BRIC is an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India and China. It was created by Goldman Sachs's Jim O'Neill who in 2001 produced a paper entitled "Building Better Global Economic BRICs." He was trying to identify a group of large, up and coming economies. These four had similar characteristics and suited his analysis. The term became popular because these countries have, as O'Neill believed they would, accrued additional clout as their economies for the most part grew in the 2000s.

O'Neill apparently considered two other countries for inclusion in BRIC; Mexico and South Korea. There has been some speculation about South Africa as well. O'Neill has commented that South Africa, with a population of 50 million, simply does not have critical BRIC mass. Insofar as Mexico and South Korea were concerned, O'Neill has said he decided against their inclusion because these were more developed countries. Ironically, given the growth of the BRICs and the paralyzing drug war that Mexico is undergoing, it could be said that Mexico has regressed as the BRICS have prospered. Other countries have also been mentioned as potential BRIC material, including Turkey, Nigeria and Indonesia.

There is no doubt of the size and potential of the BRICs. By mid-century the BRICS could constitute the most formidable economic force in the world. Right now BRIC nations account for 25 percent of the world's land mass and over 40 percent of the world's population. Here is a current GDP rundown, which amounts to nearly US$20 trillion:

• China $10 trillion

• India $4 trillion

• Russia $2 trillion

• Brazil $2 trillion

While the BRICs do not have OPEC-like aspirations, their aggregation has caused the leaders of these countries to evaluate what they have in common and seek use of their growing clout together on the world stage. They have met together and have taken stands from a political perspective that emphasize a multi-polar world. The BRICs as a group are often opposed – theoretically anyway – to the ambitions of the Anglo-American axis, in particular the United States.

While the BRICs have indeed brought into question some of the global policies of the US, it cannot be said that they have radically realigned globopolitical policy. For one thing, coordinating the policies of four countries is not the same as wielding unilateral clout as the US does. A second issue is that the BRICs remain, in total, fairly troubled regions. Certainly India and China still suffer from enormous rural poverty. Brazil and Russia have the smallest BRIC economies and thus have the furthest to go to diversify.

The growth of the BRICs has been something of a mirage as well, based on monetary stimulation rather than on strong economic fundamentals. Additionally, the BRICs are bound to the West by business and industrial ties. That they would take fundamentally antagonistic views to the West is not feasible, nor will it occur. The Cold War is over.

For all the catchiness of the name and analysis of their promise, the BRIC countries remain developing rather than developed countries and will provide at best a questionable counterweight to the West. At worst, the economies of one or several of the BRICs shall collapse in the near future and reveal that the BRICs are no more substantial as a true Western competitor than Japan proved to be.