Brazilian Ambition

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Brazil is a rising middle power with a vibrant capitalist economy and a democratic government. It is the world’s eighth largest economy and could grow by seven percent or more this year. Its success gives hope to those who have long anticipated a “take off” in Latin America. But Brazil is also a revisionist power. Under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, it has worked with other rising powers to overthrow the international system designed by the Western powers and led by the United States. This month’s elections in Brazil will bring in a new president, but not a change in this policy.

In the years after the Soviet Union collapsed, it was hoped that the spread of democracy and capitalism would remove the ideological elements that had fueled great power confrontations and usher in an era of international cooperation. This is not how things have turned out. The realist view of world politics holds that nations have inherently conflicting interests because of competition for resources and markets, insecurity due to imbalances in power and wealth, and ambitions to control their surroundings. These factors exist independent of state or economic organization.

Brazil’s President Lula da Silva has served for eight years and cannot serve a third term. His designated successor and chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, is expected to win the Oct. 31 runoff election after winning 46 percent of the vote in the first round on Oct. 3. Under Lula, the country has emerged from its past chronic financial instability. Brazilian politics has shifted to the Left since the military dictatorship was replaced by democratic elections. There are still complaints about excessive government regulation and Lula has introduced new social programs, but he has also put economic growth first and supported the expansion of Brazilian business. He has more than doubled military spending, not only buying combat aircrafts, missiles, and submarines from Russia and Europe, but also developing a Brazilian defense industry and cooperating with China on space projects.

Lula has built a broad base of domestic support which has allowed him to move onto the world stage with a more active foreign policy based and on a more left-wing revisionist posture than is evident in his policies at home. Rousseff, an economist who was a guerrilla fighter during the dictatorship, is expected to continue Lula’s policies.

Lula has aimed at ending the “unipolar” hegemony of the United States by joining coalitions that can balance American (and Western) influence to create a multipolar order more favorable to Brazilian interests. These coalitions can act within international organizations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization to contain American power and to influence the rules and norms that will govern world affairs. The objective is to constrain the ability of the U.S. to act unilaterally, while giving Brazil and its partners more freedom to act on their own.

The two main coalitions of powers to which Brazil belongs are BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China).

The first group’s main focus is the UN climate talks where a new global treaty is being written to limit green house gas (GHG) emissions after the current Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The most recent conference hosted by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was held in the Chinese port city of Tianjin on Oct. 4-9. It is the last conference before the Cancun, Mexico summit where a treaty might be presented. The attempt to reach agreement last December in Copenhagen failed due to the continuing clash of national interests between the developed and developing nations.

The developed countries, led by the U.S. and European Union, are the only ones required under the Kyoto treaty to reduce their GHG emissions. The developing countries, led by BASIC, are currently free of mandates and are determined to stay that way so as not to slow growth. This is called the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” and is enshrined in UN documents. Thus, the impasse persisted in Tianjin.

China has assumed the informal leadership of BASIC.  Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo led the host country’s delegation. According to a report by the official Xinhua news service, he insisted that the developing countries “right” to economic growth be respected. “The developed countries should set the targets to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and arrangements should be made to provide adequate financial and technological support to developing countries,” he said.

After the UNFCCC ended, the BASIC countries stayed in Tianjin and convened their own meeting with the addition of Yemen, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Argentina, and Egypt. The aim was to maintain their solidarity going towards Cancun in December. A major concern was that in the absence of a comprehensive treaty covering all nations, the developed countries, which may further expand their more restrictive environmental standards, will impose “border adjustment” taxes to prevent countries which do not adopt costly GHG limits from gaining a competitive advantage. BASIC wants the UNFCCC to adopt language to “reject the use of unilateral protectionist measures” by developed countries.

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  • Chava

    There is no reason that for Brazil to rise, the U.S. must sink (or vice versa). The real problem is who Lula is. One clue to that is that Lula is a left wing founder of the Sao Paulo Forum – a collection of international terrorists. The dumb Brazilians elected him, and now have elected a female version of him (Dillma Rousseff). Dilma is a "former" advocate of Marxist policies.
    Sure he wants to help Iran. Sure he hates the U.S.
    Its who he is.
    So its not a matter of rising nations competing with us. Normally the prosperity of Brazil is good for us. Normally its a win-win situation.
    Its a matter of a Marxist being elected to lead a rising nation.
    Incidentally, the clueless Israelis sold their unmanned fighter drones to both Brazil and Turkey – both of which are turning out to be enemies of Israel (and the U.S.)

    • PhillipGaley

      So long as dishonesty and theft, drugs and rape, etc. are retained in stranglehold in Brazilian neighborhoods, one need not be concerned about what Brazil might do—Brazil can only suffer as the largest part of that which is, "a dagger, poised above the very heart of Antarctica"; as more and bigger locks are required in USA neighborhoods, USA is becoming of Brazil.
      And so we shall see, as a people are good, they are free and rich; when they are not good, that is their own reproach, . . .

  • Chava

    Describing the forum as a collection of international terrorists is a bit simplistic. Here is a description from Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian:
    "The Forum’s body of members is composed of both lawful parties, as the Brazilian Workers’ Party itself, and criminal organizations of kidnappers and drug traffickers, as the Chilean MIR (Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria) and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia). The first is responsible for an infinity of kidnappings, including those of two famous Brazilian businessmen; the latter is practically the exclusive controller of the cocaine market in Latin America nowadays. "
    (Another thing that Olavo states is that there is no conservative voice in Brazil. No Rush Limbaugh.)

  • Barry Cooper

    As I grow older, the more isolationist I get. We need free trade, but trade is not free if we are subsidizing our farmers. That should stop.

    We need to either abolish or radically restructure the IMF and World Bank, whose legacy throughout Latin America has been anti-Americanism, when the reality is that both were intended to weaken nations so that they could more easily be "colonized" by the Soviets.

    The IMF has always dictated counterproductive economic policy, in tandem with debt burdens that never disappear.

    For us, I say we fix our own economic house, keep the advantage in military technology, and let the Brazilians do whatever the hell they want.

  • MrKafirCoyote

    Bravo Chava!

    All the Best!

  • 4GH

    "Brazil is deemed as a quiet and peaceful nation that abides by the rule of law and sound capitalism. This is far from the truth. Actually, in 1990, President Lula da Silva was co-founder, together with Fidel Castro, of the huge and powerful communist organization Forum of São Paulo. The center of the subversive leftist movement in Latin America didn’t move from Havana to Caracas as a great number of political analysts say. Instead it moved to Brasilia. Caracas and Chávez are only well designed disguises to conceal the very source of all revolutionary actions in the Continent. The Forum of São Paulo was founded to “restore in Latin America what was lost in Eastern Europe”: communism, no less!"…

    …"anyone who looks attentively at Brazil’s social structure will see unfolding before one’s eyes many details, apparently detached from each other, that when unified reveal a terrible scene. From a Marxist-Leninist influenced education to statism; from attacks on Christian and moral values to invasion of all kinds of private property; from Government support of leftists NGO’s to growing corruption of the Legislative and Judiciary branches together with growing empowerment of the Executive – all converge toward a steady revolutionary trend and to a police state."

    Heitor De Paola (

  • Wesley69

    This is a key statement: "nations have inherently conflicting interests because of competition for resources and markets, insecurity due to imbalances in power and wealth, and ambitions to control their surroundings." Add nationalism into the mix and you have a world with many competing powers. A world of shifting alliances.

    While the US is still a superpower, China is on the move. It has pushed for trade and mineral rights in Africa, Canada, the MidEast, as well as South America. In the view of many nations like Brazil, US power, not China must be contained. It is only natural to see Brazil take the steps it has. Go back to the key statement. Brazil's aim as a power would be to dominate South America. Alliance with China can achieve it. What stands in Brazil's way? The US. We, however, must get our own act together economically. The longer the US waits, the more the world changes. The changes will not be in the US self interest.

    All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
    Thomas Jefferson

  • bubba4

    Don't you mean "uppity" states? Don't worry FPM, the war in Panama was about more than the canal. We needed to maintain full strike capacity into South America for the next century of war.

    Brazil is a good ally of the United States. It doesn't deserve this.