Here is a look at some of the new BRICS members:
Iran, which holds the world’s second-largest gas reserves and a quarter of the oil reserves in the Middle East, sought membership in BRICS to strengthen its economic and political ties with non-Western powers.
For the past few years, Iran has forged a deepening security and military partnership with Russia and bolstered its economic ties with China. The invitation to join BRICS was viewed by many as a reward.
Iran’s addition will almost undoubtedly increase geopolitical tensions with the West, which could make other current members of the bloc, like India, uncomfortable.
Iran’s economy ranked the 22nd-largest in the world in 2022, has been plagued by inflation, slow growth and economic sanctions from the United States. But the country has stayed afloat by selling discounted oil to China, among other maneuvers. It has also diversified its economy away from oil and increased trade with BRICS members.
Iran called the invitation to join BRICS a “historic achievement and a strategic victory.”
The inclusion of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Persian Gulf’s two biggest political and financial heavyweights and two of the world’s largest energy suppliers, is likely to give the bloc added heft in its quest to challenge the U.S.-dominated world order.
Both countries are longtime American allies who rely on the United States to protect them in a volatile region. But at the same time, both have chafed at the partnership in recent years, increasingly going their own way on issues like oil production, the war in Ukraine and their relationships with Iran and Syria — countries the United States would prefer to keep isolated.
Speaking at the BRICS summit in South Africa on Thursday, the Saudi foreign minister said his country and the BRICS members shared a strong belief in “respecting the independence and sovereignty of states, and not interfering in their affairs.”
Saudi Arabia sees joining the bloc as another step in its efforts to balance out its traditional partnerships with the United States and Europe with its largest trading partners in the East, China and India.
Saudi indicated that they had not yet decided on whether to join BRICS. They appreciated the invitation but were waiting for more details from the group on the nature of membership.
“Based on that and after our internal deliberations, we will make the appropriate decision,” Saudi told the local news media.
United Arab Emirates
The Emirates, like Saudi Arabia, has sought a bigger leadership role in the Middle East in recent years, even when that meant diverging from American interests.
Despite counting on American security guarantees, the Emirati ruler has cozied up to both Russia and China. He visited Russia twice over the past year to meet with its president and agreed to have the Emirati Air Force train with China in August 2023.
Economically, too, the Emirates has thrived on non-Western relationships. The glitzy city-state of Dubai is flush with Russian money, oil and gold that found a home there after Western sanctions hit Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Its trade with India and China has flourished.
The country still gets most of its weaponry from the United States, and analysts say it is not about to abandon the United States’ security umbrella anytime soon.
But officials have expressed frustration with what they see as the United States’ failure to protect the Persian Gulf from threats from Iran, which gulf countries believe has launched attacks on both the Emirates and its close partner, Saudi Arabia, in recent years. And they are skeptical that the American leadership is truly committed to the Middle East.
Those concerns were factors in the Emirati and Saudi decisions to reach separate détentes with Iran, their longtime regional nemesis, making it possible for the first time in years for all three countries to belong to the same bloc.
Argentina has the third-largest economy in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. Its backers in BRICS include India; Brazil, its largest trading partner; and China, with which it has increasingly close financial ties.
Argentina said in a recorded address on Thursday that entrance into BRICS represented an economic opportunity for his country which is mired in one of its worst financial crises in decades, with annual inflation surpassing 100 percent.
An international relations expert based in Buenos Aires said admission into BRICS would reinforce important markets for Argentina and open new ones. It will also provide new financing avenues once the country gains admission into the BRICS’s New Development Bank.
Egypt is one of the top recipients of American aid but it has long maintained a strong relationship with Russia and has growing trade ties with China.
Its interest in weaning itself off American dependence strengthened over the last year and a half, as Egypt learned just how troublesome relying on the dollar can be. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine touched off a foreign currency crisis and then put the Egyptian economy in a tailspin.
Investors pulled billions of dollars out of Egypt in a panic, and crucial wheat and fuel imports, bought with dollars, soared in price. Some imports became scarce and prices rose.
The dollar shortage also made it harder for the country to repay its debts and forced it to devalue its currency steeply, worsening the pain for ordinary Egyptians.
Inside BRICS, Egypt could trade in local currency. It also hopes to attract more investment from member countries.
Not long ago, Ethiopia was the rising star of Africa — one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, led by a dynamic young leader who had won a Nobel Peace Prize.
But two years of civil war in the Tigray region ruined most of that. The economy tanked, the United States cut trade privileges and suspended food aid to Ethiopia, and Ethiopia has struggled to hold together a volatile nation.
Although the Tigray conflict ended last November, Ethiopia’s forces have begun a new fight with powerful militias in another region.
For Ethiopia, BRICS offers an opportunity to move further from the American orbit. Ethiopia is already closely allied to the Emirates, which provided crucial military support during the Tigray war.
And economically, Ethiopia needs foreign help to bolster Ethiopia’s flagging currency and to seek new investments: This week, Ethiopia’s finance minister estimated it would cost $20 billion to rebuild from the Tigray war alone.