Edited by Jennifer Pietropaoli
The Council on Foreign Relations is not an agency of the United States government, but no entity of its kind is more respected in Washington than this independent center of studies on foreign policy. The body attracts many of the best minds in the field, recruited from universities, research institutions, companies, media and the rich storehouse of ex-ambassadors and other former first-tier public servants. Some time ago, 30 of these experts formed a task force to scrutinize the relationship between the United States and Brazil. Published last Tuesday, their report emphatically maintains — as its title, “Global Brazil and U.S.-Brazil Relations,” says — that the U.S. should develop a strong and mature partnership with Brazil.
The unequivocal advice to the decision-making centers of the American government suggests that President Barack Obama support Brazil’s request for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, a focal point in the action of the Itamaraty (the foreign ministry) and of the personal diplomacy of ex-President Lula. But it is not just for this reason — much less for any outdated nationalistic chauvinism — that the study should be favorably received by Brazilian policymakers and international relations analysts. Most of all, it should be well received for the fact that it represents a road map for the consolidation of the relationship between the two largest democracies of the continent, in terms consistent with new world realities.
The premise is that Brazil has passed from being considered a country of the future and has already arrived there. It is with this new and unique global actor that the United States should develop partnerships in a wide variety of venues, realms where both countries have already met, but without sufficient interaction to achieve their mutual benefit. To defend the inclusion of Brazil on the Security Council the authors contend that, if in this position, the country “would have a greater responsibility facing major international issues.*” There is another justification for narrowing bilateral ties: “Brazil figures among one of the few countries capable of defining the 21st century,” says the task force, “and it is to this that the American and Brazilian foreign policies need to adjust.*”
One thing, therefore, is to promote Brazil to a place with the power center of today’s largest multinational organization, the United Nations, to encourage their “constructive participation in global affairs.” This line seems to contain a pragmatic argument directed at Washington and an indirect criticism of the Brazilian position on the approach of the Lula government toward the Iranian regime, which was the target of a successive Security Council sanction for its violations and cheating in the nuclear area.
Another step is to call attention to the reciprocal opportunities, especially at a time when the new president, Dilma Rousseff, is just starting to outline the course of the country for the coming years. According to the text, this period should be seen by Americans and Brazilians as a propitious occasion to “deepen their partnership through expanded governmental and economic ties.”
The partnership with Brazil is unique. Unlike China, Russia and India (the original members of the BRIC group that was formed in South Africa), Brazil does not have enemies, neither near nor far, nor does it have geostrategic or border disputes, or ethnic and religious groups feuding over its territory. And unlike the United States, the only national troops sent abroad are on peace missions. Brazil does not have historical resentments with the East like China does; frustrated hegemonic ambitions like Russia; or former contributions to the proliferation of nuclear arms like India, which is in a cold war with its nuclear neighbor, Pakistan.
The report notes that Brazil and the U.S. “profess common values in relation to the market economy, rule of law, individual rights, diversity and equality.”* What is essential, exhort the scholars, is to overcome the historical oscillation “between misinterpretation, public praise and rebuke” and to treat “both cooperation and inevitable disagreement” with respect and mutual tolerance. Dilma and Obama seem to be the right conductors for this enterprise.
*Editor’s Note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.