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Pragmatic choice: place and role of Belarus in the system of the Global East and South

Fewer and fewer people in the world are putting in question the fact that the center of world progress is shifting from the collective West to the Global East and South. This, in particular, is eloquently evidenced by the growth rates of many Asian economies following the 2023 results, as well as the relevant forecasts for the current year. For example, India's GDP grew by a record 8.4% from October to December.

What place and role in a fragmenting world is assigned to Belarus?

Geopolitical basis

Practice shows that it is much more convenient for the planet to stand on two supports than on one. Such a world is much more steady, which means it’s much predictable and safe. We are witnessing the revival of the Global South and East as a civilizational project with an extremely wide scope - up to the North Pole, which can become a real counterweight to the Western system.

The role of the countries of the Global South and East in world affairs is growing rapidly, many of them (indeed, India) reasonably demonstrate global ambitions. Such breaking of norms and the previous global hierarchy is a natural consequence of accumulated global imbalances and contradictions, which opens a window of opportunity for new ambitious and determined players.

The traditional world centers of power are no longer able to stop or even contain the growing "free will" of the states of the Global South and East, although they are trying to resist this upward dynamics.

Due to economic prerequisites, the inevitability of transition from a globalized world to a "world of regions" was predicted by the authors of the report "The Fragmentation of the Global Economy and U.S.-Russia Relations" back in 2017. The document, in particular, noted that such a format of organizing the world economy (when intraregional relations develop much faster than interregional ones) in general may be even more preferable compared to the outgoing globalization, provided that the regions remain open to each other.

Geo-economic effects

Geopolitical fractures entail geo-economic fragmentation, which causes serious economic damage, especially to small and medium-sized developing countries, due to the fact that our world has recently become much more interconnected and interdependent.

The general problem is aggravated by the gradual prevalence of political causes of fragmentation over economic factors: habitual protectionism is complemented by illegitimate sanctions, and sometimes even indistinguishable from them. Therefore, political restrictions give this fragmentation a self-reinforcing character, narrowing the space for balancing.

The existence of economic fragmentation between the two antagonistic blocs, calling this phenomenon the new Cold war, was publicly recognized by Gita Gopinath (born in India), the First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, during a speech at the IEA World Congress in December 2023. Moreover, this trend is assessed as irreversible, and the recommendations do not relate to how to address it, but how to live with it.

In such circumstances, it seems logical that the desire to survive in an extremely turbulent and polarized world, in addition to mobilizing own, often limited, capabilities and resources, makes everyone to unite and consolidate in the face of systemic risks, challenges and threats.

Institutional framework

Apparently, a key role in all these processes belongs to the SCO and BRICS, the dynamic expansion of which in recent years gives grounds to talk about the emergence of a potential core of a future global configuration, whose participants want to harmonize their national interests in a non-conflict manner, as well as reliably protect them from destructive external influences. In fact, it was the West itself that turned these associations into a real force that challenges it today.

Apart from BRICS and SCO, the structural frame of the new world architecture may be complemented by other regional associations of the Global South and East: ASEAN, MERCOSUR, the African Union, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, etc.

Due to the general logic of the current trend towards regionalization, we can not exclude the emergence in the future of a mutually acceptable mechanism for flexible coordination between these structures, which could become a real alternative to the traditional UN institutions that are rapidly losing their former weight in unison with the events being the case. According to many experts, they are in deep crisis, having turned into a tool for serving the interests of a narrow group of Western states.

It is obvious that informal, multi-level hybrid interaction is the most optimal coordination model, for rigidly fixed obligations within communities make it difficult to maneuver when freedom of action is increasingly valued, as well as the ability to flexibly and promptly use emerging opportunities.

The SCO and BRICS, as the core of a new civilizational project, offer the world the much-desired pragmatics without lectures, the mentoring tone of a hegemon broadcasting about "values" and "rules-based order", pragmatics without attempts to change the partner's civilizational code or its constitutional system, but with respect for one fundamental and enduring value - sovereignty, national interests and the chosen path of development.

Closer regional cooperation opens up unprecedented opportunities, despite (no one is under any illusions) a considerable number of remaining problems and contradictions.

The formation of a polycentric world based on broad network cooperation, collective management and consensus decision-making, as well as the expansion of BRICS not only to specific countries, but also to other regional structures will further strengthen its influence in the world and raise cooperation to a new level. This mechanism is critically important for maintaining the indivisibility of regional security in the context of the West-introduced block mechanisms of network deterrence.

At the same time, the consolidation of the countries of the Global South and East inevitably entails confrontation with the West. The nature of geopolitical dialectics is that no center of power will ever voluntarily give up even a fraction of its influence. No one needs competitors. That is why the SCO and BRICS are doomed to confrontation with the Western world, which, of course, does not exclude contacts between people, trade and diplomacy. All this, of course, will also happen. But we are ready for anything, because together we are a real force to be reckoned with.

The formula of "double counteraction to double deterrence" recently proposed by the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China, the essence of which comes to the use of the SCO and BRICS to impede the Western policy of sanctions, may come in handy here. In particular, we are talking about the creation of sanctions-protected mechanisms for financial settlements and trade and economic ties and, in general, strengthening the positions of the countries of the Global South and East in the new world order.

Pragmatic choice of Belarus

Amid the above trends, it seems natural and logical that the Republic of Belarus, support by Russia as its strategic ally and partner, is increasing cooperation with new centers of power in the Global South and East, in particular the SCO and BRICS. This consolidated position was clearly and unambiguously reiterated last December at a joint meeting of the boards of foreign ministries in Moscow by Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

This approach clearly reflects the further adaptation of Belarus' foreign policy priorities and foreign economic interests to the current geopolitical realities. Its outline harmoniously fits the task recently set by President Alexander Lukashenko for the domestic industry - to actively occupy new niches in Africa, Latin America and Asian countries.

The Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research, as a leading state research center, founded by the President of the Republic of Belarus, acts precisely in line with such proactive approach. In particular, work has begun on modalities of cooperation with the Global South Centre of Excellence DAKSHIN, established in New Delhi in November 2023 by decision of the Prime Minister of India. The purpose of its activities is stated to be the search for innovative solutions in the interests of development or best practices in developing countries of the Global South, followed by scaling among other partners.