Brazil's diplomatic isolation

Image: Eugenio Barboza


Brazilian foreign policy was towed by the president's personal emotions, resentments and jealousy

If you ask a five-year-old if the teacher is pretty, she will say yes if she likes her. If she doesn't like it, she'll say she's not pretty. A child under the age of seven does not have the developed rationality to say: “she is beautiful, but I don't like her”. Or else: "I like her, but she's not pretty". A child cannot understand complexity and does not separate reason from emotion.

Jair Bolsonaro often behaves like a child and fails to make complex reasoning. For him, there are no political opponents, there are friends or enemies. He likes Donald Trump, supported the Trump administration who claimed to have won the election. As he likes it, Trump is right. There was election fraud, Joe Biden lost and rigged the result. Bolsonaro officially declared this after the US election concluded. The president of Brazil said that there was fraud in the election and that Trump won. He repeated this, months later, to an official American delegation he received in Brasilia.

The Brazilian president was one of the last to recognize the government of Joe Biden, he repeated several times the lie of the extreme right that, unhappy with the defeat, invented the fraud. The then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, who was noted for his mediocrity and ignorance, even showed sympathy for the invasion of the Capitol in Washington.

At the opening of the UN General Assembly in 2019, Bolsonaro expected to shake hands with Joe Biden to improve their relationship, but Biden entered the plenary through another door to avoid contact. In Europe, Bolsonaro was humiliated by the contempt of the main European governments. The president of France even received Lula with the ceremonial adopted for head of state. Lula spoke at the European Parliament and was received by the future Prime Minister of Germany.

To break the diplomatic isolation of Brazil, treated as a pariah by the main Western nations, Bolsonaro decided to go to Russia to meet Putin, and then visit the fascist regime in Hungary, where he felt at home. But in Russia, he paid a price. He took five Covid tests, stayed a bit reclusive in the hotel, had to honor the Soviet soldiers who fought in the war against Nazism – his heart ideology – and made a statement of support for Putin in the midst of the crisis with Ukraine.

Putin has his reasons. It is being surrounded by American military bases, via NATO. Ukraine, bordering Russia, entering NATO, would receive American rockets pointing towards Russian territory. It is true that some European countries do not support Ukraine in NATO, but, in any case, the US already has military bases in several countries of Eastern Europe, such as, for example, Romania and Poland. The Polish installation, located near the village of Redzikowo, is 160 kilometers from Russian territory and just 1.300 kilometers from the city of Moscow that would be hit by a missile in a short time.

US Senator Bernie Sanders declared: “Would the US accept a military alliance between Mexico and Russia?” And New York Representative Alexandria Ocaso-Cortez blamed the US military-industrial complex, “hungry for revenue” after the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Russia has reached its limit, as demonstrated by the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 to, according to Putin, ensure the autonomy of the separatist provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, with Russian language and culture.

The fundamental issue in the Russia-Ukraine-US conflict is the gas pipeline linking Russia to Germany. This commercial partnership will necessarily generate a political, cultural and tourist partnership between these two countries, making NATO and American military bases with their missiles pointing at Russia unnecessary. Germany would tend to pull Europe closer to Eurasia.

But none of that matters to Bolsonaro. He only thinks about re-election and everything indicates that he went to Russia to ask Putin for electoral support, the same support given to Trump in the 2016 election, when Russia was accused of launching an offensive of cyber attack of fake news to support Trump. But Putin supported Trump because he had an interest in weakening Europe, just like Trump who, with his isolationist nationalism and his fight against multilateralism, tried to weaken the European Union. I don't see much interest from Putin in supporting Bolsonaro, but you never know, international politics has its mysteries.

Everyone's attention was drawn to Bolsonaro's official statement supporting Putin in the midst of the Ukraine crisis. The White House spokesperson has already said that Brazil is “on the other side”. Itamaraty, with its recognized tradition of intelligence only broken in the Bolsonaro government, finds itself in spider's breath to explain that Bolsonaro did not say what he said. As a matter of fact, we only had an independent foreign policy, based on the national interest, in PT governments. After the impeachment coup of then President Dilma – who had not committed any crime – Brazil returned to its traditional position of automatic unilateral alignment with the USA.

The two Armed Forces have carried out joint training operations since 1960. Brazil and the United States have partnerships in the areas of education and military instruction. The Brazilian Armed Forces participate in exchanges of instructors with US military personnel and promote various courses and internships for Brazilian military personnel in the US and vice versa. And, reportedly, the Brazilian Armed Forces usually receive some obsolete military equipment from the US.

Bolsonaro's political isolation from the world led him to accept Putin's invitation to visit Russia. Finally, a president who likes him. Anyway, he was going to pay back Biden. He took in his entourage some generals who had always supported Brazilian vassalage in relation to the USA. With the crisis in Ukraine, the timing was not propitious. And Bolsonaro made the situation even worse by officially declaring support for Putin.

Probably, he is not aware of the political implications of his actions, much less in the international scenario, which he saw as a confrontation between extreme right neo-fascists – with whom he identifies – and left or right democrats, his enemies. The fact is that Itamaraty is now in a very difficult situation, impossible to be fixed by the current government.

Brazil, married to the USA and its faithful vassal, committed adultery. Brazilian foreign policy was towed by the president's personal emotions, resentments and jealousy. Biden doesn't like me, so he's bad. Putin likes me, therefore he is good. This type of reasoning scandalizes anyone, particularly those who are aware of complex thinking, a concept developed by the French philosopher Edgard Morin.

With Lula's electoral victory apparently assured, if there is no palace coup against the election or its result, Brazil will once again have an independent and mature foreign policy. The new government will have to rebuild the excellent international image that Brazil had, which was thrown into the trash, as well as rebuild everything that was destroyed in education, health, science, culture, environment, human rights, etc. Finally, rebuild public policies and democratic institutions that have been shattered in recent years, thus breaking with the domestic and international impasse that has suffocated Brazil since the advent of the current government.

*Liszt Vieira is a retired professor at PUC-RJ. Author, among other books, of Identity and globalization (Record).

Originally published on the website Other words.


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