This presentation is based on the author's research in the Southern Cone, conducted in the first half of 1999. It is a part of a larger work on Mercosur, in which the military aspect is but one of the issues under consideration. The part on national perspectives presented in this paper is a combined result of interviews the author conducted in South America with diplomatic and military officials of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
At the doorstep of the XXI century the world's tendencies towards globalization, democratization, standardization and unification in the realms of economics, politics, social and educational systems and even military establishments become stronger and firmer. As time passes by, we realize that our planet is a very small place, especially in the light of modern technological developments and innovations. The old interstate competition seems to be becoming a historical artifact, though it does not cease to exist, even in its most primitive forms, such as the military arms race or even war. With the advent of new human generations it becomes clear that we are all interdependent and intertwined and the only way for us to survive the upcoming XXI century is to learn to co-exist and co-operate. With the end of the Cold War, and thus the end of the bipolar world system, the world is entering a new order, which has not quite emerged as of yet, but which most probably will lean towards a multipolar scheme, with regional powers dominating their influence zones (which hopefully will not take a form of militarily or otherwise imposed domination, but rather an agreed upon co-existence of regional powers and their peripheries).
Nevertheless, there still exists a serious dose of skepticism about the possibility of peaceful co-existence of so many countries and nations with so many and so distinct cultures, traditions, mentalities, religions and ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, there are some historical factors coming into play, which limit our flexibility capabilities, especially as far as the adaptation to the new international reality is concerned. We tend to look into the past and we forget about the future. We try to find the guilty ones of our previous misfortunes, while forgetting about seeking new solutions for the upcoming years and decades. At the same time when Europe talks about ever-increasing unification, there are hundreds of thousands of people forced out of their homes and otherwise persecuted and tortured. Thousands of people are dying in perpetual border and ethnic conflicts in Africa while the Asian nuclear powers of India and Pakistan shock the world with their border conflict over Kashmir, which may easily transform itself into a full-scale war as a result of which the possibility of using nuclear weapons by either of the sides becomes very real.
Latin America, on the other hand, is presently at the peak of its democratic history, since most of the countries of that region enjoy democratically elected governments and free-trade economies. Moreover, the integration processes are quite advanced in several parts of that region, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the Southern Common Market, usually known as Mercosur.
World politicians and economists realize that the best results may be achieved by promoting wider and deeper international cooperation and strengthening the economic and political ties among countries. The European Union is on its way towards the formation of an entity characterized by full political, economic, and military unification. Mercosur tends towards similar developments and regional solutions and the June 1999 presidential summit in Rio de Janeiro, which brought together leaders of 48 European and Latin American countries, forecasted further developments towards the creation of a huge free trade area of Europe and Latin America. …