Brazilian Diplomacy: Can the Country Fulfill Its Obligations As a Regional Power?

As Latin America’s foremost democracy, Brazil has an obligation to play a role in resolving regional and global issues. It is hoped that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will act responsibly to meet the expectations of the international community.

It has been a little over a year since the Lula administration was established. He has since visited more than 20 countries, traveling throughout South and Central America, as well as to Japan, the United States, China and Europe. He has also returned Brazil to the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit, which former President Jair Bolsonaro had not attended.

Lula’s approach of emphasizing a multilateral framework is in stark contrast to that of his predecessor, who was more inclined toward bilateral negotiations.

Leftist Lula is pursuing a multipolar world that differs from the current international order led by the United States and Europe. He touts himself as a representative of the so-called Global South of emerging and developing countries and aims to gain a greater say in the international community.

This approach was also seen when Brazil served as a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council until the end of last year.

As UNSC president, Brazil submitted a resolution in October calling for pauses in the fighting between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Of the 15 countries in the Security Council, 12 members — including Japan and France — voted in favor of the resolution, but it was vetoed by the United States.

Although the resolution did not bear fruit, it is commendable that the Lula administration persistently made diplomatic efforts to seek an international agreement on the matter.

Brazil bears the significant responsibility of chairing the Group of 20 major economies this year. With the G20 members divided over Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Brazil will be tested as to whether it can lead a coordinated response in the lead-up to the November summit.

However, there are also concerns. One is Lula’s view of Russia. He expressed his intention in December to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the G20 summit, for whom an arrest warrant had been issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on alleged war crimes. 

Brazil is a member of the ICC. Lula has said, “It is the judiciary’s power to decide [on an arrest],” but it makes no sense for him to ignore the fact that the ICC, an international judicial body, has issued an arrest warrant on Putin.

Lula should reconsider the invitation. The leaders of other countries would not want to sit down with Putin for discussions.

While Brazil condemns Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, it has not joined in sanctions against Moscow. If Brazil sticks to leftist political ideals that maintain a distance from the United States and Europe, its credibility in the international community may be harmed.

Japan and Brazil are both important partners in pursuing UNSC reform. It is vital for Japan to deepen cooperation through such means as acting as a bridge between Brazil, and the United States and Europe.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 27, 2024)