By Fabio Reis Vianna for the Saker Blog
The scandalous smokescreen represented by the refusal of the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) to recommend the use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the “technical” veto, minutely detailed in a report prepared by “impartial experts committed to science”, hides something that understandably escapes the knowledge of the Brazilian public.
Accustomed to accepting explanations endorsed by “authorities on the subject” and used to understanding the reality of things from an internal prism, Brazilian society has not yet realized the historical crossroads in which our country finds itself involved, and that this has a lot to do with the major dispute of the great global systemic game of this new century, which appears violent and without clear rules (that is to say, without any rules at all).
Approved and used in more than 60 countries, Sputnik V, despite not having presented any serious reported side effects so far, has been suffering immense bureaucratic difficulties in having its use approved in Brazilian territory for months.
With more than 400,000 deaths counted so far, and a society divided and conflicted around a government led by a radical far-right arsonist, the refusal of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine represents a reflection of these strange times that practically all countries in the interstate system are going through, but which the smoke screen of the present time prevents one from seeing more clearly.
The dispute being openly fought by the three current powers in the system, namely, the United States, China, and Russia – and also by other smaller powers – and as the increased pressure spreads beyond the traditional regions where competition used to take place, it becomes clearer that what is occurring in the system differs from the conventional logic in what Hedley Bull would call the Anarchical Society.
In other words, the minimal consensus that would be in force in a society of states, and that would make possible the preservation of a mutual respect for certain institutions and norms, would, at this very moment as I write, be dead.
And not only because the United States would have, in practice, indicated this death in its 2017 National Security Strategy – as well as in Biden’s most recent interim strategy, published in March – but because, as it seems, the aggressive movement revealed by many countries after the pandemic outbreak leads us to intuit that the world would already be immersed in that systemic logic that Robert Gilpin would call a state of Hegemonic War.
According to Gilpin, and inspired by Thucydides, Hegemonic War would differ from conventional war by its capacity for structural transformation. In the face of this, necessarily, all individual states would end up being involved within a systemic conception where no one would be immune.
Therefore, in addition to the remarkable escalation that the increase in interstate competition had already been providing since the mid-2010s, the uncertainties and instability caused by the Covid-19 pandemic further exacerbated the problem.
Thus, the more the United States is challenged in its hegemony and loses ground to Russia and China in Eurasia, the more it will seek to frame the countries that are part of its close zone of influence: Latin America.
Not coincidentally, and still in the Trump administration, there was explicit and already officially revealed pressure on Brazil to make it as difficult as possible to approve the Sputnik V vaccine.
As much as it is said that the great adversary of the United States would already be China, historically – and since the times of the British Empire – Russia plays the role of necessary and guiding enemy of the only fundamental consensus of the currently so divided US elites: the permanent and infinite expansion of the military industrial complex.
In this context, therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to think that Brazil would be in the eye of the hurricane of a process of escalating hegemonic war caused, above all, by the possible change of cycle that the world system would be witnessing at the moment. In the here and now.
The question that remains, therefore, is: is the risk of falling into a Thucydides’ trap imminent for the next few years, or is the pandemic itself already a Thucydides’ trap, and we are not aware of it yet?
Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws (LL.B), MA student in International Relations at the University of Évora (Portugal), writer and geopolitical analyst. He currently maintains a column on international politics at the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.