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Geopolitics

In Praise Of Nationalism: The Only Defense Against U.S. Imperialism

A Brazilian viewpoint in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations on widespread NSA surveillance.

Is there such a thing as "friends" among nation-states?
Is there such a thing as "friends" among nation-states?
Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira*

SAO PAULO — When faced with the revelation that she had been spied on by the United States' intelligence services, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that "Spying between friends, that's just not done." Indeed, there are certain unwritten customs between friends that should always be respected, otherwise you lose that friend.

But are there such things as friends among nation-states? Or does every country consider the others as adversaries?

When I declare myself an economic nationalist, people are often surprised. Isn't nationalism an outdated ideology, they wonder? Do we not live in a global society in which nation-states are now irrelevant? These are questions that find their origins in the neoliberal and globalist ideology that dominated the world between 1979 and 2008, an ideology of a world without borders.

In reality, it was nothing more than a strategy for domination. In its quality as the imperial power of our time — or as our "hegemon," as its defenders prefer to call it — the United States propagated the theory of a democratic and friendly Western world that was facing some necessary "enemies." It used to be the Soviet Union (with some reason), now it is Russia and China.

The NSA spying is evidence of how absurd this theory is. It reveals yet again the nationalism of the American government. The United States focuses only on its own interests, that of its "national security" which justifies everything it does, and the interests of its big companies, on which its wealth rests.

Playing the game

When Edward Snowden (a "traitor," according to U.S. officials) revealed the widespread practices of American spying, the other countries — mostly Europeans, the supposed "close friends" — expressed their indignation. But they didn't actually do anything, unlike Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff who cancelled her planned visit to the U.S. The Europeans didn't do anything, because they know this is how the game is played.

The rule of this game is that of the national interest, of a "realism" that justifies even widespread mass surveillance.

When the competition among nation-states takes place between equals, such an expression of realism is sufficient. But when it takes place between a strong nation and a weaker one, we need to talk instead of imperialism on the part of the dominating country, and the only way to counter it is nationalism — for the nation to unite in the face of pressure from the imperial power, and to not submit to the will of the powerful.

There is just one global imperial superpower today: the United States. The others are only regional powers. France is imperial with regards to North Africa and to the Middle East. Brazil and Argentina are imperial with regards to Paraguay and Bolivia.

The imperialism of some and the necessary nationalism of all doesn't mean countries shouldn't work together and build strong international institutions. The rule is not only to compete: It is to compete and to work hand-in-hand. But the necessary solidarity among human beings cannot be confused with dependence or submission.


*Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira is professor emeritus for the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, where he teaches economic, political and social theory.

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Economy

Russian Diamonds Are Belgium's Best Friend — But For How Much Longer?

Belgium has lobbied hard for the past year to keep Russian diamonds off the list of sanctioned goods. Indeed, there would be a huge impact on the economy of the port city of Antwerp, if Europe finally joins with the U.S. and others in banning sale of so-called "blood diamonds" from Russia. But a 10th package of EU sanctions arriving this month may finally be the end of the road.

Photo of a technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

A technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

Wang Xiaojun / Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has agreed to nine different packages of sanctions against Russia. With the aim to punish Moscow's leadership and to cripple the war economy, European bans and limits have been placed on imports of a range of Russian products from coal, gas and steal to caviar and vodka — were successively banned over the past 11 months.

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Still, one notable Russian export is a shining exception to the rule, still imported into Europe as if nothing has changed: diamonds.

Russian state conglomerate Alrosa, which accounts for virtually all of the country's diamond production (95%) and deals with more than one-fourth of total global diamond imports, has been chugging along, business as usual.

But that may be about to change, ahead of an expected 10th package of sanctions slated to be finalized in the coming weeks. During recent negotiations, with 26 of the 27 EU members agreeing on the statement that ALSROA’s diamonds should no longer be imported, the one holdout was not surprisingly Belgium.

The Belgian opposition to the ban is explained by the port city of Antwerp, where 85% of the rough diamonds in the world pass through to get cut, polished, and marketed. There are estimates that 30,000 Belgians work for Alrosa.

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