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.
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It also comes as Brazil is expected to finally announce this year it will buy 36 new fighter jets. French, Swedish, and US companies have all vied for the $4.4 billion contract. Mr. Jobim said Monday Brazil is close to making a decision on whether to purchase US F-18 fighter jets or those of a competitor, including the French Rafale or Swedish Gripen aircraft.Skip to next paragraph
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Brazil’s president is close to French President Nicolas Sarkozy – the two met five times in 2009 outside summits – and he sees France as a “strategic partner.” Brazil last year signed a deal to buy 50 French helicopters and five submarines, one of them nuclear-powered.
In the long-term, the defense accord is more likely to bolster Brazil than the US. “Brazil always been a moderating power. It could be helpful [for the US] in the interest of regional security,” says Johanna Mendelson Forman, a security and Latin America specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The sense that I get is that Lula is laying foundation for his defense industry.”
Countries in Latin America have been rushing to purchase arms, which has raised some eyebrows. But Ms. Mendelson Forman says most armies are attempting to modernize after years of stagnation. Russia as the prime supplier has to do with buying at the right price, not any sort of geopolitical message, she says.
As it attempts to defend what it sees as its increased role in global and regional affairs, Brazil’s defense budget has increased almost fourfold since 2006. Mr. Arbache says Brazil needs more military might to go along with its newfound economic might. “It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you’re weak, people can take advantage of you and deficiencies. To be an economic power you have to be a military power,” he says.
There could be regional fallout. A military agreement that the US made with Colombia last year caused a stir within South America, after the two nations agreed that US troops could have greater access to Colombian military bases. The agreement with Brazil does not include such clauses, nor does it lay out anything specific other than a general framework for greater cooperation.
Still, many expect nations generally opposed to the US, such as Venezuela, to balk. Brazil, however, is unlikely to flinch. “As they emerge as a key power,” says Evan Ellis, a professor of national security studies at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies at the National Defense University, they are charting their own course as they seem to be saying: “’We will align with Iran, if it’s useful for us. We will do defense cooperation with the US if it’s useful for us,’” says Mr. Ellis. “’Nobody tells us that Iran is the devil, and no one tell us the gringos are the devil.’”