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Why Brazil signed a military agreement with the US

For the first time in three decades, the US and Brazil have a military agreement. Brazil is shopping for 36 new fighter jets, and the US is trying to counter growing Russian and Iranian influence in Latin America.

By Sara Miller Llana and Andrew DownieStaff writer and correspondent / April 13, 2010

An F-18 jet lands on aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during a military exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, March 3. The US and Brazil signed a military agreement on Monday.

Felipe Dana/AP/File

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Mexico City and Sao Paulo, Brazil

The US and Brazil signed a military agreement Monday that both nations touted as an example of partnership and transparency in the Americas.

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The defense pact, the first between the two nations since 1977, opens the door to more interchange on research and development, logistics support, education and training, and the acquisition of defense products and services.

It comes as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates sets off on a tour of Latin America, including visits to Colombia, Peru, and the Caribbean – seen as part of a broader effort to strengthen ties with allies, as well as shore up support in a region that has embraced Iran and made increasing arms purchases from Russia.

But it’s perhaps Brazil, where Mr. Gates had originally planned to visit before a schedule change, which has the most to gain from the deal reached Monday. “Brazil is going to get recognition, and that is very important. Future wars are going to be as much about the management of information and intelligence as they are about armaments. And Brazil doesn’t know how to do that. The US is the perfect country to help us minimize that risk,” says Fernando Arbache, an anti-terrorism expert in Sao Paulo who teaches at Brazil’s Naval Headquarters. “With this accord Brazil is aligning itself strategically with the US, like the European nations have done with NATO.”

Secretary Gates and Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim signed the cooperation agreement on the sidelines of the nuclear summit held in Washington. It’s the first such agreement since a1952 cooperation accord was canceled in 1977, when Brazil was under military control. Since then there has been little military cooperation between the US and Brazil, says David Fleischer, an analyst in Brasilia, in a weekly political note.

The US heralded the common interests shared by the US and Brazil. “The agreement is a formal acknowledgment of the many security interests and values we share as the two most populous democracies in the Americas,” Gates said. “These common interests make Brazil’s growing involvement and significance in global affairs a welcome development for the United States.”

The deal does not mean the relationship between the two nations is without strain. The US has unsuccessfully pushed Brazil to support fresh sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program. To some critical eyes, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Brazil in November, while Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is scheduled to visit Iran next month.

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