Partnership Among Equals, por Stefanos G. C. Drakoulakis

The recent movements observed in the Brazil-United States relations could raise a wide range of questions. One of the recent events, The VI Summit of the Americas, is critical when we wonder how the government of Dilma Roussef conceptualizes such relations. Even though the stated “partnership among equals” could mean nothing but a wish, this skeptical vision does not fully correspond to the facts. On the other hand it is expected that the Brazilian movement aiming consolidating its global position will lead the country inevitably to some sort of clash with the United States. In this brief analysis what is sought is to reach a middle ground in between too far pessimistic and optimistic views. Also it’s formed a third option to this complex movement. Brazil is not necessarily rivaling with the United States, instead it is competing.Concerning Brazilian relations with the rest of the world, United States have been regarded as a major partner.  The Americanism paradigm has been one of the paths that Brazil has used to enhance its position in the global context. The “Barão do Rio Branco” has seen the centralism that the relations with the United States would assume in the long run. With some setbacks the United States remained until the government of Jânio Quadros (1961) the central fundament of the Brazilian foreign policy. But even in the 70s and 80s, especially with the Pragmatism Ecumenical and Responsible (Pragmatismo Responsável e Ecumênico) the relations with United States were taken as central. The major point here is to state that neither with changes during the Brazilian foreign policy history, the bid for global insertion, nor when the national interest assumes greater importance in Brazil, the relations with the United States were regarded as unnecessary,  nor that openly facing the United States were an option.

So if the relations with the United States are extremely important to the Brazilian government, what could this movement, that has been taking place not only for this government but since the Lula’s administration, mean? In this article, what it’s pursued is to show a continuous movement in the Brazilian foreign policy that does not break up with the history of such relations. On the contrary, it reaffirms the central position of the United States in our foreign policy, but also shows that independence in movements is also highly valued. First it is needed to dedicate some part of the argument analyzing the most common positions about the Brazilian global insertion concerning its relations with the United States of America.

To illuminate the skeptical position it is necessary to look the way they do. Brazil has resorted to speech for striving for its interests. In most of cases, the Brazilian argumentation was bolstered by the international law and morality. In a realistic view, these are the weapons of the weak. Therefore, the phrase of Dilma Roussef would likely fit into this kind of discourse, even though it’s acknowledged that Brazil has relatively gained importance in the recent scenario. Brazil does not possess the same bargaining powers that had had with Getúlio Vargas and in the end of the day the diplomacy would just cover another failed movement that has struggled for constructing a reserved space in South America for Brazilian influence. Therefore, Brazil would just be acting as a rational actor that finds ideas the only way to create an atmosphere that can favor its interests.

A sort of “chicken fly” (it doesn’t stay long in the air) would best describe this kind of skepticism. But the recent exchange of visits between the Brazil and United States, the signature of few understandings shows that more importance is given to these relations, not only by Brazil (as this vision would certainly expect), but also by the United States. The header of the State Department has made clear the position of the United States. The country wishes to take a greater hole in the Brazilian economy. It could be inferred that the United States also wants to regain the position of primacy that once has held. So the notorious importance given to the Brazilian economy could mean that Brazil actually has some sort of influence in the path of these relations. Nothing like the automatic alignment is observed these days. Liking or not, when faced by these facts, it doesn’t matter the interpretation of the skeptics, it has to be recognized that Brazil has changed and so does their relations. What it is very useful of this kind of view is the possibility of questioning the boundaries of the Brazilian position. There are containments that make the “partnership among equals” to be an idealistic type of such relations. Whenever the United States firmly decides to hold its ground, it’s unlikely that the relations among them hold any equality.

Now the second proposition is taken under scrutiny. Will Brazil actually clash with United States? This can be a tricky question. Depending on how we expect to see the clash, there are multiple interpretations. Here the argument aims to restrict the most radical views which see that the confrontation will be open and vast. These fraught views carry with them some sort of misinterpretation both of movements of the United States and the history of Brazilian foreign policy. First, the United States is seeking to guarantee the maximum of support it can to regain socially and economically the South American region. As their leadership is being constantly questioned, the necessity of the Obama administration giving another face to the United States foreign policy is one of the biggest issues of his government. On the other hand, United States desires to fix an impression of its new features as the leader of the continent. The Obamas administration since its beginning has sought to get out of the traditional hard power way of conducting politics. So a United States interested in cooperation (even if it’s for selfish reasons) has to have a more flexible policy. On the other hand, Brazilian foreign policy is walking on no new path. The same principles, the same view and most important, the same position is given to United States in our foreign policy. But as the national interest has achieved a greater role in the definition of how Brazil will behave at the international arena, then we could see some minor clashes in the long run. United States is way too important to the Brazilian policy. So identifying a confrontation policy in the planning of Brazilian foreign policy is unlikely to happen. Brazilian government seeks to cooperate with the United States. However there’s a big difference between cooperation and bandwagoning, and the Brazilian government won’t just be a follower of the United States, instead Brazilian government seeks the place of a partner.

Finally, when both positions were questioned, it’s possible to take advantage of the strong points of them and indicate the variables that will certainly have some impacts in the future of these relations. To say that Brazil will move independently from the United States position it is equivocal. But stating that Brazil will in some point turn to the United States desires, even if those collides with the Brazilian ones, it’s childish. The major point is to see the phrase of the Brazilian states woman not as a radical change, but as the confirmation of a broader historical movement. Affirming this is to say that, depending on results of the American elections we should see the continuity conversation in different points of view. The difficulties will inevitably rise and there will be no compromise. But United States is consolidating in the Brazilian view not as a target, or a hated hegemon, but as good chance to promote Brazilian interests. And everything indicates that the vision is reciprocal.

Stefanos Georgios C. Drakoulakis é Graduando em Relações Internacionais da Universidade de Brasília, Membro do Programa de Ensino Tutorial – PET- IREL -UnB (

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