Bolsonaro promotes ultraconservative alliance with Putin and Orbán

Putin and Bolsonaro, during their meeting this Wednesday at the same table where the Russian received, although with more distance, his counterparts from France and Germany.Mikhail Klimentiev (AP)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro made a mini-tour of Europe this week, one of the tensest the continent has seen in decades due to the Ukraine crisis, to meet two leaders who have been heavily questioned by the West. at the moment, Russian Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Viktor Orbán. The Latin American returns home with the photo he was looking for and without great achievements in bilateral matters, the declared objective of a trip which is, in principle, unrelated to the crisis surrounding Ukraine. He has indeed come under heavy criticism from the United States for ignoring his pressure to cancel the trip and, as if that were not enough, publicly declaring in Moscow his “solidarity” with Putin. The trio is united by its values ​​and by its membership in the informal club of national-populist leaders.

For Bolsonaro, this tour has more to do with his interest in restoring his international image at home as part of an ultra-conservative alliance than in reversing the diplomatic isolation into which he has plunged Brazil. In his appearances with Putin and Orbán, he highlighted their affinities and the values ​​he shares with them: God, homeland and family (traditional family, he hears). In Hungary, the Brazilian added freedom.

And he uttered a sentence in front of Putin that angered Washington as the echoes of a new war resounded in Europe. “We stand in solidarity with countries that want and are committed to peace,” Bolsonaro said Wednesday during an appearance that otherwise completely ignored the Ukrainian crisis to highlight cooperation in agriculture or agriculture. ‘nuclear energy. For the US State Department, Bolsonaro’s attitude “undermines international diplomacy aimed at avoiding a strategic and humanitarian catastrophe, as well as calls from Brazil itself to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis”, reported the Reuters agency. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki added on Friday that “Brazil is perhaps the opposite of most of the world community.” An unusual tone in the diplomacy between the two largest American countries.

The Brazilian president traveled to Moscow after turning a deaf ear to US demands to cancel the visit to Putin. And he landed just hours after the Russian announcement of a start of military withdrawal eased the tension (temporarily and between doubts about the demonstrations in Moscow), a circumstance which the Brazilian took advantage of to hint in messages addressed to his followers that relaxation was his responsibility. thing . Nothing less. “We stuck to our schedule. Coincidence or not, part of the troops left the border [con Ucrania]he said after seeing Putin. The Brazilian is campaigning for re-election.

Bolsonaro embraces Orbán this Thursday during his official visit to Budapest. Anna Szilagyi (AP)

The Russian president received the Brazilian for nearly two hours on Wednesday, precisely what US espionage said was D-Day for a possible Russian invasion. Both discussed at the same long table where the leaders of France and Germany were received —Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, respectively—but seated at a closer distance, that reserved for friends and those who, like Bolsonaro , agree to have a PCR. in Moscow. And although there is no proof that the Brazilian is vaccinated, they both shook hands.

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The electoral defeat of American Donald Trump in 2020 and the departure from power of Israeli Benjamin Netanyahu left Bolsonaro without privileged allies at the start of his mandate. His management of the Amazon and the systematic dismantling of environmental policy have soured relations with the European Union, especially with Macron’s France. Deforestation, the worst in 15 years in the largest tropical forest in the world, is keeping the process of ratifying the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur stalled.

Meetings with the leaders of Russia and Hungary included many mentions of bilateral trade, cooperation on defence, nuclear energy or the environment, but few agreements. For the newspaper columnist Stadium, center-right, the visit “to two authoritarian populists is inopportune and counter-productive for national interests”. He adds that “it can only be explained by its electoral logic”.

With Bolsonaro and the end of the economic boom of the early 21st century, the days when Brazil rubbed shoulders with the great powers and dazzled the world are over. Brasilia has a limited economic relationship with Moscow, but “having close political relations with other major powers like Russia helps Brazil manage its very asymmetrical relationship with Washington,” Oliver Stuenkel, an analyst at the Getulio Vargas Foundation. He recalled that when Putin annexed Crimea in 2014, then-President Dilma Rousseff did not criticize him because the BRICs, the club of emerging countries that both form with China, the India and South Africa were the diplomatic priority of the moment.

With Trump out of the White House, Bolsonaro has been forced to step up relations with similar leaders such as Putin, who also maintains a pulse with the United States. Beside him, he repeated twice that Brazil is a power and tried to make it appear that they are on an equal footing in the international sphere, a message for internal consumption. It shows that was the priority is the fact that the presidential delegation included one of his sons, Carlos, who leads his social media campaign and is a city councilor in Rio de Janeiro, but not the minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes.

The Russian invitation was issued at the end of last year and the main item on the Brazilian agenda was the supply of Russian fertilizers, crucial for the gigantic agricultural sector of the largest economy in Latin America. The next day, in Budapest, Bolsonaro had a shorter meeting with Orbán, whom he introduced as a “brother”. The Hungarian is, with Poland, in the crosshairs of the European institutions because of its authoritarian drift and on the eve of elections which promise to be complicated; he was one of the few heads of government to have attended his inauguration in Brasilia.

Back in Brazil on Friday, Bolsonaro traveled directly to Petrópolis (Rio de Janeiro) to visit people affected by heavy rains. The dead in this mountainous city that was the imperial summer capital now number 120 and firefighters are looking for more than a hundred missing people.

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