Sep 13, 2022 in Law

United States-Brazilian Conflict Analysis

The sphere of international politics and law is mainly connected with noteworthy risks of international conflicts between the interests of independent states and the need for their effective resolution and prevention. The international law system can be characterized as an element of the international politics that should contribute to the preservation of peace until the compromise between the conflicting sides is reached. In this way, it is important to guarantee not only the resolution of contradictions but also the limitation of opportunities for direct military, trade or any other type of conflict between the states. The international law should also contribute to effective regulation of the national legislative systems of the state in order to avoid the conditions for the development of different forms of discrimination in the relations between the countries.

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The current paper discusses the United States-Brazilian conflict case that was connected with the supposed scenario of the Brazilian terrorist act on the territory of the United States and the military response of the U.S. government. It will be important to demonstrate what issues were caused by the discriminative policy of the United States, the reaction of Brazil and the response of United States, and what possible solutions can be offered.

The Questions under Study

Before the analysis of the particular international law issues that are raised by the case study, it is important to provide the general information about the situation. This data will assist in the understanding of the specific conditions and means of the conflict’s resolution through the adoption of the existing international law principles.

The Source of Conflict

The presented case is just a fictional scenario that was not realized in real life. At the same time, it fits the current tendency in the international politics connected with the U.S. trade wars and should be discussed in order to find the adequate solutions for the possible real-life events. The beginning of the conflict was connected with the decision of the U.S. government to ban the import of products produced from materials harvested from South American rainforests. In response of the export losses, the Brazilian government had sent intelligence officials to organize the sabotage on the Goodyear tire factory that previously purchased Brazilian rubber. As a result of this sabotage, two U.S. citizens were killed. The response of the American government to the terrorist act included the bombing of 10 biggest Brazilian cities which led to dozens of victims. To solve the contradiction, the opponents had made a decision to settle the trade conflict before the World Trade Organization (WTO), and solve the military conflict in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This report will demonstrate the international law questions raised by the case, and ways of their resolution.

Strict United States Trade Regulations for the Countries

According to the case conditions, the main reason of the conflict’s initiation was the decision of the U.S. government to limit the import of products of materials harvested from South American rainforests. Of course, the reaction of the Brazilian country was inadequate, but the initial cause was connected with trade sanctions of the United States. In this way, the behavior of the United States can be described by the set of bright analogies with the Shrimp-Turtle case that was discussed in the WTO in the end of the twentieth century (The Shrimp-Turtle Case, 1997). Thereby, the United States had a potential right to limit the import of such products according to Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which included the exception connected with the protection of human, animal or plant life (The Shrimp-Turtle Case, 1997, p. 655). At the same time, the ultimate restriction on the import of such products in the United States can be considered as violating balance of interests of members in international trade that is defined by the GATT and WTO (The Shrimp-Turtle Case, 1997, p. 658). In this way, the United States demonstrated the neglect of the international law and positions of other countries.

At the same time, the violation made by the U.S. government is similar to the Shrimp-Turtle case. It was that the country did not perform international negotiations to reach the bilateral or multilateral agreements about the processes of production or export of this type of products. Besides, it is possible to say that protection and maintenance of the limited resources of South American rainforests require the cooperation of the set of countries that obtain this limited resource. In this case, United States were supposed to perform mutual negotiations with the South American countries that obtain the rainforests, and reach consensus on the question of their exploitation. Such practice is governed by the Principle 12 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, which stated that the management of the limited natural resources that are under jurisdiction of the set of states should be performed in the way of negotiations and inclusion of mutual interests of the sides (The Shrimp-Turtle Case, 1997, pp. 660-661). In fact, in this case United States did not provide any opportunities for the negotiations and demonstrated the despotic approach to the regulations of the international trade. The country demonstrated the arbitrary discrimination of the other members’ rights by not providing opportunities for the regulation of the sanctions in the form of negotiations.

While the actions of the United States in the form of trade barriers were completely illegal and unacceptable, the reaction of Brazil was also irrelevant. It caused the occurrence of several other questions.

Brazilian Terrorist Act

The actions of the Brazilian intelligence service should be classified as a terrorist act since it led to the harm of the property of the U.S. citizens as well as to the death of two people as a result of the initiated sabotage. In this way, the accusation of Brazil can be rejected only if the actions of the scouts and the government can be classified as a reprisal. The issue of reprisal had been carefully discussed in the Naulilaa case (1928) and should be considered as a basis for this question. First of all, it is important to define the nature of the reprisal and the conditions when it can be recognized as sensible and necessary by the international law and the community. The reprisal is the act of self-help for the states that suffered from the contrary of laws of nations by another country (Naulilaa Case, 1928, p.540). In this way, the retaliation can be considered as legal only if the fact of unsatisfied demand took place. According to this case, Brazil did not provide any demands to the United States before the organization of sabotage. The second requirement to the practice of reprisal that was defined by the Naulilaa Case (1928) was connected with the proportionality of the response (p. 541). In this manner, Brazil could commit sabotage if the similar actions were performed by the United States previously, and the American government did not answer the Brazilian requirement for satisfaction.

In the given conditions, the sum of factors does not allow the experts to classify the actions of the Brazilian intelligence service as a reprisal that could be supported by the international law. In this case, the classification of a terrorist act is quite relevant and will be used later in the paper. So, it will be important to assess the effectiveness and legality of the U.S. response to the actions of Brazil that were classified as a terrorist act.

The Military Response of the United States

The actions of the United States in response to the Brazilian terrorist attack should be considered in the context of the self-defense definition by the international law. The detailed discussion of the concept of self-defense is provided in the Mary Ellen O’Connell case (2002). In this manner, this source should be used for the analysis of the reactions of the U.S. government.

According to the Article 2 of the United Nations Charter (1945), the country can implement the practice of individual or group self-defense only if there was an attack against the member of the United Nations (p. 548). At the same time, the military response to the possible aggression can take place only after the resolution of the United Nations Security Council (United Nations Charter, 1945, p. 548). The Mary Ellen O’Connell case (2002) presents the definition of terms under which the country can implement the military response in the context of self-defense without the resolution of the United Nations Security Council. Such actions can be taken in the presence of certain circumstances. Victim should be affected by significant armed attack, should have an evidence of new planned attacks, the target of the victim’s attack must be responsible for the caused damage and the response of the victim should be proportional to the damage caused (Mary Ellen O’Connell Case, 2002, p. 564). So, the actions of the U.S. government should be considered in the presented context.

First, it is possible to say that the American government did not negotiate with the United Nations Security Council on the issue of the Brazilian terrorist attack. In fact, neglect of the norms of the United Nations can be considered as a violation of the U.S. government. At the same time, the discussion of the Mary Ellen O’Connell case (2002) demonstrated that the country can avoid considerations with the United Nations Security Council if the time before new attacks or serious injuries is limited. In such case, the victim country cannot spend additional time for negotiations to avoid future tragedies and deaths of its citizens from new terrorist attacks.

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In this context, it is difficult to say whether the United States became a victim of the significant armed attack. Actions of the group of the Brazilian intelligence officers cannot be classified as a significant armed attack. At the same time, clarifying this question is quite problematic, and anyway should include the discussion of the position of the United Nations Security Council. So, even on this stage, it is obvious that the American government has violated the norms of the international law when decided to perform the military attack against Brazil.

Second, United States were supposed to obtain the direct info about future terrorist attacks from Brazil in the nearest future. The case study did not provide any information on this question, so experts can make a conclusion that United States did not obtain the required information. Again, this aspect of the issue demonstrates that United States had no authority to perform the military attack without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council.

Third, the United States could take such actions if they were sure that Brazil citizens, as a main target of the military attack would be responsible for the future aggression against the United States. International law states that the aggressor should be the target of self-defense of the country. In this way, the civil population of Brazil that became the main victim of United States bombings was not responsible for the realization of past and future terrorist acts against the U.S. citizens.

Finally, the principle of the proportionality of the response of the victim in the process of self-defense would require the United States to present the adequate harm to the Brazilian intelligence service as the main aggressor in this case. In this manner, United States would be able to perform the targeted attack against the Brazilian intelligence agents that would cause the proportional harm to the aggressor. At the same time, the actions that caused the death of dozens of Brazilian citizens cannot be considered as proportional in any way. As a result, it is possible to say that the response of the United States cannot be considered as a self-defense. In fact, American military forces and government had violated all four conditions of possible realization of self-defense military actions.


The analysis of the presented case demonstrated absolutely illegal character of actions from both sides of the conflict on the different stages. The conflict was initiated by the United States that limited opportunities for export of certain type of products in order to protect the rainforests in South America. Such neglect by the position of other countries can be considered as a violation of the arbitrary principle of the international politics, which is supposed to serve as an alternative to the military aggression (Caroline Case, 1945, p. 134). Through this actions United States did not leave any opportunities for the arbitrary resolution of the trade conflict.

At the same time, the response of Brazil cannot be classified as the legal reprisal since the country did not state official demands to the United States, and its response was not proportional. Instead, Brazil could provide a legal response in the form of a message to the WTO and the United States about the need of removal of trade barriers, and the realization of trade barriers for U.S. export to Brazil until the resolution of the case.

Finally, the U.S. military response was also completely illegal. First, the country had to communicate with the United Nations Security Council before any active actions since the Brazilian terrorist act is hard to define as a significantly armed aggression. Also, United States side did not provide serious proofs of the future aggression from Brazil expected in the nearest future. Besides, the aggression against the Brazilian civil population cannot be considered as an attack against the actual aggressor – the Brazilian intelligence service. Finally, there is no way how U.S. military attack could be considered as the proportional response. It took considerably more victims than the terrorist act performed by Brazil. In this way, the legal actions of the United States would include the appellation to the United Nations Security Council. Only this organ could consider the possible response to the actions of Brazil.

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