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April 22, 2008 |  6 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Marek  Swierczynski

Watch out for Brazil, Russia's New Buddy

Marek Swierczynski: Brazil and Russia want to build fighter jets and rockets under the new agreement signed last week. The potential “superpower of the South” may be on its way out of the western camp and can speed up the creation of the world’s new order. Bad news.

Big countries have big ambitions. The world's fifth largest country, the sleeping giant of the southern chemisphere, has controlled its ambitions for too long, except in football. Brazil was never close to the world's ruling circles but now it moves forward and upward, gaining weight economically, politically and militarily. Most recently, it has teamed up with Russia, to develop state of the art jet fighters and space launchers, a move to boost its defence capabilities and to match the country's power with its size.

For Putin's Russia, it's a step further in South America, but much more important than Venezuela. Chavez's pocket oil empire may be regarded as obscure but buys new hardware and has ambitions to rule the Caribbean, taking over the revolution's banner from Fidel. Brazil is a serious country with a vast potential and a hunger for success. It has every right to strenghten its military capabilities and in doing so, to form alliances and make agreements that it deems advantageous. But it is for the rest of the world to assess and decide how to accomodate these ambitions.

Brazil has a history of special relations with Europe and a history of growing distrust towards the US. In defence and military it has for decades preferred Europe, France specifically but recently it has looked for non-traditional partners, like South Africa. Russia was not Brazil's major contractor in the soviet era but in the last decade, Putin's push southwards brought Gazprom and Russia's oil companies in cooperation with Petrobras. Now it's the turn of military industries has come.

Military co-operation usually brings with it strategic consequences, even if it's tagged as "pure business." In areas like missile technology, these consequences may be enormous. Everyone knows what "space launch vehicles" may be used for and what the technology means in military terms. If the agreement is fulfilled, the efforts to contain proliferation will be dealt a serious blow. Merged with Brazil's aim to posess nuclear weapons, renewed under Lula's presidency, the prospect of the first "southern" long-range nuclear missile within 10 or 20 years becomes very likely. It would be better for the West if it had insight and some control, should that become reality.

It is in the West's interest to keep Brazil on its side. But every time the notion was brought up of a "global NATO" with Brazil, Japan and other emerging powers that share the Western set of values on board, it was almost ridiculed. And the idea of expanding the UN Security Council got bogged down in high diplomacy. Russia is more than happy to step into South America's "no man's land" just as China does in Africa. In 20 years or so, it may be too late for the West to renew the broken link.

Marek Swierczynski is a journalist with a special interest in defence and security matters and and a member of the Polish Euro-Atlantic Society.

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Donald  Stadler

April 22, 2008

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I'm not sure Brazil is a threat to anyone. Very much unlike Russia. Brazil doesn't seem to have expansionist military ambitions. The last major war Brazil fought was in the 1860s, although they sent troops to fight for the Allies in the Italian campaign.

Brazil's primary motive is likely to expand their thriving aircraft manufacturing industry into sales of military aircraft. They may well be able to make inroads into sales of lower-cost military jets to less-industrialised nations. They might have competitive advantage in this market for two reasons: cost and fewer political conditions upon the customer nations than the US or Eu might impose on sales of their planes.

Russia is of course another story, but again here I see the motives as primarily commercial and perhaps influence in Latin America. But this is not the Cold War and Brazil is not a US fiefdom - and the Russians are not communists fomenting revolution. They are making a commercial arrangement with the most stable and responsible of Latin American countries; I am not sure there is anything here to dislike.
 
Donald  Stadler

April 22, 2008

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One more thing: "Russia is more than happy to step into South America's "no man's land" just as China does in Africa. In 20 years or so, it may be too late for the West to renew the broken link."

I'm not sure that this is a threat except from a classic Cold-War POV. One thing that I AM sure of is that the very best way to drive Brazil away from the West and toward Russia is to be seem to be authoritative in any way, to 'order' Brazil to do anything.

One catches more flies with honey than vinegar - perhaps offering Brazil advantageous terms on a commercial deal with US and/or European defense companies is an idea whose time has come?
 
Ilyas M. Mohsin

April 23, 2008

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Brazil has been no threat despite its strange relationship with the US. Now that it has mobilised its various natural resources in a big way, it can cut deals with others in disregard of its neighbouring superpower.
There is no threat to the west per se and hence there is hardly any justification for a paranoia. It is no Granada/ Chile/ Nicaragua which have to be cut to size in pre-1990 days to size, partly, to beguile the public opinion at home.
The ground realities appear to be changing; more so in the last 7 years. Post-9/11 policies pursued by the neo-cons have done great harm to the only superpower. By all accounts, it has lost money, credibility and goodwill, due to misadventures pursued under the banner of 'war on terror'.It now carries Albatrosses like Gitmo atrocities, Abu Ghuraib war-crimes, which may match the conduct of the dictator Sddam, killing of over a million Iraqis and Afghans besides the refugee-crises forced on such countries. Such a thing one, normally, would not associate with the American 'goodguys' but unfortunately they succumbed to the paranoia spread by the neo-cons. To their credit, many political forces and people like Cindy Sheehan, whose young son was killed in Iraq, are raising a protest. However, the grievous mistakes made have taken their toll of American image.
if history is any guide, 'business deals' etc can develop in to more ambitious programs. Russia may be not communist but they resent the breakup of their empie. Brazil may not like its pariah-status till it qualified out of it. Such complications can generate new forces which may be difficult to contain.
Apparently free trade and Rule of Law at the International level hold the key. Is everybody game for that?
 
Donald  Stadler

April 23, 2008

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"it (Brazil) can cut deals with others in disregard of its neighbouring superpower"

I fail to see how this is a great revalation. Nor do I see any particular disturbance by said 'great power' at Brazil excercising it's prerogative to make deals with other parties.

BTW, what 'neighboring superpower' is that? Mexico and Canada have a neighboring superpower, and arguably the Carribean island nations and Barbados also. But last time I looked at a globe Brazil isn't remotely close to any superpower - unless you count Argentina a superpower.

Or is this merely another example of Americans being geographical ignoramuses - again?

"Brazil may not like its pariah-status till it qualified out of it. "

What 'pariah-status'? Argentina, yes, Chile yes. But Brazil? Are you referring to the junta between 1964-1985?

If so, isn't that a bit long ago? Brazil has been a democracy for a full generation now, and the election of da Silva only confirmed that. If Brazil were going to have a junta again, surely Lula's election would have been the spark?

I'm not certain what a long bit of gloating about the commuppance of the neocons has to do with Brazilian business deals, unless it's your thesis that only the realtive weakening of the US international position which you assert is the sole reason why Brazil is able to make such deals. I see no evidence of that. Indeed, the Bush administration has made it a point to cultivate a friendly relationship with the Lula administration. But being friends obviously doesn't preclude making business deals with post-communist Russia.

Put it this way: they US is now pursuing a foreign policy with Brazil (and other rising powers) similar to the policies pursued with Western Europe in the past, We haven't forbidden Germany from trading with Russia; why would the US try such tricks with Brazil?

The only reason anyone would find this remarkable is because your head is stuck 30 years in the past - or perhaps in another place where the 'light don't shine'/
 
Unregistered User

April 24, 2008

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I think Brazil has grown up and is diversifying his commercial relations. It isn't surprising that he chose Russia, both have about the same groth rate ;
though he still has close relations with EU, particulary France, lots of Brazilians come for a degree in french in our universities, as their parents did, kind of tradition in the bourgeoise population.

 
Heinrich  Bonnenberg

June 18, 2008

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Russia's interest to make business with Brazil shows that Russia has finally become a clever business partner, has finally understood how international business works.
In regard to our common European future nobody, mainly no European, should saw the seets of discord. The East West confrontation picture of the world is gone since 1991, latest.
Russia's interest to make business worldwide is totally acceptable, it is really wished. The more Russia is active in world business, even in military business like France, Germany and others, the better it is for our great Europe.
Russia, go ahead and be a powerfull competitor, also for us. The more competition among the European partners, the stronger is Europe.
 

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