, Volume 90, Number 5

Peter Hakim

US–Brazilian relations sunk to one of their lowest points ever following last year’s exposure of the US government’s massive surveillance of the South American giant—including the correspondence of President Rousseff and the business operations of Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras. Brazilian authorities responded angrily. The Brazilian president called off a highly valued state visit to Washington, denounced the US for violations of sovereignty and human rights, and proceeded to bypass the US to purchase nearly $5 billion worth of fighter aircraft from Sweden. In fact, US–Brazil ties have not been constructive for more than a generation. Yes, relations are mostly amiable, but with limited cooperation, considerable discord and some open clashes. Washington views Brazil primarily as a regional actor, and wants its cooperation mainly on inter-American issues. For Brazil, regional collaboration means working with other Latin American nations—not the United States. Brazil usually wants the US to keep a distance from the region. The US is no more enthusiastic about Brazil assuming a global role; differences over some of the world’s most dangerous political and security challenges have made Washington uneasy about Brazil’s engagement in international affairs and critical of its foreign policy judgements. Relations will probably improve, but they could get worse. The two governments need to acknowledge that their relationship is fragile and troubled, and take steps both to rebuild trust and to avert further deterioration and new confrontations. They have to be more careful with each other.

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