BRICS: In the Mirror of Time. Why is Brazil called tropical Russia?
The eighteenth episode of the joint project of TV BRICS and GAUGN is devoted to the current stage of relations between Russia and Brazil
Russia and Brazil have more in common than meets the eye. Brazil is also the largest country on its continent. They love football there, and there are many beautiful women there. And there is also an economy similar to ours and a wealth of natural resources. Perhaps that is also why relations between the two countries have been on the rise in recent years.
Why is Brazil called “tropical Russia”? How did they manage to become strategic partners? And why can distant countries expect a common future? All the details – in the new episode of the project “BRICS: In the Mirror of the Times”. The studio guest is Boris Martynov, a leading Russian expert on the history of Brazilian foreign policy and diplomacy, Head of the Department of International Relations and Foreign Policy of Russia at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
The joint project of TV BRICS and GAUGN is supported by a grant from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science under the federal project “Popularisation of Science and Technology”.
Brazil is often called “tropical Russia”. Why? What is it connected with? And is such a name justified?
This term was first introduced by Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso during his visit to Russia.
Tropical Russia. Indeed, apart from everything else, apart from what you have called it, there is a kind of psychological commonality between Russians and Brazilians, paradoxical as it may seem because of the huge geographical distances. We are very similar – very friendly, very hospitable, we even have similar anecdotes.
So this commonality creates such a natural psychological basis, a matrix, if you will, for the further progressive development of our relations.
The trade turnover between Russia and Brazil is increasing every year. What is the driver of this growth?
The driver is the same mutual interest, mutual benefit. We are indeed complementary in some things, and in some things we are competitors. But it is precisely because we are competitors that we need to negotiate. And this is also a new additional ground for mutual relations.
Russia and Brazil are among the world’s ten largest agricultural producers, and this is also very important. Brazil is called an agricultural superpower.
In addition, we are very interested, of course, in the development of advanced industries – informatics, biotechnology, modern pharmaceuticals, aerospace industry.
How would you assess the humanitarian co-operation between our countries?
There are achievements, but there are also problems. The main one is very poor awareness of each other. You see, one can be emotionally positive – I am not taking specialists or professionals in their field, but a person from the street: everyone will say that Brazil is a beautiful country. And that’s it. So you need more information, you need to learn Portuguese.
Brazil is the first letter of BRICS, the Portuguese language. We need to translate our books not only into English, but also into the other languages – Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese.
Last year Brazil changed its president. What has changed in relations between Russia and Brazil since then?
You know, this is a very interesting metamorphosis, because when Bolsonaro first came to power, many people in our country thought that that was it, relations with Brazil were finished. It turned out that it was not. And this metamorphosis is very eloquent. It ended with what? The fact that Bolsonaro visited Russia. The Brazilians hosted the BRICS summit very well.
This metamorphosis was much like the transformation of the Brazilian military regime, which came to power in April 1964 under anti-communist slogans, and eventually moved to constructively nationalist positions by the early 1980s.
The same Brazilian military, the same anti-communists, but they went to co-operate with the Soviet Union. It was a return to the roots, the basic, main, mainstream tradition of Brazilian diplomacy, which was based on the principles of independence, equality, sovereignty.
They realised that only this path would guarantee Brazil’s progress no matter who was in power. Whether it is the social democrats in the person of Fernando Cardoso, the leftists in the person of Lula da Silva or the rightists in the person of Bolsonaro, they all in one way or another adhere to the paradigm of “Brazil as a great power”. This is what Brazil is aiming at, so to speak. A rising power. This ideology of ascendancy has permeated every pore of Brazilian society, from the very bottom to the very top.
And the question is how to do it. How? And this question is now being addressed by Lula da Silva in favour of cooperation with Latin America, China and Russia. And China, by the way, has been Brazil’s main foreign trade partner since 2010, regardless of which party is at the helm.
What is Lula da Silva’s attitude to Russia?
Very positive. He is a very interesting person, very deep. He started out as a shoe shiner, then worked as a metallurgist, then went into the trade union movement. This is a man who was formed directly under the influence of life itself, a man who knows how to listen and heed, who is naturally clever.
So he sees perfectly well who Brazil can count on in the international arena. And here, of course, for Lula da Silva there is only one way – the way of co-operation. First, with neighbours – the traditional way of creating Latin American structures of economic and military-political cooperation. Secondly, this is BRICS, this is the G20, this is Russia, China, India, South Africa, Iran. And here we are a natural ally for Brazil.
I believe that in the future Brazil will become one of the new poles of the multipolar world, it has all the objective conditions for this, and the conditions are excellent: territory, population, dynamics – 250 million will be by 2030, one can only envy the dynamics of growth.
It is already, so to speak, an achievement in advanced industries – aircraft construction, automobile construction, nuclear power. Brazil has unique technologies of offshore drilling. This is already a lot in the modern world. In addition, we have a remarkable natural and resource potential.
How do you see Russian-Brazilian relations in the near future?
At the turn of the 2000s, we began to pay more and more attention to them in all concepts of foreign policy. We had several, and everywhere Brazil is mentioned specifically.
I would like to recall: 1997, the visit of Yevgeny Maximovich Primakov, when a wonderful document was signed, which had a very interesting name – “Declaration on Relations with Brazil, Aimed at the XXI Century”. It would seem, where from? Why? Yevgeny Maximovich was a genius, in fact, he saw the prospect.
And if earlier it was fertiliser in exchange for food, now it is the whole complex. Now our large corporations are already involved: Gazprom, power machines, hydropower, and oil field development, among others. There is also machine building, construction of infrastructure facilities, co-operation in nuclear energy, supplies of enriched uranium….
Again, the commonality with our realities is natural resources. This is still, you know, probably a 20% untapped reservoir – the reservoir of the entire Amazon. It’s a continent within a continent! It’s a continent within a continent! We don’t know yet what’s out there.
There are also environmental realities and ethnic realities. So it is a complex issue that cannot be solved alone, it must be solved together.
Joint fight against crime. This used to be a purely internal political notion, but now it has been brought into the concept of foreign policy, which already indicates that crime has become transnational. And that is why international co-operation is necessary.
Russia and Brazil are currently strategic partners. What does this mean and to what extent do our relations justify it?
Strategic partnership is a rather vague term, you will probably not find a precise definition anywhere, different authors have different definitions. But strategic means in the main areas of modern economics and politics. We have already listed them: this is the economy, finance, investment, trade, social programmes, healthcare, sports, culture, and, of course, politics.
Here we have some differences in some things – sovereign countries, which have their own interests, cannot but have them. But in some basic concepts, in general, we agree. We set the general direction for ourselves and we do not disagree in these general directions: it is the construction of a multipolar, multi-civilisational world, it is the affirmation of the principles of international law. UN reform, of course. We agree, we support Brazil’s aspiration to become a permanent member of the Security Council, as do India and South Africa. We are united in this respect. And that, perhaps, is the main thing.