The BRICs Love Multipolarity, but What Are They Doing With It?

In light of RA’s recent article on Brazil and Venezuela, I thought I would excerpt from this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Susan Kaufman Purcell of the University of Miami, which adds to the discussion on global multilateralism and international institutions.  Similarly we often hear the Russian leadership express their vision of a new multipolar world, and other things like “multi-vector” foreign policy, so some of these issues are also relevant.

In short, Washington is no longer calling all the shots in global affairs, and emerging regional titans like the BRICs are establishing independent, direct relationships with whomever they choose.  Far from a tragedy for those who pine for the halcyon days of American supremacy and all its abuses, this should be a positive development which can contribute to the institutional, rule-based system regulating peaceful relations among nations (at least in my humble opinion).  But the new multipolar leaders aren’t quite yet over the novelty of it all, nor does there seem to be much of an idea of what to do with this influence.  When everybody is all done thumbing their noses and settling their grudges, when does the leadership start delivering solutions?

Read the WSJ bit on Brazil’s focus on appearance after the jump.

Several conclusions can be drawn from Brazil’s behavior. First,Brazil wants to prevent the U.S. from expanding its militaryinvolvement in South America, which Brazil regards as its sphere ofinfluence. Second, Brazil much prefers working within multilateralinstitutions, rather than acting unilaterally.

Within these institutions, Brazil seeks to integrate all regionalplayers, achieve consensus and avoid conflict and fragmentation–allworthy goals. But these are procedural, rather than substantive, goals.

Stated differently, Brazil’s multilateral efforts in the region seem to value the appearance of leadership over finding real solutions to the growing political and security threats facing Latin America.These conclusions do not imply that the U.S. and Brazil have nooverlapping interests, or that they cannot work together to solveparticular regional or even global issues. They do mean Washington mayneed to rethink its assumptions regarding the extent to which Brazilcan be relied on to deal with political and security problems in LatinAmerica in ways that are also compatible with U.S. interests.