President Lula da Silva’s defence of Iran’s nuclear programme hasincreased distrust regarding Brazil’s own nuclear ambitions,
not least thatthe country is seeking to develop the bomb – as Brazil’s military governmentonce attempted. More likely, Lula is using the issue to increaseBrazil’s standing in the global arena, posing as a pacifier between thosewho have the bomb and those who do not. This, however, is dangerousdiplomacy that potentially magnifies the risk of a real nuclear conflict.
Lula has managed to improve Brazil’s international standing – undoubtedlyhelped by the country’s increasing economic clout – by positioning himselfas a negotiator between “those who have and those who have not.” Thetactic has been used on several occasions, not least during global tradenegotiations, which turned Brazil into the advocate for the developingworld. And Lula is once again using the tactic in the context of the West’sopposition to Iran’s nuclear programme, which the US government claimsis aimed at developing a nuclear bomb, with the aim of positioning Brazilas a pacifier.
Lula is due to visit Iran later this week. He has told journalists that “whatBrazil wants with my trip to Iran is to guarantee peace in the world.” Forhim, “Brazil has the moral and political authority to fight for disarmamentand to be against nuclear weapons.” He then criticised the US position onIran, claiming, “this idea of demanding disarmament without dismantlingone’s own arsenal leads to the loss of moral authority.”While the real intention behind Lula’s foreign policy could really be globalpeace, it is clear from his own declaration that Brazil is seeking a bigger roleon the global stage, not least by equalising means of persuasion. But, thishas raised eyebrows about Brazil’s own nuclear ambitions. Two recent articles,one in the Brazilian magazine Veja and another in the German publicationDer Spiegel, suggested that the Lula administration is seeking to buildan atomic bomb.
Lula and his officials maintain that this is not the case, pointing out that theBrazil’s 1988 Constitution forbids the development of nuclear weapons. Thelogic of recent declarations, and the positioning of Lula’s administration, hascast doubts over his real intentions though. Right from the start, the Lulaadministration positioned itself against the Nuclear Non-ProliferationTreaty, which it claims is a way to dominate developing nations economicallyby preventing them from developing their own nuclear technology.In 2004, Brazil was in the spotlight for its refusal to allow full access toinspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to its centrifuges,claiming the need for industrial secrecy. At the time, however, thethen minister of science and technology, Roberto Amaral, defended Brazil’sright to develop the bomb. Lula’s vice-president, José Alencar, recentlyechoed these words, saying that nuclear weapons were the best “means ofdissuasion” against potential enemies in a country with Brazil’s continentaldimensions and offshore resources.
The Lula administration has also positioned itself against a renewal of theNuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, claiming the “current great imbalances innuclear capabilities in the world.” While this is true, allowing more countriesto have nuclear weapons is a dangerous policy for peace. And, as morecountries pursue nuclear weapons, the bigger the risk becomes of suchtechnology falling into the hands of terrorist groups.