Brazil is being referred to as an emerging world power more frequently as we move into the 21st century. Its economy has risen to be in the top ten internationally and Brazil has started to make a name for itself on the international stage. A unique aspect of Brazil’s rise is its abundance of soft power. Soft power is defined as a persuasive approach to international relations, in which a country uses its economy or cultural influence to motivate other countries to cooperate. This is in contrast to hard power which is the use of force or threats of potential force. Brazil is one of the few rising powers with a lack of hard power; however they have managed to stay relevant through their soft power.
Brazil has always been influential throughout South America because of its territorial size, wealth of resources, economy and large population. Brazil also has a western view on the world that has aligned them with the U.S. since the Second World War, when Brazil sent troops to Europe in an agreement with the U.S. for support in development. Up until the end of the 1970s the United States was concerned with maintaining relations with Brazil as a strong hold in South America. Brazil became more independent throughout the 1980’s when the country had a debt crisis and threatened not to pay back its debtors, which included the U.S. However, by 1985 Brazil started to turn around with its new democratic government. The democratic government has provided political stability for Brazil.
Unlike many other emerging powers, Brazil seems to have few to no enemies. Within South America they have no territorial disputes or rivals. Much of this is due to the countries approach to international relations. In Article 4 of the Federal constitution the guidelines are set for how Brazil should approach other countries, which is non-intervention, self-determination, international cooperation and the peaceful settlement of conflicts. Brazil learned a lot from its early dealings with America and how it intervened in their country like many others. From being on the other side of a super power, Brazil has taken the opposite approach most likely because they know how it feels to be the “inferior” country. Instead of force, Brazil sets its personal agenda through helping its neighbors and trying to find ways to benefit both of them.
One way that Brazil builds strong relationships with other South American countries is by having Brazilian political strategists assist candidates in other countries in their campaigns. They will back a candidate and then use the success of Brazilian democracy to help a foreign candidate appeal to a larger constituency. This has worked with presidents and politicians of Peru, Venezuela, El Salvador and Paraguay. By establishing a strong connection with the leader, Brazil can then start to work with the other countries to expand business, infrastructure and overall its influence in the region. The consultants have also been able to help moderate some of the more extremist South American leaders and shift the focus to the voters. Leadership has shifted from the U.S. to Brazil now when it comes to who Latin America looks to follow.
Brazil has also strengthened its relations in South America through trade organizations, and has pointedly left out the U.S. in some of these organizations. Brazil is not afraid to step out from under American policy after years of American agenda setting. Now that Brazil feels comfortable within its own continent it has started to become a larger player in international relations. One way Brazil has gotten involved internationally is through joining many organizations such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), G-15, G-20, G-24, G-5, G-77 international groups. BRICS is an economic organization that links the main emerging powers in the World. The members all have large economies and are advanced countries, but they have often been left out when it comes to major international decisions in the past. Each of the other groups listed above have their own specific purpose like industrial countries, developing countries, etc. These groups help expand Brazil’s economy and soft power to other parts of the World.
Within the last year, Brazil has truly proven that its soft power and lack of enemies gives it a unique edge in negotiating. Iran and Brazil have continued to have relations even after sanctions were placed on Iran because of its nuclear program. During nuclear agreement talks this past year Brazil placed itself in the middle of the conversation and worked with both sides. Not many countries are able to say that they could peacefully talk with the U.S. one minute then switch and be friendly with Iran without deeply offending both sides. The President of Iran posted on his website that Iran would like Brazil to mediate during the deal, making it impossible for Brazil to be left by the way side like in the past. Brazil had slightly more relaxed views to how to handle Iran than other western countries, they were willing to work with both sides but said that everyone would need to be flexible in the talks. While Russia, Germany, Britain, France, China, and the U.S. were the main players in the deal, Brazil came one step closer to earning a seat at the major world powers table. However, Brazil has used agreeability and peaceful persuasion to get there instead of force and sheer power like many of the current powers.
While Brazil’s soft power has gotten it this far it is unclear whether this is enough to push it up to the next level. Not only does the country have to break through the barriers that keep the U.S. and western European countries at the top, but Brazil is also competing with the other emerging powers to be at the top. China and Russia among those powers already have permanent seats on the UN Security Council, and they also have significant hard power to back up their decisions. Another difference is that Russia, China, and India all have nuclear power and while it is not used the threat of them having that gives them significant power. The U.S. knows that it will need to be on good terms with Brazil since it is a regional power in South America, but without the fear that Brazil will retaliate if America does not give into Brazil’s wants.
Soft power will continue to become more and more important on the world stage to prevent conflicts before they happen. In addition, soft power can help reduce the use of hard power and create a more hegemonic international community. This doesn’t mean that Brazil has what it takes to be the next major superpower though. It will be hard for Brazil to be taken seriously if it cannot use force like other powers. For instance, the U.S. doesn’t fear that Brazil will through a temper tantrum if they aren’t given what they want unlike China who will take measures to punish the U.S. Brazil will keep itself in the middle of international relations through its ability to get along with all, but in today’s political culture it seems that a country needs to spark a little bit of fear into other countries in order to be seen as a power house. There is no way to know for sure that Brazil won’t become a main power, but at this point unless they can be the only country to be able to solve a conflict or are viewed as absolutely vital to the other powers, the country will probably stay at the same power level it is now, just below the main powers.