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US envoy heads to Brazil after Ukraine war rift

#envoy #heads #Brazil #Ukraine #war #rift

A senior US envoy was heading to Brazil Monday in hopes of restoring a budding relationship with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who drew a rebuke by appearing to blame Washington in part over the Ukraine war.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, will meet senior officials in Brasilia on Tuesday, with US officials insisting she will focus on broad cooperation between the Western hemisphere’s two most populous nations rather than dwelling on Lula’s remarks.

She will travel Wednesday to Salvador, the heart of the Afro-Brazilian community, to highlight work to build racial equality in the two multiethnic nations.

Lula drew parallels to President Joe Biden when he took office in January — a political veteran who defeated a right-wing populist whose enraged supporters then resorted to violence in the capital, and who has put a high priority on climate.

The former trade unionist met Biden in a low-key White House visit in February but then made headlines last month on a trip to China where Lula said that the United States, which has sent billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine, was “encouraging the war.”

Lula later clarified that he condemned the invasion, but the White House accused him of “parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda” — and Lula won praise from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who recently visited Brasilia.

A US official said that Thomas-Greenfield would “check in” with Brazil about the Ukraine war.

“Our position is that a range of countries around the world, Brazil included, can play a positive role in trying to bring this conflict to an end,” the official said on customary condition of anonymity.

“But we have to make sure that any peace is a just and durable one” that adheres to the “principles and sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.

The United States is also asking Brazil to extradite an alleged Russian spy, Sergey Cherkasov, who is said to have pretended to be a Brazilian student in Washington and gathered information on Ukraine.

– ‘An adroit hedger’ –

Brazil has voted at the UN General Assembly to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — unlike fellow developing world powers India and South Africa, which have insisted on neutrality.

But Brazil has also rebuffed calls to impose sanctions on Russia or sell weapons to Ukraine.

Brazil is a current member of the Security Council and its role will come under greater scrutiny later this year as it succeeds India as head of the Group of 20 club of major economies.

Lula, while working with the United States, has never been shy about differentiating himself and staking out a greater Brazilian diplomatic role.

Toward the end of his 2003-2010 tenure, he bucked Washington by trying to seek a negotiated solution on Iran’s nuclear program.

A study released Monday on “global swing states,” which can shape the world order increasingly defined by rivalry between the United States and China, said that Brazil has “substantial assets” that give it leverage.

Brazil is a major agricultural exporter and also has advanced technology and a sophisticated diplomatic corps, said the study by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. 

Brazil seeks to play it safe and “rejects that its choice of partners must be mutually exclusive” even while generally backing the “rules-based global order” promoted by the United States, William McIlhenny, a former US policymaker, wrote in the report.

“The country sees itself as an adroit hedger that protects its interests by avoiding taking sides,” he wrote.

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