U.S. should support Brazil’s Security Council bid
BY PETER HAKIM
President Obama will be warmly greeted by huge crowds in Brazil when he arrives March 19 for the beginning of a Latin American tour, but only modest progress can be expected on the agenda of foreign-policy problems confronting the two countries. There is only one thing that could dramatically elevate the significance of Obama’s visit — the U.S. president’s unambiguous endorsement of Brazil for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.
Obama’s support of India’s permanent membership highlighted his successful visit to New Delhi last year. That is the yardstick against which Brazilians will measure Obama’s visit to Rio and Brasilia. They want Obama also to appropriately recognize their country’s expanded global status. Nothing would do more to ease the palpable tensions that mark Brazil-U.S. relations. Building on newly installed Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff’s call for closer bilateral ties, it would set the stage for greater cooperation and could well change the dynamic of a currently unsatisfactory relationship.
Washington would simply be acknowledging Brazil’s new global prominence and getting out in front of the inevitable. Eventually, Brazil and other developing nations will secure permanent spots on the Security Council. International organizations are already accommodating the growing importance and assertiveness of developing nations. The Group of 20, whose members include major emerging economies, has displaced the Group of Seven, all highly industrialized countries, as the principal institution for addressing global economic challenges. Europe and United States will soon lose their monopoly-hold on IMF and World Bank leadership. Expanding the U.N. Security Council will take longer, but it will happen, and Brazil is a pretty sure bet to acquire one of the new seats.
Washington has reasons to defer endorsing Brazil’s bid. Brasilia and Washington disagree on many critical international issues. Most troubling is Brazil’s repeated defense of Iran’s nuclear program, despite the accumulating evidence of its military aims. Last year, only Brazil and Turkey, of 15 Security Council members (permanent and temporary), rejected U.S.-proposed sanctions on Iran for continuing its nuclear violations. Brazil’s own nuclear program is another concern. Washington is not upset by the prospect of Brazil producing weapons, but by its tepid support of the world’s already shaky nonproliferation regime. Brazil and the United States also have markedly different views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And Brazil’s cordial relationships with U.S. adversaries such as Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela rankle U.S. officials. Although Rousseff has signaled that Brazilian foreign policy will give heightened attention human-rights and democracy, Washington has viewed Brazilian diplomacy as largely indifferent to these issues.
Still, Brazil’s record on global issues is more compatible with that of the United States than that of India. Brazil is among the world’s most peaceful countries. Unlike India, with its long-standing confrontation with Pakistan, Brazil has been free of external disputes for many years. While India has a small arsenal of atomic weapons and rejects the U.N. non-proliferation treaty (NPT), Brazil has forsworn nuclear weapons in three international treaties.
Within Latin America, some nations object to Brazil taking what they believe should be a rotating regional seat. But most Latin Americans have now accepted the reality that Brazil has emerged as the region’s most powerful and influential country and has a strong claim to permanent Council membership. Washington should be most concerned about the reaction of Mexico, the Latin America country of greatest importance to the United States, and the only one that can legitimately consider itself a rival to Brazil for a Council seat. But Mexico, too, has little choice but to recognize the reality of Brazil’s rise.
Brazil is today a vigorous democracy with an increasingly robust economy. It is a reliable country that meets its international obligations, and has, in recent years, steadily expanded its international presence and reach — through multiple peacekeeping missions, a growing foreign assistance program, attention to global climate and energy issues, and leadership in world trade negotiations. Brazil has earned a permanent seat on the Council just as surely as India, and it will have it sooner or later. The question is whether the United States will take the initiative and support Brazil or simply wait on the sidelines. The choice will profoundly affect the quality of U.S.-Brazilian relations.
Peter Hakim is president emeritus of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, D.C.
Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/03/13/2111001/us-should-support-brazils-security.html#ixzz1GZprqfXF