Latin American Leaders Speak Out Against NATO Role in Russia-Ukraine War

Two of Latin America’s most respected dignitaries say the unspeakable about the conflict in Ukraine, setting blood to boil in Western corridors of power. 

TIME magazine’s interview of the former, and quite possibly future, President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will have no doubt raised hackles in Washington, Brussels, London and Kiev. In it, Lula spreads the blame widely for the current war in Ukraine. He also insisted that both Russia and Ukraine should do a little more jaw-jawing rather than war-waring and that peace could be easily achieved if only the US, EU and NATO would make a few basic assurances.

Putin shouldn’t have invaded Ukraine. But it’s not just Putin who is guilty. The U.S. and the E.U. are also guilty. What was the reason for the Ukraine invasion? NATO? Then the U.S. and Europe should have said: “Ukraine won’t join NATO.” That would have solved the problem.

The other issue was Ukraine joining the E.U. The Europeans could have said: “No, now is not the moment for Ukraine to join the E.U., we’ll wait.” They didn’t have to encourage the confrontation.

Asked what he would do if he had been president in the lead-up to the conflict, Lula inferred, once again, that a peaceful solution could be found if there was an actual desire for peace. He also said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was equally to blame for the war as Putin.

If I was President, I would have phoned [Joe] Biden, and Putin, and Germany, and [Emmanuel] Macron. Because war is not the solution. I think the problem is that if you don’t try, you don’t fix things. And you have to try.

I sometimes get worried. I was very concerned when the U.S. and the E.U. adopted [Juan] Guaidó [then leader of Venezuela’s parliament] as President of the country [in 2019]. You don’t play with democracy. For Guaidó to be President, he would have to be elected. Bureaucracy can’t substitute politics. In politics, it’s two heads of state who are governing, both elected by their people, who have to sit down at the negotiating table and look each other in the eye and talk.

And now, sometimes I sit and watch the President of Ukraine speaking on television, being applauded, getting a standing ovation by all the [European] parliamentarians. This guy is as responsible as Putin for the war. Because in the war, there’s not just one person guilty.

Lula even accused Zelensky of looking for war and, once it began, of using it for his own political ends, none of which, of course, is news to NC readers. But the comments will have no doubt raised the blood pressure even higher in many Western capitals:

He did want war. If he didn’t want war, he would have negotiated a little more. That’s it. I criticized Putin when I was in Mexico City [in March], saying that it was a mistake to invade. But I don’t think anyone is trying to help create peace. People are stimulating hate against Putin. That won’t solve things! We need to reach an agreement. But people are encouraging [the war]. You are encouraging this guy [Zelensky], and then he thinks he is the cherry on your cake. We should be having a serious conversation: “OK, you were a nice comedian. But let us not make war for you to show up on TV.” And we should say to Putin: “You have a lot of weapons, but you don’t need to use them on Ukraine. Let’s talk!”

As a former, albeit potentially future, head of state Lula has more latitude than serving Latin American presidents to speak out against the so-called West’s role in the war in Ukraine. Indeed, his comments have already elicited a stiff rebuke from the Ukrainian government. Ukraine’s senior presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, on Thursday described them as “Russian attempts to distort the truth.”

BRICS United in Opposition

During his two terms in office Lula was an important mover and shaker on the international stage, increasing Brazil’s diplomatic clout, particularly across the so-called “Global South”. Together with Dimitry Medvedev, Manmohan Singh, and Hu Jintao, he attended the first ever BRICs summit (South Africa had still not joined the grouping), in 2009. As Wikipedia notes, the summit’s focus was on improving the global economic situation and reforming financial institutions.

Interestingly, in the wake of the summit the BRIC nations announced the need for a new global reserve currency, which would have to be “diverse, stable and predictable” — something that could now be in the process of happening, thanks partly to Washington’s repeated cack-handed attempts to use the world’s current reserve currency, the dollar, as a financial weapon against any country that does not toe the line.

Also interesting is the fact that not a single member of the BRICS grouping, which represents just over 40% of both global population and global GDP, has agreed to impose sanctions on  their fellow BRICS member Russia, despite concerted pressure to do so from both the US and the EU. Three of the four — India, China and South Africa — abstained in the UN General Assembly resolution of March 2 condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Although Lula is not Brazil’s president, he is hotly tipped to win the presidential elections in October, assuming he is allowed to. Fears are rising that his main opponent (and current incumbent), Jair Bolsonaro, could stage a military coup if Lula wins…

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