September 27, 2022

In the midst of the Ukraine crisis, Putin hosts Brazilian counterpart for discussions

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Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro in Moscow for talks and praised the two countries’ “friendship and mutual understanding,” according to Putin.

MOSCOW, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin met with his Brazilian colleague Jair Bolsonaro in Moscow on Wednesday for talks and praised the two countries’ ties, which he described as “friendship and mutual understanding.”

Bolsonaro’s first trip to Russia occurred at a time when tensions between Moscow and the West were at an all-time high, spurred by suspicions that Russia was planning an invasion of Ukraine, and he pushed ahead with it despite concerns from Brazilian and US officials about the timing.

Neither the opening remarks nor the press conference following the meeting mentioned Ukraine or Russia’s requests for security guarantees that would prevent NATO expansion eastward.

The presidents were photographed sitting close to each other with a little end table between them during their meeting in the Kremlin. Putin’s recent discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Foreign Minister Olaf Scholtz included a table that was several meters long, which Kremlin sources attributed to coronavirus preparations.

Putin told a news conference after the meeting that he and Bolsonaro had “thorough, constructive talks.”

“Friendship and mutual understanding have long bound Russia and Brazil together. Our countries’ strategic collaboration spans a wide range of issues. We are working together to strengthen political, economic, and humanitarian connections, and we work closely on the international scene,” Putin stated.

Bolsonaro stated that the two countries “share common values, such as faith in God and family defense.” In addition, we stand in solidarity with all countries that desire and commit to peace.”

The two leaders “underlined their determination to strengthen strategic partnership, deepen political dialogue, and raise the level of bilateral relations based on respect for sovereignty, international law, and shared principles of the rule of law,” according to a joint statement released by the Kremlin following the talks.

Bolsonaro’s trip to Moscow had been planned since December, well before the Ukraine crisis, with the goal of strengthening commercial ties with Russia, which is a crucial supply of fertilizers for South America’s agricultural powerhouse.

Since last week, two of his Cabinet colleagues told The Associated Press that they had been attempting to persuade him to cancel the meeting. For fear of retaliation, they spoke on the condition of anonymity.

According to the Associated Press, two top officials from Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said they had received signals from US officials claiming that the trip’s date indicated Brazilian apathy to invasion threats. Because they were not authorized to speak publicly, they spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Ernesto Arajo, Bolsonaro’s former foreign minister, also slammed the trip on Tuesday.

“As a signal, this is quite troublesome. In an interview with radio station Jovem Pan, Araujo said, “We are siding with a bully who is abusing a sovereign country, Ukraine.” He added that discussions concerning fertilizer supply do not involve travel. “We’re playing Putin’s game,” says the author.

On Tuesday, when Bolsonaro’s plane reached Russian airspace, he tweeted about Russia’s military stating that some of its troops near Ukraine were being withdrawn. His fans boasted on social media that he had prevented an armed confrontation, only to admit afterwards that the assertion had been a joke all along until it was fact-checked.

Members of the Foreign and Defense ministries had counseled Bolsonaro to avoid speaking on Ukraine and to preserve neutrality and support discussion if Putin mentioned the matter, according to Brazilian Cabinet officials.

Russia has attempted to gain a foothold in an area that the US has historically considered its sphere of influence. Its presence in Latin America has been limited since the 1990s, and in recent years has primarily consisted of an alliance with Venezuela for the provision of arms and energy projects, as well as an alliance with Nicaragua for the provision of arms and the development of emergency response capabilities. However, as the commodities boom faded and the Venezuelan economy collapsed, Latin America’s arms sales plummeted.

Moscow has aided Venezuela in the development of a cryptocurrency, forgiven billions of dollars in Cuban debt, and operates a high-tech anti-narcotics compound in Nicaragua, which many suspect is a secret base for surveillance across the area.

Alberto Fernández, Argentina’s president, met with his Russian counterpart earlier this month. The left-leaning leader recently stated that he wants his country to “become a gateway of entry for Russia in Latin America,” so that Russia can enter the region more forcefully.

In January, Putin and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega spoke over the phone, congratulating him on winning a fourth consecutive term in a November election that the US and the European Union called a sham.

Bolsonaro’s meeting with Putin is one of the few high-level meetings the Brazilian president has had outside of Brazil since assuming office in January 2019. Bolsonaro, a fervent supporter of former US President Donald Trump, has yet to get a call from Joe Biden, whose election victory in 2020 he was hesitant to acknowledge.

Bolsonaro also paid a visit to Russia’s lower house of parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier while in Russia. Before returning to Brazil, he will travel to Hungary to meet with Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of his few international allies.

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