Trust, Engagement, and Technology Transfer: Underpinnings for U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation

Article excerpt

On the eve of the January 1, 2011, inauguration of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the State Department noted that the United States "is committed to deepening our relationship on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues with Brazil's government and people." President Rousseff herself declared shortly thereafter, "We will preserve and deepen the relationship with the United States." During President Barack Obama's March 2011 visit to Brazil, both leaders cited "the progress achieved on defense issues in 2010" and stated their commitment to "follow up on the established dialogue in this area, primarily on new opportunities for cooperation." While these rhetorical commitments are important, will they lead to greater cooperation on defense issues and improve U.S.-Brazil ties?

The established dialogue on defense is part of a movement toward greater U.S.-Brazil defense cooperation. On April 12, 2010, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Brazil's Defense Minister Nelson Jobim initialed the first Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two nations in over 25 years. It endorsed multiple interactions already under way between both militaries, but it also broadened the scope of potential cooperation. The agreement endorsed cooperation related to defense technology including research and development (R&D), logistics support, technology security, military systems and equipment, acquisition of defense products and services, and the sharing of operational and defense technology experiences. The agreement also called for the "facilitation of commercial initiatives related to defense matters" and cooperation on "implementation and development of programs and projects on defense technology applications." In November 2010, Gates and Jobim signed a second accord, a General Security of Military Information Agreement, designed to facilitate the exchange of classified military information essential for commercial sales and operational cooperation.

These agreements reaffirm that the United States and Brazil have important common regional and global interests best served by sweeping aside past suspicions, smoothing strained relations, and nurturing consultation on security matters. Foreseeable strategic results of improved U.S.-Brazilian relations and heightened collaboration include the enhancement of Brazilian military capabilities, which are central to Brazil's ability to secure its borders and coastline and operate effectively in a dangerous world, and increased U.S. opportunities to collaborate with an important new global actor on a range of international security issues. Achieving robust defense cooperation, however, will take time and political will.

To make progress, each government must develop higher levels of mutual trust and confidence. A practical catalyst and test of U.S. commitment in the near term is Washington's willingness to transfer defense technology to Brasilia in support of its forward-looking 2008 National Defense Strategy. Brazilian and U.S. political and military leaders see long-term strategic and commercial benefits flowing from implementation of this defense plan.

U.S. Interests in Closer Defense Cooperation

For the United States, a stronger defense relationship could strengthen bilateral political ties and improve cooperation on multiple regional and global security issues. The U.S. National Security Strategy (May 2010) cited Brazil as one of the "Emerging Centers of Influence" and expressed a commitment to work together "to move beyond dated North-South divisions to pursue progress on bilateral, hemispheric, and global issues." (1) The scope of shared strategic interests in the hemisphere include peacefully managing challenges posed by national instabilities and local conflicts, democratic development, and the need to defeat transnational organized criminal networks. Looking globally, common interests include alternative energy development, trade, peacekeeping, cybersecurity, nuclear nonproliferation, international terrorism, narcotics-trafficking, the environment, and development in Africa. …