The most ambitious diplomatic operation in which Lula da Silva is committed, organizing a mediation to end the war in Ukraine, encountered a quite foreseeable difficulty this Sunday in Japan: Volodimir Zelenski does not accept this proposal because, for him, any The agreement must take as its starting point the complete withdrawal of Russia from the occupied territories. He told Celso Amorin, the mastermind of this international venture in Brazil, ten days ago when he received him in kyiv. Any exit that does not include that premise is, for Zelenski, a favor to Vladimir Putin. Or to China, which is the power with which Brazil agreed on its initiative.
Diplomats are specialists in masking underlying disagreements behind protocol entanglements. That is why Zelenski and Lula explained that they could not meet at the G7 meeting due to scheduling problems. The Brazilians explained that they accepted two time changes from the Ukrainians. And the Ukrainians claimed that they could not go to the hotel where Lula was staying because it was outside the security perimeter.
Behind this minuet is encrypted a relevant phenomenon for Latin America. The war in Ukraine is one of the arenas in which the growing conflict between the United States and China is being waged. The Xi Jinping regime has not condemned the invasion. Brazil got involved in this agenda with a pacifist initiative, seeking to reinforce its main objective: to appear as a power that leads, from South America, a strategy of non-alignment with respect to the United States. The game unfolds on two main platforms. Participation in the BRICS group and the revitalization of Unasur. The ideological landscape that is taking shape in the region favors these claims.
It is very likely that Lula and his advisers did not fully contemplate that the G7 summit would become a pro-Ukrainian summit. In other words: it is possible that the Brazilian diplomatic team felt that the meeting was turning into a trap. Zelenski’s presence was to be virtual. The irruption of him in the meeting was communicated by the Japanese at the last moment, when all the ceremonial was defined. And Zelensky, who has undisputed gravitation in the international communication apparatus, presented his trip to Japan as an opportunity to convince other guests at the summit of his position, such as the Indian Prime Minister, Nadendra Modi, who also declares himself neutral. in the conflict. He makes sense: his country is a large consumer of Russian military material. However, Modi, unlike Lula, would never try to intervene in a diplomatic venture with China, a neighbor with which India has a long list of conflicts. Given these peculiarities, the interview with Modi was used by Zelenski’s spokesmen so that the disagreement with Lula is seen as a slight to Lula. We must not forget that during the electoral campaign, the Brazilian president affirmed that the war was the fault of Russia and Ukraine at the same time, a concept that he repeated a few weeks ago and that his diplomats tried to correct. On the ground of events, on April 17, the Brazilian government laid out a red carpet for Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, who finds it enormously difficult to find friends around the world.
That the G7 summit was going to be a pro-Ukrainian summit was easy to foresee. Japan, the host, has two main hypotheses of conflict: with its bordering China and Russia. At this moment, the Japanese are carrying out a program to expand their armed forces that will imply doubling the defense budget. Fumio Kishida, the prime minister, arranged the meeting in his hometown of Hiroshima to constitute a condemnation of the use of nuclear weapons, a possibility never entirely ruled out by Moscow. Kishida insisted on the permanent discourse of Japanese diplomacy: respect the rule of law in international politics and, along these lines, rule out the use of force in conflict resolution. In case it wasn’t already clear, Kishida made it explicit that the summit expressed the G7’s support for Ukraine’s position. Messages addressed to Putin. Messages addressed to Lula.
The gestures that were made in Japan, especially Zelenski’s decision not to have a photo with Lula, are silhouetted on the horizon of the next BRICS group meeting. It will take place at the beginning of August in South Africa. President Cyril Ramaphosa will receive Lula, Xi and Modi. It is a worrying unknown if Putin will attend: South Africa signed the Rome Statute and, therefore, submits to the International Criminal Court, a court that requested the arrest of the Russian leader for having committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine.
Brazil is the only country that condemned the invasion of Ukraine. It was during the Bolsonaro administration. He was also, already in February of this year, the only one who voted in favor of the UN resolution calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian soil. China, India and South Africa abstained. But regardless of Putin’s aggression, the August summit will have an anti-American tone. It will be discussed if Iran will be accepted to join the brotherhood. And there will be talk again, for example, of the creation of a common currency to replace the dollar. An agenda in which Brazil has a leading role, since the president of the new BRICS bank is Dilma Rousseff.
Lula seeks to relaunch Brazil, from that platform of non-alignment, as a relevant actor on the international scene representing Latin America. His foreign ministry is interested in refloating Unasur, which was the institution inspired by that diplomatic dream. Lula offered Alberto Fernández to become Secretary General when, in December of this year, he leaves power in Argentina.
These Brazilian targets seem to find a better climate in the neighborhood. Colombia, since Gustavo Petro took office, Venezuela and Bolivia, share them. And since last week a mystery has been opened up in Ecuador: the possibility of a restoration of power for Rafael Correa’s party is a point that the Chinese and Russians could score in their favor.
The conflict between Washington and Beijing has become more acute in recent times and is acquiring, with peculiar traits, a new cold war. Lula’s Brazil claims to lead Latin America in order, with stubborn tension, to challenge the United States on that global chessboard.
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