Archive for November, 2018


November 14, 2018

European unity should be more than just a photo opportunity, France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in an exclusive interview to Global Handelsblatt, Germany, on November 12, 2018. But while France is more than willing, Germany remains reluctant. Excerpts below:

It is all very well to express European unity during memorials for the fallen in past world wars. But genuine unity – political, financial and military – is still lacking inside the European Union, according to France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. In an exclusive interview with Handelsblatt, he indicates that Paris is more than willing for more Europe and the ball is now in Berlin’s court.

The European Union should become “a peaceful empire” in order to stand up to China, Le Maire argued. And although thanks to their wartime history, some Germans may find his talk of empire unattractive, Le Maire explains that, “I am using this phrase because, in tomorrow’s world, it’s going to be all about power … technological power, economic, financial, monetary, cultural power – all will be decisive. Europe cannot be shy any longer about using its power.”
Le Maire won’t go as far as to say that German politicians have been two-faced about European unity. But he did set a small deadline: “We have talked about it for a long time. Now it’s time for decisions. And there will be decisions made on December 4, at the next meeting of the economy and finance ministers. I cannot imagine anything else.”

“The people of Europe have had enough of the babble from Brussels. They want to see action.”

One of the most striking recent examples where European power proved lacking was with the latest US sanctions on Iran.

Comment: Does France really want a ”peaceful empire”. Empires generally seek to expand their territory like China in the South China Sea and Russia in Ukraine. America, for instance, is not an empire. It is a hegemon, and it should be. A hegemon, like ancient Athens, is a first-among-equals, a very powerful nation that nevertheless deals with its neighbors and allies as much as equals as circumstances will permit, respecting their sovereignty, their internal processes, the rights of their people. It functions together for the greater good of the whole, not simply of the center as does an empire.


November 8, 2018

Washington Times on October 31, 2018, reported that the US State Department is stepping up efforts to block China from acquiring American technology in a large-scale, high-technology military buildup. Excerpts below:

Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said the efforts are aimed at countering Beijing’s strategy of “military-civilian fusion” being directed by Chinese President Xi Jinping. The fusion process moves technology acquired abroad ostensibly for civilian purposes to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Ford said in a speech at the US Naval Academy at the end of October..

Mr. Ford said his bureau at the State Department has joined with Los Alamos National Laboratory since July 2018 in a program aimed at “putting up barriers to the proliferation of sensitive technologies to the People’s Republic of China — technologies which Beijing has been using to build up its military capabilities in support of its ambitious ‘ChinaDream’ of ‘national rejuvenation’ to regain China’s position as a world leader in a range of fields, including military might.”

In preparing to defeat the United States in a military conflict, “China engaged in a massive [science and technology] development effort, focused upon getting the high-technology weapons that it was assumed would shape the nature of warfare in the 21st century,” Mr. Ford said.

Since last year, the Chinese military began to prepare for war using military-based artificial intelligence weapons and war-fighting concepts.

In doing so, the Chinese are seeking to match a similar U.S. military strategy of employing advanced war-fighting concepts called the “Third Offset” — also known as the most recent iteration of the revolution in military affairs, or RMA.

“Simply put, China aims to lead the next RMA and to reap the geopolitical benefits accordingly, by exploiting cutting-edge civilian technology,” Mr. Ford said. “This is the CCP’s blueprint for China’s global ‘return’ to military pre-eminence.”

Other targets of Chinese technology acquisition include nuclear technology, aerospace and aviation know-how, semiconductors, cloud computing, robotics, and big data processing technology.

Semiconductors, cloud computing and big data are needed for the artificial intelligence weapons, while AI will be applied to the other areas.

China also is considering building floating nuclear power plants in the South China Sea, where U.S. and Chinese naval forces have been confronting each other over disputed islands.

The U.S. government recently halted nuclear cooperation with China on advanced modular reactors and other designs that could boost China’s military.

Comment: China’s model of a Communist Party-run state is to combine a sociopolitical operating system of state capitalism with a Leninist party organization. The goal is to replace democratic capitalism around the world.

It is presently clear that Beijing wants to displace U.S. power and influence. It wants to reclaim the central geopolitical status it historically had but it believes was taken from China by so called ”Western imperialism”.

To achieve that goal, foreign technology acquisition has been a main feature of the military modernization since the 1980s.

China is following the advise of Sun Tzu to win wars without putting boots on the ground at all. A leading strategy is to integrate artificial intelligence into military systems.


November 6, 2018

The German geographer Friedrich Ratzel in his book “Politische Geographie” (1897) developed a number of concepts of space, that interested both the father of classical geopolitics, Swedish Professor Rudolf Kjellén, and Sir Halford Mackinder of Great Britain. The latter’s central term was Heartland, more or less Russia (or later the Soviet Union), although the more exact area of the Heartland was in Siberia.

Brazil is regarded as the most notable school of classical geopolitical thought in Latin America. The output has been prolific and imaginative but also because Brazilian geopolitical concepts have been incorporated into its national development policies and its international relations.

It has influenced the country’s strategic culture. Focus has been on several distinct objectives: protection of its large coast line, the expansion into the interior, particularly into the Amazon Heartland, and the integration of the national territory. Expansion of influence in the Rio de la Plata Basin and the establishment and consolidation of a leadership role in Latin America are two other important objectives. Seeking great power status has been a strategic feature.

Brazilian geopolitics had two founders, Everardo Backheuser (1879 – 1951) and Mario Travassos (1891 – 1973). The former was greatly influenced by the Swedish father of geopolitics, Rudolf Kjellen. Backheuser focused on southern Brazil, border disputes with neighboring countries and the formation of Amazonia.

Travassos systematized Brazil’s geopolitical imperatives. In his 1935 book, ”Projecao Continental do Brasil” (Brazil’s Continental Projection), Travassos linked “integral security” and “development”. This would later be central to Brazilian geopolitics and influenced governments. Brazil according to Travassos should expand both internally and internationally along two main lines and not concentrate only on the coast.

First it was an East-West axis into the Amazon basin for the empty spaces. He called it ”longitudinal Brazil”. The transfer of the capital of Brazil from Rio at the coast to Brasilia into the interior must be seen as part of this development.

The second axis of expansion would be toward the former Mato Grosso state and into the so called Southern Cone. This was to minimize Argentina’s influence over states such as Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay extending influence into the River Plate Basin. Travassos regarded Mato Grosso, Bolivia and Paraguay as the South American Heartland.

Backheuser adapted the principles of Kjellén’s geopolitical theory to Brazilian circumstances, particularly the concept of “living frontiers”. This concept advocated the idea that borders, as organic entities, are fluid and flexible. They for instance respond to pressures exerted by neighboring countries.

He also believed that Brazil was emerging as a leading power in the region. Thus it should expand to the west and seek to develop ”empty spaces” to secure the nation.

In spite of Brazil’s efforts during many decades population and economic activity is still mostly concentrated in the region along the Atlantic coast. Nearly 80 per cent of the country’s population lives less than 200 kilometers away from the Atlantic coastline. The states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo are responsible for 43 per cent of Brazil’s GDP.

The large landmass of Brazil was secured already during the colonial period. Between 1854 and 1907 the territory was further enlarged in settlements of territorial disputes with Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and French Guiana.

After World War II geopolitical theorists of the Escola Superior de Guerra (Superior War Coillege; ESG) came to play an important role in developing the theory of Brazilian geopolitics. ESG was established in 1949. Its motto “Security and Development” was the two pillars upon which the ESG formulated the National Security Doctrine (NSD). The doctrine incorporated the geopolitical concept of the nation-state as an organic entity. It also placed great emphasis on the aspects of a nation’s power: population, territory, economic and military capabilities, military strategy, a national grand strategy, and national will.

A leading geopolitician was General Golbery de Couto e Silva (1911 – 1987). With Carlos de Meira Mattos Couto e Silva’s projections were based on the large size of the country. Important was also Brazil’s support for the Western alliance in the struggle against international communism. To strengthen Brazil quick integration of Amazonia had to be supported.

Building the infrastructure was also crucial. This included roads in the interior and as well as airfields. Brazil’s strong position in South America today would not have been possible without the development during the 1960s and 1970s.

Couto e Silva in 1964 presented his views on how to best integrate and develop Amazonia:

-to articulate the ecumenical basis of the continent-wide projection of Brazil. The Northeast and the South would have to be connected to the center.

-it would be important to colonize the Northwest to integrate it with the rest of the country.

-the new frontier population would hold the frontier following the axis of the Amazon River.

Couto e Silva was also one of the founders of ESG and served as the Chief of Staff of the Presidency of the Republic from March 1974 to August 1981. Couto e Silva is by many regarded as a “Brazilian Henry Kissinger”.

Brazilian geopoliticians have also expressed an interest in Antarctica. During the government of Jose Sarney Brazil promoted the creation of a South Atlantic Zone of Peace and Co-operation (SAZOPC).

The 1966 book ”Geopolítica do Brasil” (Geopolitics of Brazil), by Couto e Silva was probably the most important contribution to modern Brazilian geopolitics. His views were similar to those of Travassos and Backheuser as he supported national integration and effective use of national resources, effective occupation of internal territories, solidification of border areas, and economic development as vehicles to obtain national greatness. Couto e Silva differed from the older geopoliticians in that he placed Brazil in the global geopolitical arena.

Brazil’s prospect when it came to furthering its national political, economic, and military objectives did not rest only on its own abilities in South America. The country needed to project influence beyond South America.

It was important for Brazil not only to control her own national territories in continental projection. Brazil also needed international influence. These developmental goals would have the additional benefit of increasing Brazil’s international prestige and would serve as a means of achieving greatness.

Carlos de Meira Mattos (1913-2007) also linked geopolitical principles to a National Security Doctrine, looking beyond Brazil’s continental influence. Mattos argued that Brazil as South America’s largest country had a legitimate geopolitical interest in the South Atlantic Ocean and the Antarctic. It was also linked to the West by geography, history, and by choice. Brazil should play a role in the defense of the Western hemisphere, as a whole.

There are at present signs that the new Brazilian administration of 2018 will be on more friendly terms with the United States and might want to play an active role in the defense of the West. President Trump has indicated a willingness to work closely with Brazil ”on trade, military and everything else”.

Markets have surged along with Jair Bolsonaro’s opinion polls and election. The market seems to believe that he can deliver on a market-friendly agenda. It also seems that the new Brazilian president will bring back the military into the political limelight. His first international trip is planned to Chile, which has elected a president on the political right. Realignment with more advanced economies also seems to be on the agenda of the new administration after the long leftist rule.

The fight against corruption will continue as a likely candidate for minister of justice will be the anti-corruption judge Sergio Moro.

Closer ties between the two largest economies of the Western Hemisphere could be possible. In a call with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo collaboration on foreign policy issues were discussed, including Venezuela. Bolsonaro has vowed to increase pressure on Venezuela’s authoritarian leftist government to hold free elections that could stem the flow of refugees into neighboring Brazil and Colombia, also governed by a conservative president.

Fiscal reforms proposed by Bolsonaro’s free market adviser, Paulo Guedes, could also be on the table.Brazil’s currency has gained around 10 percent against the U.S. dollar during October 2018. Guedes wants to erase Brazil’s budget deficit within a year, simplify the tax code and reduce taxes. The goal is to create 10 million new jobs.

The leftist ruled Brazil created a weak economic growth and a huge budget deficits. The new government will thus face tough challenges.

Retired General Augusto Heleno, the likely new defense minister, has said that Bolsonaro has a positive view of a planned $4.75 billion joint venture between Boeing Co and Brazilian planemaker Embraer SA.