The South American Leadership Vacuum

For various reasons, including the lack of a credible capacity, Russian naval posturing in the Atlantic and Caribbean doesn’t pose a serious threat to the U.S. It does, however, disturb South America’s emerging balance of power, specifically by reinforcing the threat that Venezuela poses to Brazil’s regional influence. (See Marcelo Ballvé’s WPR piece.) So it’s not really a surprise that Brazil would seek to shore up its naval deterrent capacity by adding five submarines — four diesel-powered and one nuclear-powered — to its already existing fleet. It is, though, surprising that it would turn to France to partner in the project. As Ballvé’s piece pointed out, Brazil is in many ways stepping into the vacuum left by American disengagement to assert its leadership in regional affairs. It will be interesting to watch to what degree Europe becomes its partner of choice in that effort.