Russia & Global South
Brazil-Russia Relations Since 2022: Strategic Partners Without a Strategic Partnership?
January 24, 2024
  • Laura Trajber Waisbich
    Departmental Lecturer in Latin American Studies and Director of the Brazilian Studies Programme at the University of Oxford
Laura Trajber Waisbich examines the Brazil-Russia strategic partnership, highlighting its potential amidst shared geopolitical unease with Western dominance, yet noting its challenges in defining tangible outcomes and a unified vision for an alternative global order.
Brazil and Russia, the two giants of South America and Eurasia, emerged in the 21st century as major protagonists of the non-Western world, central to the multipolar and multiplex world in-the-making. Bilateral ties (political, economic and societal) remain relatively weak and unstable. Yet geopolitics have brought both countries together in a shared unease with (and, in the Russian case, in open opposition to) a Western-dominated world that both consider, albeit in different ways and degrees, unfair. Officially, both countries are strategic partners. Announced in 2002, this strategic partnership nonetheless lacks a more clearly defined strategic content and more tangible results.

Brazil’s insistence on playing a mediating role in the current war conflict undoubtedly serves its status aspirations to be recognized as a great power. More importantly, however, ending this war is seen as a condition to bring back a certain normality to global politics while galvanizing support for much-needed global development against the backdrop of unfulfilled goals. This is why countries like Brazil and India have constantly drawn attention to the socioeconomic consequences of the war on the Global South and resent the current marginalization of the development agenda in global politics.

The Brazil-Russia strategic partnership has remained in many ways latent. Located in a continent that traditionally meant little to Russia, in geostrategic and geoeconomic terms, Brazil became an important partner for Moscow in recent years and a peer friend from the BRICS group. The South American giant has remained, nonetheless, less aligned to Russia’s core strategic interests than other emerging powers, like China and India, countries who also share membership with Russia in other security and economic organizations. Trade relations are also less important between Brazil and Russia than between Russia and other large emerging economies in Asia.

In many ways, the strategic partnership between the countries seems to have survived the test of time and significant power shifts in Brazilian domestic politics – indeed, it is worth noting that both right- and left-wing political parties in Brazil are eager to maintain and develop relations with Moscow. Yet it appears that the continuation of such bilateral relations is being driven by diffuse geopolitical dissatisfaction with the Western-led order – the same that brought the BRICS group together back in 2009 – rather than by a shared vision of an alternative world order or a concrete plan to strengthen bilateral ties and operationalize the strategic partnership between these two giants. In the context of extreme global volatility and turbulence, Brazil and Russia are yet to grant their strategic partnership meaningful strategic content.
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