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«Brazil, the Emerging Powers, and the Future of the International Order 2016 to remember the optimism that Brazilians once IT IS DIFFICULT IN shared ...»

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18 Brazil and the Future of the International Order from either seizing the Amazon in the name of preserving biodiversity or the environment or the pre-salt hydrocarbon basins in the Brazilian Atlantic Ocean. 29 The country also believes that having a modern and effective military will significantly enhance its respect and reputation and will provide it influence internationally. Baron Rio Branco, Brazil’s foreign minister from 1902–10 and the father of Brazilian diplomacy, expressed this sentiment after his sole loss in international arbitration in

1903.30 In 2012 his views were echoed by a rear admiral at the Seventh Annual Conference on National Security at the Naval War College, when he linked “equipped, trained and credible” military force to the good image a country must have to exercise soft power.31 Brazil has accepted systemic constraints, even when they present obstacles to the achievement of its international goals, and its efforts to reform the system to accommodate its growing power could well be achieved without overthrowing the global order. But Brazil has also articulated the need to revise some aspects of the global order to more adequately reflect the interests of developing nations. It has tried to revise current norms to favor developing states more explicitly, such as reinforcing the norm of sovereign equality or making demands that great powers follow the rules. These revisionist aspects of Brazil’s foreign policy therefore have posed challenges to incumbent great power preferences. Clearly the incumbent great powers do not all share the same allegiance to liberal security and political, economic, and social principles: witness the contrasting approaches of the United States, France, Great Britain, and China. But they all oppose Brazil’s demands that sovereign equality be an effective, not merely a symbolic, norm. We see in the following chapters how opposition from incumbent powers has influenced Brazilian behavior as it is emerging and how the combination of opposition by great powers and strategic mistakes by Brazil both accounts for its past failure to emerge and for the difficulties it faces in emerging today.


In 2016, it seems clear that Brazil’s efforts to emerge during the past two decades once again stalled before enabling it to achieve major power status. 32 During this period, Brazil sought to play a role across the key domains that the present international order purports to regulate: international security, international economy, and the global commons. Brazil’s Brazil and the Future of the International Order aspirations to secure a more influential role in international security were thwarted by the failure to secure a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Even when Brazil gains a seat at the major power table on issues such as global trade, it is not powerful enough to prevent other major powers from shifting discussions to entirely dif ferent institutional settings; for example, from the World Trade Organization— where Brazil has a major leadership role—to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations, from which Brazil is excluded.

As we show in this book, Brazil’s attempt to rise and its failure to emerge at the beginning of the twenty-fi rst century reflect a historical pattern: periodically, favorable international and/or domestic conditions materialize that—in combination— give Brazil’s leaders the hope that attaining great power status is once again possible. Brazil sought to emerge during periods of great challenge to the liberal international order— after both World War I and World War II—when it believed that its marginal contribution of hard power and soft power would have an outside importance to the winners of these global struggles. It also sought to emerge during periods where the liberal international order appeared open to reform and revision, such as after the U.S. defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s and the U.S retrenchment following the Iraq war in the 2000s.

However, Brazil’s leaders have found repeatedly that they lack sufficient power, or even the right combination of power, to compel and attract incumbent great powers to accept them as one of their own or to incorporate Brazil’s revisionist proposals into a new international order.

For example, Brazil’s efforts to build up its hard power during the 1970s by developing a large defense industry and a covert nuclear program were met with opposition and hostility from the United States. Brazil’s efforts to use soft power to intervene in the security and economic domains in the 2000s, even in combination with other emerging powers such as China and India, came to naught. And when international conditions become less favorable for Brazil’s exercise of power, the weakness of its domestic institutions, which have been historically prone to economic and political crisis, become more salient and further undercut the hard and soft power needed to power its emergence.

And now, the international system is changing in ways that are less “friendly” to the use of soft power, as indicated by Russia’s militarized conflicts with Georgia and Ukraine and China’s saber rattling in the 20 Brazil and the Future of the International Order South and East China Seas. In addition, Brazil’s own store of soft power may be at risk—its great economic achievements of the past decade, which led to marked reductions in inequality and poverty and a great expansion of the middle class, have been tarnished by a vast corruption scandal that has engulfed the Brazilian political and economic elite.

Brazil’s aspirations, attempts, and failures to emerge— and particularly its latest try, which relied almost entirely on soft power— have important implications for international relations theory. In each of the cases examined in this book, it is clear that Brazil’s leaders never accepted the legitimacy of an international order in which leading powers could violate norms and rules without facing consequences. We suggest that, although a soft power path to great power status may be possible, it is actually the more difficult path for emerging powers to pursue. Major powers may have highly unattractive domestic policies and serious economic weaknesses, but if they have the right kind of hard power, they remain globally influential. Contemporary Russia under Putin is a case in point: its economy is increasingly strained, its politics more and more illiberal, yet with a full arsenal of nuclear weapons and a reviving conventional military capability, no one would deny that Russia remains an influential power. Soft power, which is all too often misunderstood by governments as diplomacy, is actually based on the attraction of a state’s domestic model. And this means that until a country like Brazil achieves a stable, rather than episodically attractive, model for its domestic political, economic, and social order, its use of soft power will be prisoner to the ebb and flow of its internal situation.

This book examines Brazil’s efforts to emerge across time and across the various domains most relevant to the liberal international order: security, economics, and the global commons. Chapter 2 reviews Brazil’s history of attempting to emerge and failing to do so during the twentieth century, examining closely its foreign policy during World War I, World War II, and the height of the Cold War in the 1970s. Chapter 3 analyzes the rise and stall of Brazilian foreign policy during the past twenty years, beginning with the presidency of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, through the peak of Brazil’s latest rise under Luis “Lula” Inacio da Silva, and up until the doldrums of Dilma Rousseff’s second term in office. In chapter  4, we turn to Brazil’s efforts to influence order making and international security during its most recent attempt to emerge. Chapter 5 considers Brazil’s efforts to reform global economic governance during the same period. Chapter 6 focuses on Brazil’s role in proposing and Brazil and the Future of the International Order maintaining international regimes to regulate the global commons, examining two proposals that became globally significant during its most recent attempt to emerge: climate change and global Internet governance.

We conclude with a chapter that reviews how Brazil has attempted to influence global order across time and why it so often has failed, and consider three scenarios for how Brazil might attempt to emerge once

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