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Trump, Bolsonaro and Brazil in the service of US imperialism

Written by: Nick on


(Contributed)          26 March 2019
 
The recent high-level diplomatic meeting with US president Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart, president Jair Bolsonaro, was primarily concerned with defence and security issues.
 
It should come as no surprise the US imperialists have sought to strengthen links with Brazil, a major player in Latin America, following the left-ward drift of many countries in recent decades. Far-right president Bolsonaro has also shown himself only too willing to openly identify with the US.
 
The talks, however, rested in two important considerations:
     the defence and security of the South Atlantic;
     the resurgence of far-right nationalist popularism.

In March, incoming Brazilian president Bolsonaro made his first foreign visit overseas to the US for 'security talks at the White House' with US president Trump. (1) Bolsonaro was accompanied by a delegation composed of six ministers. Official diplomatic media releases noted that the two countries were 'working in concert on a number of regional issues'. (2) The notion of working in 'concert' between the two countries has an interesting history, both official and unofficial. The latter including several shades of grey, with the military planning involved for defence and security considerations.
 
It is not particularly difficult to establish what the US regards as important regional issues.

In recent decades a significant number of governments have been elected across Central and Latin American on anti-US sentiments. This development, following on from the previous US presidential Bush administration, was in opposition to attempts by Washington to impose regional trade agreement upon the entire southern half of the Americas. Needless to say, the grandiose plan failed, backfiring in a spectacular manner. The US has sought for over two decades to regain their domination.
 
With Bolsonaro now at the helm in Brazil, the US imperialists have seized upon an opportunity in their favour. The Trump administration clearly intends to exploit favourable relations with Brazil.
 
Brazil is a major player in Latin America having the largest economy in the southern half of the Americas: its geographical size, large manufacturing base, strong financial and banking system together with a big merchant fleet for imports and exports, enhances its diplomatic standing. Its links with Portugal as a former colonial power, likewise, have historically provided Brazil with strong links to a major player in NATO, the Atlantic and Europe; further links with other former Portuguese colonies in Africa, similarly, have seen Brazil undertake major diplomatic initiatives with Africa countries.
 
The role of Brazil, therefore, has been very important for US military planning in the South Atlantic, with some interesting historical points of reference.
 
The previous Reagan administration in Washington during the 1980s established high-level diplomatic initiatives for a South Atlantic Treaty Organisation (SATO), resting upon earlier military planning and security considerations. (3)  
   
In 1972, for example, Brazilian vice-admiral Hilton Berutti Augusto Moreira, was an advocate of initiatives:
   
          to provide Brazil with adequate maritime power and to take maximum advantage
          of the country's geo-strategic position are essential decisions for the attainment
          of the national objective of rapid development and for support for a high degree
          of effective national security. (4)  
 
In the early 1980s a statement from Thomas Enders, Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, noted US-led defence of the South Atlantic was 'one of the three main objectives of the US in Latin America', primarily due to the centrality of Brazil for US foreign policy. (5)
Developments, elsewhere, however, had far-reaching implications for US foreign policy with Latin American countries including Brazil.
 
Behind the foreign policy, considerations which included the official opening in March 1973, of the Silvermine Naval Communication Centre, near Cape Town, South Africa, were important. Silvermine had the role of monitoring shipping and air traffic from North Africa to Antarctica, westwards to Latin America and eastwards across the Indian Ocean to similar US-based facilities on Diego Garcia. The extended range eastwards was then linked to Pine Gap, Central Australia. (6)
 
The US-led coverage of both the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean formed the Southern Ocean Defence Plan (SODP), an ambitious military plan to provide the US with hegemonic advantage over adversaries. (7) It is particularly interesting to note initiatives to establish the SATO section of the SODP also lay in US assessments that NATO was a 'leaky sieve'. (8) The US wanted to create an alternative to NATO, to serve 'US interests'.  
 
The real reason for the SATO initiatives, therefore, lay in US attempts to support Apartheid South Africa through covert means. The US, with its own large black population, needed to distance itself from the problem of racialism in South Africa and not have to deal with European countries who complicated the matter for Washington and the Pentagon.
 
Countries in Europe which were NATO members were regarded by the US as not being completely supportive of US-led military planning. Many of them openly backed sanctions against South Africa, including UN Security Council Resolution 418, which imposed a mandatory arms embargo upon the Apartheid State in November, 1977. Numerous M.P.s across Europe supported the Anti-Apartheid Movement. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Jamaica, May 1975, actually voted to support Cuba and national liberation movements in Southern Africa. (9) 
 
The legacy has continued, with the US continually questioning traditional allies about their support; many of the considerations of the Reagan administration are now being re-floated in the White House. While decades have slipped past, the US far-right still retain their positions in the Pentagon as shadowy figures within the corridors of power. They were quick to latch onto Trump, to serve their agendas.
 
Trump, for example, 'has been unstinting in his criticism of NATO's European members, accusing them of free-loading on the protection offered by the US military'. (10) Most NATO European member countries also have strong trade links with China, which have been frowned upon by the Trump administration, including a number which have not supported the US demand to ban Huawei from their telecommunications networks. The European tour by China's President Xi Jinping, has further increased diplomatic tensions with the US and Europe. While Portugal and Greece both signed for the China-led Belt and Road Initiative last year, Italy is now following suit, with France also expected to sign several co-operation agreements. (11)
 
While the SATO military plan eventually unfolded in fiasco with the Malvinas War which pitched Argentina against the UK in 1982, other considerations included the re-interpretation of the original NATO Charter to include Latin American countries as members or supporters, if required. US Admiral Harry Train, from the period, noted 'there is no NATO border. There never was the slightest thought in mind of the drafters of the NATO Charter that Article 6 should prevent collective planning, manoeuvres or operations south of the Tropic of Cancer'. (12)
 
The recent high-level diplomatic meetings between the US and Brazil were primarily concerned with two areas of security: the present crisis in Venezuela, and the 'pushing back against growing Chinese economic influence across Latin America'. (13) The chosen method of operation has drawn upon US-led defence and security initiatives which included the proposed SATO.
 
It was furthermore noted by an unnamed US official that the talks were 'a new North-South axis'. (14) And the stated outcome, therefore, was an invitation by the US for Brazil to be considered a possible member of NATO.
 
Against the backcloth of the US-Brazil diplomacy, however, lie far more insidious considerations including the resurgence of the far-right.
President Bolsonaro has been openly described as a far-right figure, with former paratrooper military credentials. It is also interesting to note he included his son, Eduardo, who is also an M.P. in his delegation. Eduardo Bolsonaro is closely linked to the far-right Brussels-based political grouping usually referred to as The Movement. (15) The organisation, established by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, has the stated aim 'to promote right wing nationalistic values and tactics', with Europe as a main theatre of operations. (16)
 
Involvement of the Bolsonaro family with The Movement reveals how their Brazilian connections have become useful intelligence assets for the Trump administration and the nefarious agendas of some of those closely associated with the White House and Pentagon.
Two related matters, therefore, arise.
 
Firstly, a significant number of the NATO member countries have far-right wing political movements, in some cases with ruling government experience.
 
Secondly, the new Brazilian government of President Bolsonaro will be undertaking a second high-level diplomatic meeting with Israel in late March. It should be no surprise: many far-right political movements now openly support Israel. Decision-makers in Tel Aviv are only too pleased to accommodate Christian-Zionists, who serve their purpose. In Australia, for example, far-right political figures including Senator Fraser Anning have actually been responsible for lobbying support for Israel. (17)
 
With both considerations, Brazilian involvement with the US and NATO will strengthen the hand of the far-right in formal political and military bodies in Europe and elsewhere.
 
We should be on our guard!
 
We need an independent foreign policy!

1.     Trump floats idea of Brazil joining European alliance, Australian, 21 March 2019.
2.     Brazil's Trump to meet the real thing, Australian, 19 March 2019.
3.     The politics of South Atlantic security: a survey of proposals for a South Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Andrew Hurrell, International Affairs, February/1983 – 0020-5850-0179, pp. 179-93; and, The military pact project in the South Atlantic – Pretoria opts for Latin America, Le Monde Diplomatique, March 1977; and, United States and South America, The reactions of Brazil, Argentina and Chile, El Universal (Caracas), 8 June 1981.
4.      The politics of South Atlantic security, ibid., page 185.
5.     El Universal (Caracas), op.cit., 8 June 1981.
6.     Silvermine Communications Centre, Signals Units of the South African Corps of Signals and related services, Walter Volker, (Pretoria, 2010), page 609; and, UK decision to leave Persian Gulf – implications, Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1976; and,      Maritime Operational and Communication Hq., The Star (South Africa), 10 March 1973; and, Security in the Mountain, The Star (South Africa), 17 March 1973.
7.     New role seen for SA navy, The Star (South Africa), 4 October 1969; and, Not in Europe Alone, John Biggs-Davidson M.P., Brassey's Annual – Defence and the Armed Forces, (London, 1972), pp. 78-87.
8.     Veil – The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-87, Bob Woodward, (London, 1987), page 212.
9.     Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Kingstown, Jamaica – 29 April – 6 May 1975, Final Communique, Section 16 The Caribbean, page 4, Section 17-26 Southern Africa, pp. 4-5.
10.   Australian, op.cit., 21 March 2019.    
11.   Xi starts European tour to sell Belt and Road in a house divided, Australian, 22 March 2019.
12.   The politics of the South Atlantic, op.cit., footnote 72, page 193.
13.   Australian, op.cit., 21 March 2019.
14.   Ibid.
15.   Australian, op.cit., 19 March 2019.
16.   Ibid.
17.   Anning is no Nazi or anti-Semite: senator, Australian, 9 January 2019.

 

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