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Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim said in middle of March that his country plans to begin construction of the second aircraft carrier. Currently, the flagship of the Brazilian fleet is an outdated diesel carrier Sao Paolo, bought second hand in 2000 from France after 40 years of operation. Amorim said the new aircraft carrier was being built in Brazil based on an existing project.
Sao Paolo is one of the French Clemenceau class aircraft carriers. Its successor, despite the Brazilian assembly, will also have a French origin as it will be built by the French company DCNS of the South Korean STX Europe group. The company is ready to provide the project, which will rework aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle class, which is now on duty in France. A vessel of this class with a nuclear power plant costs US $3.3 bn, with a diesel power plant – US $2.2 bn.
The choice of the Brazilian authorities of the vendor and its project is quite simple – the French company has been implementing another major contract for more than three years –a new naval and construction base for submarines base in Sepetiba Bay in the port in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil have been trying to build those objects since the early 1990s. The total price of the contract exceeds US $10 bn and the share of Brazilian components in submarines should be at least 20%. By 2022 – 2023 Brazil intends to build four diesel submarines from the French project Scorpene and then plans to start mass production of submarines with nuclear installations, but equipped with conventional weapons.
Announcement of plans to build aircraft carriers marked a complete renovation of Brazil ‘s defense policy. In the shortest time possible Brazilian armed forces are planning to create a full-fledged naval strike group, the basis for which in most of the world’s navies make nuclear submarines and heavy aircraft carriers. It should be noted that only 6 countries in the world have such strike groups.
The entire project will cost Brazilian budget more than US $15 bn. To justify such high defense budgets for 5 years in a row the Brazilian governments have been mentioning the discovery of several major offshore oil and gas deposits. In 2009 they were found by the state company Petrobras in the deep water area of the Atlantic, which is not related to the Brazilian EEZ, but to the international waters. For the development of the project Petrobras, Shell and Portuguese Petrogal pledged to spend US $25 bn in investments by 2025. Experts believe that the formal task for huge investments in creation of the nuclear fleet is not only the protection of the floating drilling platforms, but also the protection of Petrobas’ numerous assets, scattered around the world far away from the Brazilian territory. The cost of the most company’s most expensive vessels able to drill at the depth of more than 2 km, starts with US $0.5 bn. This makes the state worry about the safety of state property.
Public corporations like Petrobras exist in Norway, Qatar and the UAE, but that was not a reason to spend billions of dollars on development of Norwegian or Emirati military nuclear fleets. In addition, the large oil and gas developments have occurred in other regions of the world in the past 10 years. For example, in 2007 – 2010 on Israeli shelf, Turkish Northern Cyprus, Canada and Mexico.
For this reason most experts believe that Brazil need nuclear fleet to provide adequate protection for the rich Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, such as Mozambique or Angola. They say, for the last decade their African satellites have been experiencing a growing military, economic and financial pressure on the part of China.
Some critics note that Brazil’s efforts to expand the strategic element of defense – from the creation of the nuclear fleet to the Ukraine–Brazil missile project Alcantara – are merely a consequence of circumstances. The main one – actual denunciation by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of the Treaty of Tlaletolco (multilateral Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean).
The treaty signed in 1967 based on the results of the US – Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis, has been saving all Latin American countries, including Cuba, from excessive concern of the world’s leading nuclear powers for many decades. Violation of the terms of the document lied in the fact that the Venezuelan air force base Liberador started regularly accepting Russian long-range bombers Tu-160, equipped with nuclear weapons, in 2009. By the end of the 20th century Russia had only 3 missile carriers of such class. Then, at the beginning of the last decade the fleet was increased to 16. In 2009 – 2013 half of them has been on duty above Venezuela and later Nicaragua and a number of small Pacific island states.
Expansion of the Russian Air Force happed in a very colorful way. Its number was increased in 2001 – 2002 due to Ukraine, which agreed to give Russia a few dozen bombers and tanker aircrafts. The avalanche strengthening of the aviation part of the Russian nuclear arsenal was a part of paying off Ukraine’s debt for Russian gas, which was imported by one of the Ukrainian state-owned companies and not paid for by its private client companies.
In a few years these long-forgotten vicissitudes of Ukrainian – Russian debt relations backfired for the Latin America in the form of unilateral denunciation of the Treaty of Tlaletolco. The whole continent ceased to be nuclear-free. And Brazil’s decision to start formation of the underwater component of its nuclear fleet falls exactly on 2009, so the real reasons become quite obvious. After all it is fairly symbolic that the March statement of the Brazil defense chief on the plans to build the second aircraft carrier, is accepted in the wake of another round of unilateral denunciation of treaties and Russia’s leveling of once fundamental principles of the global order.Printable version