Advocates of the postwar international economic and political system hate political leaders who care first and foremost about their own national sovereignty.
Among their objects of distaste are Vladimir Putin of Russia, Victor Orban of Hungary, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, Nahendra Modi of India, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the power behind the throne in Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) government.
Most of all, they despise U.S. President Donald Trump.
We can now add Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro to the list of this axis of nationalism. Since his election last year, he has been subjected to unrelenting criticism by the left-liberal media in North America and Europe, sometimes referred to as Brazil’s “Mini Trump.”
The global elites have been using climate change as a stick with which to beat nationalists. French president Emmanuel Macron’s attack on Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is the most recent example.
At the recent G7 summit, held in in Biarritz, France, Macron tweeted that the devastating fires now burning in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest, often referred to as the “lungs of the world,” amounted to an international crisis and a threat to the word’s battle against global warming.
The Amazon has seen more than 85,000 fires break out so far this year – a 77 per cent rise from the same period in 2018.
Bolsonaro reacted by accusing Macron of having a “lamentable colonialist mentality” rooted in condescension. The idea of creating an international alliance to save the Amazon would be treating Brazil like “a colony or no man’s land.”
Bolsonaro further admonished Macron, warning him to stop “messing with us.” The diplomatic row between the leaders even got personal when Bolsonaro insulted the French president’s wife.
But Bolsonaro finally agreed that environmental challenges must be met – while respecting “national sovereignty” – and on Aug. 28 announced there would be a meeting of countries that share the Amazon to tackle the devastating fires.
The declaration followed Bolsonaro’s accusation that France and Germany had tried to “buy” Brazil’s sovereignty through their pledge of $20 million in aid at the G7. He had initially rejected their offer.
However, acceptance of the funds, he later clarified, would hinge on the Brazilian government being able to administer the aid. Meanwhile, Brazil has sent 44,000 troops to the region to fight the fires. Bolsonaro also issued a 60-day ban on burning in Brazil.
Canada is offering to send water bombers and $15 million to help the affected regions.
Bolsonaro’s government had found itself under increasing international pressure over its environmental policies even before the major fires broke out earlier in August.
Germany and Norway both suspended their contributions to Brazil’s Amazon Fund earlier in August. Over the past decade, Norway has donated $1.2 billion to the conservation fund, which is managed by the Brazilian Development Bank. Germany has contributed $68 million.
However, on Aug. 30 German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her readiness to assist Brazil in protecting the Amazon region.
Bolsonaro, though, received praise from Trump, who tweeted that he was doing a “great job.” Bolsonaro said the tweet pleased him “a lot.” Brazilian Foreign Minister Ernesto Araujo met Trump in Washington and said the two countries were “on the same page” over the fires.
Macron was probably gritting his teeth.
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.