Brazil’s graduation dilemma: global player, regional power, or something in between?

Carlos R. S. Milani, Leticia Pinheiro and Maria Regina Soares de Lima

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Credit: Roberto Stuckert Filho via Wikimedia Commons

What is the graduation dilemma?

Our view 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: the choice lies between either a more autonomous type of development or a more dependent one. In security terms this choice becomes one of bandwagoning and balancing; when building a multilateral policy it concerns seeking traditional alliances or more innovative coalitions (such as the IBAS Forum, the BRICS group, the South American-Arab countries summits, the South American-African countries summit); while in geopolitical terms and in the field of development cooperation, the question is whether to emphasize North — South or South — South relations. There is no doubt that within these binaries there are a multitude of 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 must grapple with: (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 the uncertainty associated both with non-anticipated results and third countries’ perceptions of their foreign policy decisions. Based on this conceptual framework, we examine in the article the idea that in recent times there has been 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.

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Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is greeted by the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2010. Image credit: Ricardo Stuckert via Wikimedia Commons

International Affairs Blog

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International Affairs Blog

The official blog of International Affairs, the peer-reviewed journal of Chatham House.

International Affairs

Written by

A leading journal of international relations, edited at Chatham House. Subscribe at http://cht.hm/2iztRyb. Follow for analysis on the latest global issues.

International Affairs Blog

The official blog of International Affairs, the peer-reviewed journal of Chatham House.

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