Will Lula Deport A Suspected Spy Back To Russia Or Extradite Him To The US To Face Charges?
It remains to be seen whether Lula will comply with the US’ demand, but it’s damning that Washington waited a full year before publicly pressing charges against Cherkasov and not doing so right away during Bolsonaro’s tenure, which very strongly suggests that they knew he wouldn’t extradite him. In any case, Lula is now forced into a dilemma wherein he can either please Russia by deporting Cherkasov back home, the US by extraditing him there to face charges, or no one at all by keeping him in Brazil.
A moment of geopolitical reckoning is fast arriving whereby Brazilian President Lula will be forced to prove whether he’s more aligned with Russia or the US, the first of which is his country’s fellow BRICS partner while the second is ruled by liberal-globalists with whom he’s in close ideological alignment. The US finally filed charges against a suspected Russian spy who’s accused of impersonating a Brazilian as part of a plot to enroll in a foreign affairs academy and subsequently infiltrate Western institutions.
The Washington Post recently published a detailed report about Sergey Cherkasov, the man at the center of this scandal, which should be read in full by those who aren’t yet aware of his situation. He was stopped by Dutch authorities at the airport on 31 March 2022 while arriving there to start a six-month internship at the International Criminal Court, after which he was sent back to Brazil where he was later sentenced that summer to 15 years in prison for document fraud related to his false identity.
He'd previously studied at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies under his assumed Brazilian name, Victor Muller Ferreira, where he allegedly sought to establish influential contacts in the foreign policy formulation sphere. Cherkasov is accordingly being charged with operating as a foreign agent, visa fraud, bank fraud, and other technical crimes. What’s most curious of all, however, is the timing with which the Justice Department formally accused him of all this.
According to the Washington Post, “Authorities in the Netherlands [in advance of his arrival to the country] received a dossier from the FBI with so much detail about Cherkasov’s identity and GRU affiliation that they concluded the bureau and the CIA had been secretly monitoring Cherkasov for months if not years, according to a Western official familiar with the matter.” This means that the US waited a full year before officially filing its charges against him, which is highly suspicious.
The only plausible reason for waiting so long despite already allegedly having all the evidence of his suspected crimes available to them for years was because they probably weren’t confident enough that former President Bolsonaro would comply with their extradition demand. As argued at length here in this recent analysis, which also includes a list of related pieces about Lula’s US-aligned grand strategy at the very end, Bolsonaro was indisputably much more friendly towards Russia than Lula presently is.
That being the case, the US might rightly have feared that he could have instead deported Cherkasov to Russia, where Moscow accuses him of having fled drug-related charges long ago. It’s unimportant whether one extends credence to the Kremlin’s claims or considers them a cover story after its alleged deep-cover agent was caught because the significance lies in the fact that Russia has an official reason for him to be sent back to his home country instead of extradited to the US.
In order to avoid ruining their chance at having Cherkasov become their de facto political hostage for securing convinced US spy Paul Whelan’s release in a potential swap, the US waited until Lula returned to office exactly as they expected would happen and are credited by this leftist US magazine for playing a role in. Lula pledged his political fealty to the US in the most geostrategically significant conflict since World War II by condemning Russia in his joint statement with Biden while visiting DC in early February.
That newly re-elected and now three-time leader then followed up by ordering his diplomats to vote in support of an anti-Russian resolution at the UNGA, after which he called Zelensky to reaffirm his support for Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” and discuss his counterpart’s so-called “peace plan”. Feeling confident that Lula can be relied on to do their bidding with respect to extraditing this suspected Russian spy, the US finally moved to unveil its charges against him after a full year’s worth of waiting.
It remains to be seen whether he’ll comply with the US’ demand, but it’s damning that Washington waited a full year before publicly pressing charges against Cherkasov and not doing so right away during Bolsonaro’s tenure, which very strongly suggests that they knew he wouldn’t extradite him. In any case, Lula is now forced into a dilemma wherein he can either please Russia by deporting Cherkasov back home, the US by extraditing him there to face charges, or no one at all by keeping him in Brazil.
The last-mentioned option would be a lose-lose for Lula since he’d anger both of his partners at the same time, hence why he’s likely to choose one over the other, thus making this a literally zero-sum decision. Legally speaking, Russia’s deportation request should take precedence over the US’ extradition one since Cherkasov is a Russian national and his homeland is Brazil’s fellow BRICS partner. That said, Lula’s track record of politically aligning with the US against Russia bodes ill for that scenario.
In the event that he extradites this suspected spy to the US, then this fateful decision could run the risk of worsening Russian-Brazilian relations. Moscow has thus far kept Lula’s politically hostile stance towards it in NATO’s proxy war on Russia via Ukraine separate from their ties as a whole, remaining willing to expand cooperation in spite of that “politically inconvenient” development, but its calculations could change if Lula gifts Cherkasov to his buddy Biden as the US’ latest political hostage.
Should that happen, then it should be assumed that those disinformation agents who are actively manipulating perceptions about Lula’s US-aligned grand strategy will try to spin it as “Russian-friendly” just like they’ve tried spinning his prior moves as such in order to gaslight their targeted audience. This information warfare operation will only succeed in misleading some members of the ruling party’s base and their supporters in cyberspace, with it standing no chance of manipulating BRICS diplomats.
They’d all see that Lula made the voluntary choice to extradite a suspected Russian spy to the US as its latest political hostage instead of returning him to his homeland, which officially remains Brazil’s fellow BRICS partner. Even if he continues trying to clumsily balance between China and the US, it would be obvious to everyone that he threw Russia under the bus as a favor to Biden, the factual observation of which would lead to nobody in the emerging Multipolar World Order ever trusting him again.