Putin and Zelensky are equally responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Lula’s neutralist diagnosis finds its theorization in the reply to my last column, signed by a group of university professors (Sheet2/8).
The “conflict is multi-causal”, they explain, attributing it in equal parts to the “expansionism of NATO” and the “nationalist drift of the Vladimir Putin regime”. The order of factors is not casual: echoing Lula, and ignoring factual evidence, the first appears as the root of the tragedy and, implicitly, as the source of the second. The text as a whole unfolds the initial argument and, in this step, reveals the foundations of the foreign policy of the likely future government. Therefore, it deserves examination.
Brazil must “work for multilateralism”, say the authors, while criticizing multilateral actions aimed at confronting Russian aggression. The UN, the main multilateral institution, voted two resolutions condemning the invasion, one in the Security Council (vetoed by Moscow) and another in the General Assembly. The sanctions on Russia are based on these resolutions — and are themselves multilateral initiatives adopted by dozens of countries.
The sanctions did not achieve “the goal of ending the war,” the professors write, inventing an impossible maximalist goal. In fact, although Russia’s exports were little affected, its imports suffered deep blows, which caused a general decline in Russian industrial production, as Paul Krugman explains. Sanctions reduce Putin’s military capabilities in the long run. But the Bolsonaro government condemns them — and so does Lula.
The supply of weapons to Ukraine is based on the multilateral principle of collective self-defense, enshrined in the UN Charter. The authors say that “Kiev’s survival will shake Putin’s worldview”, as if such “survival” were a gift of nature, not a fruit of military aid. Bolsonaro and Lula together ask for an end to this war support. It doesn’t take too much perspicacity to conclude that “Putin’s world view” would prevail and Ukraine would cease to exist if their shared position prevailed.
In the reply text, interestingly, sanctions and military aid are excluded from the concept of multilateralism. For the authors, multilateralism only seems to apply to initiatives of a certain “global south”, which would counterpoint the “western position”. There, an organizing notion of the Lulist foreign policy concept emerges.
“Global South” is an imaginary heir of the former Third World and, more clearly, of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Born out of the Bandung Charter (1955), the NAM adopted collective positions that reflected the cycle of Afro-Asian decolonization. Then it became a field of diplomatic competition between China and India, until it lost relevance. The “Global South” is nothing more than an academic fantasy.
Who structures the “Global South”? China, engaged in the world power game with the US? India, whose rivalry with China produces dual alignments, with the US and Russia? Turkey, a NATO member that, to preserve its regional geopolitical influence, maintains a limited partnership with Russia?
Brazilian autonomy in the international system requires the rejection of the Cold War 2.0 between the US and China and calls for the construction of flexible partnerships based on national interest. Our foreign policy should certainly not seek “automatic alignments with great powers” – but effective condemnation of the Russian imperial war does not amount to any “automatic alignment”.
“Global South” is a late ideological flower of Third Worldism. In the current Lula speech, it works as a sophisticated pretext for the reiteration of the Bolsonarista policy of solidarity with Putin.
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