The U.S. Has More to Lose (The New York Times – Room for Debate)
Oliver Stuenkel is an assistant professor of international relations at Fundação Getulio Vargas in São Paulo, Brazil. He writes about emerging powers on his blog, Post-Western World.
With a tight election race looming next year, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff preferred not to risk being seen as submissive in the face of a U.S. spying scandal and, therefore, canceled her trip to Washington. This was a rare diplomatic move, but the long-term effects of her decision on the bilateral relationship are likely to be small. There were no big issues to be solved, and the visit was meant to be, above all, a recognition of Brazil's growing importance. It was unlikely to turn Brazil into a more attractive investment destination or increase trade between the two. What's more, the United States was not going to explicitly support Brazil's candidacy for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, as it did with India in 2010. Despite the temporary embarrassment, if both sides remain pragmatic, the general upward trend in the bilateral relationship will continue.
But in the short term, the United States stands more to lose. The revelations strengthen those in the Brazilian government who believe Washington is uncomfortable with Brazil’s rise. A defense contract worth more than $4 billion that Boeing is seeking for the sale of 36 fighter jets to the Brazilian Air Force now seems unlikely. Given the public outrage in Brazil, the United States’ best hope is now that the Brazilian government will postpone the decision. Brazil may temporarily become a more difficult place for U.S. companies that seek to operate in Brazil -- not just in the defense sector, but also in energy and telecommunications.
Perhaps most important, however, commentators around the world have praised Rousseff’s decision. Brazil’s stern rebuke to U.S. spying revelations may increase political pressure in Berlin, Delhi, Mexico City and elsewhere to follow Rousseff’s example and show a stronger reaction to U.S. global intelligence operations -- at least in rhetoric.