Will Brazil bet on strengthening the BRICS?

At a virtual meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) on Thursday (19), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi , defended the inclusion of more nations in the bloc of emerging economies. This seems to be a great opportunity for Brazil to embark on an alliance that seems to be getting stronger in the context of sanctions on Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine, right?

Not necessarily, at least not in the context of the current Brazilian government. The administration of Jair Bolsonaro sees with some suspicion the possibility of a deeper entanglement with the BRICS, especially with China – according to this columnist found out with the leadership of the Brazilian government.

So why the government Bolsonaro approached Vladimir Putin before the invasion of Ukraine and now his diplomats seem to be juggling to soften criticism of Moscow in international forums? This occurred at the UN Human Rights Council, on the day , when Brazil tried to soften words critical of Russia in the vote on a resolution. And it happened again on the day 19, when all the Brics defended that Russia should not be excluded from the G 20 – as had signaled the President of the United States, Joe Biden.

The main answer to this posture is the dependence of Brazilian agribusiness in relation to fertilizers from Russia, which today represent a quarter of Brazilian imports of this type of product.

For now, the purchase of fertilizers from Moscow is not subject to US sanctions – which are concerned about a possible global food crisis. Brazil even managed to negotiate quotas for the product that, before the sanctions on Russia, would be destined for the European market.

In the background, comes the Brazilian interest in trying to acquire military technology from Russia, as I reported in last week’s column.

Itamaraty, in turn, states that it adopts a balanced position in relation to Russia. The ministry advocates, for example, that an independent investigation be carried out before war crimes accusations are made against Russian military operations in Ukraine. He is also in favor of the idea that an intact G20 can help lift the world out of economic crisis.

At the BRICS meeting, its members defended the usual agenda of increasing the influence of emerging countries in the bodies that define the norms of international trade. Foreign ministers also reiterated their commitment to multilateralism, in which sovereign states cooperate for peace through the UN.

The multilateralism agenda

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been interpreted by many international analysts as an attempt by Moscow to challenge US global hegemony in the name of a multilateral world order.

Some readers are unhappy with the shortcomings of western democracies and who see a predatory character in the eastward expansion of NATO (western military alliance) then began to applaud Russia. I talked to some of them and realized that they started to see Moscow and Beijing as Brazil’s new natural allies.

I’m sorry to frustrate you, but that shouldn’t happen for now.

The current administration has a series of criticisms of the position of the West in relation to the environmental issue in the Amazon, for example, but this does not mean automatic alignment with US and European rivals.

A Amazon issue is emblematic. This is because many people saw last year Moscow’s supposed support for Brazil, with the UN vetoing a proposal according to which international security issues related to climate change should be decided in the UN Security Council. The fear was that the fate of the Amazon could be decided at the United Nations.

But Moscow’s veto was, in reality, to protect its own interests, as it has a forest area even larger than the Amazon, in Siberia.

In other words, even though it is critical of American and European positions, Brazil is concerned about the increasing economic dependence on China. There is growing fear about Beijing’s allegedly “predatory” expansion into Africa and South America. Furthermore, the commercial appetite of Russia and India is also far from being viewed with sympathy by Brazil.

This does not mean that the country will move away from the BRICS (even because that would be very difficult diplomatically) . But it seems that Brasília will not bet on an unrestricted deepening of relations with the bloc. This is even in a scenario in which the BRICS gain greater strength and importance due to a possible rapprochement between Russia and China, due to the invasion of Ukraine.

In other words, the most likely perspective is that the Brazil maintains its position of pragmatism, closing the most advantageous agreements, but without investing in any network of international alliances.

Of course, all this could change with this year’s elections in Brazil. There is a possibility that the perspective of alignment with Russia and China will find greater support in eventual candidates from the left – a political segment historically more friendly to these powers. But we will need to hear the candidates’ proposals before we delve into this type of analysis.

Does the US want to avoid war with Russia or support Ukraine’s victory?

What we can expect from now on in the international context is a possible rapprochement between Russia, India and China. Moscow should enter this game with its sources of energy and raw materials and Beijing and New Delhi with manufacturing capacity.

Fearful of blocking Russia’s international dollar reserves, because of the war, hopes China also sees an intensification of the tendency to do business with its national currency, the yuan, to the detriment of the dollar.

The United States, in turn, should try to capitalize on the lack of Chinese appetite. to criticize the war promoted by Russia. It is almost certain that Washington should again try to stop the growth of China’s global influence, this time using Beijing’s support for Moscow as an argument.

The Americans are also facing a dilemma regarding the war in Ukraine, according to an editorial in The New York Times published last week: support Ukraine to complete victory, even if it takes time, or try to minimize the possibility of a direct confrontation with Russia.

Washington approved a US$ 54 billion (R$ 195 billion) financial and military aid package to Kyiv in the Senate on Thursday. But isolationist Republicans are already starting to criticize and the American coalition that supports Ukraine could fall apart in the future.

Supporters of an increase in aid to Ukraine against Russia argue that only a total victory over Moscow on Ukrainian territory will guarantee peace. According to them, a peace agreement at the moment would only postpone a new war and give the Russians time to prepare better.

The other current of thought argues that it would be better to try to convince the Ukrainians to cede territory. to reach a peace agreement. By reducing the duration of the conflict, the possibility that a miscalculation could lead to an escalation of the conflict into a direct war between Russia and NATO would also be reduced.

“A victory for Ukraine on Russia with the support of the United States and the European Union is technically feasible, but politically it is very difficult to make it happen”, said risk analysis specialist and Army Reserve Major Nelson Ricardo Fernandes Silva.

According to him, Russia still has a large amount of troops and equipment to use in the war, while Ukraine operates at the limit of its material resources.

Ukrainian weapons and ammunition factories are being systematically destroyed by Russia. Fuel depots and refineries have been annihilated and Ukraine is already dealing with mobility problems.

Because of this, the flow of armaments and financial aid from the Western powers will have to increase in order for the Ukraine manages to start thinking about a counteroffensive.

“As the effect of these costs reaches the European and American economies, the appetite to help Ukraine may start to decline”, opined the analyst.

On the other hand, this does not mean that support is about to end, at least not in the United States. With the approval of the current package, aid to Ukraine reaches US$ 54 billion. This equates to less than one-tenth of the annual US defense budget, which is $750 billion.

Washington is in a comfortable position for now, as far as that weakens Russia, its geopolitical rival, without the burden of losing soldiers on the battlefield. But fears grow that this risky strategy will eventually trigger a new global conflict.

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