The new route of good hope and peace in Ukraine

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By PAULO NOGUEIRA BATISTA JR.*

Brazil's role on the world stage

Dear male or female reader, Brazilian or Brazilian, I want to return today to a theme that I believe is of great interest to us: the global role that is, I believe, reserved for our immense country. Note that I am expressly addressing Brazilians. If there is, by any chance, any member of the notorious Fifth Column straying here, I kindly ask you to leave.

I addressed several times, in 2021 and 2022, the topic I want to return to. What I said, more than that, I prophesied was that if we did not commit the folly of re-electing the then President of the Republic and, in a fit of lucidity, we elected Lula, Brazil could not only recover as a nation, but also contribute in a decisive to recover the entire planet. I published several articles, I refer to two of them, posted on the site the earth is round: “Brazil, country-planet”, July 26, 2021; It is “The Route of Good Hope”, 9 of August of 2021.

I run the risk of being repetitive today, I know, but only the innocent don't understand how fundamental it is to repeat, repeat and repeat. As Nelson Rodrigues used to say – a Brazilian who was, incidentally, aware of the greatness of Brazil – what is said once, and only once, remains rigorously unheard of.

Extravagances and dreams, romantic and realistic

The chronicles I wrote, the interviews and lectures I gave, in the last two years, seemed extravagant and dreamy, I thought so myself. But two things, reader. First, no country has achieved international influence, for better or for worse, without the messianic feeling that it has the capacity to bring a new word to the world. And let's face it, only romantics change things. As Fernando Pessoa used to say, in similar words (I am quoting from memory), realists can be excellent directors of nail factories, or something like that, but only romantics, dreamers, and emotions move mountains.

There we have a difficulty. Brazilians are pragmatic, one of the most pragmatic people I have ever met. Worse: Brazilians are not always up to par with Brazil. “Not always” is my concession. Better to say "rarely". And I leave it to the intelligence and sensitivity of the reader to unravel this paradoxical distinction between “Brazil” and “Brazilians” – a distinction that dates back to De Gaulle, who already separated “France” from the “Frenchmen”.

Second thing: in the campaign, after the election and after the inauguration, Lula gave repeated indications that he perfectly understands his global role. I don't even need to recapitulate them, they are there for all to see. This shows that the Brazilian national project must also be a universal project. And, with Lula, it has a real chance of happening.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

These messianic reflections of mine on Brazil go back, in part, to Dostoyevsky who, in the 1880th century, correctly prophesied that Russia was destined to bring a new word to the world and decisively influence the course of world history. It was the aforementioned Nelson Rodrigues, by the way, who drew attention to this part of Dostoyevsky's work. For example, for the wonderful speech of XNUMX about another Russian genius, Pushkin, mobilized by Dostoyevsky to speak of the greatness of Russia, in a passionate and moving speech that brought the whole country to tears.

There is a similarity between Russia and Brazil, noticed by several Brazilians since the last century: they are two large countries, immense in fact, but relatively backward and, perhaps for that very reason, capable of perceiving what rich countries, accommodated in their wealth and its privileges, dominated by selfishness and a narrow and sterile rationalism, always find it difficult to feel: the essential unity of humanity and the need to build a project that includes everyone, without exception, a project based not only on reason, but also and above all in the heart.

Since then, I kept thinking: who would be the Brazilian Dostoievski? Nelson Rodrigues himself? It could have been. Our great playwright and chronicler was born, however, at the wrong time. When he reached his creative peak as a chronicler, in the 1960s and 1970s, Brazil was living under a military dictatorship, rejected by much of the world. But then I thought better of it: perhaps our Dostoyevsky will not be an artist, a writer, but a politician. And who would that politician be if not Lula himself?

Lula, Brazil and the leadership vacuum

I don't want to burden our Lula with superhuman and, possibly, a little exaggerated tasks. But observe, reader, if he is not acting exactly in line with what I have just written. And a question: smart as he is, doesn't he realize that making an effort in the international field is a powerful instrument to overcome the great internal resistance to the transformation of Brazil into a fair and dynamic country? The deep-rooted mongrelism of our rich and privileged strata will finally be of some use!

I can already imagine what someone who is more skeptical, more realistic will say: “But this is all delirium! Brazil and Lula don't have all that ball!”. Ah, reader, but isn't it exactly through delirium that one arrives at the essence of things?

I explain better. Lula wouldn't even come around the corner, even with all his extraordinary qualities, even with all his vast experience, including suffering and persecution, if he were just the great leader of a small country. He would be, at best, a Pepe Mujica, an exceptional figure, but without repercussions outside Latin America. What opens up an unprecedented opportunity for us in our history is the combination of a giant Brazil with a giant Lula. This is at a time in world history where there is an acute shortage of political leadership. In the West, the vacuum is impressive. I don't want to disparage anyone, but Biden? Scholz? Macron? Sunak? (I had to look for the name on the internet…). In the East, there are strong leaders, even impressive, Putin, Xi Jinping, Modi, with little international acceptance, however, mainly the first, but the other two as well, for various reasons. Lula travels through all areas.

peace in ukraine

Confirming again what I predicted more than once, in the last two years, Lula began to position himself as a possible mediator for the solution of the war in Ukraine. National viralism is howling in style and there is no lack of those who consider the intention of the President of the Republic to be unreasonable and even ridiculous. It is true, of course, that mediation will only take place if and when those involved in the war, directly or indirectly, are interested in it. But Lula is preparing the ground and has already explained, in general terms, that he intends to help create a group of friendly or neutral countries that can bridge the gap between the parties in conflict. He did not mention it, as far as I know, but I imagine that this group could include, in addition to Brazil, Turkey, Israel, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa, for example. 

I am well aware that there are no prospects for a short-term solution. How to underestimate the seriousness of the situation? Russia considers that it lives an existential threat. The West, mainly the United States, considers that its world hegemony and authority were put in check by the invasion of Ukraine.

However, peace is never out of reach. As former president Dilma Rousseff recalled, in an interview with Léo Attuch from 247, last year, a war that cannot be resolved on the battlefield has to be resolved through diplomatic means. And the key to a solution, she rightly said, is to find a formula that can be presented as victory by all or nearly all warring sides. Difficult? Ever. Not impossible though.

I risk sketching some elements of what would be, in my humble opinion, a possible diplomatic solution, which would satisfy, to some extent, all or almost all those involved. Consider, reader, what follows only as an example of what could be constructed.

Russia would withdraw all its troops from the regions of Ukraine, Donbass and others, invaded since 2021. ipso facto, its recognition of breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine. Before, however, Ukraine would pass, reflecting the country's diversity, a constitutional reform that would convert it from a unitary republic to a federative republic, in line with the promises made in the Minsk agreements of 2014 and 2015. All provinces of Ukraine, inclusive in particular the predominantly Russian-speaking ones, Lugansk and Donetsk, would have relative autonomy and the right to elect their governors (to this day always appointed by Kiev) and their state assemblies. The Russian language would be established or re-established as the national language, along with Ukrainian and perhaps others spoken in the country, ensuring complete freedom to publish, teach and communicate in Russian.

I would stay with Russia, Crimea, with an overwhelmingly Russian majority, and which was incorporated into the country in 2014, after a referendum in which more than 93% voted for incorporation. Ukraine and the West would pledge not to seek Ukraine's admission to NATO, but it could, if stringent European requirements are met, join the European Union at some future time. It would perhaps also be necessary to include a commitment to denazify Ukraine, which has long been plagued by violent far-right groups heavily involved in the escalation that led to the war.

Westerners would lift sanctions against Russia as agreements are fulfilled and would unfreeze Russian international reserves that were blocked in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. Russia would undertake, for its part, to help rebuild Ukraine which is, after all, a sister nation, from the same historical and cultural space, and which only by a dark succession of mistakes and machinations was led to this war, regrettable as all.

Viable? Perhaps. The West would declare itself victorious since Russia, forced to abandon its supposed expansionist project, would have withdrawn all its troops, would accept Ukraine's eventual entry into the European Union and would also help in the reconstruction of the country. Russia would also declare itself victorious: it would obtain the recognition of Crimea as Russian, the autonomy of the Russian-speaking populations in Eastern Ukraine, the end of sanctions, the non-entry of Ukraine in NATO and a commitment to denazify its neighbor.

I don't know anything about the details, or even the general lines, of what is being considered in Brasilia in this regard. But I believe that Lula, along with other leaders of mediating countries, will indeed be able to play a role in ending the war, even taking advantage of the happy circumstance that Brazil will preside over the G20 in 2024, a forum of leaders that, as is known, includes the main developed and emerging countries.

All countries mentioned above as potential participants in a mediation effort are part of the G20, with the exception of Israel. Lula has already conveyed to Macron his desire for the G20 to return to being a political group in which leaders meet to discuss face-to-face, together, the challenges of the planet, ceasing to be what it has been for many years – a half-empty group in which responsibilities and discussions were outsourced to member country bureaucrats.

The New Route of Good Hope

Anyone who, at this point, still hasn't noticed the international influence of our President of the Republic is probably a goner and might, who knows?, stop reading right here (if he made it this far). As for the greatness of Brazil, I can only remind you, for the umpteenth time, that our country is one of five countries – only five – that at the same time integrates the lists of the ten largest countries in the world by territory, by population and by GDP – the States States and the original four BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India and China. In cooperation with other emerging and developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia – and also maintaining good relations with the West – Brazil has all the conditions to change the course of world history.

Saturnino Braga presented, in 2019, a very interesting proposal that I later detailed a little. Instead of simply participating in the New Silk Road, an important Chinese initiative, shouldn't Brazil organize its own international initiative? And resume the spirit of the great Portuguese voyages, the spirit of which Brazil today, more than Portugal, is able to be the heir? It would be “The New Route of Good Hope”, an ambitious project that could fire the imagination and unleash energies.

In it, Brazil would cooperate with other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia to launch an articulated set of projects and programs in the areas of infrastructure, climate and social development. (The idea is further developed in the aforementioned article, “The Route of Good Hope”.) It could also be combined with another proposal, which emerged last year: the formation of a G3, which would include Brazil, Congo and Indonesia – the three countries with the largest rainforests in the world – to articulate a global South's view of the climate crisis, in alliance with their neighbors in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia who share the rainforests.

To put this project in motion, Brazil would mobilize Itamaraty, our embassies around the world, BNDES, Petrobrás, Embrapa, Finep, national contractors, the BRICS Bank, among other entities. We would need to act on a large scale and in an innovative and ambitious way, making use of the creativity and work capacity of Brazilians. Does this ask too much of us? Does it require sacrifices? Undoubtedly. I invoke, once again, Fernando Pessoa, who in the poem “Portuguese Sea”, recalled: “Whoever wants to go beyond the Bojador/ Has to go beyond the pain./ God gave the sea the danger and the abyss/ But it was in him that mirrored the sky."

Brazil, to be itself and fulfill its planetary destiny, has to keep its head high, look far ahead and think big.

The selection coach cannot solve everything

Of course there will be, even regardless of any ambitious project like this, enormous difficulties ahead of us. It should not be lost sight of that the president is the coach of the national team. The players – ministers and presidents of public banks – have to rise to the occasion, play well, fight with a twinkle in their eyes, get into a split ball. They can't wait for the coach to come onto the field to attack, go to the bottom line, take a corner, head, take a penalty.

The Ministers of Finance, Planning, Industry and Commerce, Foreign Affairs, the President of the Central Bank (I am dreaming big!), the President of the BNDES, the President of the BRICS Bank (probably former President Dilma) and others members of the first echelon – all of them have a fundamental role in the performance of Brazil. Not all, however, show that they understand the country's global potential. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mauro Vieira, and the advisor to the President, Celso Amorim, as well as former President Dilma, I must point out, know all these challenges in depth, even if it falls to the former to deal with the ingrained “Tucanism” of a wing of Itamaraty, more problematic than the minority Bolsonarist wing of the house.

With that, we reach the second tier, which has more weight than is generally imagined. I am referring, for example, to the secretaries for international affairs at Finance, Planning and Industry and Commerce, the directors of international affairs at the Central Bank and the BNDES, the Brazilian executive directors in bodies such as the IMF, World Bank, IDB and the Brazilian representation in regional financial entities, such as CAF and Fonplata. Ideally, these positions would be occupied by Brazilian men and women, competent, dedicated and willing to sacrifice – excluding, of course, the numerous fifth columnists who infest the country and even the government.

In summary, all these people, both in the first and in the second echelon, have to be united in a common purpose – to put the Brazilian machine in operation again.

I have not forgotten, reader, that there is a condition sine qua non for all these international plans – to put Brazil back, without delay, on a path of development with income distribution and the fight against poverty. Otherwise, however good the plans may be, the country will be the proverbial giant with feet of clay.

*Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr.  he holds the Celso Furtado Chair at the College of High Studies at UFRJ. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS in Shanghai. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard: backstage of the life of a Brazilian economist in the IMF and the BRICS and other texts on nationalism and our mongrel complex (LeYa).

Extended version of article published in the journal Capital letter, on February 24, 2023.

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