Franco-Brazilian Arms Deal Reflects Brazilian Aspirations

A first class economic power should treat itself to first class military capabilities. So goes the thinking in Brazil.

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Amiel Ungar, | updated: 00:25

Lula da Silva
Lula da Silva

Brazil and France have inked a deal valued at $4.25 billion under which the French will supply Brazil with 4 regular submarines and one nuclear powered submarine. This submarine purchase continues Brazil's military shopping spree that includes Russian-made helicopters and air defense systems.

Under Brazil's previous president, Lula da Silva, Brazilian defense spending increased by 50% in 2010. It was already $28 billion in 2008.

Part of the purchase is facilitated by the rise of commodity prices as Brazil is the kingpin for soybeans. 

Brazil is also one of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). All four are heavy spenders in line with their regional, or beyond, power aspirations.

Brazil regards itself as a continental leader and a claimant for a permanent Latin American seat at the United Nations Security Council. Its economy is booming and Brazil now apparently feels that it needs a military posture commensurate with its new status.

The official reason given by Brazil for the submarine purchase is that it requires the boats to safeguard its offshore oil and gas deposits and to defend its sovereignty.

During the presidency of George W. Bush and also under President da Silva, Brazil announced the formation of a South American defense council called UNASUR.  

Then US Secretary Condoleeza Rice said at the time:  "I not only have no problem with [a South American defense council], I trust Brazil's leadership and look forward to coordination with it."

The arms deals that Brazil and other Latin American countries, notably Venezuela, are contracting, illustrate how the Latin American system of states is becoming quite independent. If formerly the United States could limit Latin American arms purchases to obsolete weaponry and prevent other countries from entering the Latin American arms markets, the market now is wide open to rms dealers peddling top-of-the-line merchandise.

When Britain confronted Argentina over the Falklands in 1982, it could sail half the way around the world in the knowledge that Argentina lacked sufficient modern weaponry to put up a fight in its own backyard.

Now the British papers pay attention to the fact that Brazil has sided with Argentina on this still open dispute. If there is to be another Falklands war, it will take place between a British military establishment on the decline and better equipped Latin American countries.