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terça-feira, 21 de março de 2023

Book review: Benjamin Cowan, 'Moral Majorities across the Americas: Brazil, the United States, and the Creation of the Religious Right', Bonar Hernández (H-Net)

Book review: H-Net 

Hernández on Cowan, 'Moral Majorities across the Americas: Brazil, the United States, and the Creation of the Religious Right'

by H-Net Reviews

Benjamin A. Cowan. Moral Majorities across the Americas: Brazil, the United States, and the Creation of the Religious Right. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2021. 304 pp. $95.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-4696-6206-0; $29.95 (paper), ISBN 978-1-4696-6207-7; $24.99 (e-book), ISBN 978-1-4696-6208-4. 

Reviewed by Bonar Hernández (Iowa State University) Published on H-LatAm (March, 2023) Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz (Johns Hopkins University)

Printable Version: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=58934

In recent decades, scholars have greatly advanced our understanding of religion and society in Latin America. Classic studies focusing on the stormy history of church–state relations have given way to granular analyses of popular religion and non-Catholic religious traditions. The theoretical and methodological approaches introduced by cultural historians have resulted in enlightening archive-based and national histories that reevaluate Latin America’s past through the lens of culture, including progressive and conservative religious movements. Joining this rich historiography, Benjamin A. Cowan investigates the origins and expansion of the Christian Right in Brazil and the United States during the Cold War. In this meticulously researched and highly readable book, Cowan links together the activism of a collection of religious and political actors who fashioned a conservative religious movement whose legacy is particularly pertinent given the recent proliferation of rightist, authoritarian, and nationalist politics.

The Christian Right, Cowan argues, developed across national boundaries. To trace its historical foundations and expansion, he employs a broad approach, one that situates the work of Brazilian activists and institutions as part of an international network of religious and political activism that over time turned Christian conservatism into a “transnational phenomenon” (p. 6). The Right, we learn in this study, originated from a collection of improbable allies, especially Brazilians and North Americans, who were motivated by a range of ideological factors. Rightist militants included conservative Catholics and Protestants who espoused an anticommunist, authoritarian, and neo-medievalist imaginary. Brazilian conservatives operated across national, ideological, and denominational boundaries to construct a transnational and, equally important, variegated Christian conservative movement. According to Cowan, the polarizing milieu of the Cold War played a critical role when it came to the rising political fortunes of the Christian Right. Conservative religious activists, after all, gained ground religiously and politically due to the patent support they received from and the ideological affinity they had with the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-85). During this period, the state persecuted progressive Catholics and Protestants in an effort to destroy alternative (nonconservative) visions of Brazilian society.

Cowan weaves together a complex and fast-changing national context that includes the ascendancy of conservativism across different denominations. Chapter 1 focuses on the religious agenda and activism of Brazilian traditionalists during and after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). Cowan emphasizes the centrality of bishops Antonio de Castro Mayer and Geraldo de Proença Sigaud, both of whom became key figures within the Sociedade Brasileira de Defesa da Tradição, Família e Propriedade (Brazilian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, TFP). TFP members promoted anticommunism, moralism, anti-ecumenism, and nostalgia for an imagined medieval past while prioritizing hierarchy, free enterprise, and supernatural over secular values. In chapter 2, Cowan contends that the evangelical Right emerged politically by adopting a “politics as politics-of-moralism” posture that sanctified family life and condemned Brazilian society’s apparent sexual laxity (p. 71). In their opposition to ecumenism, social justice, democratization, and progressive Catholicism, conservative churches such as the Assemblies of God and conservative Presbyterians received the approval of the personnel at the Brazilian Escola Superior de Guerra (Superior School of War). The confluence of religious and state actors meant that over time “the state leaned toward conservative evangelicals, empowering what might otherwise have remained an extremist fringe in Brazil’s politics and culture” (p. 83). The next chapter serves as an essential counterpoint to chapter 2. It delves into the activism of progressive Protestants before they were marginalized by the growth of the Christian Right. Progressive evangelicals supported ecumenism, social justice, and racial and ethnic-based agendas. Amid the political polarization brought about by the Cold War, these positions caught the attention of the dictatorship, with the consequence that progressive evangelicals (and their Catholic counterparts) became victims of state repression. This history of violence had undeniable political effects for Brazil’s religious and political landscape, for, as progressives suffered from the brutality of the military, conservatives drew closer to the members of the dictatorship.

The last two chapters examine the consolidation of the transnational Right. Chapter 4 elucidates the connections between Brazilian and US activists as they laid the underpinnings for a transnational conservative trajectory based on “moralistic anticommunism” (p. 15). Brazilian evangelicals, Cowan points out, set the basis for the ascent of the transnational Christian Right by taking part in an international web of activism. The coalescence of the Brazilian Right and its connections abroad made Brazil a natural destination for evangelicals from the United States, including the likes of Paul Weyrich, Morton Blackwell, and Carl McIntire and for right-wing fronts such as the World Anti-Communist League. Considering these ties, Cowan concludes that “the Christian Right in Brazil, the United States, and elsewhere emerged transnationally” (p. 137). The final chapter analyzes the factors that bound the international Right together: private property; hierarchy; nationalism; rejection of pluralism, modernism, secularization, and communism; and an emphasis on the divine or supernatural over mundane affairs. Together with its links to the Brazilian dictatorship, these unifying factors nurtured a religious and political environment that allowed for the blossoming of the modern conservative movement in Brazil, the United States, and elsewhere.

In light of the present-day revival of nationalism and religion, Cowan’s book offers a timely contribution to the study of religious movements in Latin America. It expands on his previous work on right-wing politics in Brazil during the Cold War.[1] Moral Majorities sheds light on the extent to which conservative religious activists worked within national and international settings and across denominational and ideological (if not theological) frontiers to form a movement of transnational dimensions. Cowan’s analysis moves beyond the nation-state as a unit of inquiry to show that Brazilian Christian conservatives and their counterparts in the United States waged a series of hemispheric-wide religious (and political) campaigns against what they viewed as threats to tradition and morality. Scholars have written extensively about the advance of Latin American Pentecostalism and, more generally, how the Christian Right sought to counter the progressive spirit of Vatican II.[2] The author zooms in on the elements and the course of this right-wing opposition in Brazil and the United States, but also re-creates a context characterized by a Protestant-Catholic conservative alliance, the activism of progressive evangelicals, and the security establishment’s support for the expanding Christian Right. This mutifaceted approach is a welcome one, for it calls attention to the predominance of a diversity or “variety” of rightist groups and reminds students of the Cold War about the possibility of counterhegemonic (nonconservative) religious paths.

More broadly, Cowan should be commended for utilizing an array of religious and state archival documents to provide a nuanced discussion of the historical origins of the present-day “culture wars.” He shows that today’s clashes over culture and morality are rooted in a complex structure of unlikely allies who saw themselves as forming part of a far-reaching religious community that extended beyond specific nationalities. As Cowan suggests, it is perhaps more fitting to talk about the so-called New Right today, not as a series of associations that seek to “Make Brazil Great (or “Make America Great Again”), but rather as a transnational movement whose ultimate objective was (and continues be) to “Make the West/World Great Again” in the image of tradition, morality, and anti-leftist politics. An unapologetic conservative religious imaginary that spans national boundaries stands at the heart of this activism. In this way, Moral Majorities invites students of religion and politics in Latin America to consider rightist religious groups as forming one of several complex global webs of activism during and after the Cold War.


[1]. Benjamin A. Cowan, Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

[2]. See, for example, (in chronological order) Andrew Chesnut, Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997); Edward L. Cleary and Hannah Stewart-Gambino, eds., Power, Politics, and Pentecostals in Latin America (New York: Routledge, 1998); Brian H. Smith, Religious Politics in Latin America, Pentecostal vs. Catholic (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998); and Todd Hartch, The Rebirth of Latin American Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Citation: Bonar Hernández. Review of Cowan, Benjamin A., Moral Majorities across the Americas: Brazil, the United States, and the Creation of the Religious Right. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. March, 2023. URL:https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=58934

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Xi visit to Putin and war against Ukraine: Carlos Santamaria, Ian Bremer (GZero newsletter)

O mais importante dessa visita de Xi Jinping a Vladimir Putin nem é tanto a guerra de agressão da Rússia contra a Ucrânia, mas a consolidação desse projeto de "nova ordem mundial", com a sedução do fantasmagórico Sul Global para esse objetivo. Entre os iludidos pode estar o Brasil de Lula 3.

Paulo Roberto de Almeida

Xi’s “peace” plan for Ukraine: China “wins”

Crossed swords on a background of the Chinese flag, China's parliament, and an outline of a the globe

When Xi Jinping, on his first trip to Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine, continues his meetings with Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, expect China's leader to talk a big game on "peace." It won’t be the type of peace that Ukraine — or the West — wants.

Yet, as far as Beijing is concerned, that’s beside the point.

Indeed, geopolitical success is in the eye of the beholder. That was definitely the case in the recent Middle East détente brokered by China, which re-established Iran-Saudi diplomatic ties broken since 2016. For Xi, whether the deal will result in anything meaningful in the long run matters less than clinching the photo-op.

The upshot is to be perceived as the decisive external player that achieved what America could not by getting the Iranians and Saudis to at least be on speaking terms again.

Similarly, this approach also means spinning the optics of its newfound role as a global peacemaker to a huge yet often overlooked audience by the US and its allies: the so-called "Global South" group of countries. Although only a few dozen refused to condemn the invasion at the UN, many more nations have no beef with Russia or Ukraine and have spent over a year waiting for someone to come up with a plan to end a war that they're paying for with economic ruin.

China's recent peace initiatives are thus "in line with aspirations by the silent majority in the rest of the world — countries that are not directly involved in conflicts" in Europe or the Middle East, says Zha Daojiong, a professor at Peking University's School of International Studies.

But that’s only part of a story that’s also about China’s broader role in the world, including its “complicated” relationship with Russia, its existential rivalry with America, and its year-long ghosting of Ukraine.

First, though, why has it taken Beijing so long to start playing global peacemaker? For one thing, until recently it was bad political timing at home.

Xi "was too busy putting out fires domestically at a crucial time for China and himself," says Brian Wong, a geopolitical strategist and co-founder of the Oxford Political Review. With the 20th Communist Party Congress and zero-COVID over, Xi feels he can pay more attention to foreign policy.

For another, China perhaps saw brokering the Iran-Saudi deal as low-hanging fruit that could serve as a dry run for its much more ambitious peace initiative in Ukraine. Wong believes that China seized the moment by leveraging Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's deep hatred of US President Joe Biden along with Beijing’s longstanding ties with Tehran to offer a Middle Eastern olive branch that few saw coming.

The Iran-Saudi deal had clear tangible benefits for China in the form of stable oil prices. What Xi would get from sealing peace in Ukraine is more symbolic but no less important: rehabilitate China's global image tarnished by COVID.

Meanwhile, China’s recent global diplomacy overtures are both strategic and tactical. After all, Xi has long wanted China to have a bigger role in the world. (He once pitched his country as the globalist leader countering an isolationist US under the Trump administration.) But the pandemic put all of that on the back burner.

Now, though, "China has sort of said: Okay, we're done with COVID. We are reengaging with the world. We're sending our leader back out there," explains Neysun Mahboubi, a research scholar at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for the Study of Contemporary China.

In that regard, he adds, China's strategy is not new. Yet, it comes across in a sharper way than it would have in 2019 because the geopolitical landscape has become more polarized — in no small part due to what China watchers refer to as Beijing’s “pro-Russia neutrality.”

At the same time, Mahboubi thinks the recent China-led peace initiatives are also a tactical response to the growing US-China rivalry. Xi, he believes, feels pressured by America to show that "China is a player on the world stage that can act in ways that the US cannot entirely anticipate or control."

And then there's Russia, China's rather unpredictable friend with benefits. The war in Ukraine — which initially caught Xi flat-footed — tested the limits of the bilateral partnership. But a year on, it has brought the two countries closer together by making them more dependent on each other (especially Russia on Chinese imports). 

Beijing and Moscow have been forced to team up to push back together against the Western unity that the Russian invasion accomplished. And although the good personal vibes between Xi and Putin certainly help, the main driver is the mutual conviction that the US-led global security alliance is an existential threat to Russia and China.

"The closer America and Europe move towards one another, at least in the eyes of China, the more incentive there is on the part of China to want to absorb Russia into its orbit," says Wong.

Still, by pursuing peace in Ukraine, China might bite off more than it can chew. For Mahboubi, “the degree of difficulty is not even in the same ballpark” as the Iran-Saudi accord.

First, Beijing can hardly claim to be an honest broker — as it could between the Iranian and the Saudis — because it has provided diplomatic cover for Russia at the expense of Ukraine. Second, China's 12-point plan is a nonstarter for NATO since it doesn't call for Russia to withdraw from any occupied territories (which would have been a red line for Putin anyway).

Third, the two sides have little incentive to back down in the short term. Russia and China have high hopes for cracks in Western unity against the Kremlin widening in the coming months. Ukraine, for its part, is gearing up for its much-touted spring counteroffensive.

Still, if China is somehow able to figure that out and offer something that is acceptable to both sides, "that would obviously be incredibly impressive [...] and China would deserve all the plaudits," Mahboubi says. "I just think it's unlikely."

Also, what about dealing with Ukraine, which has been an afterthought for China? This week, Xi has reportedlyscheduled a call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, which would be his first since the war began.

The thing is, Xi knows that Zelensky can't afford not to pick up the phone because only China has enough leverage over Russia to get Putin to back down. Indeed, Zelensky has been careful to avoid publicly criticizing China, has repeatedly asked China to get involved and said that he's open to Chinese support.

"I think Ukraine and Zelensky are more receptive toward China than many of us expect," says Wong. All these public statements are "a clear sign that the Ukrainians [...] genuinely want Chinese assistance because they see China as the only possible mediator."

Finally, Chinese success would box in the US — and possibly create a rift in Europe. If the Europeans suspected America was sabotaging the peace talks by urging Ukraine not to talk to Russia via China, the hand-wringing in Paris and Berlin could have real consequences for NATO unity.

At the end of the day, one unique thing China can offer as a mediator is an uber-pragmatic assessment: Let's not cry over spilled milk.

China "would urge Russia and Ukraine to consider leaving aside the question of who wronged whom for the moment — leave it to the future generations of their peoples — and give priority to stopping the conflict, which is debilitating to both sides," says Zha.

The upshot: Put yourself in China's shoes. No one believes you can broker peace in Ukraine, so no one will be surprised if you can't pull it off. But if you do, you can claim all the credit — and blame others if things go south.

Unlike with arming Russia, there’s no downside to playing peacemaker. Whatever happens, China can't lose. But how it ultimately wins might determine the trajectory and outcome of the war.

Xi & "friend" Putin could call for Ukraine ceasefire

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

The big story geopolitically is Xi Jinping's trip to Moscow, a three-day state visit, by far the most geopolitically significant summit of the year since the Russian invasion, frankly, a year ago. And also a deeply problematic geopolitical summit, in the sense that it goes strongly against the interests of the United States and all of its allies. Let's keep in mind this summit comes on the back of the International Criminal Court, that is recognized by 123 countries around the world, though not by Russia, the U.S. or China, declaring that Putin is a war criminal and that he should be arrested by any member state if he travels there. Indeed, the German government's already announced, if Putin were to go to Germany, that's it, they're arresting him. Never going to happen. But nonetheless, on the back of that, and then Putin's trip to Crimea and his trip to Mariupol occupied Ukrainian territory over this weekend. Mariupol, first time, he's been in territory the Russians have taken since February 24th.

All of that obviously told to Xi Jinping before the trip was being made. And now, you see these two men, these two authoritarian leaders side-by-side on a global stage. And by far, the friendliest meetup they have had, since February 4th, a year ago when Putin made that trip to Beijing during the Olympics, and they declared that they were friends without global limits. This is very different from what we saw from Putin and Xi Jinping the last time they met in-person back in September. That was in Samarkand. It was the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. That was where Putin was on the back foot, he had lost a fair amount of territory from a Ukrainian counteroffensive. His military was underperforming. And indeed, Putin had to publicly recognize that the Chinese had concerns about the Russian War in Ukraine. He's not recognizing that right now.

In fact, what Putin and Xi Jinping are talking about is an opening of negotiations with the Ukrainians, that the Ukrainians are not prepared to accept the potential of a ceasefire on Ukraine, which would allow the Russians to keep the territory they've occupied right now, which the Ukrainians, of course, would not accept.

This is Putin feeling much more comfortable about his geopolitical alignment, at least as far as China is concerned. And that's his most important, most powerful friend on the global stage. Why is that happening right now? Well, number one, it's a bookend to what happened just a couple of weeks ago when Xi Jinping in Beijing was an unprecedented fashion, making comments against the United States, saying that, "Confrontation would come if the U.S. maintained its position of attempting to contain China." We've not seen Xi Jinping call out the Americans directly like that, since he came to office for the first time a decade ago. So he's unhappy with his role vis-a-vis China. That was particularly true when the Americans came out publicly with intelligence that showed that the Chinese were negotiating to provide direct military equipment to Russia, the U.S., the UK and NATO all publicly disclosing that information and warning the Chinese that sanctions would, come direct sanctions if they were to proceed with it.

In other words, exactly the way the Americans treated the Russians with the intelligence they had before the invasion into Ukraine. The Russians denied that invasion. The Chinese denied that they were sending any weapons to Russia. The intelligence seems very hard from what I've heard from a number of actors that have seen it. The point is that the Chinese really didn't like being treated the same way that the Americans were treating the Russians. Of course, in part, that's driving them into a more public relationship with Putin that is warmer and friendlier. At the same time, China also sees, believes that time is increasingly on Russia's side. They don't want their friends, the Russians, to lose this war, but they also see divisions, especially in the United States with Republicans trying to run for the presidency. People like Trump, in particular, but also to a degree, DeSantis and others that are trying to caution against the level of support the Americans are presently providing to Ukraine. And something that the Chinese, of course, would like to see the back of.

So for all of these reasons, this Xi Jinping visit to Russia is a very big deal. I don't believe that the Chinese will actually start providing weapons to the Russians, at least not unless the Russians start performing very, very badly indeed on the ground. So, we'll watch and see how the counteroffensive goes in the coming weeks. I expect the Ukrainians will grab at least some ground, because the issue of the artillery that they've desperately needed, the ammunition appears to have been resolved by the United States and its allies. That should allow the Ukrainians to start a significant counteroffensive in coming weeks. But it also means they need to take a lot of territory back, because otherwise the potential that U.S. support will start to weaken as we get towards 2024, that the US will be more divided and the Europeans will become more divided on the back of that.

That is a big concern, indeed. Now, the big question for the next 24 hours is, will China directly call for a ceasefire and will the Russians support that? I think it is possible. Let's keep in mind that Xi Jinping and Putin are not constrained by checks and balances, by separation of power, by rule of law, which doesn't exist in their country. So if Putin, Xi Jinping individually decide that's what they want to say, they can and they will. The Ukrainians, of course, will have a very hard time with that. They'd have a hard time with calling for negotiations. Let's also keep in mind that while Xi Jinping has a three-day state visit to Russia, they have not yet announced a date for even a phone call, a video call with the Ukrainian President, Zelensky. So while Ukraine is being careful in what he's saying about the Chinese publicly, he absolutely knows that China is playing ball here for the Russians. There is no honest broker, in terms of China's interests in bringing this war to a close.

So Ukraine's in a bit more of a challenging position today, than they were a week ago. Russia certainly feeling stronger than they were a week ago. China feeling on the back of this peace breakthrough that they have resolved with the Saudis and the Iranians, that the Americans were no part of. Now, Xi Jinping is in Moscow, not the message that if you are a NATO country, you want to be seeing coming out of the Kremlin right now.

segunda-feira, 20 de março de 2023

Xi and Putin hold talks in Russia, trading compliments, amid war in Ukraine - Francesca Ebel and Lily Kuo (WP)

Xi and Putin hold talks in Russia, trading compliments, amid war in Ukraine

By Francesca Ebel and Lily Kuo

The Washington Post, March 20, 2023 at 4:51 p.m

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held more than four hours of talks in Moscow on Monday, kicking off a much-anticipated state visit that represents a symbolic joint stand against the United States and its Western allies, which the two leaders have characterized as domineering and hypocritical.

Xi exchanged compliments and pleasantries with Putin even as Russia persists in its brutal war in Ukraine and Putin stands personally accused by the International Criminal Court of war crimes.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the visit “suggests that China feels no responsibility to hold the Kremlin accountable for the atrocities committed to Ukraine.”

“And instead of even condemning it,” Blinken added, “it would rather provide diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit those very crimes.”

Putin and Xi, each positioned as leader for life of a nuclear power, celebrated their “no limits” relationship in Beijing together in early 2022, just weeks before Putin ordered his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and over the years they have met about 40 times. Monday’s visit, however, signaled a deepening alliance. It represented a display of tacit support for the war by China and a personal triumph for Putin, who is eager to show he is not isolated on the world stage.

At an initial meeting on Monday afternoon, the leaders appeared relaxed, smiling as they shook hands. “Dear friend, welcome to Russia,” Putin said.

Putin praised Xi’s leadership and complimented China’s “colossal leap forward,” adding: “All over the world, this is of genuine interest, and we even envy you a little.”

Xi, in similarly flattering terms, said he thought Russia had made “significant progress in prosperity” under Putin’s leadership. “You have elections next year, and I’m sure the Russian people will support you,” Xi said.

Elections in Russia are not free or fair. Opposition politicians often are subject to persecution and arrest or face other obstacles to running for office. Putin also pushed through constitutional changes that will let him stay in power at least through 2036.

Xi’s plane arrived at Vnukovo International Airport just southwest of the Russian capital at about 1 p.m. local time Monday. The presidential motorcade then made its way to the center of Moscow, where dozens of people waving Chinese and Russian flags greeted the delegation at the Soluxe Hotel in the north of the city.

Putin and Xi also ate dinner together on Monday and, according to a menu posted by one Kremlin pool reporter, were served quail and mushroom pancakes, venison, and Russian wine.

Before the talks started, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the leaders would discuss the prospects for peace “one way or another” and that Ukraine would “undoubtedly be on the agenda.”

With the world’s attention focused on Xi’s appearance in Moscow, the Ukrainian government urged the Chinese leader to press Putin to respect the U.N. Charter, withdraw Russia’s occupying forces and restore Kyiv’s territorial integrity.

“We expect Beijing to use its influence on Moscow to make it put an end to the aggressive war against Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told The Washington Post. “We stand ready to engage in a closer dialogue with China in order to restore peace in Ukraine in accordance with the principles enshrined in the U.N. Charter, and the latest [U.N. General Assembly] resolution on this matter.”

The General Assembly voted late last month, by 141 to 7, to call for an end to the war, as well as Russia’s full withdrawal from Ukrainian territory. China was among 32 countries that abstained from the vote.

Ahead of the meeting, the Russian and Chinese leaders each published articles — Xi’s carried in Rossiyskaya Gazeta; Putin’s in the People’s Daily — in which they denounced what they portrayed as the U.S.-led West’s hegemony and arrogance.

Putin attacked the United States directly in his article. “The U.S.’s policy of simultaneously deterring Russia and China, as well as all those who do not bend to American dictation, is getting ever more fierce and aggressive,” Putin wrote. “The international security and cooperation architecture is being dismantled. Russia has been labeled an ‘immediate threat’ and China a ‘strategic competitor.’”

Xi merely alluded to Washington, writing: “The international community is well aware that no country in the world is superior to all others. There is no universal model of government and there is no world order where the decisive word belongs to a single country. Solidarity and peace on the planet without splits and upheavals meet the common interests of all mankind.”

Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has pursued an increasingly assertive foreign policy to counter what Beijing sees as U.S. efforts to contain China. Its friendship with Moscow is a key part of China’s strategy to subvert Western-imposed isolation.

Xi and Putin were expected to discuss opportunities to build their bilateral partnership, including economic cooperation, which has soared over the past year and become increasingly vital to Russia amid the bite of Western sanctions. In 2022, Chinese exports to Russia increased by 12.8 percent, while Russian exports to China of crude oil increased, in dollar terms, by 44 percent and exports of natural gas more than doubled, according to industry data.

The leaders may also address Russia’s need for lethal weapons from China, as Moscow’s troops have stalled on the battlefield and as Kyiv awaits deliveries of more powerful and sophisticated weapons from the West, including tanks and air defenses.

“There has been a lot of speculation about military aid, but China has not promised Russia anything,” said Ma Fengshu, director of the Russian and Central Asian Studies Center at Shandong University. “Of course President Xi and Putin will talk about the Ukraine issue, but this meeting will be primarily about enhancing bilateral cooperation between China and Russia, rather than working out a solution to the Ukraine crisis.”

China professes to be neutral in the war, but Xi has not condemned Russia’s invasion or Putin’s effort to annex four Ukrainian regions in a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and international law.

Still, Xi is expected to raise to a 12-point peace plan he put forward last month, which called for an end to “unilateral sanctions” but notably did not demand Russia’s withdrawal. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has expressed openness to speaking with Xi but has vowed to reclaim all occupied lands.

At Monday’s opening meeting, Putin told Xi that Russia was “open to the negotiation process.”

Xi’s trip, while delivering Putin a much-needed distraction from Russia’s failures on the battlefield, also highlights his country’s growing dependence on China, one of its few remaining allies and partners.

“We have high expectations for the upcoming talks,” Putin wrote in the People’s Daily article.

Meanwhile, Xi wrote that the visit aimed to strengthen the countries’ “friendship, cooperation and peace.”

“I am ready, together with President Vladimir Putin, to outline new plans and measures in the name of opening up new prospects for China-Russia relations of comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation,” he wrote.

Xi is expected to speak to Zelensky following his Russia trip A spokesman for Zelensky, Serhiy Nykyforov, said Friday that “there are no specific agreements” about when the call would take place but that “the work is in progress.”

David L. Stern in Kyiv; Robyn Dixon, Mary Ilyushina and Natalia Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia; and Lyric Li in Seoulcontributed to this report.

One year of Russia’s war in Ukraine

Portraits of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its full-scale invasion one year ago — in ways both big and small. They have learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and ruined marketplaces. Scroll through portraits of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.

Battle of attrition: Over the past year, the war has morphed from a multi-front invasion that included Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition largely concentrated along an expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and take a look at where the fighting has been concentrated.

A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law preventing fighting-age men from leaving the country, has forced agonizing decisions for millions of Ukrainian families about how to balance safety, duty and love, with once-intertwined lives having become unrecognizable. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.

Deepening global divides: President Biden has trumpeted the reinvigorated Western alliance forged during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on issues raised by the Ukraine war. Evidence abounds that the effort to isolate Putin has failed and that sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.

Show more

Understanding the Russia-Ukraine conflict


Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces

February 21, 2023

Sanctions haven’t stopped Russia, but a new oil ban could cut deeper

February 15, 2023

Putin, czar with no empire, needs military victory for his own survival

February 19, 2023


O criminoso de guerra Putin visita sua obra mais mortífera: Mariupol - Sarah Fowler e James Landale (BBC)

Como foi a visita de Putin à Ucrânia

Por Sarah Fowler e James Landale, BBC 


USAR SOMENTE EM CONTEÚDOS DA BBC: Vladimir Putin em visita à Ucrânia em 18 de março de 2023 — Foto: Reuters via BBC

USAR SOMENTE EM CONTEÚDOS DA BBC: Vladimir Putin em visita à Ucrânia em 18 de março de 2023 — Foto: Reuters via BBC 

Dirigindo à noite pela cidade duramente atacada, o presidente russo Vladimir Putinfez sua primeira visita a Mariupol – devastada quando as forças russas cercaram a cidade no início da guerra. 

A BBC traçou parte da rota que ele seguiu, que passou perto de vários locais em que ocorreram ataques notórios por parte de seu exército por meses. A Rússia conquistou a cidade em maio passado. 

Vídeos divulgados pela mídia russa mostram Putin conversando com um companheiro enquanto se dirige ao auditório da cidade. O Kremlin disse que a visita ocorreu no sábado (18) e que o presidente russo decidiu "espontaneamente" fazer um passeio pela cidade. 

O prefeito ucraniano de Mariupol, Vadym Boychenko, que está em exílio, disse à BBC que a cidade representa algo "pessoal" para o Putin por causa do que aconteceu lá. 

"Temos que entender que Mariupol é um lugar simbólico para Putin, por causa da fúria que ele infligiu à cidade de Mariupol. Nenhuma outra cidade foi destruída como essa. Nenhuma outra cidade ficou sitiada por tanto tempo. Nenhuma outra cidade foi submetida a tantos bombardeios", disse ele. 

"Ele veio pessoalmente ver o que ele fez", acrescentou. 


Dirigindo pelo cenário dos ataques russos

Putin em uma residência em Mariupol — Foto: Reuters via BBC

Putin em uma residência em Mariupol — Foto: Reuters via BBC 

A BBC identificou alguns dos pontos marcantes ao longo da rota do líder russo. Putin parece estar dirigindo pela rua Kuprina, virando na avenida Mir Prospekt e depois na avenida Metalurhiv, onde fica o Auditório Filarmônico, que as imagens mostram que ele visitou mais tarde. 

Ele está sentado ao lado de um homem com um boné preto, que a mídia russa identifica como o vice-primeiro-ministro russo Marat Khusnullin. 

À esquerda deles, enquanto dirigem pela avenida Mir Prospekt, há esculturas de pássaros na Praça da Liberdade de Mariupol. 

Mais adiante, à direita e não mostrado nas imagens, está o Hospital Maternidade Número Três de Mariupol, que foi bombardeado em um ataque intenso em março do ano passado. 

As fotos de Mariana Vishegirskaya, grávida de nove meses, com o rosto ensanguentado, descendo escadas cheias de destroços, foram amplamente compartilhadas em meio à indignação pelo ataque. Ela sobreviveu e deu à luz no dia seguinte. Entre as vítimas do ataque estava também outra mulher grávida. 

O presidente ucraniano Volodymyr Zelensky chamou o ataque de crime de guerra, mas a embaixada da Rússia em Londres afirmou que o hospital já não estava em uso e estava sendo usado pelos membros do Batalhão Azov – grupo paramilitar nacionalista de extrema direita na Ucrânia criado em 2014 e que foi incorporado à Guarda Nacional da Ucrânia

Na sua visita a Mariupol, Putin virou na Mir Prospekt pouco antes da rua chegar à Praça do Teatro – cenário de um bombardeio mortal que se estima ter matado pelo menos 300 e possivelmente até 600 civis. 

Civis usavam o prédio como refúgio do cerco e uma grande placa com a palavra "crianças" havia sido pintada em russo na frente do teatro. O prédio desabou quando foi atingido. Uma investigação posterior da agência de notícias Associated Press afirmou que até 600 pessoas morreram. A Rússia negou ter bombardeado o teatro e culpou o Batalhão Azov. Em dezembro, autoridades da cidade ucraniana em exílio disseram que a Rússiaestava demolindo as ruínas do teatro. 

Rússia “entendeu onde havia uma concentração de pessoas e destruiu deliberadamente esses lugares, matando pessoas. Eles trabalharam nisso sistematicamente", disse Boychenko. 

Putin foi filmado olhando mapas nas proximidades de edifícios residenciais — Foto: Reuters via BBC

Putin foi filmado olhando mapas nas proximidades de edifícios residenciais — Foto: Reuters via BBC 

Construção da Rússia em Mariupol

As imagens da visita de Putin mostram o presidente russo fazendo um passeio a pé em uma nova instalação residencial, que diz estar no distrito de Nevsky, em Mariupol. 

Ele é guiado por Khusnulli, que lhe mostra alguns planos de reconstrução. Ele também é visto conversando com pessoas que, segundo a mídia russa, são moradores locais, e visita um apartamento que dizem a ele que são compostos por três quartos. 

Nevsky é um novo distrito composto por uma dúzia de blocos de apartamentos no oeste da cidade. É nomeado em homenagem ao Rio Neva, no qual São Petersburgo, a cidade natal do presidente Putin, está situada. 

O prefeito Boychenko disse que muitos dos edifícios construídos pelos russos estão na periferia da cidade. 

"Eles construíram isso apenas para provar que a versão deles do que está acontecendo lá é verdadeira. Mas eles mentem! Eles mentem que vieram para libertar a cidade. Eles a destruíram. Essa cidade não existe mais. E levará 20 anos para ser restaurada!", disse ele. 

Moradores de Mariupol disseram à BBC que novos prédios estão sendo construídos e alguns daqueles danificados pelo exército russo estão sendo removidos. A ONU estima que 90% dos prédios residenciais foram danificados ou destruídos no ataque russo. 

O jornalista norueguês Morten Risberg, que visitou Mariupol em dezembro, disse ter visto "reconstrução e restauração em grande escala" em meio à "destruição em todos os lugares que se olhava". 

"Eles estão mudando os nomes das ruas, pintando com cores russas por cima das cores ucranianas e colocando bandeiras russas por toda parte", disse à BBC. A maioria dos civis restantes na cidade estava "apenas focada em sobreviver", disse ele. 

Caminhando pelo salão de concertos da Filarmônica 

Em outra parte das imagens, o presidente Putin é visto caminhando pelo interior de um salão de concertos em Mariupol. A mídia estatal russa disse que era o Salão de Concertos da Filarmônica – e a BBC verificou que as imagens correspondem ao interior do local. 

Este é o mesmo prédio que a ONU alertou que seria usado para julgar tropas ucranianas que resistiram às forças russas por meses na gigantesca usina de ferro e aço Azovstal em Mariupol. A Rússia finalmente obteve controle total de Mariupol em maio, depois que os defensores se renderam. 

Imagens postadas nas redes sociais em agosto passado – inclusive por autoridades ucranianas – pareciam mostrar gaiolas de metal sendo construídas no palco. De acordo com a ONU, processar prisioneiros de guerra (POWs) por participarem de hostilidades é um crime de guerra. 

Mas os julgamentos nunca aconteceram, já que os POWs mais tarde fizeram parte de uma troca de prisioneiros por 55 prisioneiros da Ucrânia, incluindo o ex-deputado pró-Kremlin Viktor Medvedchuk. 

As últimas imagens do interior do salão de concertos mostram que as gaiolas foram removidas e o interior do prédio passou por nova decoração. 

Durante o cerco, o salão de concertos, assim como o teatro de drama, foi usado por civis como abrigo. As instituições culturais eram "onde as pessoas se escondiam em porões e esperavam pelo fim do terror russo", disse Boychenko. 

Antes da invasão, ele havia sido o local do festival Mariupol Classic para música clássica. Segundo Boychenko, o festival era uma "grande celebração da música clássica para o povo de Mariupol" que atraía artistas do exterior e de outras partes da Ucrânia

"Muitas pessoas sempre se reuniam nesse festival para sentir o clima que sempre prevalecia em Mariupol", disse ele. 

Em uma imagem posterior, o presidente Putin é visto visitando um memorial da Segunda Guerra Mundial chamado Memorial da Libertação. 

Com informações adicionais do repórter Benedict Garman