“BRICS: In the Mirror of Times.” How relations between Russia and Brazil have developed
The seventeenth episode of the joint project of TV BRICS and GAUGN is devoted to the history of the development of relations between Russia and Brazil
In the seventeenth episode of the joint project of TV BRICS and GAUGN “BRICS: In the Mirror of Times”, dedicated to the history of the development of relations between Russia and Brazil, we will talk to Boris Martynov, Doctor of Political Science, Head of the Department of International Relations and Russian Foreign Policy of the Faculty of International Relations of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, about the history of rapprochement between the two countries.
The joint TV BRICS and GAUGN project was supported by a grant from the Russian Ministry of Education and Science under the federal project “Popularisation of Science and Technology”.
There is no doubt that cultural, economic and scientific co-operation between Russia and Brazil will continue to develop actively in the coming years. This will be facilitated, among other things, by the partnership within the BRICS framework. How did the ties between Russia and Brazil originate? And what historical events along the way were decisive? We will talk about this and more in the studio
– From what time should we start counting Russian-Brazilian relations?
– Relations were established in 1828, six years after Brazil gained independence. Since the country was an empire until 1889, in 1828 Russian Emperor Nicholas I established relations with Brazil as a monarchical country, as all other Latin American countries had a republican form of government. Brazil was different in this respect.
The real proximity of our interests became apparent (this is a very remarkable fact) at the Second Hague Peace Conference. It was convened in 1907 on the initiative of Nicholas II. The range of issues concerned the cessation of the arms race, the diversion of freed funds to the needs of poor countries. And here arose, it would seem, such a somewhat private, particularistic case, when it was decided to choose the composition of the international arbitration court (now it is the International Court of Justice of the United Nations, it is also located in The Hague).
In 1907 there was the first such attempt to create an international court. Germany and England proposed that the court would include representatives of the great powers as permanent, irremovable members.
The great powers of that time are known – Great Britain, France, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Japan.
And only one representative of a great power – Russia, the ambassador to France, who then headed the Russian delegation in The Hague, Alexander Ivanovich Nelidov, opposed such a structure.
It would seem that Russia could have exercised this right and remained a member of the international court forever. However, our country preferred to follow the norm of international law, which fixed the international equality of states.
And it is very interesting that, speaking at the general assembly of the Second Hague Conference, the delegate of Brazil stated that it was inadmissible to divide states on the principle of military strength, as this laid the foundation for an arms race, which contradicted the very purpose of the conference.
This was the first time that Russia and Brazil found themselves on the same side of the barricades. And such an objective basis was laid for the friendly relations between Russia and Brazil.
In 1917 they were interrupted. This is a difficult period of our history. People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Georgy Chicherin proposed a policy that would later be called peaceful coexistence, the principles of which were non-interference in internal affairs, observance of peace, mutual trade and friendly relations.
But the Comintern was burning with a thirst for world revolution. Naturally, the Latin American countries refused to follow such a policy, especially since in 1935 the Comintern attempted a communist coup in Brazil, which also did not favour mutual trust.
Relations were not resumed until April 1945. Brazil participated in the Second World War as part of the anti-Hitler coalition, and not just symbolically – you know, they broke off relations with Germany and sat back. No, in 1944 Brazil sent its expeditionary corps to the European theatre of war. 25,000 men. Not enough? Of course not, but it was the first time a Latin American country sent its troops to fight in Europe.
They fought successfully, Brazilian aviation fought, artillerymen, tankers. By the way, in Rio de Janeiro there is a monument to pilots, infantrymen and sailors by the famous sculptor Oscar Niemeyer. Their memory is honoured.
Brazilians guarded the convoy in the South Atlantic, sunk, according to various estimates, more than ten Italian and German submarines.
Brazil also supplied strategic raw materials.
But in 1947, relations were interrupted at the initiative of the Brazilian side.
– The height of the Cold War.
– Perestroika, the collapse, the USSR – how did this affect relations?
– It had a strong impact because for a long time Brazil made good use of the Cold War contradictions between the two poles and carved out various advantages for itself on both sides.
The Americans couldn’t do anything about it – otherwise Brazil would have turned to the Soviet Union. And the U.S. had absolutely no interest in that.
It was the same with Latin America: the rest of Latin America took the same line.
After the collapse of the USSR, Latin America found itself alone with the USA, again, as in the 19th century. There was no one else to lean on, the possibility for manoeuvre was reduced as much as possible.
That’s why Brazilians regretted the collapse of the USSR: I personally found myself in Brazil in 1990, and I had a chance to talk to people who were in power and professors – all of them, even those who had previously been anti-communist, were frankly dissatisfied with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Brazil began to feel itself as a rising great power somewhere from the 1950s onwards, when industrialisation began there. And it is not by chance – huge territory, huge population, very fast and dynamic industrial development.
The country turned from agrarian to agrarian-industrial, then to industrial-agrarian (today it is the seventh largest economy in the world, by the way). That is, the political and social consciousness of Brazilians began to grow.
If we talk about today, look: our latest foreign policy concept is that Russia is a country-civilisation. And China is a country-civilisation, and India, and Brazil. In other words, this is the formation of the very multipolar world, which we talk about a lot, but we do not specify. And it is already time.
It is not just a multipolar world, it is a civilisational world. It is many, several cultures that exist on an equal footing, no one forces anyone to anything, no one imposes their cultural stereotypes, political stereotypes – nothing like that.
This is exactly the same principle of equal rights, but taken to some broader horizons, which, by the way, Brazil and Russia defended together in 1907 at the Second Hague Conference.
In addition to being a member of BRICS, Mercosur, Brazil has also wanted to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council since 1945.
– For the world, what will change?
– It will be good above all because Latin America as such is actually the most peaceful continent, if you start analysing. The most peaceful continent on our planet.
Brazil was the country that initiated the process of making Latin America the world’s first zone free of weapons of mass destruction.
The Brazilians, back in 1911, were the first to make real reductions in naval armaments. In relations with Argentina, for example, agreements were reached where both sides gave up the additional warships they were going to acquire.
And the rest of the world was stockpiling armaments on the eve of World War I.
The Brazilians declared the South Atlantic a zone of peace and co-operation.
At all international conferences, starting with the same Hague conference, Brazilians defended the traditional principles of international law: equality, sovereignty, non-interference, peaceful settlement of disputes, finally.
Unfortunately, Brazil and Latin America as a whole are not only geographically distant from Europe, where world politics was made.
Many things therefore remain outside of our attention. For example, Brazil has peacefully resolved all its territorial disputes. It can be written in the Guinness Book of Records.
But Brazil shares borders with all Latin American countries except Chile and Ecuador. And there were disputes with all of them, and not only in Latin America, there were disputes with French Guiana, and with British Guiana (present-day Guyana, but then it was a British colony). Peacefully they managed to annex a territory almost the size of France. It’s a record. But few people know about it.
Few people know about such an outstanding diplomat of Latin America as Baron de Rio Branco (José Maria da Silva Paranhos). He was Brazil’s foreign minister from 1902 to 1912, and it was under his leadership that all these disputes were resolved.
So there you go. We need to broaden our worldview, make it more historically relevant and more stereoscopic.