A Problem for Ukraine: Countries Like Brazil Won’t Sell It Arms

Published: April 26, 2023

As Brazil ready for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, it bought 34 antiaircraft weapons from Germany to guard its skies.

Then, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the German authorities started sending Ukraine those self same dual-cannon weapons, which may down an plane from greater than three miles away. But it was quick on shells.

So German officers requested the Brazilian authorities final yr to return the unused ammunition. Yet Brazil’s response was clear: not if it was going to Ukraine.

Latin America’s largest nation finds itself in a tough place. Brazil has known as for peace and, in fastidiously worded statements, criticized Russia’s invasion. But the nation, which depends on Russia for fertilizer and gas, has additionally made clear that it’ll not ship any weapons destined for the entrance traces, and is as a substitute pushing to mediate peace talks.

“I don’t want to join the war,” President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil mentioned this yr. “I want to end the war.”

Yet there may be little finish in sight. Newly leaked Pentagon paperwork present that Ukraine is more and more determined for arms to carry again Russian troops, particularly the kinds of air defenses that Brazil can provide. With weapons within the West drying up, Ukraine and its allies are placing strain on some nations which have prevented getting concerned within the battle to relent and ship assist.

But in a worrying signal for Ukraine — and, by extension, a foreign-policy victory for Russia — a few of these international locations say they intend to remain on the sidelines.

President Gustavo Petro of Colombia mentioned in January that he rejected American requests to ship the nation’s Russian-made weapons to the United States, which deliberate to provide them to Ukraine, as a result of the Colombian structure requires him to pursue peace. He added that Latin America shouldn’t decide sides. “We are not with anyone,” Mr. Petro mentioned.

And then there may be Brazil. Ukraine has made no less than two requests to Brazil to buy an extended checklist of weaponry that included armored autos, plane, air-defense techniques, mortar shells, sniper rifles, automated weapons and ammunition, in keeping with correspondence obtained by The New York Times by way of Brazil’s public data legal guidelines.

Brazil has largely ignored the requests.

The international locations’ denials are pushed by a collection of things: home politics, inner insurance policies that forestall them from arming international locations concerned in battle and their reliance on Russia for essential imports.

Yet additionally they could possibly be essential companions for Ukraine.

Brazil, particularly, is a prolific producer of warplanes, many made by the Brazilian plane producer Embraer. Planes are among the many issues that Ukraine wants most, arms specialists say. Developing nations like Brazil even have weapons techniques which might be cheaper to function and keep.

“It hurts Ukraine because it becomes overly dependent on NATO supplies, which are donated, but are extremely expensive to maintain, because they come from rich countries that own and make extremely sophisticated weapons,” mentioned Sandro Teixeira Moita, a army technique professor on the Brazilian Army Command and Staff College. “The global south countries have weapons systems that are more suited to their realities.”

Brazil says its guideline of international coverage has lengthy been to stay a pal to all.

Still, the nation has proved keen to promote to different warring nations. Since the start of the Yemeni War in 2014, Brazil has provided Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with greater than 21,000 tons of arms and ammunition value $680 million, together with internationally condemned cluster munitions, in keeping with commerce information.

Brazil, one of many world’s largest meals producers, additionally depends on Russia for 1 / 4 of its fertilizers. In 2022, as Russia attacked Ukraine, Brazil bought greater than ​​8.8 million tons of Russian fertilizer, down from 10.2 million in 2021. Brazil is the main purchaser of Russian fertilizers and Russia the highest provider for Brazilian farmers.

Brazil’s protection business exported a report $1.5 billion in weapons in 2021, and the federal government mentioned it now represents practically 5 % of Brazil’s economic system. (The United States is Brazil’s largest arms buyer.) Yet the agricultural sector is 100 instances bigger, at $159 billion in exports in 2022.

Brazil’s former right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, had a heat relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, even visiting the Kremlin six days earlier than Russia launched its invasion final yr. Mr. Bolsonaro later touted the go to in his failed re-election marketing campaign, saying he did it to safe wanted fertilizer and gas.

“Economically, that’s an easy win for both countries that they don’t want to risk jeopardizing,” Andrés Gannon, a army researcher on the Council on Foreign Relations, mentioned of Brazil and Russia. Brazil has additionally lengthy sought a everlasting seat on the United Nations Security Council, Mr. Gannon mentioned, so staying impartial might keep away from splitting Russian and American votes on its membership.

Western officers hoped that the November election of Mr. Silva, a leftist who’s nearer to Western leaders than Mr. Bolsonaro, would open Brazil’s weapon gross sales to Ukraine. But neutrality is without doubt one of the few points the place Mr. Lula and Mr. Bolsonaro are aligned.

Just weeks after taking workplace in January, Mr. Lula rejected one other ammunition request from Germany to equip the Leopard tanks it’s sending to Ukraine.

Instead, the Brazilian president has pushed a distinct plan: He needs to dealer peace.

In conferences with President Biden, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, Mr. Lula has pitched a plan for a gaggle of impartial nations to mediate peace talks.

The West and Ukraine see Brazil’s plan as far-fetched given the state of the conflict. “We don’t see any impetus right now to get to the negotiating table,” John Kirby, the White House nationwide safety spokesman, mentioned just lately.

Mr. Zelensky has mentioned peace talks will not be potential till Russia withdraws its forces from Ukraine, whereas the Kremlin says any settlement should keep in mind territory that Russia now occupies.

Brazil’s answer for this stays hazy. “I think the first decision has to be to start talking,” Celso Amorim, Brazil’s former international minister and now Mr. Lula’s high diplomatic adviser, mentioned in an interview. He mentioned he couldn’t provide specifics till that occurred.

While Brazil is blissful to be the lead mediator, Mr. Amorim mentioned, different nations should be concerned, together with probably India, Indonesia and South Africa.

“You have to have someone who also has influence over Russia,” he mentioned. “But who has influence over Russia? One of them is China, without a doubt.”

China has put ahead its personal peace plan, although it has been roundly criticized by Ukraine and its allies.

Mr. Lula has mentioned he would pitch his peace-talks plan to Russia and China. He is scheduled to satisfy with President Xi Jinping of China in Beijing on Friday.

Mr. Amorim met Mr. Putin in Russia final month, and Russia’s international minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, is scheduled to go to Brazil subsequent week.

The leaked Pentagon paperwork mentioned that, in keeping with U.S. intelligence, Russia’s Foreign Ministry supported Mr. Lula’s plan to “establish a club of supposedly impartial mediators to settle the war in Ukraine, believing the plan would reject the West’s ‘aggressor-victim’ paradigm.”

Western international locations concern that Brazil is leaning towards Russia, mentioned 4 senior European diplomats in Brazil who spoke on the situation of anonymity due to the delicate diplomacy concerned. The officers cited Brazil’s current alignment with Moscow on the U.N. Security Council, together with a vote final month for an investigation into explosions on the Nord Stream fuel pipelines between Russia and Germany. Russia proposed the decision and solely Russia, China and Brazil voted in favor of it.

For its half, Germany has given up on getting the antiaircraft ammunition from Brazil. Instead, it just lately introduced that it’ll restart manufacturing of the shells itself.

Source web site: www.nytimes.com