Future Alliances

BRASÍLIA/LIMA/BOGOTÁ/BERLIN | | brasilienkolumbien

BRASÍLIA/LIMA/BOGOTÁ/BERLIN (Own report) - The West's power struggle with Russia has led also to tensions during the German foreign minister's Latin America tour, which ends today. Last Friday, Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Brazil, which has a "Strategic Partnership" with Germany. However, the country not only refuses to join the sanctions against Russia, it is even intensifying its economic and political cooperation with Moscow. Current relations have therefore become "difficult," according to observers, even though they are good with Peru and Colombia, next on the Foreign Minister's schedule. Both countries are members of the "Pacific Alliance" that is directed against the Venezuela and Cuba inspired ALBA Alliance. The alliance also seeks to enhance its economic activities in East and Southeast Asia, thereby falling in line with Western efforts to position its forces against China at its periphery. Germany was given observer status at the Pacific Alliance and is intensifying military cooperation with its members.

Challenger to the USA

Germany's policy toward Latin America is accompanied by dissonance. This became obvious during Steinmeier's first stopover in Brazil. In 2008, Berlin entered a "Strategic Partnership" with Brasília and the two countries agreed on an "action plan" to strengthen bilateral relations. It is still in force. It was announced that the first German-Brazilian government consultations will be held in August in Brasília, with the personal participation of Chancellor Angela Merkel. A few years ago, the Hamburg-based German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), wrote that Brazil has "consolidated its leading position in South America and partially even in the whole of Latin America," and thereby become also "a challenger to the USA in the region."[1] Berlin was hoping to consolidate its own position in Washington's "backyard" by cooperating with Brazil.

Not Isolated

It is not yet clear, whether this concept will bear fruit, because of the escalation of the power struggle against Russia on the question of Ukraine. Whereas Germany - in spite of its differences [2] - is waging the struggle allied with the USA, Brazil is taking a different path. In the summer of 2014, when the EU and the USA were strengthening sanctions against Russia, Brazil was participating in the foundation of a development bank and a monetary fund by the BRICS nations - including Moscow.[3] An angry media commentary at the time, complained, "since the annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea, Vladimir Putin is being isolated worldwide, at least this is what western politicians were saying," however, now it is becoming clear just who, in large parts of Latin America "is, in fact, disliked: not Russia but the USA."[4] Brasilia maintains its cooperation with Moscow, in spite of western pressure, it is not joining the economic sanctions. On the contrary, it has increased its exports to Russia over the past few months. The resulting discord between Brazil and Germany had been one of the topics of the talks between Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. It was announced in the Brazilian capital that there is also a difference of opinion on the current situation in Venezuela. Observers have begun ranking the German-Brazilian "Strategic Partnership" as "difficult."[5]

The Pacific Alliance

On the other hand, German cooperation with Peru and Columbia - the other two stops in Steinmeier's Latin America tour - is developing without great difficulty. June 6, 2012, these two countries founded together with Chile and Mexico, the "Pacific Alliance," an alliance of neo-liberal orientated states. With a composite population of 221 million, this alliance is a larger market than Brazil; it is currently growing at an average rate of around five percent annually, and, with US $2.2 billion represents an economy generating around 37 percent of the GNP of Latin America. The Pacific Alliance is not only very significant economically, but also politically. It explicitly represents a counterweight to the Venezuela and Cuba inspired ALBA Alliance, which strives for a certain independence from the leading western powers.[6] The alliance is also a rival to Brazil's Mercosur economic integration project, which has been stagnating for years, and which experts consider dead. An analysis by the Latin America expert, Samuel George for the Bertelsmann Foundation North America - a Washington D.C. branch of the Bertelsmann Foundation - draws the conclusion that "behind the scenes," Washington has an enormous influence on the Pacific Alliance.[7]

Initial Military Cooperation

For quite a while, Germany has been intensifying its cooperation with the Pacific Alliance. November 5, 2013, Germany was granted observer status in the alliance - recently expanded for the first time, with the membership of Costa Rica. At the same time, Germany has intensified its cooperation with its member countries. Last summer, Germany entered a "Raw Materials Partnership" with Peru, which provides German companies privileged access to Peru's natural resources sector.[8] In Lima this weekend, Foreign Minister Steinmeier signed an accord on the expansion of political relations. Next week, Peru's Minister of Defense, Pedro Cateriano is expected in Berlin for talks with his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen. German President Joachim Gauck is scheduled to visit Peru in March. Mutual visits with Colombia - whose president visited Berlin in November 2014 - have become nearly as intense as those with Peru. Juan Manuel Santos has suggested his country's possible participation in the anti-piracy naval mission at the Horn of Africa.

The Next Conflict

The intensification of German relations to the Pacific Alliance countries - now even on a military level - is also important because primarily the alliance is strategically oriented toward East and Southeast Asia. The members of the alliance are already transacting a large part of their foreign trade with those regions, and intend to significantly increase this trade in the future. "If Latin America’s west coast" was a "global backyard" during the transatlantic period, it "could well be center stage" in the "Pacific century," announced by the USA,[9] writes Samuel George for the Bertelsmann Foundation.[10] Therefore the Pacific Alliance falls in line with western efforts to position its forces in east and southeast Asia against China, and it will become a party to this already clearly looming conflict between the West and Beijing. It is hardly likely that this conflict will bare less potential for escalation than the current conflict between the West and Russia.

[1] Detlef Nolte, Christina Stolte: Selbstbewusst in die Zukunft: Lateinamerikas neue Unabhängigkeit. GIGA Focus Lateinamerika 12/2010. See Herausforderer der USA.
[2] See War by Other Means, War by Other Means (II) and Der Gipfel von Minsk.
[3] See The Alliance of the Threatened.
[4] Mit Russland gemeinsam gegen die Gringos. www.welt.de 16.07.2014.
[5] Matthias Rüb: Ein schwieriger Partner. www.faz.net 14.02.2015.
[6] See Elitenwechsel mit Folgen.
[7] Samuel George: The Pacific Pumas. An Emerging Model for Emerging Markets. Washington, March 2014.
[8] See Conflict over Natural Resources.
[9] See Das pazifische Jahrhundert.
[10] Samuel George: The Pacific Pumas. An Emerging Model for Emerging Markets. Washington, March 2014.