Brazil and France announce military agreement

Brazilian President Lula and French President Sarkozy announced a deal for Brazil to purchase French fighter jets and transport helicopters. Coverage from LA Times, BBC, InfoLatam, AQ Blog. A few storylines of note:
  • Brazil's decision is strongly based around France's willingness to guarantee technology transfer in the purchase. This means Brazil will not be beholden to another nation for spare parts or repair, can further develop its own technology base and can resell parts and service to other nations as necessary. Although Boeing had also promised some technology transfer, Lula's focus on tech transfer in his speech signals that he trusted the US less than France to hold its end of the bargain. This is a likely side effect from the US banning tech transfers and F-16 parts to Venezuela during the past few years.

  • The deal also promises the sale of 10 Brazilian-made Embraer CJ-390 transport aircraft to France. The plane is still in development, but this sale is big news for Brazil's military industrial base and is another sign of Embraer playing the role of a rising competitor in the industry. Brazil is hoping this plane is a solid competitor for countries looking for military transport planes, particularly in Latin America and elsewhere in the developing world. Having France as a buyer will establish some credibility.

  • Analysts continue to raise questions in the media about a potential "arms race" in Latin America. Some analysts believe we're seeing an arms race. Others think recent purchases are simply a necessary modernization of outdated vehicles and equipment in the various countries' armed forces. Others see domestic interests more involved including presidents hoping to placate their militaries with new and cool toys. There's probably a mixture of all three going on. I don't believe the current purchase is a sign of Brazil engaging in an arms race, but it will make neighbors look again and consider their own capabilities.

  • Is there a role for UNASUR or the SADC in this purchase? This is a major bilateral defense deal that strongly increases the capacity of one nation in South America. It's also increasing France's influence in military purchases in the hemisphere. Lula would be smart to brief UNASUR on the details of the agreement if he hopes to set a precedent in which other countries do the same in their bilateral military deals. Doing so would strengthen the UNASUR and SADC institutions and give the organizations more credibility when they ask other countries (like Colombia) to provide similar information.