Brazil Wants A Nuclear Submarine, A Nuclear Submarine, A Nuclear Submarine

Posted: December 2, 2010 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

“Why does Brazil need nuclear submarines?” asks the U.S. Naval Institute.

In short, they don’t. Traditionally peaceful with friendly-enough neighbors, this sort of massive defense investment makes little sense no matter what Brazilian authorities say:

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has argued that Brazil “will have a nuclear submarine because it is a necessity for a country that not only has the maritime coast that we have but also has the petroleum riches that were recently discovered in the deep sea pre-salt layer.”

Bah. This is a prestige program. The costs to begin with include the reactor:

Construction of a naval reactor, the second phase of the program, is under way. The government has committed some U.S. $525 million to be spent in installments over eight years.

But wait, $525 million is just the tip of the nuclear iceberg.

Visiting Brazil in December 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy signed a “strategic partnership” agreement providing for transfer of technology to Brazil for construction there of four diesel-powered Scorpine attack submarines as well as joint development of the hull for a nuclear submarine. An announcement by the Brazilian Ministry of Defense emphasized that Brazil would develop all of the nuclear part. The naval component of the bilateral agreement was reported to be worth U.S. $5.7 billion.

Again, some more rationale has been offered:

Vice President Jose Alencar said that Brazil needed to “produce and employ nuclear submarines in its naval fleet to protect riches located on the continental shelf and discourage any aggressive foreign actions in Brazilian waters.”

That sounds practically Chinese in its claim. What’s really going on here?

Alencar specifically rejected rumors in the press that the 2008 U.S. reactivation of it 4th Fleet, which had aroused intense concern in some circles, had figured in the Brazilian decision to acquire nuclear submarines. While Brazil’s overall relations with the United States have been cordial, and the two countries enjoy a strong commercial relationship, fear of domination from the North is an enduring feature of the Brazilian political psyche.

Please. If the U.S. wants your oil, it’ll buy it out of you. This is about prestige. Consider, for example, Brazil’s attempt with Turkey to make itself a playa regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

If prestige is what Brazil wants, maybe they should consider a manned space mission.  That would make an international splash (so to speak).  Still, Brazil goes on to claim this is an industrial base issue.

The defense minister emphasizes the strategic importance of a capable national-defense industry with autonomous technology. Discussing the new strategy, the minister of strategic affairs, Mangabeira Unger, said Brazil “wants to build a state-of-the-art weapons industry, one that would become an active exporter of arms.

Money, power, and prestige. Now we’re getting closer to the truth.

Maybe U.S. taxpayers can instead interest Brazil in diversifying that nation’s industrial base…say by buying GM or Chrysler.

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