Chile and Argentina: From Measures of Trust to Military Integration

Article excerpt

This essay is adapted from the author's thesis on Chilean-Argentine integration, "Is it Time to Create Permanent Combined Military, Units?" written as part of his masters program in political science at Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. It was translated by Military Review.

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IN THE 21ST CENTURY, Chile and Argentina are undergoing a complex and exciting period as they strengthen their relationship and collaborate on political, economic, security, and military issues. Bilateral relations are in excellent condition.

This has not always been the case. When the two nations declared their independence from Spain in the early 1800s, they both claimed the totality of Patagonia. (1) Although efforts were made to settle the border dispute during the subsequent years, it was not until the Beagle Canal conflict in 1984 that negotiations finally resolved the problem and Chile and Argentina signed the Tratado de Paz y Armistad, or Peace and Friendship Treaty. (2) There were some difficult times in the preceding years, but both governments made it a priority to improve relations, particularly those regarding political and economic issues.

More recently, bilateral relations in the area of security and defense have improved; in fact, Chile and Argentina have embarked on an effort to integrate their security policies and forces. A brief review of the integration process carried out over the last 20 years demonstrates that their relationship is transitioning from mistrust to cooperation in the realm of security and defense. (3) Is it possible that Chile and Argentina have improved their relations to the point that they could create a permanent combined military unit?

The Integration Process

Chile and Argentina's agreement on the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1984 was the turning point in their troubled relationship. The treaty resolved the long-standing conflict over possession of three islands south of Tierra del Fuego and navigational routes in the Straits of Magellan and Beagle Channel. Two commissions were established as a result of the treaty. The first was the Argentina. Chile Permanent Conciliation Commission, which was set up to arbitrate disputes, and the second was the 1985 Binational Commission on Economic Cooperation and Physical Integration, intended to encourage economic growth. The latter called for cooperative development and binational use of free ports and navigational zones, land transportation systems, air navigational routes, electrical interconnections, telecommunications systems, and the like. (4)

Although the Peace and Friendship treaty established the foundation for cooperation and integration, several border disputes remained an issue, and mistrust between the two nations in the political, economic, and military realms persisted for several years. Despite these difficulties, an evolution was taking place within the Chilean-Argentine bilateral sphere, as well as within the multilateral framework processes in the Southern Cone and Latin America as a whole.

Developing a Bilateral Agenda

In the 1990s, relations improved dramatically between the two nations. With the end of the cold war, globalization and integration became the pre-dominant concepts in relations among countries and blocs of countries. This impetus reinserted Chile and Argentina into the international community as both nations' newly elected democratic governments changed their foreign policy to reflect a greater desire to cooperate with one another and with their neighbors. (5)

On 2 August 1991, Presidents Patricio Aylwin (Chile) and Carlos Menem (Argentina) signed the "Presidential Declaration on the Border Between the Republic of Chile and the Republic of Argentina," definitively settling 22 border disputes between the two countries. Shortly thereafter, disputes over the Laguna del Desierto and the Southern Patagonia Ice Field were also resolved. …