Lula in a cross fire
Lula must appeal to all his diplomatic arts as a skillful negotiator in order to avoid being trapped in the crusade that the Biden Administration has launched against Brazil's two partners in the BRICS: Russia and China.
The inauguration of Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva as president of Brazil is great news for Latin America and the Caribbean. It is assumed that the South American giant will recover the international leadership it had in the past and will contribute to reviving or energizing the various integration processes underway in the region, something more important than ever in the bicentennial of the disastrous Monroe Doctrine.
The agenda includes everything from the revitalization of Mercosur to CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), passing through UNASUR, to mention just the most significant integrationist initiatives. A sign of the reorientation of Brazilian foreign policy is the new president's commitment not only to participate in the next CELAC summit -to be held in Buenos Aires on January 24- but also to reincorporate Brazil into that body, from which hit had left due to a decision by the government of Jair Bolsonaro.
Obviously, this is only part of the agenda that Mauro Vieira, Lula's Foreign Minister, has in his hands. Strengthening ties with the countries of the Global South is another of his priorities, as well as insisting on the reform of the United Nations Security Council to guarantee a permanent seat for Brazil in said body. And, undoubtedly, another priority issue will be the relaunch of the BRICS, the agreement between Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, currently immersed in a difficult (but far from unsolvable) expansion process sponsored by Beijing that contemplates the incorporation of Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhastan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Senegal and Thailand. After his trip to Argentina, Lula has initially scheduled a couple of highly conflictive visits: to the White House, first; and then to Beijing. Both in the first quarter of the year.
Having said the above, Lula must appeal to all his diplomatic arts as skillful negotiator in order to avoid being trapped in the crusade that the Biden Administration has launched against Brazil's two partners in the BRICS: against Russia, through the "proxy war" waged on Ukrainian soil with the complicity of the unworthy neocolonial governments of Europe; and the growing escalation of the war against China, the "main enemy" according to the recent document of the National Security Council because, according to what is said there, it is the only country that has both the will and the capacity to redesign the current world order to its benefit. According to American foreign policy experts, "Russia has the will but not the ability." The war in Ukraine is a ploy aimed precisely at eroding that capacity.
But China is something else. For Brazil, China is by far its first commercial partner: the exchange between the two reached, in 2022, 135,000 million dollars, more than double that registered with the United States. Biden's gestures in relation to the Asian giant could not be more quarrelsome and embarrassing for Lula: from inviting a representative of Taiwan to his presidential inauguration, an unprecedented gesture since the United States officially recognized the People's Republic of China, and making the same on the occasion of his ill-fated "Summit for Democracy", where the Taipei envoy sat next to none other than Juan Guaidó and other figures of his ilk. Apart from this, we must remember the continuous provocations that US forces carry out in the South China Sea, or the shocking visit of Nancy Pelosi to Taipei, and the attempts to deny the exports of microchips to China.
Lula knows that another of his BRICS partners, India, is not viewed favorably by Washington today either because its redoubled trade with Russia is interpreted in the White House as an economic contribution to its military effort in Ukraine and to lessen the impact of the sanctions that Biden imposed against the Putin government. Therefore, behind the friendly smiles that will be stamped on the official photograph in the Oval Room of the White House, it is most probable that, once the photographers have withdrawn, the tension that characterizes the international system today will be transferred with all his strength to the meeting between both leaders.
Washington needs unconditional allies for its holy crusade against Russia and China, and the worst thing that Brazil (as any other Latin Caribbean country) can do is to embark on a fight that is completely foreign to its national interests and in which Brazil has almost everything to lose but nothing to win. Lula surely knows that one of the few ways he has to avoid being recruited for that war is to strengthen the union of the Latin American countries. Hopefully, he will act, or they let him act, accordingly.