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Géographie politique et géopolitique brésilienne au XXI siècle

The Brazilian Geopolitics and its Influence on National Strategic Thinking

La géopolitique brésilienne et son influence sur la pensée stratégique nationale
Wanderley Messias da Costa
Cet article est une traduction de :
A Geopolítica brasileira e sua influência no pensamento estratégico nacional


Ce texte examine l’évolution de la pensée géopolitique brésilienne e de son influence directe ou indirecte sur les questions que nous appelons stratégiques pour le dévelopment du Brésil depuis les premières décennies du siècle dernier: souveraineté nationale, intégrité et cohésion territoriales, intégration nationale, rédution des desequilibres entre régions, occupation de l’Amazonie et la projection extérieure de la puissance nationale. En conséquence du nouveau cadre institutionnel et intellectuel en ce début des 1980 années, la géopolitique qui se developpe dans le pays a considérablement élargi la porte et l’approche de ses réflexions, dans pratiquement tous les domaines qui touchent aux thèmes de la stratégie et de la politique internationale. Ce texte traite aussi des principales défis stratégiques du Brésil contemporain: les politiques territoriales pour l’Amazonie et la projection du pays dans l’espace regional extérieure – Amérique du Sud et Atlantique du Sud. Un object de réflexion qui est bien ilustratif de la actuelle transition et les nouvelles approches de la géopolitique.

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1Geopolitics is a remarkable field of knowledge that flourished from the intersection of Geography and History, Political Science, strategy, security and national defense; its long and turbulent trajectory has been the expression of important transformations of the Modern State and international relations.

2Its rise and consolidation took place mainly during the strengthening of industrial capitalism and the intense expansion of the colonial empires. This can be illustrated by the classical theoretical concepts in its birth, spread in the world by the German School which appeared in the last quarter of the 19th century, and whose inspiration was strongly impregnated by the ideas of a State endowed with political and technical reasoning. Yet, with enough power reserves to be entitled to act in the political-territorial spheres as a national political superstructure, which centralizes and is primarily responsible for the mandatory tasks of providing the defense of sovereignty and promoting territorial unity.

3The approach of ideas and practices of geopoliticians as intellectuals, policy makers or governmental leaders, who, independently or at an engaged level – in research institutions and in the apparatus of states – have dedicated to it, reveal the nature and influence of this area of reflection and political action in the conduct of the internal and external territorial matters of states, as well as the relations of power among them in the various world orders since at least the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.

4By demonizing the risks, threats and attempts of fragmentation, at the same time in which reifies the scale, values, identity and national aspirations and its external projections of power, the classical geopolitical conception of State has stood the test of time. It is called the Ratzel’s conception of State, the one that hangs over individuals, groups and the society in general in an absolute and imperious way, dissolving in this omnipotent domain its sociocultural and political diversity, social segments, organizations and their specific and spatially located interests, the projects and conflicts among them, as well as the disputes amid historically built political autonomies and their successive central governments.

5This classical realistic conception deeply influenced the theories about the relationships established between politics and territory all along the 20th century, fomenting the appearance of schools as well as civil and military institutions, encompassing more than thirty developed and peripheral countries with democratic and authoritarian regimes. Sufficiently adjusted to the political pragmatism of states, it was taken to its ultimate consequences in these countries, once they obtained political legitimacy due to its presumed effectiveness in face of the threats to the territorial unity and to superior sovereign national interests.

6By counting on the relative distance, leniency or a usually passive expectation of national societies towards these questions which, in general were prone to delegate to the central power the virtual monopoly of foreign policy, along with the fact of getting very little involved with the routine political-territorial questions of their nation-states, except when undermined by the extreme situations of potential conflicts or wars.

7This type of traditional conception (and of political power exercise) of modern states, diversely from what many of its critics in the academic environment presume, despite its moral decay due to its explicit and turbulent application to German Nazism, and to numerous varieties of fascism and authoritarianism in peripheral countries in the following decades, has proven to be able to perpetuate in different sorts of institutional arrangements within, as well as outside the state orbit.

8This method of operating state policies is still very present, for instance, in intelligence strategic positions, planning and command of civil and military apparatus with varied cultural, ideological and political matrices. Therefore, it is common to try to clear or camouflage its originally centralizing and authoritarian content, and highlight its merely instrumental nature, i.e. a technical apparatus that can be operated effectively when it comes to territorial topics specifically speaking, in the scope of public policies in general.

The evolution of Brazilian geopolitics

9In this intellectual and political context, the article examines in a non-exhaustive way the evolution of the Brazilian geopolitical thinking and the trajectory of its direct or indirect influence in the so-called strategic matters, i.e., the Brazilian development as from the first decades of last century, which can be summarized in three main characteristics.

10Firstly, as pointed out in a study by Costa (1992), for half a century – from 1930 to 1980 – geopolitics in Brazil was a practically exclusive activity of the state apparatus, especially of the military. Thus, it mostly reflected the hegemonic thought that took root in the country in the beginning of the 1930s, noticeably directed to strengthen the centrality of the national state role in the projects concerning development in general. This explains why the geopolitical thinking organized in that context and unfolded in the following decades, was able to inspire the State policies for internal structuring and what is more, the national external projection in the fields of politics, strategy, economy and culture.

11Secondly, as the study mentioned above also points out, similarly to what occurred in Germany and South American countries, particularly Brazil, Argentina and Chile, the military institutional and intellectual hegemony over geopolitics greatly benefitted from the fact that it had to do with formulating a thought and defining the ways it would be applied to State policies, in contexts in which several of the leading roles were at the same time thinkers, policy makers and executors of these policies. As we know, it was geopolitics with roots in the academic thinking; it materialized, though, emphasizing its pragmatic and instrumental side to the limit, and was either applied by the strong influence of the military orbit over civil governments, or as result of the military regimes installed and ruling the different countries in the region after the 1960s.

  • 1 This form of public policy is somehow explicit or embedded in the national developing plans and thi (...)

12Thirdly, the continuous application of this pragmatic geopolitical thinking to a peripheral country with continental dimensions like Brazil, was a pillar of the national strategic planning in the state apparatus throughout the last sixty years, inspiring and often commanding the territorial policies1, i.e., the country organization and the regional, urban and environmental planning. In other words, the borders occupation and protection, the national integration policies, the construction of Brasilia, the defense and national integration policies for the Amazon and the South Atlantic, the allocation of resources in transport and energy infrastructure and the settlement programs. At last, the predominance of concepts and practices that constitute the main vectors of classical geopolitics inspired by Ratzel and Mackinder, and that can be summarized as a radicalization of the principles of territorial unity, the strengthening of the national power and its corresponding strategy aiming at external projection.

13The analysts who looked to Brazilian geopolitics evolution recognize that the author who best reflects the combination between thinking and practice of the so-called intellectual hegemony phase of military inspiration is Mário Travassos, an army officer who published a study that became the synthesis as well as the main reference of the classical Brazilian geopolitical thinking – Continental Projection of Brazil – Travassos (1947). This is when the strategy that would be applied in the policies of the country for South America in the following decades was first devised. The importance of two other military geopoliticians must be pointed out in this trajectory, both inspired by Travassos and who strongly influenced the national strategic planning, generals Golbery (1952) and Meira Mattos (1975).

14In Brazil, as it is usual in peripheral countries, the development of geopolitics took place on the fringe of the intellectual academic environment, although it must be acknowledged that this process of alienation of geography and other human sciences did not only occur due to deliberate action of the military circles. After all, the Brazilian geographers’ community, just like their European and North American colleagues, preferred to keep a “prudent distance” from geopolitics in face of what they considered ethical, moral and scientific deviations of this subject, mainly for its adventures and misfortunes during World War II.

15As a matter of fact, it was the typical behaviour of mutual exclusion. In Brazil, the rupture of this paradigm only occurred in the beginning of the 1980s and reflected deep changes in several spheres in the life of the nation. To begin with, the fast process of transformation of the country especially demonstrated through industrialization, urbanization and modernization in general, and gaining momentum in the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, important transformations also occurred in the population dynamics, social structure and above all in the process of democratization of the country, accentuated by the amnesty legislation for political prisoners, exileds and those with their political rights suspended in 1969; the right to free partisan organization; direct election for states governors in 1982; the Constituent Congress in 1988 and the first direct election for President of the Republic in 1989.

16It is in this new national context that the emergence of the first groups of intellectuals from the academic community starts to study geopolitics with an unequivocal civil thought, non-authoritarian and relatively autonomous regarding the State. The work by Miyamoto (1981), Becker (1982), Mello (1987) and Costa (1988) can well illustrate that transitional period. The most emblematic of the studies is Becker’s (1988), in which the author enlightens the rupture between the old and the new thinking in that field, and points out the ways for a theoretical reflection that implies, not only the broadening and diversity of the object and topics of study, but mainly theoretical approaches which practically reconcile Geopolitics, Human Geography and contemporary Political Science in new terms.

17At the same time, it is necessary to recognize the strong impact of the French intellectual events and the effervescence aroused in the Brazilian academic community by Yves Lacoste’s ideas and his group from University of Vincennes, especially among the ones interested in the relationships of Geography, ideology and Politics. The publication of his small and incendiary book “La géographie, ça sert d’abord a faire la guerre” and the first issue of the journal Hérodote in 1976, represented a landmark not only for the evolution of contemporary Geopolitics, but also for the direction of Brazilian Geography.

18The French influence in the renewal of Brazilian Geopolitics can also be credited to Raffestin’s (1980) work, who offers the first comprehensive critical analysis of the classical geopolitics with roots in Ratzel by means of Foucault’s ideas, and still points out that the political power and its territorialization are not movements exclusively of the state orbit. This theoretical and methodological innovation can also be observed in Giblin’s contributions (1986) when he draws the attention for the political and geopolitical nature of regions.

19It is also by mid 1980s that this environment marked by a combination of modernization and democratization of the country immensely encouraged the appearance of research and debates centers to discuss directly or indirectly geopolitical and strategic topics. These centers called think tanks in the United States are hybrid or semiautonomous nuclei of strategic thinking which assemble not only the policy makers of state origin (military and civil), as well as academic intellectuals and civil society representatives in general. At the same time, post-graduate courses in Geography and Political Science, as well as courses in International Relations multiplied in the country. Consequently, research and theoretical approach about geopolitics started in practically every area directly or indirectly interested in the themes of strategy, development and international politics.

20Undoubtedly, amid the changes of institutional nature in that period, the most remarkable was the impact occurred in the hard core of the State thinking and political-strategic management. It refers to the extinction of the military ministries on the threshold of the 2000s and the implementation of the Defense Ministry, which caused a great impact in the balance of the national political power and was exhaustively looked into in the excellent study by Oliveira (2005).

21As thoroughly demonstrated by future events, the change in the institutional configuration of security and national defense cannot be narrowed to a new merely bureaucratic arrangement. As a matter of fact, it expresses a new way to conceive, formulate and apply the national strategy in that area, deeply influencing the directions of geopolitics. Besides, what happened in Brazil reflected a general tendency for South America regarding the transition from military regimes’ political power to democratic governments. By mid 2000s, all South American countries had implemented their own Defense Ministries and doing so the matters of security and national defense completely yielded to the civil power.

22In Brazil, this new environment enhanced a strong opening of these themes for the academic environment, especially for the increasingly active think tanks, as previously mentioned. The most symbolic experience of this change was the process of elaboration of the National Defense Policy, approved in 2005.

23For the first time, intellectuals of different origins, political and ideological orientations, former representatives of the military stratum as well as diplomats took part in this kind of activity, having the latter an increasing prominent role in the formulation of policies regarding national defense and strategies for external projection.

24Something new in that scenario was, on the one hand the tendency of interaction between the nuclei of military thinking and the typically academic ones, expressed in the growing number of army officers enrolled in post-graduate courses in the universities and, on the other hand the increasing interest of these topics among university students. The best illustration of this trend may be the organization and immediate success of ABED (Brazilian Association for Defense Studies), a representative entity of the novel times in which Security and Defense topics arouse the interest of civil society more and more.

Brazil in South America

25In consequence of the new institutional and intellectual context, the scope and approach of the geopolitics presently developed in the country have greatly expanded. As an example, the most traditional of study objects for experts in the area, South America and its 12 countries, and their ongoing integration experience, as well as Brazil’s political, economic and geopolitical position in the region.

26For military thinkers of the classical period, South America was always considered as the region destined to a natural overflowing of Brazil’s power and influence. However, as from the 1980s, but mainly in the last fifteen years Brazilian concepts and policies regarding to South America shifted from a political strategic framework clearly focused on hegemony exercises and competition with neighbouring countries (especially Argentina), to another which expresses conceptions and practices of more regional cooperation. All in all, an important change that expresses the transition from situations dominated by rivalries and potential conflicts in search of regional hegemony, to the present circumstances in which there is the predominance of an open and accelerated process of integration in the economic and political fields, as well as in infrastructure and even security and defense.

27This tendency toward deepening the South American integration started in the 1980s with bilateral cooperation treaties with Argentina, which ultimately led to the formation of MERCOSUL in the following decade. During the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso this Regional Block consolidated, pushed by an increase in the commercial exchanges, the rejection to the North American proposal to set up ALCA and above all, for the geopolitical and territorial nature with the establishment of IIRSA – Initiative for the Integration of South American Infrastructure, in 2000.

28During of Lula’s government this process gained speed, mainly due to the efforts of Brazil and Argentina to institutionalize and broaden the integration proceedings; the most striking events were the inclusion of Venezuela (MERCOSUL articulates Prata countries with the Gran Amazonía ones), the formation of UNASUL (2008) and the South American Defense Council (2008). Besides, during his government the country also strongly invested in the process of economic integration, based on stimuli to direct productive investments of companies in several industrial sectors and of infrastructure, and more recently even in specialized services. In consequence, South American integration extrapolates the initial goals which inspired the formation of a regional block of conventional trade, and all this process has fomented numerous of studies on these themes in the past years.

29One of the most important studies on the transformation process in the region, and which expresses the growing symbiosis between military and civil circles on strategic and geopolitical topics is the collection organized by Oliveira (2008). Other studies also try to express the topic of regional integration from an explicitly geopolitical standpoint, as the one by Costa (2009). The collection by Girault (2009), elaborated from a seminar he organized in partnership with Programme Arcus and The Advanced Studies Institute of USP, in which some articles specifically dedicated to this theme can be found, also deserves to be mentioned.

30The article by Costa & Théry (2009) in the referred work is worth mentioning, in which the authors looks to the recent process of regional integration and identify what they consider to represent the activity of vectors or convergence and divergence forces in this scenario. The first case refers to the successful economic, political and strategic integration policies previously mentioned and that have their empiric expression in the deepening of bilateral and multilateral cooperation in all the spheres of neighbouring relationships. As examples, the increase of border interaction experiences, including institutional arrangements for shared management of urban areas and natural resources in common pool. Besides, the infrastructure projects for roads, railroads, oil and gas pipelines implementation and modernization are emblematic.

31Other studies have examined these recent changes in the aspects concerning international relations as the one by Saint-Pierre (2009), in which stand out the processes deriving from the deepening of the multilateral institutions arrangements, and the way through which the region tries to get organized to face new challenges posed by the international system. Regarding the South American regional politics, UNASUL’s successful performance deserves to be highlighted, in view of its position as an important forum of genuinely regional political composition involving every one of the 12 national governments. This effectiveness as a forum has been demonstrated especially in the solution of conflicts between partners, such as the one involving Colombia and Ecuador caused by a Colombian bombing to FARC headquarters in Ecuadorian territory.

32The eminently diplomatic and non-belligerent Brazilian governmental behavior, in face of the episode involving Bolivia’s government decision to hold possession of Petrobras installation in that country using military force can also be highlighted. In this aspect, UNASUL’s effort is worthy of notice, in especial Brazil’s and Argentina’s in order to reduce to a minimum the tensions between Colombia and Venezuela stemmed from, on the one hand, the solid alliance of the former with North Americans and their financial support to the notable increase in the country’s military power provided by Colombia Plan. On the other hand, the rivalry derives from the open hostility of Venezuelans (since Hugo Chaves ascended to power) toward the United States and due to that, toward their Colombian allies, what has been aggravated by their recent strategic proximity with Russia.

33Despite the predominant tendency for interaction and cooperation, there are studies which still point out the numerous examples of the persistent activity of vectors or forces prone to divergence that reflect in the present the revival of past circumstances of regional rivalries. Among others, there are the recurrent border conflicts aggravated by all sorts of illicit activities, particularly drug trafficking. Also, disputes of fiscal or customs nature which often come up as commercial barriers involving specific groups of products, or disagreements derived from the intensification of migratory flows, generally concerning the large contingent of Brazilians who settled down in Paraguay decades ago, and more recently in Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela and French Guiana.

34At present, the serious conflicts are the ones related to the presence of small rural producers in Paraguay (the so-called “brasiguaios”) and big soybeans producers on the Eastern part of Bolivia (Santa Cruz Province). However, there is consensus in opinion among specialists that the most important potential risk for the future of integration is the one stemmed from the deepening in the asymmetry among the countries in the region.

35If, in the beginning of the whole process the disproportion in the economies was evident, such as Brazil vis-a-vis Paraguay and Uruguay, with the accelerated growth in the Brazilian GDP in the last decade the situation of MERCOSUL is likely to become unbearable, unless specific policies to promote equality in the regional development are adopted, as the recent creation of the Structural Funds, traditional in the European Union and incorporated here under the name of Focem (Structural Convergence and Institutional Strengthening Fund for Mercosul).

36Still concerning the integration risk scenario, it is necessary to mention the persistence of tension or friction factors of specifically strategic-military nature. Except for cases of minor importance, such as the recurrent picture of old border conflicts between Peru and Ecuador, Venezuela and Guiana, Peru and Chile, or even the Bolivian tragedy as a landlocked nation, what is actually risky is the presence and the recent increase of North American military apparatus in Colombian territory (as previously mentioned), at first on the pretext to give support to this country to combat drug trafficking (Colombia Plan), representing indeed a foothold of the superpower in the region, though.

37It is known that the new Colombian military headquarters deployed with the support of the United States have aircraft with autonomy for up to six thousand kilometers flights, what evidences the fact that military operations are not restricted to Colombian territories dominated by drug trafficking and until recently by the FARC. All in all, this region represents the South American hot point, currently the major political-strategic and geopolitical friction, and this topic is surely a priority on the agenda of multilateral mutual consultation entities in the region.

Policies and strategies for the Amazon

38When National Defense Policy (NDP) and National Defense Strategy (NDS) are taken as the main references, it is necessary to highlight in these documents the three strategic priorities for the country, in related to its external projection.

39The first one is South America and how Brazil’s role in its process of regional integration is perceived. The second priority is the Amazon, considered the major national strategic vulnerability in the country. The third one is the South Atlantic or the Blue Amazon, the newest Brazilian jurisdictional territory (4.5 million km²), resulting from the successful application by the country of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provisions.

40Regarding to the Amazon, the region has been one of the dearest objects of concern and studies throughout the eighty years of the Brazilian geopolitical thinking. In fact, with its more than five million square kilometers, the most important river basin in the world and the biggest tropical biodiversity of the planet, as well as its over eight thousand kilometers of boundaries, in itself would deserve a strategy qualitative by any state of the international community. At the height of the military regime, as previously mentioned, the geopolitics for this region materialized mainly by means of the so-called National Integration Plan (1971).

41This Plan mainly focused on circulation, energy and telecommunications infrastructure investments, as well as the formation of development poles based on industrial and agroindustrial activities, besides programs of directed colonization. On the one hand, this strategy of occupation especially for the national sovereignty defense, crystallized in practice ideas expressed by the old military geopolitics, as previously mentioned, and on the other hand, inspired critical studies of the new geopolitics developed in the country as from mid 1980s.

42In this scenery of uncertainties on the future of the Amazon, Becker’s work (1982) highlights the lines of tension between the imperatives of sovereignty defense, with the occupation and integration at any cost on the one hand, and in reverse the consequences of this authoritarian and centralized pattern of application of territorial policies, and among these the land conflicts rising from the expansion of the agricultural frontier, expropriation and violence against traditional peoples, especially indigenous communities and aggressions toward the environment illustrated by the speed in the process of deforestation.

43What could be called as a second phase in the studies about the Amazon from a geopolitical perspective, was mostly inspired by the impressive influence of the international debate apropos the future of the region, in the perspective of environmental sustainability during Rio 92 Conference, besides the various impacts on the academic production and on territorial, and specifically, environmental policies. The Amazon Ecological-Economic Zoning Program, which fostered a great deal of research on the physical-biotic and social-economic aspects of the region, in addition to subsidize policies focusing the regional and environmental planning in the scope of the nine Amazonian states is worthy of praise.

44As from this Conference, the country has confronted an acute contradiction, which is marking the present and going to impact the Amazon future scenarios. On the one hand, there is a mix of various perceptions and scientific research results becoming stronger throughout the world, and which emphasize the impacts of this ecosystem in the functioning of the planet environment. On the other hand, there is an ongoing revaluation of natural resources (minerals, water resources, bioproducts, etc,.), and commodities in general in the international trade, something that imposes a complex and critical agenda to the country – governments and private entrepreneurs in general – that are compelled to react, both technically and politically to the external pressures on the region, as well as take fast and efficient actions concerning its present scenario and tendencies and of the development planning on new political, social, technological, economic and environmental bases.

45Other synthesis studies tried to explore the intertwinement of the environmental issue in the territorial policies for the Amazon, demonstrating this is a complex course, although the most suitable to approach the region from a contemporary standpoint that inspires the new Brazilian geopolitics. The study that best expresses this trend is the one by Mello-Théry (2006).

46From this point of view, one should also mention the initiative of the Strategic Studies Management Center (a governmental think tank), that deepened the studies sketched in the Sustainable Amazon Plan, resulting in a collection called A Project for 20th century Amazon, that tries to synthesize what a sustainable development project for the region should be, focusing on principles of protection and valuation of the social, cultural and environmental diversity. It is a conceptual and analytical attempt to rescue the imperative of Brazilian sovereignty over this region, at the same time that embodies the challenges of its decentralized and participatory management, grounded in international cooperation.

Brazil and its projection in the South Atlantic

47This is the most recent national strategic scenario, which the Brazilian geopolitical studies have been dedicated to, due to the fact that there is consolidation of a new geopolitical and geoeconomic scale - relatively amplified – for Brazil. It regards the valuation (or revaluation) of the Brazilian coast, Brazilian jurisdictional waters and, why not say it, the South Atlantic. This new strategic scenario of the country has been designed since mid 1990s by means of application of U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea principles, which allowed the country to establish its jurisdictional maritime waters, i.e., the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Platform. There is also an ongoing increase in oil and gas exploration in the immense offshore deposits of the so-called Pre-Salt fields, some of which are located in the limits of the expanded Brazilian maritime area.

48Thus, there is a non-traditional strategic scenario opening for the country, involving its potential influence beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the area extended by the Continental Platform (The Blue Amazon), followed by the South Atlantic Basin, including the countries on the Western Coast of Africa, Portuguese-speaking countries and especially South Africa, a partner in the BRICS. So, the most recent texts on the theme, as the one organized under the auspices of IPEA, have indicated that the challenge consists exactly in the capacity of the country to combine in the next years, on the one hand the skill to act in strategic-military deterrence to defend the sovereignty of this now expanded national territory and, on the other hand, the country’s increase in influence through deepening the ties of international cooperation in these regions.

49In our study on the theme, we pointed and enphasized the complexity and the challenges of the expansion of Brazilian regional surroundings toward the South Atlantic.

50An aspect to be highlighted in this new scenario, is the fact that the major businesses related to the exploration of oil and gas in the region have been a powerful vector of changes which affect the relative regional positions, the objectives and the options of national players – whether small and poor, medium-sized or great powers – in their political strategies of preferred or circumstantial alliances and even confrontations. Ultimately, what is important to keep in this process is the fact that nowadays the South Atlantic economy and politics have a new scale, move in a different way and this explains why it has become one of the most noticeable areas in the world geopolitics.

51This new dynamic of relations involves in the same scenario, the convergence and divergence of old and new strategic objectives of coastal states, and others out of the region, what has increased the potential of frictions in general, diplomatic conflicts and even armed confrontations. The presence of insular colonial possessions of a great power is per se a factor of instability, and this was the fuel of the military confrontation between Argentina and England for Falkland Islands’ domination in 1982. The conflict was triggered with the invasion of the Islands by Argentinean forces, followed by a British reaction, which dislocated to the theater of operations a powerful task force. After three months of battles, the conflict ended with Argentina’s defeat and its surrender, and England regaining possession of the islands.

52In this event, it is possible to observe the notable role of Ascension Island to guarantee logistics support to the British military operations in the region. It is located in the Northern portion of the South Atlantic, around two thousand kilometers from Recife and six thousand kilometers from Falkland Islands; since World War II, there is a North American base in operation on the island, as well as a strategic monitoring and electronic surveillance center for civil and military purposes. There is a close partnership between England and the United States that replicates in the South Atlantic the automatic alliance the two countries have kept for at least one century, and nowadays is illustrated by joint military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and on other military bases operated in consortium, such as their powerful joint naval aviation on Diego Garcia Island, in the Indian Ocean.

53At present, the most prominent military apparatus in the South Atlantic waters is the one installed by England on the Falkland Islands. According the International Institute of Strategic Studies, this country deployed huge military installation on the island, involving latest generation air and naval forces, such as combat and patrol vessels, bomber and transport aircraft, fighter aircraft, helicopters, and yet not officially admitted, a nuclear submarine patrolling the region. On top of this, British official documents, such as Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review, (2010) and The Strategic Defense and Security Review (2010), overtly highlight that one of the country’s strategic priorities concerning security, is to prevent and face risks and threats to overseas territories quickly and effectively, especially the South Atlantic Overseas Territories. Among these, keeping its sovereignty over Falkland Islands at any cost is especially noteworthy.

54This explains why Brazilian Geopolitics and Security & National Defense specialists and policy makers, have warned that the expansion of spaces under its sovereignty and the enlargement of the country’s areas of influence, in South America and in the last years toward the South Atlantic deep waters, demand that the country should be prepared to strengthen its diplomatic action to achieve the expanse and consolidation of its successful initiatives regarding international cooperation.

55In conclusion and from this point of view, the country should also, with identical determination and at the same time, make short and medium term hefty investments in its deterrence capacity, i.e., modernization of the military forces, and specially the programs to monitor the land borders, military transport and fighter aviation and the urgent retrofitting of the Navy. This is because the effort to keep the investments of the present program to update the Brazilian fleet is especially relevant and in this case, the strategic alliance between Brazil and France in 2008, which comprises the project to build five new submarines, including a nuclear-powered one.

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1 This form of public policy is somehow explicit or embedded in the national developing plans and this process, when it comes to the Brazilian experience was examined by Costa, W.M., The State and the territorial policies in Brazil. São Paulo, Contexto, 1988.

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Wanderley Messias da Costa, « The Brazilian Geopolitics and its Influence on National Strategic Thinking », L’Espace Politique [En ligne], 31 | 2017-1, mis en ligne le 04 avril 2017, consulté le 22 mai 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/espacepolitique.4117

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Wanderley Messias da Costa

Professor Titular
Department of Geography - University of São Paulo

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