En los medios


Lula and the Peace in Ukraine

Mónica Hirst, profesora de la Maestría en Estudios Internacionales, y Juan Gabriel Tokatlian, vicerrector UTDT y profesor de la Licenciatura en Estudios Internacionales, escribieron sobre la iniciativa de paz que Lula impulsa en Ucrania.

Por Mónica Hirst y Juan Gabriel Tokatlian

[...] In conflict, no one side has a monopoly on virtue…We are fed a childlike narrative in which all virtue is on one side and all evil on the other.

Stephen Kinzer, 2023

The Context

Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in violation of the principle of International Law that prohibits the use of force and determines the recognition of the territorial sovereignty of States, started a war that has been transformed during its first year. Today we are witnessing a geographically localized confrontation, but one that is global by its nature due to the diversity of state and non-state actors involved and the multiple worldwide effects that affect a significant portion of the international community.

There are two outstanding features about this conflict. On the one hand, the main characters —Russia, Ukraine, the United States and NATO— are simultaneously resorting to righteous rhetoric and bellicose escalation practices. On the other hand, there are two overlapping humanitarian tragedies: the one suffered primarily by the Ukrainian population with their dead and refugees, and the one suffered, mainly in the Global South, by the most vulnerable sectors due to famine resulting from food insecurity and the planetary socio-economic consequences derived from inflation and energy costs. While such realities justify a growing international consensus on the urgency of setting a peace process in motion, the mobilization of economic and military resources on both sides is indicative of the readiness for a protracted and fierce conflict. The first anniversary of the confrontation has resulted in the reinforcement of the West's war ethos, which rests on the strong leadership and military support of the United States + NATO to Ukraine and its Russian mirror to the Ukrainian nation. In Moscow, Kiev, Brussels, and Washington it appears to be the time for maximalists who perceive this war as an opportunity to reconfigure their long-term strategic designs. In any case, geopolitics has come to depend on hard power based on force, leaving in the background the use of values and rules, which are indispensable to reach multilateral collective consensus. Both sides are paying greater attention to military confrontation rather than to proposals for a cessation of hostilities and/or an armistice, which are the first steps toward opening a dialogue.

Brazil's Entry on the Scene

Brazil put forward a peace initiative because the perception that its diplomacy has is that the main threat is the war itself and not the actions of one of its parties. This would be the distinguishing difference compared to the reasons that justify the militaristic response of NATO and Ukraine, and at the same time what allows it to position itself in a critical perspective to the violation of International Law that the Russian aggression represents. The decision to put forward their proposal in the context of the discussion on a new resolution at the UN General Assembly, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the conflict, was a step in that direction.

The intent of Lula's government is to emphasize the need of pursuing a "broad, fair and lasting" peace. This points to a political construction that can only be achieved with a balanced participation of all the actors involved. At the same time, Brasilia emphasizes that the action of pushing towards peace will depend on a greater commitment of the international actors with political heft, specifically referring to China.

These are the intended messages to be transmitted from Brasilia: the sense of urgency to set in motion a path towards peace, and for it to be the result of diplomatic negotiation and not of the eventual military victory of one of the parties. In referring to the content of a peace agenda, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mauro Viera stated that a short and basic agenda is required to visualize the preconditions needed for bringing the parties to the negotiation table.

To a large extent, foreign policy is the result of a subtle balance between domestic imperative and international responsibility. At the current juncture, Brazil is faced with the crucial simultaneous need for internal depolarization and external calm to regain its status as an emerging power in a responsible manner. This takes place in a quite different international context from that of the early 21st century, marked by the attempt of the United States to forge a unipolar order with the "war on terrorism" as its leitmotiv.

The response of Lula 1.0's government was that "his" war was against hunger. Twenty years later, a relevant distinction is once again being made in Brazil, but from another political position and facing a different position of the world power held by the United States. While Biden insists on the use of war to unite forces domestically, for the Brazilian leader the challenge of dealing with the fragility of the democratic system affected by severe domestic political fractures calls for dialogue, pacification, and disarmament. In that sense, Lula's government defends the centrality of the peaceful defense of democracy. This is the legitimizing basis for the international activism that it assumes in promoting a diplomatic solution to the Russo-Ukrainian war.

However, the Brazilian stance faces several challenges. On the domestic front, the vote that approved the UN resolution A/S-11/L7S condemning Russia's aggression against Ukraine and demanding its immediate military withdrawal, alongside the Western powers, has been questioned by internal sectors, including some in the Workers' Party. At the same time, the likelihood of Washington and Brussels backing Brazil's action seems remote, even more so after their criticism of the plan launched by Beijing. The prevailing view in the West is that peace initiatives, whatever they may be, are to hasten the times and favor Russia.

Amidst Good Offices and a Peripheral Leadership 

It is undeniable that the resources available to the Brazilian government to engage in a crusade for peace in Ukraine are currently scant. In diplomatic terms, it will be essential that Brasilia aims at building a network of associated countries and countries from different regional provenance, as well as the endorsement of the main organs of the UN system. Presidential diplomacy will be the platform used by Lula's government to move in this direction. Rather than the intention to advocate for a multilateralism ofthe South, Brazil's peace initiative represents a stance in favor of a multipolarism with the South.   

By liaising with BRICS partners and others, it is intended to respond to the accusation made against developing countries of being neutral, accusation that emerged as they have chosen not to get involved in the Ukrainian conflict either by sending armaments or imposing sanctions. At the same time, Lula is seeking to join forces with other peacemaking proposals, particularly that of China. They all share a common uneasiness about the military escalation of the conflict and the global economic consequences derived from the battery of sanctions against Russia and a potential recession after years of pandemic. This sentiment also pervades Latin America.

It is hardly convincing, when considered from the periphery, for the United States and Europe to argue that the defense of an alleged rules-based order is at stake in this war. In fact, that order has been undermined by the United States and several European partners on numerous occasions since the end of the Cold War. At the same time, the strong scheme of sanctions against Russia and the decoupling between the West and Moscow aim at weakening Putin. However, this does not seem to accelerate the end of the war. Actually, the actions deployed, in particular, by Russia, the United States, and most European countries tend to prolong the confrontation.

A responsible behavior would be one that strives for détente between the parties involved and the possibility of setting up a negotiation instance. A peace initiative, such as that of Brazil, can start with a generic formula that, as it unfolds, can lead to a realistic alternative to war; this does not imply ignoring the fact that in due course responsibilities and reparations will have to be specified.

The countries of the South participated in World War II as colonies or due to an alignment. During the Cold War, they were the stage for foreign disputes. In this war with global projection, if they do not support the conflict, on whatever side, they are countries that do not exist; and this would suggest a kind of pre-colonial condition. The choice would be between silencing oneself, speaking into the void, or stubbornly insisting on the value of peace. It is time to ask why peace and diplomatic negotiation are perceived in a global war as such dysfunctional options for those who promote it. A question all the more necessary when for a large part of the international community the conflict poses risks that may imply harsher and more lethal results, both for Ukraine and for the world.