Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) will be the first president to speak at the UN General Assembly summit, this Tuesday (19), which should be marked by a dispute between the great powers for political support from developing countries. Lula starts from a supporting position in the race for leadership of the so-called Global South (in relation to the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, and the president of India, Narendra Modi), but will have a rare chance to present his agenda.
This is because Western powers must be more willing to listen to the demands of developing countries in a scenario of global polarization accelerated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield played down this global competition, but said the summit would be an opportunity for poor countries to “lay out their priorities.”
The United States and its allies rival China and Russia in the effort to obtain support from countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Therefore, the UN General Assembly can be a suitable stage for Lula to present his agenda of combating poverty, reducing inequalities, expanding the membership of the UN Security Council and transferring financial resources from rich countries to poor nations to combat climate change.
Brazil has a rare opportunity to open discussions on these topics as the next president of the G20 (a group that brings together industrial powers and developing economies) and member of the BRICS, the bloc formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. South.
But such demands may not resonate in the way Brazilians want. This is because Lula has seen her protagonism in developing countries disappear due to contradictory statements and political positions. Part of this comes from statements that Lula made about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Even with the deaths of around 200,000 people in 18 months of conflict, Brazilians have been relativizing the war. He went so far as to say that Ukraine would be as much to blame for the invasion as Russia. The clashes began after Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukrainian territory in February 2022.
Just over two weeks ago, the Brazilian head of state was once again involved in a controversy involving Putin. During her participation in the G20 Summit, Lula said that she would not arrest Vladimir Putin if he came to Brazil next year, when Brazil will host the G20 meeting.
This determination, however, conflicts with the International Criminal Court, of which Brazil is a signatory. The ICC issued an international arrest warrant against Putin because it understands that he is directly linked to the abduction and forced deportation to Russian territory of thousands of Ukrainian children captured during the invasion of Ukraine. According to the Brazilian Constitution, the country has the obligation to comply with the arrest order against the Russian.
According to Vitelio Brustolin, doctor in International Relations and researcher at Harvard University, Lula is wrong to make such controversial statements about delicate subjects.
According to him, Lula’s mistaken statements have cost the world the positive view that the world had of Brazil before the PT member returned to power. The consequence is that this reduces the prestige of the country, which is unable to leave the supporting position in the dispute for leadership of the countries of the Global South.
Today, the dispute for position occurs mainly between China and India. Xi Jinping was hailed as the leader of developing countries at the BRICS meeting in August. This month, at the G20 summit, it was Modi who took the lead.
“Narendra Modi or even Xi Jinping do not make statements like Lula’s. I would even say that they avoid the spotlight on issues like these. This strategy, in fact, is a Chinese determination adopted by the government which, in a series of other guidelines, has the intention of projecting the country as a world power”, explains Brustolin.
According to him, the absence of a strategic plan for Brazilian foreign policy leaves the country at a disadvantage in relation to India and China. “If we are to understand why Brazil is not standing up to these countries, the reason is that we do not have a great strategy. We have a national defense policy, we have a national defense strategy, but we do not have a foreign policy”, points out Brustolin.
Beijing’s strategy is to “buy” alliances by making large investments in infrastructure projects in developing countries. But its economy is starting to decline and investment is slowing.
India has a population of approximately 1.4 billion people, which generates great labor and market potential. She is favored by not adopting the anti-American position that distances many countries in the Global South from China.
Cold War 2.0 makes China and the US look for allies in Africa, Asia and Latin America
China and the United States are the protagonists of an international scenario that has already been called Cold War 2.0 because of polarization. It was intensified by the war, after Beijing declared its limitless alliance with Moscow.
In this context, Beijing has been trying to increase its influence over countries in the Global South. This happens through billion-dollar financing from the New Silk Road program, which makes loans for the construction of infrastructure works, such as ports and railways, in poor countries.
Furthermore, China is the largest trading partner of several African and Latin American nations, including Brazil. Thus, taking advantage of economic dependence, it tries to increase its influence over these countries.
The United States and its allies have been trying to oppose this process by offering financial resources, but in more modest quantities.
Beijing releases resources to allies, but wants adherence to anti-American agenda
Beijing still advertises that these commercial partnerships or financing occur without China trying to influence the politics of its international partners and accuses the West of doing the opposite. This is because the United States and the European Union condition financial support on adherence to an agenda to combat climate change and democracy.
But, behind the scenes, the Chinese have been influencing the politics of their partners, especially imposing an anti-American agenda, which has already been adopted by Lula in several of his statements.
“I dream of us having our own currency so that we can do business without having to depend on the dollar. Because only one country has a dollar-turning machine”, Lula said, for example, in a speech preaching the adoption of local currencies or a common BRICS currency for international commercial transactions.
Brazil should adopt a position similar to India, says analyst
For Brustolin, it would be more strategic for Brazil to make fewer controversial statements and adopt a position that is even more similar to that of India. The country, after hosting the G20 Summit, demonstrated that it knows how to play geopolitical chess. Without reverberating anti-American speeches, Narendra Modi maintains dialogue with the West and has stood out in the Global South.
“At the same time that India participates in the BRICS, together with Russia and China, a country with which it has territorial conflicts, the Indian government also participates in the Quad (the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, formed by the USA, Japan, Australia and India )”, he states.
The expert also recalls that the country has maintained dialogues with the United States to try to avoid a possible war between China and Taiwan. “In other words, India moves closer to the United States and, at the same time, buys weapons and oil from Russia; in addition to maintaining dialogue with China”, says Brustolin.
There is a lack of foreign policy strategy for Brazil, says expert
Without a concrete plan to support itself and make decisions, Brazil follows foreign policy lines according to who occupies the Presidency of the Republic. In this sense, individual issues may end up influencing decisions made by the Brazilian State. This situation is reflected, for example, in the country’s decision to resume ties with Venezuela during the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), as well as in cutting off communication with the country of dictator Nicolás Maduro during the administration of the former -President Jair Bolsonaro (PL).
“Brazil has strategic partners, that’s clear. But when Brazil takes a foreign policy turn that moves away from defense policy, this is a sign that there is no grand strategy as a country. Which doesn’t really exist. We only have government strategies and that is a problem, because if the government changes, Brazil takes a turn in the opposite direction. Over time, if this continues to happen, the tendency is for the country to stay in place”, analyzes the professor of International Law.
In comparison, the expert explains that India and China have clear action plans focused on the future. In 2017, India produced a document proposing a national strategy. At the time, the Indian government heard thousands of people, including government members, experts, teachers and businesspeople. The aim was to put together a strategy with the aim of projecting India into 2030.
“India is clear about what it wants for the future. It is a country still with many contrasts, with high levels of poverty and lack of sanitation. But, at the same time, India has a space program, it sent a mission to the Moon, and now it has sent a probe to the Sun”, he assesses.
According to him, although it still has a lot of poverty, India is on its way to becoming the third largest economy in the world and has nuclear weapons. This puts it in a much more powerful position than Brazil.
China has long-term plans. The country is betting on its financial power and expanding armed forces to try to replace the United States as a hegemonic nation in the coming decades.