Biden government and Bolsonaro government

Image: Thelma Lessa Fonseca


What changes and what remains?

The electoral choice for president of the United States always arouses enormous expectations with regard to the direction of its foreign policy and the impacts of this for the world. What will be the global political and economic effects?

This question runs through the newsrooms of newspapers around the world, passing through the texts of several academics, until reaching the offices of analysts and strategists of several national states (in Europe, Russia, China, Brazil, among others). But why is this presidential election so important?

This is due to the fact that the US is the greatest economic, technological and military power in the international system, formed by several national states that have different capacities (greater or lesser) to exercise their will independently of the will of others (sovereignty). Thus, the hierarchical position of a given country in the system is linked to its ability to accumulate wealth and, at the same time, to expand its powers (political, ideological/cultural and military).

In this sense, the international system is essentially characterized by permanent conflict (manifest or latent) and unstable balance. Peace, war, globalism, nationalism are not ultimate ends in the dispute arena of the international system, but means to obtain a greater accumulation of wealth and power for a certain subset of nations, which seek to remain at the top or ascend in the hierarchy. of the system (“those who do not rise, fall”).

This implies, on the one hand, constant conflicts between national States and, on the other, an uneven process of development of the productive forces. Depending on the position of the State in the hierarchy of the system, it can exercise its sovereignty over other nations through:

1 – conventional or unconventional war (or preparation for war), which expresses the coercive exercise of power in the international arena;

2 – economic power in the productive (commercial and technological), monetary and financial spheres, materialized by the export of capital and by the control of the international currency. This provides a greater ability to accumulate and control wealth; It is

3 – direct and indirect action in the hegemonic international apparatuses formed by multilateral organizations (UN, IMF, World Bank, WHO, etc.) and the export of its cultural model (cinema, TV, media, education, values, etc.), which functions as an element of domination and legitimacy.

As said, the US is at the top of the hierarchy of the international system. That's why your presidential election is so important. However, the 2020 election took on an even greater character due to: 1) the far-right Republican President Donald Trump's way of governing (alt-right)[I], and its foreign policy America First (anti-globalist). This meant the withdrawal of the US from multilateral institutions and agreements and the reduction of military interventions; 2) the current rise of China in the international system, which has already become the second largest economic power. Creating concerns in North American strategists, above all, with the internationalization of Chinese capital through the Silk Road project; and 3) the increase in Russia's military power, especially with the consequences of the war in Syria.

More than a traditional dispute between Republican President Trump and Democratic candidate Joseph Biden, former vice president of the Barack Obama administration, the 2020 election had a plebiscitary character on the way Trump had been governing the US, in a context of rising of Russian and, above all, Chinese power.

In that dispute, President Trump was defeated by Biden, who represents the return of establishment democrat to power, especially what was present in the Obama administration. This is explicit with the announcement of Antony Blinken to act as Secretary of State. The same man who held several relevant positions in the Obama administration, acting directly in the formulation of US policies for Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Russia.

It should be remembered that, during the Obama administrations (2009-2017), despite the rhetoric of multilateralism, the US used the instruments of conventional and unconventional warfare[ii], economic power and direct and indirect action in multilateral institutions to reinforce the position of their companies and to prevent the advance of their main opponents in the international system, namely: Russia, Iran, North Korea and China, as defined in National Military Strategy of 2015.

So far, broadly speaking, the future foreign policy of the Biden administration appears to be one of returning to the past (where Obama left off). It turns out that chronological and historical times have not stopped throughout the Trump administration. International conditions have changed, China has increased its economic power, Russia has increased its military power and former allies have grown suspicious of the Trump administration's positions. The game on the international board has not yet been concluded, the US has lost relative positions, but still has significant economic, political and military capabilities in the dispute with its main opponents.

In this context of Biden's victory and the increase in geopolitical disputes, it is worth asking: what are the impacts for Brazil? How is the Bolsonaro government, which had enormous ideological (extreme right) and even affective affinities with the Trump government? In 2019, after a visit by the US Secretary of Commerce, President Bolsonaro even stated that “he is increasingly in love with the American president, Donald Trump”. The “disenchanted souls” attract each other.

With the end of the passion, President Bolsonaro reacted with gunpowder to Biden's speech, at the time candidate, on the possibility of applying economic sanctions to Brazil if deforestation in the Amazon continued. End of passion causes vexing situations. But President Bolsonaro overstepped the bounds by using bellicose rhetoric to challenge the greatest military power on the planet. Clearly, he was a joke. Many “memes” emerged about the capacity of the Brazilian Armed Forces. I think the commanders of the FFAA did not laugh, no

Regardless of this and many other tragicomic moments that Brazil is going through under the Bolsonaro government, I think that many analysts, including those from the left, have overestimated the negative effects of Biden's victory for the Bolsonaro government. It is evident that Bolsonaro lost with the defeat of Trump, at least a passion.

But deriving from this that the Biden government will act directly or indirectly to destabilize the Bolsonaro government, since he threatened the US with gunpowder, is very complicated. The US exercises its power to achieve its economic (its companies) and geopolitical ends and many of them have already been achieved, since 2016.

Under the Temer and Bolsonaro governments, the US managed to obtain regulatory changes in pre-salt exploration, which increased the participation of its companies (Chevron and Exxon); the destabilization of Brazil's engagement in the arrangements configured by the Brics; the agreement to use the Alcântara base, among other benefits. On the other hand, we receive very little in return for these concessions.

The loss of the ability to control these strategic assets implied a reduction in Brazil's relevance on the international geoeconomic and geopolitical chessboard. One of the few strategic assets that we haven't traded at a bargain price yet is our market for 5G. This market is coveted by both the Chinese and the North Americans in the context of technological, economic and control disputes over the information system (instrument for conventional and, above all, non-conventional warfare) between these countries. But as China is governed by the Communist Party, it is unlikely that the Bolsonaro government will open space for negotiation with that country. Ideology above all. With that, we will probably deliver our market to the USA at a low cost.

In that sense, I don't think the Biden administration will have major impacts for Brazil, since US interests are being and will be served under the Bolsonaro administration. It is not possible to expect that the Brazilian tragicomedy will be resolved by a new US government, since they gain, and a lot, with our current debacle.

*Eduardo Costa Pinto He is a professor at the Institute of Economics at UFRJ.



[I]Alt-righthas its roots in the “old right” (right-wing collectivism) of the 1920s and 1930s (conservatism and opposition to New Deal), which had as its tripod: small government (decentralization of government functions articulated with self-governance/communitarianism), anti-communism and traditional values ​​(defence of Western and Judeo-Christian civilization) (See Foley, M. American creed: theplaceofideas in US politics. Oxford University Press, 2007 (chapter 13).

[ii] Andrew Korybko, in his book Hybrid Wars, from 2018, argues that the US adopted an indirect war strategy in Syria and Ukraine, marked by “demonstrations” and “insurgencies”.

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