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Lula’s fight to defend his global legacy

Since leaving office four and a half years ago, Brazil’s ex-President Lula da Silva has been, along with Bill Clinton, one of the world’s most popular former leaders, frequently speaking at international high-level conferences and causing aspiring politicians to try emulate his success formula. Lula adroitly used the years after leaving power to spread the attractive narrative about how Brazil not grew economically when most of the rest of the world was in crisis, but how he oversaw one of the most remarkable reductions in poverty in recent history. Equally important, Lula dramatically enhanced Brazil’s visibility around the world, questioning established powers’ capacity to control and dominate the global agenda. Like few others, he stood for the growing trend of …


The BRICS grouping launches its New Development Bank

Less than a month after the signing ceremony of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in Beijing, another global financial institution was launched 1200 kilometers further South. Based in Shanghai, China’s financial hub, the New Development Bank’s creation marks a remarkable step in the history of the BRICS grouping. After being a mere investment category between 2001 and 2007 and an informal platform between 2008 and 2014, the launch of the NDB is the beginning of a new era for an unlikely grouping that has been confronted with broad skepticism and rejection in the Western media since the very beginning. Born as a political outfit at the height of the Western financial crisis of 2008, it is no exaggeration …


Porque Washington tem dificuldades em compreender o BRICS

Originalmente publicado em inglês no dia 12 de julho e traduzido pelo Politike.

“A China tentará se opor e derrubar a ordem existente ou irá se integrar a ela?”, gosta de perguntar G. John Ikenberry, professor da Universidade de Princeton (EUA). Centenas de estudiosos de política seguem o exemplo de Ikenberry e procuram avaliar em qual direção a China seguirá conforme se transforma na maior economia global, colocando um fim a três séculos de dominação global do Ocidente. Ikenberry, um proeminente liberal internacionalista, argumenta que a China pode ser integrada na ordem atual, que ele define como “fácil de aderir e difícil de derrubar.” John Mearsheimer, um acadêmico realista de destaque da Universidade de Chicago (EUA), prevê, …


How Brazil and Argentina overcame their nuclear rivalry

Brazil’s President Sarney and Argentina’s President Alfonsín, 1985

Book review: The Origins of Nuclear Cooperation. A Critical Oral History between Argentina and Brazil. Edited by Rodrigo Mallea, Matias Spektor and Nicholas J. Wheeler. Editora FGV, 2015. Available for download here in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

Despite occassional cooperation, Argentine-Brazilian rivalry was, for most of the 19th and 20th century, the dominant regional dynamic in South America. This only changed in the 1980s, when secret diplomatic negotiations and trust-building measures led to an agreement to renounce peaceful nuclear explosions and develop a safeguards framework, an achievement that set the stage for close cooperation on many levels today. The transformation of the bilateral relationship was revolutionary and fairly unexpected. As Matias …


Why Washington struggles to understand the BRICS

Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, left, India’s Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman, second left, Brazil’s former Finance Minister Guido Mantega, center, China’s Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, second right, and South Africa Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, right, sign an agreement creating a development bank during the BRICS 2014 summit in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday, July 15, 2014.

“Will China seek to oppose and overturn the existing order or will it integrate in it?”, Princeton’s G. John Ikenberry has often asked in the past years. Hundreds of policy-minded scholars have followed his lead and seek to assess which way China will go as it turns into the world’s leading economy, ending three centuries of Western global dominance. …


The Ufa Declaration: An analysis

Assessing whether a multilateral summit was a success or not is notoriously difficult. Observers’ expectations and definitions of success can vary greatly, and, more importantly, it may take years to grasp the ramifications of international agreements. As Henry Kissinger writes in World Order (reviewed here), the 24-hour news cycle and social media make traditional diplomacy far more difficult, and policy makers are forced to provide immediate statements after meetings, providing little space for ideas that go beyond soundbites.

It does not help that while government-aligned news agencies such as Russia Today (RT) and Xinhua often provide exaggerated praise when writing about the BRICS, Western newspapers such as the Financial Times or think tanks like Brookings provide remarkably one-sided and …


Book review: “World Order” by Henry Kissinger

Book review: World Order, by Henry Kissinger. 2014, Penguin Press. 433 pages, R$46,73 (Kindle, amazon.com.br)

Henry Kissinger’s book Diplomacy, published in 1994, has perhaps been the most widely read international affairs book over the past two decades, influencing both policy makers and scholars around the world. Rightly so, for his analysis is intellectually rigorous and factual flaws are rare, even though the book’s title is misleading as Kissinger, in a classic Western-centric fashion, only writes about non-Western events when they were relevant to Western interests. European or Western Diplomacy would have been a more adequate title.

For those who have read Diplomacy, the first chapters of Kissinger’s latest book, called World Order, will be somewhat repetitive, as he merely …


Book review: “Gridlock: Why Global Cooperation is Failing When We Need It Most” by Thomas Hale, David Held and Kevin Young

Book review: “Gridlock: Why Global Cooperation is Failing When We Need It Most” by Thomas Hale, David Held and Kevin Young. Polity, 2013. 311 pages. R$ 84,02 (Kindle, amazon.com.br)

Academics and policy makers have, over the past decades, become so used to dysfunctional mechanisms of global governance that few would disagree that urgent reform is needed. Indeed, much of our contemporary debate seems to revolve around how to fix international institutions. In a memorable 2009 TED talk on global ethic vs. national interest, then UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a joke about the UN Secretary General asking God “when our international institutions will work properly.” Rather than providing a response, Brown went on, “God cried.”

Yet …