The Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine: How Have Argentina and Brazil Assessed the Question?
The Russian “special military operations” in Ukraine have drawn the world’s attention to Eastern Europe. In South America, Argentina and Brazil, ruled by politicians from different positions in the ideological spectrum, have approached the issue similarly. The goal of this article, therefore, is to assess how Argentina and Brazil have approached the conflict so far.
A couple of days after the beginning of the conflict, Argentina’s representatives at the United Nations (UN) supported two resolutions drafted by UN’s organs condemning the Russian operations in Ukraine. While the first one was elaborated between 28th February and 2nd March by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and required the withdrawal of the Russian forces from Ukraine, the second one, prepared between 3rd and 4th March at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), urged for the formation of an international and independent commission to investigate human rights violations allegedly committed by Russia.
Argentina’s stance on the issue is characterized by pragmatism: Buenos Aires recognizes that Russia is an important partner in Eurasia - one shall remember that Argentina was the first Latin American country to produce Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and that Alberto Fernández, during his official trip to Moscow last month, suggested that Argentina should be Russia’s “gateway to Latin America” - as well as acknowledges that the Argentine position in the international balance of power is that of a Global Southern country, susceptible to security threats similar to Ukraine’s from great powers.
The spokesperson of the Casa Rosada, the Argentine presidential residence, denounced the aggression against the territorial integrity of a sovereign country by Moscow. As the announcement states, Argentina “reiterates the need for full adherence to all the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, without ambiguity or giving precedence to some over others, with full respect for international law, the sovereignty of states and their territorial integrity, the peaceful solution of disputes and full and profound respect for human rights”. A few days later, Fernández himself praised the Latin American diplomatic tradition of peacefully settling its disputes.
Back at the UN Human Rights Council, Argentina’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Santiago Cafiero, eventually used the word “invasion” to name the Russian actions against Ukraine. He complemented: “the international community has no right to condemn any state's concern for its security. Neither are possible complaints for the alleged breach of pre-existing agreements. Any concern is legitimate, and in any case it will be a matter of discussion at a negotiating table or in the relevant forum. What is not legitimate is resorting to the use of force and violating the territorial integrity of another state as a way of resolving a conflict”.
Fernández’s opponents were harsher. Mauricio Macri, Argentine former president and founder of the opposition party Propuesta Republicana (PRO), repelled the Russian actions and said the world is about to enter in dark times due to “a direct attack on human life, peace and freedom of Ukraine and the world”. Patricia Bullrich, PRO’s current leader, affirmed: “Putin's goal is expansion through conquest and war to impose a regime. Argentina cannot, must not endorse this subjugation of Ukraine's sovereignty. We do not want an Argentina on the side of the invaders”.
The country’s business sector likewise expressed discontent. Marcos Galperin, CEO and founder of the biggest Argentine company, Mercado Libre, indicated solidarity towards Ukrainian in his Twitter account and shared videos mocking Putin’s alleged denazification policy. Alec Oxenford, another big businessman, also questions Buenos Aires’ position on the issue: “For more than 70 years Arg[entina] has been making mistakes in its international line-up. It didn't support the allies in World War 2, it didn't support the West in the Cold War, etc. We have a new opportunity to show our values in Ukraine. Which side will Arg[entina] take?”.
The Brazilian government has taken a similar approach to the conflict. At both the UNGA and UNHRC, the country’s diplomats voted in favor of the resolutions mentioned. But unlikely Argentina, Brazil currently holds one of the 10 temporary seats at the UN Security Council (UNSC), which, on 25th February, prepared a resolution condemning Russia. Although it was vetoed by Moscow, Brazil favored it. The Brazilian representative at the UNSC, Ronaldo Costa Filho, in an official message to Jair Bolsonaro explained that the council should “swiftly react to the use of force against the territorial integrity of a member state” and “create the conditions for dialogue among all involved parties”.
Bolsonaro, who was also on an official trip in Russia weeks before the beginning of the conflict, adopted a conciliatory tone, especially after Brazil’s vice-president, Hamilton Mourão, compared Putin with Adolf Hitler. Interestingly, a Brazilian political scientist argued, the conflict confused Bolsonaro’s most loyal followers, who have supported the manner Ukrainians dealt with a supposedly corrupt regime in 2014 - one may remember that some even asked for the “Ukrainization” of Brazil - and, since the fall of Donald Trump, have perceived Putin as a nationalist and conservative strong leader who fights the “politically correct” in world politics.
On the other hand, the conflict is one more example of the political polarization Brazil is immersed in. On 1st March, supporters of the right-wing Free Brazil Movement (Movimento Brasil Livre) clashed with the leftist Workers’ Cause Party (Partido da Causa Operária) in front of the Russian consulate in Rio de Janeiro. While the former were protesting against Moscow, the latter encouraged Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Finally, the former president and candidate for the 2022 elections, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, compared the Russian operations in Ukraine with the American incursions in the Middle East after 9/11, such as in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also asked for diplomatic negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv to cease the hostilities in Eastern Europe.
To sum up, one may notice that Argentina and Brazil, South American countries with no exceptional military power such as France or the UK, cannot afford to be indifferent on the issue between Russia and Ukraine. The protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity by international law is a sensitive and fundamental agenda for Buenos Aires and Brasília, which do not seem to forget that there is also a great power in the American hemisphere. At the same time, both countries recognize that Moscow is a strategic partner to stand alongside in world politics and, as result, have approached the conflict pragmatically.
Casa Rosada. El Gobierno argentino reiteró su “firme rechazo al uso de la fuerza armada” y llamó a Rusia a “cesar las acciones militares en Ucrania”. Casa Rosada, 2022. Available at: https://www.casarosada.gob.ar/slider-principal/48498-el-gobierno-argentino-reitero-su-firme-rechazo-al-uso-de-la-fuerza-armada-y-llamo-a-rusia-a-cesar-las-acciones-militares-en-ucrania.
Casa Rosada. “La humanidad no debe resignarse ante la guerra, que arrasa con dolor y destrucción a miles de familias”, dijo el presidente. Casa Rosada, 2022. Available at: https://www.casarosada.gob.ar/slider-principal/48518-la-humanidad-no-debe-resignarse-ante-la-guerra-que-arrasa-con-dolor-y-destruccion-a-miles-de-familias-dijo-el-presidente.
Infobae. La guerra en Ucrania, desde Twitter: los empresarios tech argentinos, alineados en el repudio a Putin. Infobae, 2022. Available at: https://www.infobae.com/economia/2022/03/06/la-guerra-en-ucrania-desde-twitter-los-empresarios-tech-argentinos-alineados-en-el-repudio-a-putin/.
La Nacion. Mauricio Macri condenóa Rusia por los ataques a Ucrania y habló de “consecuencias imprevisibles”. La Nacion, 2022. Available at: https://www.lanacion.com.ar/politica/mauricio-macri-condeno-a-rusia-por-los-ataques-a-ucrania-y-hablo-de-consecuencias-imprevisibles-nid24022022/.
Marcos Galperin. Marcos Galperin. Twitter, 2022. Available at: https://twitter.com/marcos_galperin.
Ministério das Relações Exterior. Declaração e Explicação de Voto do Representante Permanente do Brasil junto às Nações Unidas, Embaixador Ronaldo Costa Filho, em reunião do Conselho de Segurança da ONU sobre a situação na Ucrânia - 25 de fevereiro de 2022. Ministério das Relações Exteriores, 2022. Available at: https://www.gov.br/mre/pt-br/canais_atendimento/imprensa/notas-a-imprensa/declaracao-e-explicacao-de-voto-do-representante-permanente-embaixador-ronaldo-costa-filho-em-reuniao-do-conselho-de-seguranca-sobre-a-situacao-na-ucrania-25-de-fevereiro-de-2022-texto-em-ingles#:
O Antagonista. Guerra gerou “confusão cognitiva” no bolsonarismo, diz analista político. O Antagonista, 2022. Available at: https://oantagonista.uol.com.br/brasil/guerra-gerou-confusao-cognitiva-no-bolsonarismo-diz-analista-politico/.
Perfil. Santiago Cafiero condenó la invasión rusa a Ucrania y pidió el cese “en el uso de la fuerza”. Perfil, 2022. Available at: https://www.perfil.com/noticias/internacional/santiago-cafiero-condeno-la-invasion-rusa-a-ucrania-y-pidio-el-cese-en-el-uso-de-la-fuerza.phtml.
UOL. Militantes do MBL e do PCO brigam na frente do consulado da Rússia no Rio. UOL, 2022. Available at: https://noticias.uol.com.br/internacional/ultimas-noticias/2022/03/01/militantes-do-mbl-e-do-pco-brigam-na-frente-de-consulado-da-russia-no-rio.htm.
 “reitera la necesidad del pleno apego a todos los principios consagrados en la carta de las Naciones Unidas, sin ambigüedades ni dando preeminencia a unos sobre otros, con pleno respeto del derecho internacional, a la soberanía de los Estados y su integridad territorial, la solución pacífica de las controversias y el pleno y profundo respeto por los derechos humanos”.
 “la comunidad internacional no tiene derecho a condenar la preocupación de ningún Estado sobre su seguridad. Tampoco eventuales denuncias por el supuesto incumplimiento de acuerdos preexistentes. Toda preocupación es legítima, y en todo caso será materia discutible en una mesa de negociaciones o en el foro pertinente. Lo que no es legítimo es recurrir al uso de la fuerza y violar la integridad territorial de otro Estado como forma de resolver un conflicto”.
 “un ataque directo a la vida humana, la paz y la libertad de Ucrania y del mundo”.
 “El objetivo de Putin es la expansión mediante la conquista y la guerra para imponer un régimen. Argentina no puede, no debe avalar este avasallamiento a la soberanía de Ucrania. No queremos una Argentina del lado de los invasores”.
 “Hace más de 70 años que Arg se viene equivocando en su alineación internacional. No apoyó a los aliados en la 2da guerra mundial, no apoyo a occidente en la guerra fría, etc . Tenemos una nueva oportunidad de mostrar nuestros valores en Ucrania. De que lado se pondrá Arg?”.