Fri. Sep 22nd, 2023

Visiting Paris this week, the Brazilian president is more than ever the champion of the “Global South”, the so-called emerging powers that are challenging the dominance of Western countries in international institutions. As he enters his third term in office, the Brazilian president aims to revive his hyperactive non-alignment diplomacy, the limits of which were highlighted by the war in Ukraine.

“Brazil is back,” declared Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva the day after his election victory over Jair Bolsonaro on October 30, 2022. After six years of crisis and isolationism, “the most popular politician in the world” according to Barack Obama (in 2009), intends to put Brazil back at the center of the international diplomatic stage.
At Emmanuel Macron’s invitation, Lula will be in Paris on June 22 and 23, where he will attend the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact, an initiative of the French President aimed at “reforming the architecture of global finance to better respond to the challenges of global warming”. Some forty heads of state and government are expected to attend.

Emmanuel Macron wants to address the global South

According to the daily L’Opinion, “the French president is calling for an overhaul of the system inherited from the Second World War, taking into account the emergence of the powers of the South to avoid fragmentation with Western countries”. He adds that Emmanuel Macron wants “to attend a summit of the very closed Brics club – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – […] which wants to compete with global governance under American leadership”.

This Brics summit will take place from August 22 to 24, 2023 in South Africa’s Gauteng province, and if the French president wants to make his project a reality, he will no doubt need the support of Lula, whom he will receive face-to-face this week at the Élysée Palace. For the French president, cultivating a close relationship with the veteran Brazilian politician is a way of reaching out to the countries of the South.

Indeed, the Brazilian president built his aura on the international scene as one of the architects of the Brics, whose first summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in 2009. The organization has gone dormant in recent years (the last Brics summit was held in 2019), but according to certain projections, these five countries will account for 40% of global GDP in 2025 (compared with 31.5% today).

Lula, champion of the South
In addition to the emergence of this Southern power bloc on the international stage, Brazil developed a hyperactive diplomatic stance during the first two Lula presidencies (2003-2011), then those of his successor, Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016), with the aim of asserting itself as one of the leaders of the South and as the champion of its autonomy from Western powers.

In 2004, for the first time, the UN entrusted the command of an international military operation, Minustah (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti), to the Latin American giant.

The Brazilian president also accompanied the birth of several institutions aimed at greater political and economic integration in South America, with the creation of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) and Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries).

In the Middle East, Lula distinguished himself in 2010 by securing an Iran-Brazil-Turkey nuclear agreement.

On the African continent, Lula multiplied trips, embassy openings and agreements during his first two mandates, giving the image of Brazil as a new global power.

Lula’s failed mediation attempt in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict
Despite this experience and prestigious track record, the early days of the Brazilian president’s third term came up against the issue of the war in Ukraine, which deeply divides the South and North of the planet.

Nearly fifteen years after its creation, the Brics group looks more and more like an anti-Western club, at a time of near-cold war between China and the United States and near-war between Russia and NATO.

While most Western leaders welcomed the return of the veteran Brazilian politician to business, the honeymoon came to an abrupt halt after Lula’s trip to China. In Shanghai on April 15, the Brazilian president told the press that the United States and the European Union must “stop encouraging war and start talking about peace”.

A few days later, John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, a body that reports directly to the US President, retorted that “in this case, Brazil is echoing Russian and Chinese propaganda without taking the facts into account”.

The next day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was received in Brasilia, smiling and relaxed in jeans and sneakers.

Non-alignment put to the test by the war in Ukraine

For Brazilian political scientist Oliver Stuenkel, “Lula’s ambition to play a mediating role in Ukraine is unlikely to prosper without the blessing of the West”. For the researcher at Sao Paulo’s Getulio Vargas Foundation, it’s not simply the philosophy of non-alignment that prevents Brazil from condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Brazil, whatever the government, has always had a low-intensity relationship with Russia that has survived all times,” he explains.

“Russian fertilizer imports are crucial to Brazil’s huge agribusiness industry,” recalls Oliver Stuenkel. “In 2014, Dilma Rousseff’s government refused to bow to Western pressure to disinvite Russian President Vladimir Putin to a Brics summit in Brazil, after the invasion of the Crimean peninsula. Mrs. Rousseff then backed a joint Brics declaration, rejecting Western attempts to isolate Russia diplomatically”.

Moreover, for Lula, as for many other leaders of the Global South, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 or Nato’s operation in Libya in 2011 (to bring about regime change) rendered Western rhetoric on the moral imperative of condemning Russia inaudible. “With Moscow, the relationship has always been devoid of the complexities and criticisms that have shaped Brazil’s ties with the West.”

In Paris, discussions between Emmanuel Macron and the representatives of the South who are making the trip are likely to be arduous. Indeed, the guns are not about to fall silent in Ukraine, and the rift between North and South that has consolidated over the months around the Russian-Ukrainian conflict makes progress in cooperation rather unlikely.

“While it’s tempting to describe Lula’s quest for peace in Ukraine as Donquichottesque, Brazil’s stance reveals more general doubts in the global South about the supposedly inclusive nature of the liberal international order”, says Oliver Stuenkel. “To win Lula over to Western efforts in Ukraine, Western powers would first have to prove that they value Brazil as a partner. As long as this is not heard and taken seriously, the South is likely to continue to oppose”.

By admin