palacio148_ALET PRETORIUSPOOLAFP via Getty Images_BRICSramaphosa Alet Pretorius/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

For Whom the BRICS Toll

The group's latest summit was touted as a pivotal event that could change the contours of international relations. It achieved nothing of the kind, but the fact that grievances against the current system are so widely shared, and that so many countries are keen to challenge the status quo, should serve as a warning to the West.

MADRID – The just-concluded BRICS summit – bringing together the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa – was touted as a pivotal event that could change the contours of international relations. Some compared it to the Bandung conference of 1955, which laid the foundation for the Non-Aligned Movement, while others anticipated movement toward an alternate system of global governance fit for a multipolar world. But what the summit showed is that shared grievances do not amount to a shared vision.

The bloc’s decision to admit six new members – Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – may seem to vindicate predictions that the BRICS will remake the world order. After all, more than 40 countries were allegedly vying for membership, though a formal list was never disclosed.

But the decision to expand – like the push for de-dollarization – amounts to picking low-hanging fruit. When it comes to the numerous thorny global challenges requiring urgent attention, the summit provided little in the way of solutions. And that can be expected to continue: ultimately, the BRICS has always been more statement than substance, with each member using it as a platform to advance its own ends. A larger, even more heterogeneous membership will impede consensus on all matters of consequence.