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Lula attends a demonstration

Brazilian presidential frontrunner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva gestures during a demonstration on May 1, 2022 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (Photo: Rodrigo Paiva/Getty Images)

Lula Criticizes World Leaders for Not Doing Enough to 'Help Create Peace' in Ukraine

"If you want peace, you have to have patience," said Brazil's presidential frontrunner. "I think dialogue only works when it is taken seriously."

Jake Johnson

Brazilian presidential frontrunner Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva argued in an interview published Wednesday that world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, are not doing nearly enough to help secure a peaceful resolution to Russia's deadly war on Ukraine, which has dragged on for more than two months with no end in sight.

"I don't think anyone is trying to help create peace," Lula, a globally popular leftist running to unseat far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and return to the post he held from 2003 to 2010, told TIME magazine in an interview conducted in late March.

"He's giving voice to the Global South's skepticism toward rallying calls from great powers who ignore rules whenever they want."

Lula will appear on the cover of TIME's May 23-30 issue.

While acknowledging that Russian President Vladimir Putin "shouldn't have invaded Ukraine," Lula contended that Western powers such as the U.S. and the E.U.—which are pumping massive quantities of heavy weaponry into the war zone—are "also guilty" for not urgently pursuing diplomatic talks before Moscow launched its full-scale attack in late February.

"What was the reason for the Ukraine invasion? NATO? Then the U.S. and Europe should have said: 'Ukraine won't join NATO,'" Lula said. "The conversations were very few. If you want peace, you have to have patience. They could have sat at a negotiating table for 10, 15, 20 days, a whole month, trying to find a solution. I think dialogue only works when it is taken seriously."

Lula, who was freed in 2019 after spending more than a year in prison on politically motivated corruption charges, also attacked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, claiming he is "as responsible as Putin for the war"—a remark that drew backlash and generated no shortage of headlines for the Brazilian politician in the western press.

"Huge respect for Lula, disagree with this take, there is not equal blame to go around for Russia's war," tweeted Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

"But," Duss added, "it would be foolish not to recognize that he's giving voice to the Global South's skepticism toward rallying calls from great powers who ignore rules whenever they want."

Brazil is among the number of Latin American, Middle Eastern, and African countries that have opted not to align with either Russia or Ukraine and the West during the war, which has sparked a far-reaching humanitarian disaster and heightened fears of a broader—and potentially nuclear—conflict with global implications.

As American University professor Amitav Acharya observed in a March column for Responsible Statecraft, "it is not entirely inconsistent for the 'Global South' to both condemn the Russian invasion on principle and express criticisms of Western 'internationalism' and its double standards."

"The sweeping sanctions on Russia, which were criticized by Brazil despite having voted for the resolution, remind developing nations of the coercive economic power of the West, which may be—and has been—used against them if they fail to protect or uphold Western interests and expectations," Acharya wrote.

"The attempts by Western policymakers and analysts to reject any moral equivalence between Russian and U.S./NATO interventions are not entirely convincing to the non-Western world," he continued. "A war at the heart of Europe that has already taken a terrible toll in human lives and inflicted major damage on both Ukraine and Russia is not a glowing advertisement for the approach to regional and international order that the West had envisaged."

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