Russia Is Finally Correcting False Perceptions of BRICS

Yves here. We’re featuring this post on how understandable differences among BRICS members, both economically and geopolitically, means they are not as unified as some multipolarity fans would believe.

An issue here is that the author Andrew Korybko is relatively new to the Substack punditry game. He tends to undermine his sound general observations with what rhetorical corners-cutting in others. For instance, he has repeatedly called out “many” in a faceless and monolithic “AMC” (Alt-Media Community) for repeatedly overhyping the pace at which BRICS (and by extensions other “Global South” organizations) will advance their efforts to construct a non-dollar, new-currency based payments system. Even though Korybko’s broad-brush on this point may seem like straw manning, having spent a lot of time consuming anti-globalist analysis and commentary, Korybko is on point here, despite his failure to produce the goods for the benefits of readers new to this arena. There are a lot of cheerleaders, including some economists, who perhaps due to a lack of experience with payments system plumbing, treaties, and multiparty negotiations, have been in “assume a can opener” mode. I have written Korybko asking him in the future to provide examples of particular stories to help strengthen his argument. Mind you, since he has his own site, he can ignore friendly advice.

Readers may also be put off by Korybko’s support for the arrest of Andrew Girkin. Again, Korybko errs on the side of ad hominem by depicting him in this post simply as a conspiracy theorist and linking to an earlier post of his. But on a quick skim, Analyzing The Arrest Of “Doom & Gloom” Conspiracy Theorist Igor Girkin, despite the overuse of prejudicial labeling, does a good job of substantiating the case for his arrest. This is not as black and white as the Western press would have you believe.

So I trust you can read past these shortcomings for the meat of the post.

By Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based American political analyst who specializes in the global systemic transition to multipolarity in the New Cold War. He has a PhD from MGIMO, which is under the umbrella of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Originally published at his website

It was always unrealistic to imagine that BRICS is an alliance of completely sovereign countries that have united due to their shared hatred of the West and are thus plotting to topple the dollar’s dominance in the near future like some of the Alt-Media Community’s top influencers claim.

Many in the Alt-Media Community (AMC) have been misled by some top influencers into imagining that BRICS is something that it’s not. In particular, they think that it’s an alliance of completely sovereign countries that have united due to their shared hatred of the West, which is why they’re allegedly plotting to deal a deathblow to the dollar in the very near future. Those who share “politically inconvenient” observations such as the ones contained in the analyses below usually come under attack by the AMC:

* “Popular Expectations About BRICS’ New Currency Project Should Be Tempered

* “South Africa Showed That BRICS Isn’t What Many Of Its Supporters Assumed

* “Alt-Media Is In Shock After The BRICS Bank Confirmed That It Complies With Western Sanctions

* “Explaining China’s & India’s Reported Differences Over Expanding BRICS

Russia is finally correcting false perceptions of BRICS ahead of this month’s summit, however, which discredits the narrative pushed by the AMC’s top influencers. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov recently confirmed that differences exist among its members over their group’s formal expansion, Russia is reluctant to publicly share its official stance towards this sensitive subject, and there’s no chance of BRICS unveiling a new currency anytime soon. Here are TASS’ corresponding reports about each point:

* “‘Nuances exist’ among BRICS members regarding group’s potential expansion — Kremlin

* “Russia won’t rush ahead to announce position on BRICS expansion — Kremlin

* “Common currency in BRICS hardly feasible in the near time — Kremlin

Extrapolating on them in the order that they were shared:

* BRICS is indeed divided between those who want to seize the historical moment in expanding the bloc as much as possible right away and those who believe that a slower pace is more aligned with their shared interests;

* Russia seems to be more sympathetic towards the second approach otherwise it wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to score political points vis-a-vis the West by hyping up BRICS’ expansion to prepare the global public for a supposedly imminent new era of geo-economic affairs;

* and the bloc’s natural differences among its diverse members make it extremely unlikely that they’ll all soon agree to ceding some of their economic sovereignty by actively promoting a new currency at the expense of their respective national ones.

None of this is surprising nor the result of Western influence, but was entirely predictable due to BRICS’ intra-group dynamics and its members’ relations with the West, which objective observers keenly understand but the AMC has largely been unaware of since some top influencers twisted and sometimes omitted related facts to push their agenda. There have always been legitimate arguments for and against rapidly expanding this bloc as well as the pace at which it accelerates financial multipolarity processes.

For instance, moving too swiftly risks weakening BRICS since it’ll become more difficult to achieve consensus, but not taking advantage of other countries’ interest in participating in its activities to some extent risks wasting this historical moment, ergo the need for a compromise like BRICS+. The same can be said about the pace at which BRICS accelerates financial multipolarity processes since all its members apart from Russia are in relationships of complex economic-financial interdependence with the West.

Building upon the aforesaid observation, while all BRICS members have a shared interest in diversifying away from the dollar as well as their disproportionate dependence on Western trade and investment, they envisage going about this differently. Dealing a deathblow to the dollar and ruining the Western economy would harm their own interests, and while some might think that this would still serve Russia’s, they’re wrong since China’s and India’s resultant economic-financial destabilization isn’t in its favor.

Accordingly, it was always unrealistic to imagine that BRICS is an alliance of completely sovereign countries that have united due to their shared hatred of the West and are thus plotting to topple the dollar’s dominance in the near future like some of the AMC’s top influencers claim. The only reason why this false perception went viral is because the targeted audience didn’t know any better since those who they trusted twisted and sometimes omitted related facts about this to push their agenda.

Left unchallenged, the unrealistically high hopes that many across the world were misled into having about BRICS will inevitably lead to them becoming deeply disappointed after the group’s summit this month fails to meet their expectations, thus making them susceptible to hostile suggestions. A critical mass of multipolarity supporters might then “defect” from “5D chess master plan” conspiracy theories about BRICS to embracing “doom & gloom” (D&G) ones pushed by the West to demoralize them.

In hindsight, Russia should have proactively managed perceptions about BRICS so as to avert this scenario far in advance, but it was prioritizing efforts to protect its integrity in the face of the West’s unprecedented propaganda onslaught and didn’t have enough extra experts available to do this. Additionally, it also didn’t realize how inaccurate many multipolarity supporters’ views of this group were until recently, once again for the same reason that it has limited experts and can’t cover everything.

This insight explains Russia’s belated attempts to correct these false perceptions just three weeks before the next summit. It might be too little too late to prevent some multipolarity supporters’ “defections” from the “5D chess” conspiracy camp into the “D&G” one, the same as can be said for Russia’s arrest last month of infamous “D&G” conspiracy theorist Igor Girkin, but it’s better than nothing and shows that the Kremlin is now aware of the threat posed to its soft power interests by certain conspiracy theories.

Girkin’s ones about the special operation were “unfriendly” while the AMC’s conspiracy theories about BRICS are “friendly”, but both manipulate the perceptions of Russia’s supporters on sensitive issues, thus leading to them becoming ever more divorced from reality as time goes on. It took a while, but Russia is finally correcting these false perceptions and countering associated conspiracy theories, and hopefully it’ll build upon this momentum to soon do the same regarding other sensitive issues too.

Respectfully expressed disagreements and well-intended constructive critiques should always be encouraged, but twisting and sometimes omitting facts in order to artificially manufacture a false perception that advances an agenda is unacceptable and should always be opposed. The AMC’s top influencers therefore have to decide whether they’ll play the first role in support of Russia’s soft power interests or continue playing the second and thus remaining the West’s “useful idiots”.

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  1. square coats

    I would very much like to know who these top influencers are so that I can try to understand what their agenda is supposed to be. And also as I’d like to understand what distinguishes all this from the common phenomenon of someone being wrong on the internet, albeit someone being wrong with a regrettably large audience. I am totally open to this (that an agenda exists) being the case but as it is, I feel like I’m trying to fight against the ghosts of paper tigers.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t think this is quite as pernicious as you suggest, just annoying to people like Korybko and frankly to me too. I’m not fully up on all the subtribes of the anti-globalists, but a fair number are libertarians and so also sometimes fall in with cyptocurrency types, while others are very suspicious of any type of digital currency. Some of the libertarians have been preaching the US would collapse into hyperinflation under its persistent deficit spending, which has not happened, and some of this group are goldbugs. Many are otherwise sound on their critique of the US which is why it is so frustrating to see them go off the rails on this topic.

      1. Polar Socialist

        I believe there’s also a misconception about “multipolar”, as in thinking that it’s merely a movement against US hegemony, and not understanding that it actually means that states can disagree in many areas and still collaborate in some.

        It’s about members treating each other more or less as equals and allowing others to pursue their own agenda on their own terms. And that USA is actually very welcome to participate in this. China and Russia are kinda demanding USA to act this way, come to think of it.

        While gaining enough independence from trade in US dollars and perhaps even from IMF yoke is on the agenda for many members, it’s likely not the main issue for most – if any – members of BRICS. I’m sure all still plan to keep using dollars when appropriate, convenient or profitable.

        1. Societal Illusions

          that’s not how the US redefines it at every opportunity as it’s empire or nothing. A country is either fully with us or against us. Multipolar is the enemy… (so don’t make it sound so sensible!)

      2. square coats

        I guess I don’t have a good grasp on Korybko’s tone, as I thought he was portraying it as pernicious. To me it seems like something that would be more likely annoying than pernicious but I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      3. Paul Damascene

        I don’t read AK as often as I could–but when I do I generally take him to be trying to voice something close to the official Russian diplomatic line. I don’t mean this as an insult–we’ve only made the claim insulting in the case of enemy states. I’d infer that in AK’s view, Russia is trying to dial down expectations.

        As for the Alternative Media Community, I’m not sure what his beef is, especially, though if I had to guess it might be directed at one or two specific individuals–Pepe Escobar for example. I don’t much care, but it’s not so much the straw man but the number of references to that straw man that is off-putting.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I have had a discussion and he does have particular commentators in mind, and reasons for not naming them. Nevertheless, in the intro I made clear this simplification was less than ideal.

  2. Lex

    You see the same phenomenon in the AMC (whatever that really is) when it comes to Russia’s military behavior in Ukraine. I think it stems from a heavy influence of very American thinking. That is, there’s an assumption that other countries do and will behave like the US would in a given situation. And much of the AMC is anti-American or at least anti-imperial American so they put their hopes on what Russia or China or BRICS might do to knock the US down a peg or two, at least.

  3. The Rev Kev

    I suppose the truth of the matter is that without the west and it’s financial institutions doing stuff like gold seizure, asset stealing, predatory loans, SWIFT cut offs, attacking countries that do not want to get with the neoliberal program and all the rest of it, that the BRICS project would have just stayed as a fringe organization without that much to offer. For Russia, the rapid expansion of the BRICS was not expected but the Ukraine war has accelerated it by years if not decades leading Russia to run to try to keep up.

  4. Dida

    On his blog Korybko has been very consistent in minimizing the significance of BRICS. For example in a piece recently posted on NC he described BRICS as some sort of financial partnership.

    But BRICS is a geopolitical bloc, not a financial partnership. It was born in 2009, immediately after the financial crisis proved conclusively to the Global South that US-led financialization is dragging world economy to destruction. And BRI was also launched after the crisis, in 2013. It is probable that China’s grand strategy has taken shape much earlier, because SCO dates back to 2001, but institution building accelerated only after the crisis, when the states of the Global South stopped buying into the neoliberal model for good. And BRICS initiatives have been (mostly) financial in nature because the dollar system is the keystone that supports the current world order.

    Now, in the West, people who realize that western capitalism is breaking down, want to see in China and BRICS the shining knight on a white horse who will save us from ourselves. Of course, China will do what’s best for China, and what’s best for its own oligarchy, and is under no obligation to bring us puppies and unicorns. Personally I have numerous concerns regarding BRICS and a future Chinese hegemony, but there is no denial that the US-based order at this moment represents a dead-end for humanity.

    Yves believes that institution-building will proceed at the same slow pace and possibly take a few decades more, due to widely diverging national interests and other major difficulties, and there is a lot of wisdom in this view. Unfortunately, the hegemon is becoming more and more unhinged, its political economy is unravelling, and I think this will accelerate the process. It is hugely revealing that 49 out of 54 African states participated in the Russian summit in complete defiance of the hegemon’s wishes. Given the dangers of nuclear war and ecological collapse on top of everything else, the Global South is running out of time, and they know it. For example, much of Africa, Middle East, and Central America will be desertified; Southeast Asia will be submerged. We are speaking here of decades, not centuries. And their ruling elites know it.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You start with the premise that Korybko’s characterization is incorrect. I suggest you listen to Alexander Mercouris today ( He makes clear that BRICS is NOT a geopolitical bloc. It was a forum for meetings of the leaders of those countries. It has developed a bit of an institutional framework, and is under pressure to grow into more quickly.

      1. Dida

        Yves, thank you for your comment. I appreciate your suggestion, but I do not always base my opinions on alternative media experts, and certainly Alexander Mercouris is not on my roster for more theoretical aspects of geopolitics. But I promise that I will examine the issue as you recommend, read some world-system and international relations theorists, and make a decision for myself.

      2. Dida

        My fairly polite reply has again been disappeared. Dear Yves, forgive me for noticing, but I see that you are on my case pointlessly – and relentlessly. I’m 60 – life is too short for this kind of petty harassment. I’ll stop posting on your blog: you win.

  5. Matthew G. Saroff

    I would note that many, if not most, of the problems with the EU are from expanding too quickly, both in terms of members and in terms of administrative power.

    The go slow approach makes sense to me.

  6. Susan the other

    A multi-polar world, to my thinking, is a straightforward concept. Which is absolutely basic: All sovereign countries are entitled to make decisions in their own interests. And this requires that they have independent currencies. I also thought multipolarity would be much easier on the US currency because our economy is no longer big enough to finance the rise of global equality without destabilizing the dollar. Equality has a way of homogenizing civilization – but we want to preserve and protect diversity. I’m saying this from decades of observation but absolutely no expertise. But economic stability seems to be the goal. And it is fraught with climate and environmental concerns now. So how do we do this epic transition? The thought emerged that there is a new angle in the construction industry called Deconstruction and Recycling. And I’m imagining it could be applied to global neoliberal finance which really is maxed out. It risks becoming totally absurd. I’m assuming it is maxed out because the usual profits have evaporated, which is all the more reason to deconstruct and recycle the misplaced financing, mostly military-industrial, and the best way to do it is to conserve as much value as possible. Social and environmental value that is. The currencies will follow.

  7. Joe Well

    Re: BRICS currency

    Why would anyone think that a transnational currency was a good idea, given all the failures of the euro? Or fail to see that China would take a Germany-like role in dominating such a currency? Even if it is a currency used only for international trade, wouldn’t conflicting national interests still come into play?

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