Jair Bolsonaro

The U.S. on Thursday criticized Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s declaration of “solidarity” with Russia during a visit there this week.

A Reuters report from Brasilia said:

“The timing of the president of Brazil expressing solidarity with Russia, just as Russian forces are preparing to launch attacks on Ukrainian cities, could not be worse,” the U.S. State Department said.

“It undermines international diplomacy directed at averting a strategic and humanitarian disaster, as well as Brazil’s own calls for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.”

Brazil’s foreign ministry and spokespeople for Bolsonaro did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.S. statement.

The U.S. comment amounted to unusually brusque criticism of the government of Latin America’s largest country, with which the U.S. usually has cordial relations.

Bolsonaro was a strong ideological ally of former president Donald Trump and relations have cooled under the administration of President Joe Biden, amid ructions over climate change and other issues.

On Wednesday, during his state visit to Russia, Bolsonaro, alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in a statement he was “in solidarity with Russia,” without elaborating.

Later in a joint statement, again alongside Putin, he said: “We stand in solidarity with all those countries that want and strive for peace.”

“We have intense collaboration in key international forums such as the BRICS, the G20 and the United Nations, where we defend the sovereignty of states, respect for international law and the United Nations Charter,” Bolsonaro said.

Brazil and Russia are among a group of major emerging economies, known as the BRICS that includes India, China and South Africa.

The U.S. State Department said a “false narrative” had been created that the U.S. had been demanding that Brazil choose between it and Russia, as Bolsonaro chose to proceed with a summit with Putin amid the Ukraine tension.

“That is not the case. This is a matter of Brazil, as an important country, seeming to ignore armed aggression by a large power against a smaller neighbor country, a posture inconsistent with Brazil’s historical emphasis on peace and diplomacy,” the State Department said.

Bolsonaro told Brazilian reporters this week that the Ukraine crisis had come up in his talks with Putin.

“I spoke to President Putin that Brazil supports any country that seeks peace. And that is his intention,” he said

On Thursday, following a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Budapest, Bolsonaro returned to the topic, saying a war between Russia and the Ukraine was “in no one’s interest.”

An earlier report by Al Dia News (Bolsonaro visits Russia amid crisis with Ukraine,  https://www.aldianews.com/politics/policy/bolsonaro-meets-putin) said on February 16, 2022:

Amid the current geopolitical tension concentrated on the border between Russia and Ukraine, the President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro, arrived in Moscow to fulfill an appointment he had with Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

This was the first visit to Russia for Bolsonaro, who assured that the agenda between the two countries was quite productive, reaching pre-pandemic levels in terms of bilateral trade between the two nations. Topics such as agribusiness were also discussed, a process that facilitates the acquisition of fertilizers and the activation of meat exports to strengthen the ties between Moscow and Brasilia.

Putin’s Words

“Our countries are definitely interested in progressively expanding economic interaction. Brazil is one of Russia’s main trading partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, and represents a third of all our trade with this region,” reads a press release shared after the meeting between the two presidents.

The Kremlin also noted that, last year, “bilateral trade grew by 87% despite coronavirus-related complications,” noting that “bilateral industrial cooperation is expanding successfully.” They cite examples such as the Russian Power Machines corporation’s projects to modernize the Brazilian hydroelectric industry, as well as the Severstal and AVISMA projects to supply components to local high-tech companies.

Regarding the political position of the two countries, Putin stated that both his nation and Brazil continue “advocating the development of a multipolar world order based on international law with the central coordinating role of the UN,” highlighting the firm commitment to “the principle of multilateralism and the political-diplomatic solution of conflicts.”

Bolsonaro’s Words

The Brazilian president confirmed the progress mentioned by his counterpart in commercial and industrial relations, while also highlighting new projects:

We have great potential to develop cooperation in the sphere of oil, its derivatives and natural gas. We strive to strengthen our high-level dialogue on the exploration and production of oil in deep-sea deposits and we are interested in small nuclear power plants.

Bolsonaro also considered it important to highlight the efforts made by the two countries to “create new dynamics in the technological alliance between Brazil and Russia,” paying special attention to nanotechnology, biotechnology and medical research. The leaders also agreed to maintain a permanent dialogue to protect their extensive areas of forest and jungle.

In the strong trade relationship between Russia and Brazil, the exports of the Kremlin to the South American country totaled more than $5.7 billion (more than half in fertilizer operations). For Brazil’s part, shipments to Moscow totaled $ 1.6 billion, boosted by food products.

While the U.S. had asked the Brazilian government to postpone its visit, taking into account the current situation, many believe that a weakened Bolsonaro in Brazil could not miss the opportunity to be seen next to a character like Putin.

Bolsonaro Departs For Russia Despite Objections

An Associated Press report from Brasilia said on 15 February 2022 (https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/brazils-bolsonaro-readies-trip-russia-objections-82884813):

The plane of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro took off Monday evening headed to Russia despite Western warnings the country could soon invade Ukraine — frustrating those who have suggested he cancel the trip, including the U.S. government and members of his own Cabinet.

Bolsonaro’s focus is bilateral trade; Russia is a key source of fertilizers for South America’s agricultural powerhouse.

But even some of his allies fear Bolsonaro could make damaging comments on the crisis or that his presence could be seen as tacit support for a Russian invasion of its neighbor.

Two top officials from Brazil’s Foreign Ministry told The Associated Press that they have received messages from U.S. officials saying the trip’s timing is inopportune and conveys Brazilian indifference to threats of invasion. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak publicly.

A U.S. State Department official, meanwhile, issued a statement Monday that appeared to accept the meeting would go ahead, “As democratic leaders, the United States and Brazil have a responsibility to stand up for democratic principles and the rules-based order. We hope Brazil will take this opportunity to reinforce this message in their conversations in Moscow.”

At least two of Bolsonaro’s Cabinet ministers said privately they have been trying since last week to convince him to call off the trip. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

They said Bolsonaro was reluctant to delay the visit that has been scheduled since December, following an invitation from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. They also said Bolsonaro sees potential benefits for a possible reelection bid because he can show proximity to fellow conservative leaders abroad. After Russia, Bolsonaro is to stop in Hungary and meet Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Speaking to supporters outside the presidential palace on Monday, Bolsonaro justified the trip.

“We have business with them, trade. In large part our agribusiness depends on the fertilizers. We have issues to discuss about defense, energy, a lot of things to address. Brazil is a sovereign nation,” he said.

Maurício Santoro, an international relations professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said Bolsonaro’s trip is a “diplomatic victory” for Putin, who is seeking to demonstrate closeness with leaders of democratic countries to curb criticism of authoritarianism.

Cancelling the trip could be seen as submitting to U.S. government policy, according to Celso Amorim, who was foreign minister during the government of the now-opposition Workers’ Party.

“I do not want to defend Bolsonaro’s foreign policy, which is regrettable. But to receive an invitation from an important partner …, and canceling would give a bad reading,” Amorim said.

The Brazilian Cabinet ministers said members of the Foreign and Defense ministries have advised Bolsonaro to avoid commenting on Ukraine and, if Putin raises the issue, maintain neutrality and support dialogue.

But Bolsonaro is not known for sticking to the script. Already on Monday outside the presidential palace, he was alluding to the conflict.

“The whole world has its problems. We have to converse, but wanting to resolve the problems of others … if it’s possible, right? … We know what is at stake. I won’t go into details here,” he said.


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