Latin America

Lula as a mediator in the Ukraine war?

Before his election, Brazilian President Lula caused a lack of understanding in the West with his attitude to the Ukraine war.

Even now, Brazil does not want to get involved in the conflict. But Lula has offered to mediate. Is this realistic?

The expectations were high: He should advance deadlocked trade agreements, initiate new partnerships and save the Amazon. After Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s visit to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brasilia, there was suddenly disillusionment and the realization that some expectations of Brazil’s new president were perhaps more wishful thinking.

This became particularly clear when it came to the Ukraine war. Lula clearly rejected Germany’s wish for Brazil to supply tank ammunition.

“Brazil has no interest in running ammunition for the war between Ukraine and Russia. Brazil is a country of peace. (…) That’s why Brazil doesn’t want to get involved, not even indirectly.”

Brazilian quest for autonomy

However, that was foreseeable in advance, and it also corresponds not only to one of Lula’s lines, but to Brazilian foreign policy. Brazil is also not involved in sanctions. Ana Garcia, Professor of International Relations and Director of the BRICS Policy Center says:

“Brazil is a country that has historically relied on autonomy from the great powers in its foreign policy and on economic development. This has to do with its history, but also with its role as a leading regional power, especially for developing countries First and foremost, a pragmatic approach. Brazil has never strictly aligned itself with one bloc or center of power. But that’s nothing new.”

Already in his first terms of office in the early 2000s, Lula pursued a multipolar strategy and always advocated maintaining good relations with all global players – be it in the Latin American Unasur, the BRICS or the G20. Be it to democrats or dictators.

Lula’s Ukraine stance is causing a stir

Even before his election as president, Lula’s position on the Ukraine war caused heads to shake in the West. In an interview in the US magazine “Time”, he blamed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and NATO for the war. Since then he has rowed back, there was now a joint press release with Scholz, condemning Russia’s attack. Lula puts it this way:

“Today I have more clarity about the reason for the war. I think Russia made the classic mistake of invading the territory of another country. So that’s wrong. But I always think: if one doesn’t want to, two can’t argue. ”

In German: There are always two to a dispute. In Lula’s eyes, there was a lack of efforts to find a negotiated solution, he made that clear during the Scholz visit. He even brought himself into play as a builder of bridges for peace.

Lula sees herself as a bridge builder

From a Brazilian point of view, that doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it might first sound – because in the past, Lula has repeatedly brought conflicting parties to the table, in Latin America, but also in the Middle East. During upcoming trips to Washington and Beijing, he will explore this in the coming months. According to Lula, China should now also lend a hand and help. Ana Garcia sees it this way:

“It’s not a naive idea. Lula has already positioned herself in this way in other international tensions, and the ongoing negotiations are taking place under very rigid conditions. Perhaps it’s a little too much to expect China to be a relevant player, since China already has its own problems to solve and there are a lot of tensions between the West and China. Possible partners could rather be Turkey, India and South Africa.”

However, it is questionable how realistic such a move is at all at the moment – or whether the now 77-year-old Lula does not tend to overestimate himself.

Lula wants to play a role on the world stage

In the Brazilian press, the topic found little response at first. Lula has other things to worry about at home anyway. The attack by Bolsonaro supporters on the seat of government must be cleared up and ways found to overcome the deep ideological rifts in the country.

Things are also brewing in the region, especially in neighboring Peru, which is mired in a deep political crisis. A bridge builder would do well there too. One thing is certain: Lula has made it clear that he wants to play a role regionally and on the world stage. The fact that there was disagreement on the Ukraine question does not mean that Brazil is not a partner for Germany.


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