Brazil and the war in Ukraine

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By PAULO NOGUEIRA BATISTA JR.*

It is not up to Brazil to take sides in this complicated conflict. And it's not what you've been doing

What should be the Brazilian position in the face of the war in Ukraine? For the most part, the Brazilian corporate media, following caninely the Western media, has already chosen a side. It has been demonstrating an open partiality, compromising its obligation to inform.

It is a serious mistake. It is not up to Brazil to take sides in this complicated conflict. And this is not what Brasilia has been doing. Even Bolsonaro's fiercest opponents, including myself, need to recognize that the initial position of the Brazilian government, in particular the Itamaraty, is correct. Bolsonaro, as always, makes his skids. He resists, however, pressure from the US and the traditional Brazilian media to align himself with the western side.

To understand what is at stake, it is essential to realize that what we are seeing is not primarily a war between Russia and Ukraine, but a war between Russia and the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). ), a military alliance led by the United States. Ukraine, poor thing, got on board the ship. It's fighting by proxy. It was taken by frivolous and incompetent national leaders to a confrontation with the second largest military power on the planet.

Brazil obviously cannot support the invasion of one country by another. We need to stick to our traditional position of defending the search for a diplomatic and peaceful solution to disputes between countries. But we also need to understand Russia's side. As this has received little attention in the Brazilian media, I will try to explain it briefly, without claiming to cover all aspects of an issue that is, I insist, of extraordinary complexity.

All the confusion starts with the expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe since the 1990s, as has been increasingly recognized in Brazil. In stages, taking advantage of Russia's weakness at the time, the western military alliance was incorporating countries formerly belonging to the Soviet bloc (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria) and even countries that resulted from the dissolution of the Soviet Union (Lithuania , Latvia and Estonia). Look at the map of Europe and put yourself in the Russians' shoes.

The crisis intensified in 2014, when the Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovych, close to Moscow, was overthrown by a coup d'état, one of those color revolutions, similar to the one that would take place in Brazil and lead to the overthrow of Dilma Rousseff. Much more violent, but similar. Make no mistake, reader, about the following point: there was an active participation of the USA (Obama government) in the overthrow of Yanukovich.

The American claim to incorporate Ukraine into NATO was the fatal step. Pursued by Kiev after the 2014 coup, this claim could not be accepted by Moscow without endangering Russia's national security. Look at the map again and see the distance that separates the Ukrainian border from the Russian capital. As if Estonia wasn't enough that it's practically around the corner from St. Petersburg, Russia's second-largest city!

Yet, again, Russia's resort to violence and invasion of Ukraine is deplorable. It cannot be co-honored by Brazil. We have to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who are going through a terrible experience.

One might ask: does the fact that Brazil cannot support Russia and condemn the invasion harm the BRICS? Some in a hurry have already decreed the end of the grouping. This doesn't make the slightest sense. I can give the testimony of someone who participated in the formation process of the BRICS from the beginning, in 2008: the BRICS were never, nor intended to be, a political alliance – a point that I explain in detail in my book Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard, especially in the second edition.

The BRICS are a club or cooperation mechanism with very important but limited purposes. The group has advanced further than other similar groups, having even created its own development bank and its own monetary fund. But it is a mechanism limited primarily to the economic-financial area. Russia is perfectly aware of this and does not expect Brazil to adhere to its political positions.

The initial position of the Bolsonaro government after the outbreak of war has been basically correct, as I said, but it should not be forgotten that this government took a tremendous false step on a related issue, a false step that has not been much remembered now. I am referring to the fact that, in 2019, when Donald Trump was still US president, Jair Bolsonaro celebrated the designation of Brazil as an “extra-NATO ally”. This made no sense at the time, and makes even less sense today in the face of the Russia-NATO confrontation.

Brazil must be a non-aligned country. What does that mean? Several things. We need, for example, to return to being an active participant in the BRICS, something that was lost in the Temer and Bolsonaro governments. We have to resume and strengthen our relations with Latin America and Africa, without parti pris ideological, that is, without worrying about whether the governments of other countries are left, right or center. However, this openness to the so-called political South does not imply hostile relations with the United States, Europe or Japan. On the contrary, Brazil must seek relationships, not friendship, since, as Charles de Gaulle said, nations have interests and not friends, but positive and constructive relationships with all nations.

Of course, little or none of this will be possible in the Bolsonaro government, despite the efforts of the Itamaraty, which improved its performance after the replacement of Ernesto Araújo by Carlos Alberto França. However, under a new command from January 2023, Brazil will be able to do all that and much more. It could even play, if the parties are interested, a role in pacifying the conflict in Eastern Europe, a conflict that, unfortunately, will not be resolved anytime soon.

*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 (LeYa).

Extended version of article published in the journal capital letter, on March 4, 2022.

 

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