious. Hence their continual challenging of China — restricting Chinese access to microchip technology and restricting telecommunication access, imposing import restrictions into US, returning to “home-shoring” industry, constant provocations via Taiwan, etc.

German Chancellor Scholz visits Biden this weekend in Washington. They have a lot to discuss… Not the least the failure of the US to honor its part of the tank deal. Suspicions are that the US holds up deliveries of Abrams to ensure a future arms-market share in Europe.

Scholz plays a delicate game. He wants to bolster EU power. But he cannot antagonize the US directly – as of yet. Along the way, if he can bring into a “multipolar” world various BRICS and other “South” countries, the more degrees of freedom the German imperialists can have against the top dog imperialists.

All the major imperialists – the US, China, the EU, Russia – see what is coming shortly: a new world war of re-division. US Air Force General Minihan wrote in a Memo on Jan. 29, 2023: “We will fight in 2025. Xi secured his third term and set his war council in October 2022.” And where is the united left that will fight for workers’ and toilers’ visions?

Categories: Germany, Imperialism, International

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