Divide and Conquer*


*Editor’s note: On March 4, 2022, Russia enacted a law that criminalizes public opposition to, or independent news reporting about, the war in Ukraine. The law makes it a crime to call the war a “war” rather than a “special military operation” on social media or in a news article or broadcast. The law is understood to penalize any language that “discredits” Russia’s use of its military in Ukraine, calls for sanctions or protests Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It punishes anyone found to spread “false information” about the invasion with up to 15 years in prison.

Political scientist Yekaterina Entina – on how the U.S. is trying to weaken BRICS, and why sanctions play an important role.

As the latest course of events suggests, Washington has prioritized the breakdown of BRICS.* In the U.S., there’s bipartisan consensus on that. The administration and Congress differ only on one thing: how comprehensive, harsh and swift should anti-Russian and anti-Chinese measures be.

The U.S. is watching how rapidly BRICS is strengthening given its growing authority and influence. It’s a strong alternative to the G7. As of today, more than 20 nations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America are seeking to join BRICS. Aside from that, the group brings the countries of each of its member’s respective regions to its activities. For example, South Africa served as a “gateway” to Africa, calling for the private companies from the member countries to cooperate with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development program.

But unlike Western structures, BRICS is not a bloc with any iron discipline. The countries that make up BRICS have different positions on a wide range of matters, including development strategies and the character and schedule of the organization’s expansion, as well as relations with the Anglo-Saxon world. So this gives Washington, objectively, an opportunity to apply a “divide and conquer” strategy with respect to BRICS.

The tool set Washington uses is becoming ever more diverse and complex. The U.S., the countries of the European Union and of NATO began to invite prominent non-Western world players to their meetings. This is especially apparent in the case of India, which has been invited to the Group of Seven as a regular guest since 2019. At the last NATO summit in Vilnius, countries were invited that open the possibility for the alliance to spread its activities to Asia-Pacific, thus completing a system to deter China. Washington and Brussels, competing with BRICS, have began to conduct more intensive and substantive meetings with the array of nations of the regions in which they have interests (in particular, with Africa and Latin America).

Aside from that, the West invites only separate members of BRICS to its large events. A concrete example would be the recent multilateral meeting in Jeddah to solve the Ukrainian crisis, without Russia’ participation. The fact that the talks didn’t bring any tangible result to Ukraine doesn’t have any special meaning to Western countries. What the organizers needed, first of all, was to create new internal rifts in BRICS.

Slowly, the West’s plans to offer developing countries its own version of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative become more and more concrete, with large-scale financing and with the implementation of large infrastructure, energy and other projects. One of the landmark initiatives, comparable in scale to the Belt and Road Initiative, was the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, launched in 2022. Of course, the price for technical and financial assistance and debt relief is reorientation away from Russia and China.

The West is also not forgetting about sanctions. For example, take a look at the new anti-China measures, outlined in President Joe Biden’s executive order at the beginning of August. The sanctions ban investment in high-tech Chinese companies and projects, including joint ventures. The sanctions apply to the development, production and use of semiconductors, microelectronics, quantum technologies and artificial intelligence systems. The restrictions are based on the fact that those are the high-tech sectors essential to the modernization of armed forces, the growth of military potential and the military ambitions that threaten the national security of the U.S.

The point of the partial investment ban is in that it kickstarts a layered multi-step operation for a further break from the economic complex of China, Russia and other countries undesirable to Washington, their weakening and destruction.

This move was imposed not just on China but also on any U.S. opponent or competitor. The list of countries undesirable to the U.S. was provided in an appendix. For now, it currently includes China and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao. But it could be expanded at any moment. Finally, the investment embargo on separate promising sectors of Chinese high-tech should in no way be viewed as an isolated measure. It’s mostly meant to finalize the range of sanctions against Chinese high-tech, bringing to them a consistency that was missing before, with the alleged objective of total isolation.

The Americans previously introduced prohibitive restrictions both on the sale of equipment, final products, components and intellectual property products, and on access to the newest technologies by acquiring patents, licenses and participation in joint industrial, infrastructural, developmental, venture and research projects in separate sectors of high-tech. But everyone still had the opportunity to invest in Chinese developing technologies.

So one can view the investment ban as certain evidence of a continued course aimed at the collapse of the world economy both as a whole and as a global system built on the principles of freedom of trade and enterprise.

But it appears that the main meaning of the investment ban is not even that. By closing the channel of participating in and interacting with Chinese high-tech, Washington is forcing private capital to reorient to merging with high-tech in countries that have high-class and cheap scientific personnel, and a high-quality and cheap work force in general. Primarily, India is naturally among such countries. In relations between Washington and New Delhi, the agenda now is to launch a technological corridor to establish a supply chain in the tech industry. Many regional leaders are included in this category of countries, such as Brazil and South Africa together with many of the countries that have applied for BRICS membership.

Sanctions, secondary sanctions, the creation of anti-Russian and anti-Chinese frontiers, the breakdown of economic ties with Russia -– primarily in the field of technology -– and now systematic restrictions on interaction with Chinese high-tech inaugurate ever sharper competition between business and BRICS countries, reinforcing the existing discrepancies between them. This is precisely what Washington and its allies need.

BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization members can’t stop at just mutual declarations, mutual positions on a wide range of global agenda matters and agreements about their intentions. It’s important to arrive in lockstep with specific solutions on creating a single space for invention, learning and scaling of high technologies, and on connecting to the jointly created space of high technologies of the countries of global majority.

*Editor’s note: BRICS is an acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

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About Artem Belov 80 Articles
Artem Belov is a TESOL-certified English teacher and a freelance translator (Russian>English and English>Russian), currently residing in Russia. He is working on a number of projects, including game localization. You can reach him at belov.g.artem@gmail.com

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