Despite its Atlantic seaboard, Brazilís future ambitions set sights into the Indo-Pacific. As part of its grander geostrategic ambitions, Brazil aims to expand its strategic reach in the Indo-Pacific region. Moving from a regional power in South America to a global player will entail Brasilia extending its influence across the Pacific to the west coast of Africa and eventually around to the wider Indo-Pacific region.
grand strategic vision has accelerated under the current Brazailian leadership.
being a rising star in the developing world, Brazil has been mired in severe
recession and political turmoil since 2015. The 2018 presidential election was
the country’s most polarized and divisive in modern history. President Jair
Messias Bolsonaro took office on January 1, 2019 following the bitterly contested
election and it’s expected that Brazil will adopt a tough posture when it comes
establishing its strategic priorities.
has a slightly different position on what constitutes threats to the country’s
national security. Although Brazil has one of the largest and most
sophisticated of the Latin American militaries, its armed forces lack combat
experience because of an absence of large-scale regional conflict in South
America in recent decades.
primary threats do not come from the sea, but from land, as Brazil shares its
borders with 10 countries, some of which have histories of rebel insurgencies.
This aspect influences the country’s strategic culture and directs the
composition of its armed forces.
the above traditional continental geopolitical focus within the Brazilian
security establishment, it’s expected that in the years to come the South
American country will morph from a nervous Middle Power to a Great Power in the
Western Hemisphere. This transition will be reflected in part via the
geopolitical construct that is the Indo-Pacific.
pursuit of its strategic objectives, Brazil has begun shifting its strategic
priorities toward maritime and air force projection, while maintaining a
dominant land-based component.
the Brazil Armed Forces need modernization. In the past, its military primarily
had an internal defense focus despite a transition to democracy, and, as
mentioned above, it lacks direct conflict experience.
is ruled by well entrenched post-authoritarian regimes that combine electoral
politics with commodity exports as the basis for national growth. Nearly 30
years after the end of its military dictatorship, Brazil is clearly a maturing,
political democracy. Its grand strategy going forward will combine, to a
certain extent, foreign and defense policies.
the presidency of Dilma Rousseff from 2011 to her 2016 impeachment, Brazil
began to shift its strategic focus in earnest to the Indo-Pacific. But it was
during the presidency of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, from 2003 to 2010, that
Brazil’s interest in Asia, and in particular the Indian Ocean, accelerated.
present grand strategic vision is aided by the rise of Asia and Africa and the
breaking down of 20th century mental maps that emerged between different
sub-regions in the Indo-Paciic, stretch from Africa to the western Pacific.
Brazil will first seek to expand its influence in Africa and if possible, into
meantime, Brasilia has engaged in important interactions with major Asian
powers. In an effort to complement its strategic orientation and goals, Brazil
has flirted with China on a long-imagined railway project that envisions
railways connecting Brazil’s Atlantic coast across the Andes — the world’s
longest continental mountain range — to ports on the Pacific.
project would allow ships from China and other countries to dock in Peru and load
cargo that had been sent from Brazil by rail. Commodities from China and other
countries could also take the shortcut rail route, instead of passing through
the Panama Canal to the Atlantic Ocean and sailing far to the south to reach
ports in South America.
project will create extensive railway infrastructure to link the Pacific and
Atlantic oceans, from the Ilo port in Peru to Sao Paulo, Brazil. The project
might be linked into China’s larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to which
Chile and Peru have signed on and other countries have expressed support for.
reach in the Indo-Pacific, especially via Africa, will be facilitated by its
Portuguese connections and language. Portuguese-speaking countries such as
Angola, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique will help
Brazil’s military, economic and political expansion in Africa, and Timor-Leste
in Asia presents a further opportunity.
expansion in Africa will be facilitated by the South American School of Defense
(ESUDE in Portuguese), headquartered in Quito, Ecuador. And Brazil’s Navy gives
assistance to the African Union and cooperates with countries in Africa such as
Cape Verde and Namibia as a part of its strategic cooperation with those
countries and others.
the states positioned along the south Atlantic seaboard, Brazil possesses the
longest coastline (7,491 km) which may help it project its maritime power. An
essential element buttressing it’s maritime power is Brazil’s continental
power, giving it strategic depth much like the United States.
Brazil having a green-water navy — one focused on the country’s littoral waters
and immediate ocean region — it’s expected that its maritime capability will be
facilitated through sea-control and sea-denial strategies befitting a
blue-water navy in the upcoming years.
will make hefty short and medium term investments in its deterrence capacity
via the modernization of its military forces, and specially programs to monitor
land borders, military transport and fighter aviation as well as an urgent
retrofitting of the country’s navy.
economic chaos in the 1990s, the Brazilian Navy could not expand its strategic
presence despite help from Germany for its submarine development program. But a
paradigm shift in Brazil’s fleet program began in 2008 when France and Brazil
decided to adopt a strategic capability plan to boost the latter’s maritime
strategic alliance between Brazil and France concluded in 2008 envisaged a
project to build five new submarines. The contours of the agreement were
questioned immediately, focusing on whether the project involved construction
of a nuclear submarine as well. Brazil is expected to have a nuclear submarine
by 2029. Like Australia, Brazil seeks to tap into France’s expertise in
developing its submarine force structure.
Scorpène-class Riachuelo, the first of four conventional submarines from the
Submarine Development Program (PROSUB, in Portuguese), was launched on December
14, 2018 and and began sea trials in September 2019. Interestingly, Brazil’s
submarine development program has a had bipartisan support. The Riachuelo will
be incorporated into the country’s Submarine Force, under the Brazilian Navy
submarine was constructed as a public-private partnership between Brazil and
France. Interestingly, the partnership stipulates that the French will not only
advise Brazilians on the construction of the submarines but also help with
another aspect of projecting maritime power, Brazil will phase out its current
aircraft carrier Sao Paulo in the upcoming years. When the United States
resurrected its Fourth Fleet in 2008, then-President da Silva suggested that
the re-establishment of the Latin America-focused fleet indicated U.S. interest
in Brazil’s oil reserves. The submarine development program accelerated in this
is supported by a sophisticated naval base in Itaguaí city, about 70 km from
Rio de Janeiro, which contains the required infrastructure to operate and
maintain both conventional and nuclear submarine models.
from the technology transfers, France will train Brazilian personnel in
submarine planning and construction.
Nuclear Program at the Brazilian Navy’s Technological Center in Sao Paulo
develops all of PROSUB’s nuclear technology. To date, only six countries in the
world can build and operate nuclear-powered submarines and a handful have
development programs like Brazil.
Brazil further invests in developing a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, it’s
likely to take an opposite strategic course from China and Russia, which have
both invested to a certain extent in so-called bastion maritime strategies when
it comes to nuclear submarines. In setting its sights on moving beyond the south
Atlantic and into the Indian Ocean, Brazil’s strategy will chart a different
an effort to develop its maritime capability, Brazil might look for active
participation in the Pacific Alliance which includes Columbia, Chile, Mexico,
and Peru as full members.
Chile, Mexico, and Peru regularly participate in the RIMPAC naval exercise and
cooperate with the U.S. Southern Command.
Pacific Alliance has a handful of candidates, associates, and 55 observer
nations. As of summer 2018, Costa Rica and Panama were candidates and several
other states — Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea — are
associates or potential candidates. India is an observer state, along with
countries as is China, Indonesia, the UK and others across the world.
could seek to join as at least an observer nation.
Pacific Alliance has a combined population of 225 million and accounts for 38
percent of the region’s foreign direct investment. The Pacific Alliance
cooperates with Mercosur — the regional trade block linking Argentina, Brazil,
Paraguay, and Uruguay.
ahead, as Brazil’s economic clout and geopolitical position grow, it’s expected
to expand strategically toward Africa and into the wider Indo-Pacific. These
ambitions are underscored by an evolving maritime strategy and naval
modernization plans and could be supplemented by more active participation in
region structures like Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance.
Chandramohan is a Visiting Fellow with Future Directions International.