What does the war in Ukraine have to do with Brazil? At first glance, maybe not much.
It has also seen “shuttle diplomacy” by Lula’s chief foreign policy adviser – and former foreign minister – Celso Amorim, who has visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow And welcomed his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrovin Brazil.
One of the reasons Brazil has been able to meet such a large number of parties involved in the conflict is that the nation has made a point of not taking sides in the war. Brazil is thus participating in what my colleagues are doing Carlo Fortin And Carlos Ominami and I called”active non-alignment.”
By this we mean a foreign policy approach in which countries of the Global South – Africa, Asia and Latin America – refuse to take sides in conflicts between the great powers and focus solely on their own interests. It’s an approach that The Economist has characterized as “how to survive a superpower split.”
The difference between this new “non-alignment” and a similar approach adopted by nations in recent decades is that it is happening in an era where developing countries are in a much stronger position than ever, with emerging powers among them.
For example, the gross domestic product in purchasing power of the five BRICS countries Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa overtook that of the Group of Seven advanced economic nations.
This growing economic power gives active non-aligned countries greater international clout, enabling them to forge new initiatives and diplomatic coalition building in a way that would have been unthinkable before. For example, would João Goulart, who served as President of Brazil from 1961 to 1964, have tried to mediate the Vietnam War in the same way Lula is doing with Ukraine? I believe that to ask the question is to answer it.
Neither neutral nor disinterested
The growth of active non-alignment has been fueled by increased competition and what I see as a burgeoning second Cold War between the United States and China. For many countries in the South, maintaining good relations with both Washington and Beijing has been crucial to economic development, as well as trade and investment flows.
It is simply not in their interest to take sides in this growing conflict. At the same time, active non-alignment should not be confused with neutrality – a legal position under international law that entails certain duties and obligations. Being neutral means not taking a stand, which is not the case with active non-alignment.
Nor is active non-alignment about remaining politically equidistant from the great powers. On some issues – for example on democracy and human rights – it is quite possible that an active non-aligned policy will move closer to the United States, while on others – for example international trade – the country may well be more on the side of China. chooses.
This form of non-alignment requires a highly sophisticated diplomacy, one that examines each issue on its merits and makes choices imbued with statesmanship.
Sign out around the world
As far as the war in Ukraine is concerned, this means that we do not support Russia or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. And Brazil is not the only country in the South to take that stance, although it was the first country to try to negotiate a peace deal.
Most prominent among them is India, which despite its closer ties with the United States in recent years and its accession to the United States Four-way security dialogue – the “Quad”, a group sometimes described as an “Asian NATO” – with the US, Japan and Australia, refused to condemn the invasion of Russia of Ukraine and has significantly increased imports of Russian oil.
India’s non-alignment will presumably be on the agenda during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks with Biden during his upcoming visit to Washington.
Indeed, India’s position, the largest democracy in the worldshows how the war in Ukraine is far from reflecting that the main geopolitical divide in the world today is between democracy and autocracy, as Biden has arguedreveals that the real divide is between the global north and the global south.
Some of the most populous democracies in the world next to India – like Indonesia, Pakistan, South AfricaBrazil, Mexico And Argentina – have refused to side with NATO. Hardly any country in Africa, Asia or Latin America has provided support the diplomatic and economic sanctions against Russia.
While many of these countries voted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the United Nations General Assembly, where More than 140 Member States have done this repeatedlyno one wants to turn what they consider a European war into a global war.
How the ‘great powers’ react
Washington has apparently been surprised by this response, after portraying the war in Ukraine as a choice between good and evil – one in which the future of the “rules-based international order” is at stake. Likewise, during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles referred to non-alignment as “immoral”.
Russia has seen the new non-aligned movement as an opening to strengthen its own position, with Foreign Minister Lavrov criss-cross through Africa, Asia and Latin America to support Moscow’s resistance to sanctions.
China, in turn, has stepped up its campaign to international role of the yuanarguing that weaponizing the US dollar against Russia only confirms the dangers of relying on it as the main world currency.
But I would argue that active non-alignment depends as much on regional multilateralism and cooperation as it does on these high-profile meetings. A recent South American diplomatic summit convened in Brasília by Lula – the first such meeting in 10 years – reflects Brazil’s awareness of the need to work with neighboring countries to advance its international initiatives.
Think local, act global
This need to act collectively is also driven by the economic crisis in the region. In 2020, Latin America suffered its worst economic downturn in 120 years, with a regional GDP falling by an average of 6.6%. The region also suffered the highest death rate from Covid-19 in the world, accounting for almost 30% of fatalities worldwide of the pandemic despite making up just over 8% of the world’s population.
In this context, it is unappealing to be caught in the middle of a major power struggle, and active non-alignment has resonated.
Aside from the incipient US-China Cold War and the war in Ukraine, the resurgence of non-alignment in its new “active” incarnation reflects widespread disenchantment in the Global South with what has been known as the “liberal international order” has existed since World War II.
This order is seen as increasingly frayed and unresponsive to the needs of developing countries on issues ranging from international indebtedness And Food Safety Unpleasant migration and climate change.
For many countries in the Global South, calls to maintain the “rules-based order” seem to serve only the foreign policy interests of the great powers, rather than the global public interest. In such a context, it is perhaps not surprising that so many countries actively refuse to be caught up in an “us versus them” dynamic.