, Volume 93, Number 3

Carlos R. S. Milani, Leticia Pinheiro and Maria Regina Soares de Lima
The main argument of this article is that second-tier, non-nuclear powers face a ‘graduation dilemma’ whenever their key decision-makers have the opportunity and the objective to choose between different international strategies: between a more autonomist type of development or a more dependent one; in security terms, between bandwagoning and balancing; when building a multilateral policy, between traditional alliances and innovative, flexible coalitions; in geopolitical terms and in the field of development cooperation, whether to emphasize North– South or South–South relations. These ideal binaries offer several other options which decision-makers may envision and implement. The concept of graduation dilemma that we propose has three main components that key decision-makers need to face: (a) the scope of their international ambition, the country’s material capabilities and the systemic permissiveness; (b) the possible contradictions related to role expectations coming from international and domestic audiences; and (c) the uncertainty associated both with non-anticipated results and third countries’ perceptions of their foreign policy decisions. Based on this conceptual framework, we examine the hypothesis that there is no consensus within the Brazilian strategic elite about the country’s international strategy, particularly during the presidential mandates of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. The article is structured into three main parts: (1) the limits of the systemic change and power transition literature to explain second-tier non-nuclear states’ ambitions and processes to redefine their international position; (2) the concept of graduation in our analytical framework; and (3) Brazil’s graduation dilemma.

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