Last week’s inaugural U.S.-Brazilian Defense Cooperation Dialogue was the latest example of the Obama administration’s efforts to enhance defense cooperation with Brazil. Though improving broader relations with Brazil has been a priority for the Obama administration, the U.S. emphasis on bilateral defense ties should also be seen as part of Washington’s ongoing effort to get Brazil to increase its global security profile as the U.S. focuses more of its strategic attention and shrinking defense resources on the Western Pacific.
Even before announcing the U.S. pivot to Asia last fall, the Obama administration had actively pursued expanded security ties with Brazil. The two countries signed a defense cooperation agreement in April 2010 and another agreement the following November to facilitate information-sharing. Both agreements have already resulted in greater military-to-military cooperation, at times in new domains. Although the U.S.-Brazilian navies have a long history of cooperation, most recently jointly participating in a maritime security exercise near Africa in February, cooperation between their air forces is a relatively new phenomenon. In 2010, the U.S. Air Force participated in Brazil’s annual Cruzex multinational air exercise for the first time. Next year, Brazil will reciprocate by joining the annual multilateral Red Flag exercise in Nevada.
Since the Asia pivot, however, the Obama administration’s efforts have taken on a greater urgency. The White House dispatched Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to Brasilia last March to further expand military-to-military ties. It has also been urging Congress to loosen restrictions on technology transfers to Brazil. The bilateral Defense Cooperation Dialogue was subsequently publicly unveiled during Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s trip to Washington last month. The first meeting of the new initiative took place April 24, during the Brazilian leg of U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s weeklong trip to Latin America.