Why did Argentina choose Brazil and not Venezuela in the South American Defense Council negotiations?

International Relations scholars Nicolás Comini and Alejandro Frenkel, from the University of Buenos Aires and University of Salvador, published an article in the issue 1/2017 (Volume 60 – N. 1) of the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional analyzing Argentine foreign policy during the negotiations of the South American Defense Council’ constitutive statute (CDS) – UNASUR beyond Brazil: Argentina’s position in support of the South American Defense Council.

The authors provide a detailed explanation of the factors that conditioned the motivations, limitations, and scopes of the Argentine position. This stance supported “Brazilian style” institutional design of flexible cooperation instead the military-integration alliance, as Venezuela proposed. These factors are: 1) The differences in what each country understands by defense; 2) Argentina’s diversified ties and links at a global, hemispherical and regional level; and 3) the deep extra-regional dependence of the Argentine weapons system.

The creation and development of the South American Defense Council received major attention in recent studies of regionalism, foreign and security policies in Latin America. However, most of these studies have focused on the regional dynamics which led the genesis of CDS or in the Brazilian inspirations and goals during the process. Instead, this paper studies the variables which were behind the positions of the other “big” South American country: Argentina.

The concepts of defense and integration have a contested relation in the field of international relations. A common explanation of why the security issue is often absent in the regional organizations is associated with the reluctance of national actors to split sovereign power to multinational institutions. Some of the main IR theories support this view whereby national security is the most valuable asset for every State and, therefore, no one is ready to concede sovereignty on behalf of cooperation. In fact, as Comini and Frenkel assert in the conclusions, “the word ‘integration’ was not mentioned even once in the founding statute of the Defense Council”. Explaining this omission is more complex than a simple appeal to the “national interest”.

In order to argue that Argentina preferred a cooperation scheme rather than integration, the authors undertake a comparative analysis of the defense normative between the South American countries. As a result, they show that, on the one hand, some countries -like Venezuela- have a fuzzy distinction between defense and public security. On the other hand, there are some states like Argentina, which have a stringent separation between national defense –reserved to the Armed Forces- and homeland security –monopoly of the police and other security forces-.

A second complementary factor which explains the Argentine support for a more flexible and “free of ties” forum is the plurality of agreements and mechanisms in the field of defense in which Argentine State was immersed at the moment Brazil launched the CDS proposal. Examples of this “polygamous profile” –as the authors define these bilateral, regional, hemispherical and global commitments- are the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas or the global regimes, agreements, and conferences on arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation.

Finally, a third factor which cannot be overlooked in an attempt to understand the Argentine posture in the course of the CDS negotiations is the deep dependency of the military supply by extra-regional countries – most of them, major global powers-. For instance, in 2008 the Argentine war aircrafts and its components came mainly from French, American or British companies. “There is a worldwide oligopoly of inputs. Regarding air transportation, there are barely five producers in the world; not even the developed countries have their own plant”, says one of the government officials interviewed. Thereupon, any ties that might put the provision of weapon systems at risk -concludes Comini and Frenkel- “moved the Argentine State to dismiss a ‘Venezuela style’ rigid scheme for the CDS”.

Comini and Frenkel ground the argument of these three factors on extensive qualitative research, including interviews with key governmental actors and a broad review of primary and secondary sources.

About the authors

Alejandro Frenkel – Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina (afrenkel@ceil-conicet.gov.ar).

Nicolás Comini – Universidad del Salvador, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Buenos Aires, Argentina (nicolas.comini@usal.edu.ar).

Read the article

Frenkel, Alejandro, & Comini, Nicolás. (2017). UNASUR beyond Brazil: Argentina’s position in support of the South American Defense Council. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 60(1), e013. Epub October 23, 2017.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201700104

How to cite this article

aclessa, "Why did Argentina choose Brazil and not Venezuela in the South American Defense Council negotiations?," in Instituto Brasileiro de Relações Internacionais, 05/11/2017, http://www.ibri-rbpi.org/?p=16143.

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