Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 3 January 2024



Saudi Arabia Stumbles Over BRICS


But in recent years, led by China and Russia, the BRICS have evolved into a diplomatic bloc bent on countering Western influence. The bloc would like to create an alternative system of global finance that is less dependent on the U.S. dollar for transactions and would be less vulnerable to Western sanctions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in particular has been urging the BRICS to expand in order to increase their clout against the U.S. and its allies. Last year the group issued invitations to the Saudis, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran, Ethiopia and Argentina. New Argentine President Javier Milei has turned down the invitation, which shows good judgment given how much his country needs Western financing. The BRICS get him nothing.

The same can’t be said for the judgment of the Saudis. Negotiations over a rapprochement between the Kingdom and Israel have been in recess since the Israel-Hamas war that began on Oct. 7. But our sources say both sides would like to resume talks once the war ends, and negotiations are close to 70% done.

The Saudis want Mideast stability to focus on modernization and economic development. Crucial to that stability is a security guarantee from the U.S. akin to what Washington has with Australia and Japan. This would be insurance against Iranian-Shiite aggression.

The question is why a country seeking such a guarantee would align itself with a bloc of nations that now includes Iran, Russia and China—America’s main global adversaries. Russia—meaning Vladimir Putin—is the BRICS president pro tem in 2024. That hardly sends a reassuring message to the U.S. Senate, which would have to approve a defense treaty with 67 votes. Those votes won’t be easy to get as it is, given hostility on the Democratic left to the Crown Prince.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham put the point squarely in a tweet on Tuesday: “Does the United States Senate view a country joining BRICS as an effort to enhance that nation’s relationship with the U.S.?” He also asked whether a country aligned economically with Iran—“a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law”—would be subject to U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The Biden Administration may not be warning off the Saudis from joining the BRICS. But somebody should if the Crown Prince really wants a defense pact with the U.S.

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