BRICS, Politics, and Gold — It’s all become a muddle

Mar 21, 2024·Alasdair Macleod

Russia tried to get a gold-backed trade settlement currency onto the BRICS agenda last August but failed. There has obviously been a rethink, judging by the few public briefings from senior Russians. In those briefings, gold has been dropped, and it appears that the Russians are now struggling to come up with a workable alternative. And the proposed expansion of membership is probably making it even more difficult to get unanimous agreement on how to do away with the dollar.

Russia is this year’s president of BRICS, having taken up the baton from South Africa and membership has expanded to ten nations. And of the 30 nations which expressed an interest last year, a further 15 countries have formally applied to join BRICS. As pro tempore president, Russia will probably authorise further membership applications in a quest to expand BRICS and Russia’s own sphere of influence. 

President Putin in his New Year speech outlined Russia’s objectives for BRICS in the coming year. The following is extracted from the English translation:

“In total, over 200 events of different levels and types will be held in many Russian cities as part of the chairmanship. We encourage representatives of all countries interested in cooperating with our organisation to take part in them. The BRICS Summit in Kazan in October will be the culmination of our chairmanship.”

With over five events planned on average every week, Russia has put considerable detail into her agenda for BRICS, which will run alongside her military and energy strategies. Clearly, the objective must be to cement hard support for Russia’s strategic objectives from all current and future BRICS members, which includes replacing the dollar as the foreign exchange and trade settlement medium as much as possible. 

Readers will recall that Russia wanted to put a gold backed trade settlement currency on the Johannesburg agenda but failed to secure the required unanimous backing of the then members. With the benefit of hindsight, we can view the early leaking of her proposal as a device to put pressure on the dissenters. But Keynesian India was dead against it, and China was lukewarm. Consequently, Russia now appears to be adopting a different approach.

This article assesses the current position and concludes that politics have driven the project into such a muddle that a new BRICS trade settlement currency will never fly.

To see the rest of this article, subscribe to