US ‘ally’ expresses desire to join BRICS
Saudi Arabia wants to join the BRICS, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has stated, signaling a dramatic potential expansion of the bloc amid growing tensions with the US over the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Ramaphosa told reporters of Riyadh’s BRICS inquiry, as he wrapped up his two-day state visit to the desert kingdom on Sunday. The trip included meetings with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other Saudi leaders. “The crown prince did express Saudi Arabia’s desire to be part of BRICS, and they are not the only country,” Ramaphosa said.
The group, which is named for member states Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is scheduled to meet next year in Johannesburg for its annual summit. Expansion prospects will likely be high on the agenda, as the bloc is expected to consider adding such nations as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Algeria.
“The BRICS nations are going to be meeting in a summit next year under the chairship of South Africa, and the matter is going to be under consideration,” Ramaphosa said. “And already, a number of countries or nations have been making approaches to the other member countries, and we’ve given them the same answer – to say it’ll be discussed by the BRICS partners themselves, five of them, and thereafter a decision will be made.”
The State Visit to Saudi Arabia was about advancing diplomatic and political relations between our two countries, but it is the economic relations that underpinned the substance of our visit.#SAinSaudiArabiapic.twitter.com/zuVPODGy1c— Cyril Ramaphosa 🇿🇦 (@CyrilRamaphosa) October 16, 2022
The Saudi-South Africa talks came amid a row between Riyadh and Washington over OPEC’s decision to cut production quotas by 2 million barrels a day. US President Joe Biden last week threatened Saudi Arabia with unspecified “consequences” and accused the longtime ally of siding with Russia in the Ukraine crisis. US lawmakers have called for cutting off cooperation with Saudi Arabia, such as halting arms sales or withdrawing military support.
Saudi Prince Saud al-Shaalan responded angrily on Saturday, warning Western leaders not to threaten the kingdom. “Anybody that challenges the existence of this country and this kingdom, all of us, we are projects of jihad, and martyrdom. That’s my message to anybody that thinks that he can threaten us.” Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman said Saudi leaders were “astonished” by false US accusations that Riyadh is standing with Russia against Ukraine.
Russia, China and other BRICS members are reportedly developing a new global reserve currency, potentially undermining the dominance of the US dollar. The addition of Saudi Arabia to the bloc would have potentially far-reaching implications, given that the dollar’s strength stems partly from its status as the dominant currency in international oil markets. Saudi Arabia has reportedly considered selling crude in Chinese yuan.
Although the US and Saudi Arabia aren't formal allies, their partnership has been one of the most long-standing and mutually beneficial in the region. Riyadh is a major buyer of American arms. The US, as the world's biggest oil consumer, has sought to keep Saudi crude output flowing into international markets at high rates.