Last week the Russian ambassador to Brazil, Sergey Akopov, said that despite the acquisition of the Russian Pantsir-S1, air defense systems not being a priority for Brasilia, Moscow continues to consider Brazil as a promising market to sell weapons and military equipment. For the diplomat, there are good prospects for cooperation in the area to strengthen ties between the two BRICS countries.
Russia has proven it is willing to transfer sensitive technology and sell widely to many different states, such as India. India can manufacture the SU-30MKI fighter jet entirely itself because of technology that was passed on by Russia. This has been possible because India, also a BRICS country, has been receptive to Russian cooperation and investment. A major problem that Russia has in Brazil is the powerful Western lobby which somewhat attempts to prevent Brazilian companies from being interested in partnering with Russian companies. Effectively Russian companies have difficulty carrying out projects in Latin America’s biggest country.
Without a Brazilian partner capable of absorbing the technology and that is reliable, Russia will not be able to sell to the country unless they create their own factory and manufacturing bases. Effectively, Russia needs to create an industrial base in Brazil if it wants to sell weapons and military equipment to the country. As Brazil is in the middle of an economic crisis, the South American giant is unlikely to reject a Russian manufacturing base in Brazil.
Although the Western lobby is strong, it has been unsuccessful in keeping Chinese interests out of Brazil, and if they tried to lobby against China, economics demands that they will be unsuccessful. With Brazil’s unemployment rate at 11.20% and 13.5 million people living in extreme poverty as of in November 2019, it is unlikely that the Western lobby can influence Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro himself was extremely critical of China’s investments in Brazil prior to his election before quickly changing his tune as forced by Brazil’s bleak economic situation and under pressure for business sectors in the country.
The Pantsir air defense system offered an opportunity to build such manufacturing in Brazil with the installation of two factories and the transfer of technology, under a $1.5 billion contract, however, the Odebrecht subsidiary that was Russia’s counterpart in the country, Mectron, went out of business for legal reasons. The best solution for Russia would be to create an industrial arms base in Brazil. The famed Russian AK-47 assault rifles are used by Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo police and Brazilian alternatives to the same type of weaponry are not well regarded by the police because of their quality and unreliability. Essentially, a Kalashnikov factory in Brazil would be a good starting point. In addition, Russian helicopters are very well evaluated by national pilots who had the opportunity to work with this equipment and are desperately needed by the delapidating Brazilian military who need good and cheap options. As part of modernizing Brazil’s military, it also needs nuclear submarines, nuclear safety control systems, and also space technology, all areas that Russia excels in and can assist Brazil with.
In November 2019, Russian state-owned arms exporter Rosoboronexport offered its potential customers in Brazil an integrated urban security technology and critical facilities. The head of the corporation’s marketing department, Sergei Larkin, presented at the meeting of the investment forum of Russia and Brazil, held in Brasilia, the project for a safe and intelligent city. This project is a comprehensive and scalable security system designed to identify sources of terrorist threats and illegal activities, anti-terrorism measures, law enforcement, protection of critical facilities and even coastal protection. The project includes solutions that cover all phases, from forecasting threats to prevent them, and finding threats to eliminate them. For Brazil, a country with an astronomical crime rate, the emphasis has been placed on facial recognition technologies, smart cameras for financial institutions, panic buttons and important business protection, and Russia has played a key role in bringing these technologies to the South American country.
Bolsonaro himself reached the rank of Captain in the Brazilian military, meaning the welfare of the military is one of his top priorities. In the context of financial difficulties and the desire of the new administration to reduce budgetary expenses, the acquisition of the Pantsir-S1 anti-aircraft defense systems is no longer considered by the Brazilian leadership as a priority project. Despite this though, Brazil remains a promising market for selling military weapons and equipment, such as the supply and maintenance of Mi-35M combat helicopters.
Brazil is aware of the high tactical and technical characteristics of Russian armaments and equipment, and this is what can bring good prospects for cooperation in this area between the two countries. By utilizing Bolsonaro’s fondness of the military, Russia invited him to attend in Moscow the celebration of the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, perhaps the most important non-religious celebration in Russia. Therefore, although the West may lobby against Russo-Brazilian relations, Russia has a lot to offer Brazil, particularly regarding the military.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.