There was no lack of advice for Jair Bolsonaro to desist from his trip to Russia, where he will arrive at the height of the tension between the government of Vladimir Putin and the West, which for days has been talking about the “imminent” risk of a Russian invasion of Ukraine .
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warned that Brazil’s visit to Russia could generate friction with the United States and the European Union (EU), the president did not even consider canceling the commitment. This Monday he leaves for Moscow, where on Wednesday he will meet with Putin, facing 16 hours of flight and five Covid tests to comply with the Kremlin’s health requirements.
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The justification for keeping the trip is that trade relations with Russia are strategic for sectors such as agribusiness and energy in Brazil. In an election year and with Bolsonaro trailing in the polls, the meeting with a world leader also seeks to show some international prestige.
Economically, however, Russian exports to Brazil are much more important than trade in the opposite direction. In 2021, Brazil sold $1.587 billion dollars to the Russians, mainly in soybeans (22% of the total), poultry, coffee, peanuts, sugar, and beef. Russian sales, which totaled $5,699 million dollars, are more concentrated: manure and fertilizers accounted for 62% of the total, followed by coal, fuel oil or petroleum and steel ingots.
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The possibility of advancing the trade agenda is relatively small and focused on agribusiness: Brazil will try to export more finished products to Russia, which will try to sell more inputs and pesticides. The highlight will be the confirmation of the purchase of the Petrobras Nitrogenated Fertilizer Unit (UFN3), located in Três Lagoas (MS), by the Acron group. In this way, the political and bilateral agenda tends to be more effective.
Fernández had the clearest objectives. But Bolsonaro has wanted to make a trip, any trip, to try to show that he is not isolated.
However, unlike the Argentine Alberto Fernández, who visited Moscow earlier this month to thank him for his support for vaccination against Covid-19 with the Sputnik V immunizer and obtained a statement of support for the Argentines in the dispute with the English for the Malvinas Islands, experts do not see a clear strategic objective for Brazil:
“Putin’s invitation was useful, and one can always point to some progress in the area of trade and investment,” said Oliver Stuenkel, professor of international relations at FGV.
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During his recent visit to Russia, the Argentine head of state expressed the wish that his country join the BRICS (a group made up of Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa), quickly receiving the support of Russia and China. governments. . It is not ruled out that Putin will include the subject in the conversation with the Brazilian president.
In the crisis involving Ukraine, Bolsonaro will take the speech that he is a defender of the peaceful solution of conflicts, as provided for in the Constitution. The recommendation is to avoid raising the issue and not to make statements taking sides, reinforcing Brazil’s historical position of neutrality.
Government advisers, however, admit that the main topical issue of geopolitics will not be left out of the meeting. The two presidents will have lunch and a joint statement is planned. The crisis will also have to be addressed at the meeting between the foreign and defense ministers, which will also take place on Wednesday.
Government officials say the agenda does not stem from the crisis in Ukraine, but admit the issue needs to be brought up. Defense Minister Walter Braga Netto and Foreign Minister Carlos Alberto França will also discuss military cooperation and the development of the Armed Forces with the Russians.
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This year, Brazil assumed a rotating seat on the Security Council, after a decade of absence. The priorities of the organization will also be on the table. Fifteen countries have the right to vote in the Council, but only the USA, France, Great Britain, China and Russia are permanent members, with the right to veto.
In this sense, the agenda in Moscow is surrounded by the expectation that Putin will reaffirm, as he did in 2014, his support for the Brazilian candidacy for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. With Japan, Germany and India, Brazil forms the G4, which defends the expansion of the forum.
The 16th begins with Bolsonaro’s visit to the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier. After the meeting with Putin, the president will meet with the leader of the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, the Duma. Later he will participate in a meeting of businessmen from both countries.
(Read: Western leaders talk by phone about the crisis in Ukraine)
Bolsonaro will travel to Budapest, the capital of Hungary, on February 17, where he will meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, an ultra-nationalist leader and a benchmark for the Brazilian radical right. It will be the first official visit of a Brazilian president to the country.
Or Balloon (GDA)
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