Over the past 20 years, prescriptions for Brazil’s foreign policy have tended to swing wildly between two extremes. When the economy is strong, as it was in the first decade of this century, intellectuals urge Brazil to seek a global role worthy of the world’s fifth-largest country in terms of population, pushing grand but perhaps ill-considered quests, such as Brazil’s 2010 effort to mediate the international dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. When the economy is weak, as it is now, observers wag their fingers and suggest that Brazil put its global ambitions on hold until its own house is in order. But there is a middle path, which Mares and Trinkunas illuminate with admirable clarity. They argue that despite its recent troubles, Brazil remains “likely to one day emerge as a great power.” But, they add, its rise would be hastened by more fully embracing its role as a big, if often messy, democracy. Aligning with authoritarian China and Russia through the BRICS group, and failing to condemn their abuses, has diminished Brazil’s otherwise promising soft power in recent years, the authors contend. A more principled approach, siding instead with India, South Africa, and even nontraditional partners such as South Korea, would win Brazil more friends, power, and influence in the world—regardless of swings in the economy.
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