Tuesday, 20 August 2019
Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
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South America

South American spotlight : Brazil and Argentina

While Argentina's economy may be self-destructing, its neighbor and rival Brazil is on the rise. Brazil sees itself as the natural leader of South America -- it borders 10 countries, dominates the Atlantic coastline in the region, has an enormous landmass and population, a rising middle class, and a strong and diversified economy. Brazil's greatest challenge is in developing and connecting its rural interior with the cosmopolitan coast. It has been a long and hard process. But Brazil has been stable enough to make the necessary investments to support its industrial base and avoid falling into a resource-extractive economic pit like many of its South American neighbors. This will become especially important as Brazil prepares to bring its massive pre-salt deepwater offshore oil reserves online. Brazil now has the capacity to reach abroad and promote itself as both a regional leader and major global player a geopolitical reality that will be put on display when Brazil hosts the next World Cup in 2014.

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The U K Defence Forum is publishing a political overview of Colombia by Research Associate Adam Dempsey on its website (www.ukdf.org.uk) to describe the context of the October 2009 agreement between Colombia and the USA on seven bases for US forces.In its introduction it says:

Despite being one of the oldest democracies in the world, Colombia's post-independence history has been punctuated by prolonged periods of political violence. With each instance of political unrest foundations were laid within Colombia for further internal struggles. Yet with Colombia's changing importance to global politics and economics the dynamics of political conflict have also been subject to change.

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The U K Defence Forum has just published a study by Adam Dempsey on the geopolitical situation in Venezuela. (www.ukdf.org.uk - in members' area password protected)

Here's the introduction.

A corrupt and discredited political system provided ample opportunities for Hugo Chavez's spectacular rise to power in Venezuela. With a populist message promoting popular democratic participation Chavez intends to redistribute Venezuela's oil wealth to poorer sections of society. In doing so, Chavez envisions the development of communal power in determining public policy.

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In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, Niall Ferguson, Lawrence A Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University and the author of "War of the World" and "The scent of money" made the following predictions:

Just as the Great Depression led to global political crises, so could the latest financial crisis. He argues that three factors made for lethal organised violence in the last century: ethnic disintegration; empires in decline: and economic volatility.

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By Adam Dempsey, Research Associate in Residence, UK Defence Forum

Russia's search an alternative buyer for S-300 air-defence missile batteries originally earmarked for Iran appears to have been hastily resolved. On 18th October Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez announced to journalists in Kiev, Ukraine, that his country intends to purchase five S-300s. The deal is expected to cost Venezuela $800 million. Russia's compliance with United Nations Resolution 1929 vindicates international consensus that Iran would use the S-300s to protect nuclear facilities. As it is highly unlikely that Venezuela has a similar nuclear programme the sale of the S-300s to Caracas should be comparatively easy. Yet why would Venezuela need to make such a purchase?

An overview of the S-300 suggests that Venezuela will be purchasing one of the most formidable air-defence systems currently available. The S-300 is capable of engaging six incoming targets simultaneously at ranges of up to 300km. According to the Federation of American Scientists the S-300 is also able to counter intensive air raids at low-to-high altitudes. The system can also be used to target low altitude objects such as cruise missiles and possibly to intercept strategic ballistic missiles.

Should Iran have completed the purchase of the S-300s the dynamics of the Middle East security environment would also have changed. As Iran's outdated air defences remain in place both the United States and Israel can retain the option of a pre-emptive strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities. Whilst the deployment of S-300s would do little to deter a larger-scale American bombardment it is likely that Tel Aviv would reassess its options. Yet this makes Chavez's decision to purchase the S-300s all the more mystifying.

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