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Foreign Military Influence in Brazil

 
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Brazil and Foreign Military Influence



The armed forces have been influenced by both European and United States doctrines. The French influence was strongest at the end of the nineteenth century, up to World War I. Brazil's navy was more heavily influenced by the British in the nineteenth century and by the Americans from World War I onward. Brazilian officers served on United States Navy vessels in World War I. In the early twentieth century, German influence grew in Brazil and in most of South America. From 1900 to 1914, many junior officers spent two-year assignments in Germany. During the interwar period, French influence again predominated, given Germany's defeat in World War I. With the reemergence of Germany in the mid-1930s, German influence challenged that of France.

United States-Brazilian security relations can be understood best in the context of the broader bilateral relationship. That relationship can be characterized as one of asymmetrical interdependence, in which Brazil depends more on the United States (especially its markets) than vice versa. Since the mid-1960s, Brazil has emerged as the dominant actor in South America, despite pressing political, economic, and social problems. As a result, Brazil has narrowed the asymmetries in its relationship with the United States and is more autonomous.

One implication of this change is that the United States has less influence in its relationship with Brazil. Another is that there cannot be a return to the status quo ante, when Brazil was perceived as a "junior partner." Brazil is a qualitatively different country than it was a generation ago. It has the world's ninth largest economy, a population of more than 160 million people, and a broad industrial base. Although the United States is still the dominant actor in the relationship, Brasília now has greater leverage in its dealings with Washington.

As a parallel to the changing bilateral relationship, the tenor of United States-Brazilian security relations has shifted over time. During World War II, Brazil supported the Allies, and Brazilian troops fought alongside their United States counterparts in the Italian campaign beginning in 1942. In the postwar era, United States security ties with Brazil were close, if somewhat paternalistic. Brazil and the United States signed a Military Assistance Agreement in 1952, through which the United States provided most of Brazil's major weapons and much of its military training. Relations between the two countries began to deteriorate in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as a result of Washington's restrictions on the transfer of arms to Latin America and Brazil's growing assertiveness in its foreign policy.

In April 1977, Brazil abrogated unilaterally the 1952 United States-Brazilian Military Assistance Agreement in reaction to pressure on Brazil by President Jimmy Carter's administration to improve its human rights record and to rescind its 1975 nuclear accord with West Germany. The abrogation curtailed the regular flow of United States arms to Brazil and reduced channels of interaction between United States and Brazilian officers, especially in the area of training. The termination of the agreement manifested a more aggressive and nationalistic foreign policy under President Ernesto Geisel. Moreover, this was reflected in Brazil's industrial prowess, its capabilities as an arms producer, and its diversified external ties.

In the 1980s, the United States and Brazil sought to improve security ties by developing structures and processes that reflected changes in both countries and in their overall relationship. The major change in Brazil was the continued political liberalization under President João Figueiredo (1979-85), with the eventual return of civilian government in March 1985. In the United States, the administration of President Ronald Reagan distanced itself from the Carter administration's human rights policies and took a more pragmatic approach, stressing good relations with Brazil's military. On August 31, 1983, the United States and Brazil signed a memorandum of understanding on industrial-military cooperation, and frequent meetings were held between high-level officials of both countries. Despite these and more recent efforts, security relations between the United States and Brazil have remained cool. A variety of tensions remain, encompassing broad spheres of the bilateral relationship, including technology transfers, and specifically nuclear proliferation--Brazil's nuclear and space programs and their potential for military applications. In addition, the United States has been concerned with Brazil's arms transfer policies. Increasingly, however, and much to the annoyance of the Brazilians, the issue of drug trafficking has dominated the agenda.

The transformation from bipolarity to multipolarity has pressed Brazil to further diversify its foreign relations and strengthen its ties with countries within Latin America and outside the region, such as France, Germany, Japan, China, and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The United States is unlikely to be displaced as the major external actor in Brazil. However, it will encounter growing competition from the rest of the world.

The traditional sources of equipment reflect the doctrinal influence on the respective service. Thus, the Brazilian Navy at the turn of the century depended primarily on British matériel. In contrast, army equipment came primarily from France and Germany. After 1942 Brazil depended primarily on the United States for its imported arms. During the 1970s, Brazil became more self-sufficient, as it produced a broad array of military equipment. In addition, Brazil diversified its sources of equipment, turning increasingly to Europe. In 1994 and 1995, Brazilians negotiated to purchase Russian military equipment at "cut-rate" prices. Nonetheless, in the early 1990s, the United States was still the most important source of imported matériel. In addition, the United States has participated since 1959 in annual naval exercises with Brazil (UNITAS) and has been involved in numerous fleet exchanges.

Data as of April 1997




 



 

 


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