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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: BRAZIL


SCOTT TOLLEFSON, Assistant Professor, Department of National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School


THERE ARE SEVEN MAJOR THEMES that continue to dominate the literature on Brazil's international relations: diplomatic history, the nation's position within the international system, bilateral relations (especially those with the US and Argentina), ecology, integration, external security, and international law. These themes overlap considerably, and are supplemented by others, such as foreign economic relations and the process of formulating foreign policy.

Diplomatic history is the most traditional field, and receives the greatest attention. With the untimely death of Gerson Moura, the field has unfortunately lost one of its best and most prolific young writers (for an example of his excellent work, see item bi 94002577).

The changing international system has led many analysts to consider Brazil's position within that system. While most such studies contribute little to our understanding of Brazil's international relations, some are insightful (items bi 94002576 and bi 93011965).

In terms of Brazil's bilateral relations, the book by Weiss on Brazilian-US relations is especially good (item bi 94002527). It is complemented by the publication of various studies on Brazil's relations with Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Guyana, and Italy.

Brazil's ecological policies are receiving increased scrutiny. Much of the literature on this theme is mediocre, but a notable exception is the article by Barbosa (item bi 93025214), which utilizes a broad theoretical framework.

In terms of other themes, Bresser Pereira and Thorstensen accurately assess some of the difficult choices facing Brazil in integration (item bi 93011947). Studies on Brazil's external security examine confidence-building measures with Argentina (item bi 91004131) and the state of Brazil's armaments industry. Caubet's book on the Itaipú Dam is a rich and thorough study (item bi 94002532), from an international law perspective.

The literature on Brazil's international relations continues to suffer from a lack of theoretical and methodological rigor, but the studies highlighted above are among the prominent exceptions. Mello e Silva astutely observes that there is an excessive emphasis on external factors as explanatory variables of Brazil's foreign policy, "underestimating, or even excluding, the analysis of internal variables" (item bi 94005119). In that vein, the literature is becoming gradually more sophisticated. Silva's study of the relationship between regime change and foreign policy in Brazil and Argentina is an example of such erudition (item bi 94006440), as is Almeida's analysis of the role played by Brazil's political parties in the formulation of foreign policy (item bi 94005117).

Indeed, as Brazil continues to consolidate its democracy internally, and to face a changing international environment externally, its international relations will become more complex, requiring analysis that is even more refined, and focused on the interaction between internal and external variables. For example, the role of Brazil's Congress and even the Ministry of Foreign Relations in the formulation of foreign policy is poorly understood. With time, these and other gaps hopefully will be addressed.


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