Southern Cross

BERLIN/BUENOS AIRES/SANTIAGO DE CHILE | | argentinienchile

BERLIN/BUENOS AIRES/SANTIAGO DE CHILE (Own report) - The German government is seeking to integrate South American armies more firmly into German-European military programs through the expansion of military cooperation and is particularly focusing on Argentina and Chile. Both countries are among Berlin's long-standing closest South American military allies. German arms manufacturers are furnishing weapons systems to the Chilean and Argentine armed forces. German soldiers are training military personnel at bases in both countries. At the same time, Germany is profiting from South American endeavors to intensify its own global military activities. Recently Buenos Aires and Santiago established a binational military contingent ("Cruz del Sur", "Southern Cross") patterned after the German-French battalion and planned to be developed into a South American military alliance. "Cruz del Sur" is already participating at Germany's side in several military interventions around the globe. Wolfgang Schneiderhan, Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, recently returned from a visit to Argentina and Chile, exploring the possibilities of further intensifying the cooperation.

Without Geographical Restrictions

At the beginning of his trip, Schneiderhan had a meeting with General Fabry, the Chilean General Chief of Staff, to discuss the "prospects of cooperation" between the armies of their two countries. Fabry and his Argentine counterpart had already visited Germany last year for talks with Schneiderhan. Inspector General Schneiderhan gave Fabry an outline of the plan to transform the Bundeswehr into an army, whose deployment will no longer be geographically restricted.[1]

New Global Challenges

Subsequent to this meeting, Schneiderhan spoke at a conference of the Chilean Académia Nacional de Estudios Políticos y Estrategicos (ANEPE, National Academy for Political and Strategic Studies) a cross-sectional institution handling questions of foreign and military policy. The conference, handling the theme "The Modernization and Reorganization of Germany's Defense", was attended also by high ranking officers of all branches of the military and ministerial advisors.[2] The reasons ANEPE gives for the conference theme are the same used by Western armies to justify the arms programs and by the Bundeswehr, in particular, to justify its military programs and its transformation into an army of aggression: the need to react to "new global challenges, such as terrorism and asymmetric wars."

Most Important Latin American Client

Part of the German General's program was the visit to the Iquique Military Base, a military training area, located approx. 1,500 km north of the capital Santiago de Chile, where, until the beginning of December, nine Bundeswehr soldiers are training members of the Chilean military in the use of the Leopard 2 A4 tanks. The 140 battle tanks, to equip three Chilean army battalions, come from the Bundeswehr's stock and were exported with a German government permit.[3] According to the economic ministry's most recent report on arms exports, Chile is one of Germany's most important clients for military hardware. In 2006, Chile was sold supplies in arms worth 88.79 million Euros, making it, by far, the most important Latin American client of the German arms industry.[4]

Ambitious Programs

The arms program pursued by the Chilean government, with German support, as well as Chilean strategists' interest in the measures of the Bundeswehr's transformation are indications of Chile's military ambitions. Aiming to enhance the country's military importance, the Defense Ministry in Santiago de Chile has initiated, along with Argentina, a joint army contingent that includes more than 1500 soldiers from the army, air force and navy: the "Fuerza de Paz Conjunta Cruz del Sur" ("Southern Cross Joint Peace Force"). "Cruz del Sur" troops are already participating in several military interventions around the world - frequently at the side of the Bundeswehr, such as in Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo.[5]

Predecessor

"Cruz del Sur" is patterned after the German-French battalion that has been included into the Euro Corps. The German French battalion was considered a catalyzer for the EU's military integration. "Cruz del Sur" is to function as a predecessor to a possible South American military alliance (Consejo Sudamericano de Defensa, South American Defense Council). South American governments are presently discussing plans for this alliance. Already for several years, German politicians have been discussing this prospect, well aware of the fact, that a South American alliance could reduce the strong US influence on South American officers - to the advantage of strengthening the German-European position.[6]

Nucleus

Therefore cooperation with "Cruz del Sur" was an aspect of Schneiderhan's discussions in Argentina, the second leg of his trip.[7] "Cruz del Sur" soldiers are currently stationed also in Haiti - as part of the UN Stabilization Mission (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti, MINUSTAH). MINUSTAH is under Brazilian command and is therefore led by South America.[8] German political advisors observed years ago that MINUSTAH is considered particularly in Argentina as the core of a "permanent multilateral task force" of South American troops and on an intermediate term as the "nucleus of a joint sub-regional defense system".[9]

Challenge

With sympathy Berlin is actively observing the formation of this South American military alliance. If it succeeds, a new pole of military influence would be established in South America, fully in the spirit of global multilateralism and less dependence on Washington. It could become Germany's ally in opposition to US unilateral predominance. German support for the formation of this South American military alliance could become a diplomatic challenge for the USA.

[1] Südamerika-Reise: Gespräche über Kooperation der Streitkräfte; Pressemitteilung des Bundesverteidigungsministeriums 03.07.2008
[2] La Modernización y Reorganización de la Defensa de Alemania; www.anepe.cl
[3] see also Siegeskreuz
[4] Bericht der Bundesregierung über ihre Exportpolitik für konventionelle Rüstungsgüter im Jahre 2006
[5] Fuerza de Paz Conjunta Cruz del Sur; www.cebri.org.br
[6] see also Kontrolle über den Sicherheitssektor
[7] Ministra recibe al inspector general de las FFAA de Alemania; El Patagonico 04.07.2008
[8] see also Juniorpartner
[9] see also Kontrolle über den Sicherheitssektor