Created by bankers as a catchy acronym to entice foreign investors, the BRICS – first Brazil, Russia, India, China and then South Africa – have subsequently morphed into a loose association of countries with an emerging global view. The group now gathers annually to discuss its common aspirations, yet it still has few underlying structures.

In light of its origins and inchoate organization, the BRICS could be accused of being a Potemkin village – all show and no substance. Russia, of course, invented the Potemkin village and knows how to exploit its practical – and symbolic – uses. As a result, Russia highly values its BRICS membership and wants to deepen its cooperation even as the economic dynamism behind the original concept has begun to run out of steam.

To the extent that the BRICS have a common core, it unites a group of emerging market countries that had no input in drafting the rules of global commerce.

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