Problems in Brazilian Geopolitics

Different authors struggled to name the national power factors, including Hans Morgenthau and Karl Deutsch. Synthetically, as did the War College of Brazil, in the 1950s, national power can be identified through institutions and domestic organizations: the economy, demographics, military, natural resources, the diplomatic pattern, psychosocial profile of the society, etc.

It isn't possible to get only a single interpretation of national power. The concept changes over time and according to the state in question. Part of what was paramount to have power projection a century ago loses actuality. The old factors remain relevant, but their usefulness gains a larger dimension when coupled with more sophisticated items. In order to raise a geopolitical power, there is no denying the importance of territorial size, nor of the natural resources. In this respect, Russia, China and Brazil have a privileged place.

On the other hand, there must be an effort to avoid reductionisms. A hundred years ago big demographics was essential to have powerful armies; a state without resources, steel or oil, would suffer constraints due to implications of international politics. Currently, some powers emerge or remain independent even though they might lack a large population or strategic raw materials. It is known that to achieve this, the work is hard. Britain still holds great power credentials, despite its decline, with its loss of overseas sources of raw materials and with the loss of its (once great) technological lead.

Israel is another curious case. A political unit of tiny territorial and demographic size thatresistshostilities thanks to a national focus on technologies ranging from nuclear energy, agriculture and government planning to computer science.As much as we can notice a material reductionism in both the rise and decay of a power (oil, uranium, land and so on), we can also talk about a diplomatic reductionism, which would explain Israel's survival only on the basis of an alliance with the United States.

It underlines traditional politics that the normalcy of states is to project power in the international system. If they do not, this is due to a certain lack of necessary far-reachingcircumstances. In the seventeenth century the Netherlands sought this goal; in the following century Sweden wished to become a power worthy of recognition. Both were entities of modest national power conditions, but that did not make them stop expressing themselves internationally. Loosely speaking, we can mention Argentina and Paraguay in the nineteenth century. Mention of the United States or Germany is unnecessary.

All these examples, however, point to the key issue in the question of power projection: the identitarian self-awareness that will inform the historical destiny perpetrated by each country, organizing the factors for this projection in the desired direction (we may take the example of the United States and American exceptionalism).

Although there are studies about the international integration and construction of developing states, it is nonetheless correct to use geopolitical arguments, from national power factors, to understand the Brazilian situation in the recent past. Owner of the fifth largest territorial network, with substantial demographics, natural resources and the largest southern hemisphere's industrial park, Brazil is going through an instability moment with respect to its projection of power, even at the regional level.

Unlike the United States, active Brazilian international insertion was irregular. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Brazil had imprinted power in the most sensitive part of South America—the River Plate Basin. But upon entering the twentieth century the country has been unable to express its worldview for not following indelible changes in international politics that put the United States, Japan and Germany ahead.

In Brazil, the dawn of the twentieth century was dedicated to discussing the historical destiny of the country. Under the banner of national-developmentalism, Brazil sought to establish itself as a power that intended to project power starting from South America.At this point, Brazilian industrialization emerged in advanced levels for the time: petrochemical, steel and mechanics. There was also a concern of entering into more complex political and scientific niches, such as nuclear energy and obtaining computer industry.

The year 1964 marked the interruption of this project, orchestrated pragmatically through a military coup that lasted 19 years. Within the period, however, there was not necessarily "identity unity":although the governments were elected in amilitary coup framewhose character was anti-national by default, some of those wanted to resume the developmental agenda, trying again to propose the country as a world power. The project to integrate the domestic industry into a coherent whole under the coordination of political power, the advance of Petrobras as a world-class company, the treaty with Germany in nuclear energy, and other items, fed the view that high degree Brazilian insertion was a fact.

However, the economic opening that forced the country to use funds borrowed from the financial mechanisms of subjugation of emerging countries such as IMF and World Bank, along with the deep crisis of the 1980s that affected all of Latin America, abruptly toppled the Brazilian effort. The result was the so-called “lost decade”, although it's more correct to speak of a sharp change of historical destiny, as were these movements that established in Brazil its current stage of development: neocolonial reversion, in the words of our greatest economist, Celso Furtado. From this historical destiny, contrary to the country's potential and even the identity of the Brazilian people (though both are still poorly studied) derive all the problems that we will study below.

The Actuality of the Problem

In the 2000s, under President Lula da Silva, it was estimated that Brazil would fulfill the promise of being a rising power, beyond the image that was already well known—beingbig in size, butvery slow in movement. During that president's government there was an effort to make Brazil a potency that would project itself through soft power mode, since the country had no traditional reserves of power, such as a military prepared for a theatrical action. From this platform, then, would emerge the Brazilian defense on global ecosystems, food security and others.

There is no denying that the Lula government had achieved relevant advances on the international scene, especially because the major powers were the ones taking the strongest blow of the 2008 financial crisis. Thus, Brazil had entered the select group of world-class emerging powers called BRICS: Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa—a group of states that would have the merit of calling on the responsibility of solvingforemost global issues with the traditional G7 members. It was formed, then, the G20.
However, the process of international insertion or power projection was compromised. Both soft power path and the traditional one (of power politics), did not rise due to very complex issues. One should notice that these issues did not have their beginning in the last ten years; they were already present in the previous government, and without its resolutions it wouldn't be possible to say that Brazil would be in a rising power route, except for political acquiescence.

Among the finer points of this list of issues we may highlight 1) deindustrialization, 2) the lack of logistics, 3) the low technological level and 4) the exercise of power. It is not for this paper to point out possible solutions to the problems mentioned above. The intention is simply commenting on them to better understand them for an upcoming debate.

1. Deindustrialization

The last fifteen years has accelerated in Brazil the process of deindustrialization that had marked the industrialized states of the first and second generations. Britain and the United States had entered this deindustrialization process at the time when they reached the peak of this economic model. In the expert milieu the loss of industrial dynamism in the Northern Hemisphere was considered normal because of the emergence of other global production centers, China, as well as the depletion of the sector. However, in Brazil the deindustrialization process is premature because it occurs before the model had reached its apex.

Some reasons contributed to this. The lack of an independent policy that didn't allow rapid currency depreciation is one of them. Cheaper imports of manufactured goods contemplated a consumer strip of home appliances, electronics and, more recently, mechanical parts whowerenot covered satisfactorily by the national industry due to the high prices compared to imported goods. At the beginning of this issue in the 1990s the products that threatened Brazilians were of American and European origin; today they are Asian (non-Japanese) in large amounts. There's no research dedicated to this problem in Brazil.

The agenda of national exports recedes into the 1960s. It is now led by commodities such as ores, soybeans and beef. One should not disregard primary exports; after all it has avoided the deepening of the current national economic crisis. However, it's through the valorization of industrial products and exports that Brazil will have a more important role in international economic politics. And even in commodity exports there's a great disturbance, as we can see in logistics.

2. Crisis in Logistics

Since the 1980s there is no new infrastructure generation, particularly in sectors more sensitive to the Brazilian State. The hydroelectric production depends on the plants built forty years ago, mainly Itaipu. The construction of three new plants cause much controversy among environmentalists and opponents. Girau and San Antonio, in the state of Rondônia, began in 2007 and are not in full operation. The most "explosive" one is the Belo Monte dam in Pará, which when completed will be the second Brazilian plant. Its construction is disrupted daily due to pressure from indigenous groups and environmentalists who come with complaints in federal court in order to modify, at best, the original plant.

Although there are experts and politicians who try to diminish the effects of the "logistics crisis",it isn't possible to deny that internationally its consequences are harmful. In export efforts, for example, the absence of an efficient railway and port network disrupts the dynamics of economicsectors sustained substantially by the foreign market. And the lack of this structure contributes to the higher prices of domestic products. The rail network resents from still offering nothing more than 28,000 kilometers, similar to the 1950s—insignificant when compared to the United States, China and India. Contempt for the railroad in Brazil did nothappen because of exhaustion, but for lack of an appropriate policy.

3. Poor Technology

One of the great problems of Brazil, which also affects the stability of the industry, is the low dedication to research and technology. Compared to the southern countries Brazilian advantage in this regard tends to decrease, especially when thinking of India and its excellence in nuclear power and computer sciences. There is no doubt that the stock of knowledge that Brazil has at the moment is enough to give it comfort in Latin America—the country is thegreatest investor in research in this region. But in the case of a state which seeks a prominent position internationally what we have is not enough. Countries that aim to integrate a select group of powers come to value technology, moving beyond the first condition.

Again the Chinese example. Beijing left for a "technological saving" after Brazil had begun its quest in 1950. But because of erroneous policies (or just lack of one), Brazil's efforts fell short of its intentions and relative weight. Areas in which Brazil could be ahead, as some renewable fuel categories, are being worked on by states which began way after in this research, as China itself and Germany. Not to mention the United States advancing toward cellulosic ethanol, superiorto sugar cane derived ethanol.

Several explanations compete to elucidate the country's difficultiesin achieving a high standard of research. One of these can be found in the financial resources, which are lower than necessary. But there may also be an understanding in the way in which we think the university and its relationship with business. There is no synergy between the two areas and, when it finds one, it is imbued with bureaucratic, and sometimes ideological, obstacles, since some people do not see this partnershippositively.

Turning a state into a technologically importantone is something that does not happen in a generation nor is the result of international consents. Acquiring technology means to face challenges and conflicts. Generally polities that have made progress in this field had to meetthe political configurations of their time. So it was with the United States and Germany against Britain, and the same occurs now with China and India with respect to the first. With Brazil it would not be different.

4. The Exercise of Power

The three problems listed above are not divorced from the latter. It is by means of a cohesive political configurationthat a specificelite is able to build a power project with the aim of turning the state into a power project. Nevertheless, this is a national issue very hard to be achieved, once the power exercise model, inherited from 1980s democratization, is the "coalition presidency," that is, the efficiency of the presidential command results from lists of agreements and commitments considered nonpartisan. This model has a democratic air, as the presidency contemplates the interests of almost all social sectors represented in Congress. The most entropic result, however, is the paralysis of the "big politics," as Raymond Aron would put it, and the difficulty of imprinting a national project focused on the most urgent areas.

Under this style there is no way to establish anendeavorable to select the most pressing points of an average power because they always counteract the interests of an ally or groups that can exert a strong influence on public opinion—for example, environmentalists. It is true that in a democratic system (according to the Anglo-American mode) it's not possible to ignore pressure from various movements of society. But the imbroglio is that you cannot solve the knot that sometimes this constellation of interests promotes along with the central government.

The construction of a national plan aiming to project power in the long run should take into account a small number of issues that are most vital for the Brazilian State. However this is an essay that does not intend to exhaust the presentation of the problems, let alone offer solutions—it would be difficult even to confront these four. It would be virtuous if the political leadership of the country could take care of two of them; an action that, if well thought, would give impetus to solve the other two. So here are recorded the most critical issues, within the chosen prism, that disturbs Brazil.