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French leader Nicolas Sarkozy, left, talks to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
Brazil hopes to profit from its strategic partnership with FranceImage: AP

Brazil military deal

Robert Mudge
September 8, 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has signed a deal deepening military ties with Brazil. The strategic partnership between both countries was first launched last year and gives Brazil more clout in Latin America.

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The partnership covers the production of 50 helicopters, four conventional submarines and the development of the first Brazilian nuclear submarine, even though the contract explicitly excludes the transfer of French nuclear know-how.

There are also investments planned in industrial and harbour facilities. The project will cost the Brazilian government around 8.6 billion euros ($12.4 billion) and will be financed by a consortium made up of six European banks.

The military cooperation includes the purchase of 36 French fighter planes, a deal that will give Brazil one of the most advanced combat aircraft in Latin America.

A valuable investment?

However, German defence experts are sceptical about the military cooperation. They believe the billion-euro treaty, which will boost Brazil's military capacity, could trigger an arms race on the continent, without bringing the advantages, which the Brazilian government expects.

"Right now it is hard to say whether this project will be successful indeed from a technological perspective and whether it will give Brazil military advantages compared to other countries. An ambitious project like this can also turn out to be a failure," says Ottfried Nassauer, who is the head of the Berlin Information Center for Transatlantic Security.

According to Nassauer the cooperation with France should not cause any concern for the neighboring countries, as the understanding among the governments on the continent is good. But he thinks that the money could be invested better elsewhere.

"The question which Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's government should ask is whether the investments are not too high and whether it is worth it, to spend such large amounts of money for its own political and military status. There are many other social and economical fields, where the same kind of money most likely would create many more jobs and possibly lead to more transfer of technology. Military technology always costs more than civil technology," says Nassauer.

Regional predominance

Sarkozy, left, shaking hands with Lula
The bilateral deal could anger some of Brazil's regional neighborsImage: AP

Political scientist Daniel Flemes, who is an expert for defence politics with the German Institute of Global and Area Studies in Hamburg, fears that the cooperation with France can cause problems for the cooperation with Latin American neighbors and lead to a regional arms race. "The fact that Brazil gains technological know-how out of partnerships outside of Latin America, could trigger an arms race on the continent and hinder defence cooperation with the neighbouring countries," Flemes says.

He believes that Brazil not only wants to secure its regional predominance with the contract, but is also striving to become a super power."The country is trying to stabilise its regional predominance, not only on an economical and political, but on a military level as well. Simultaneously it wishes to expand its influence as an emerging country internationally," Flemes says.

But he also thinks Brazil's ambitions are a natural development, as some of its neighbors are expanding their military strength as well. "Some neighboring countries are modernising their military infrastructure. Venezuela spent four billion euros in the last four or five years on arms imports from Russia. Also Chile has increased its defence budget over the past years. So Brazil doesn't stand alone with its military investments. Over the past five years time the total amount of defence expenditure in South America has more than doubled," say Flemes.

Author: Márcio Damasceno (pvh)
Editor: Rob Mudge

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