As South America weans off the left-wing, anti-American tide that swept it over the past two decades, especially after the overwhelming recent triumph of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential elections, a great opportunity looms for America to relaunch its relationship with the region’s giant. Brazil is a colossus that also happens to be one of the world’s largest economies, an industrial powerhouse, and the fourth-largest producer of food in the world. A relaunch of the U.S.-Brazil relationship could reshape American foreign policy in Latin America in ways until now unseen, with fabulous consequences.
With the anti-American left finally out of power in Brazil and looking poised to remain so for several years at least, we should reach out to the new leadership and signal our disposition to help them elevate their international status as our preferred partner in the region. We should seek to establish a relationship with Brazil that gives it the designation of Major Non-NATO Ally, like Australia and Japan, with Brazil readily assuming regional power responsibilities and making a commitment to actively cooperate with the United States in maintaining peace, prosperity, and order in the Americas. But our goals should go way beyond granting Brazil MNNA status, especially since that designation has gotten watered-down more recently.
Brazil, officially known until the late sixties as The United States of Brazil, was a close American ally before the start of the Cold War. In World War II, it contributed 25,000 troops to the Mediterranean theater, playing a very relevant role in the 1944-45 invasion of Italy. Its navy and air force participated in the Battle of the Atlantic from mid-1942 onwards.
At the end of the war in Europe, Brazilian troops had captured more than 20,000 Axis POWs and had almost 1,000 men killed in action. Brazil hosted at Natal the largest U.S. air base outside its own territory, and, at Recife, the U.S. Fourth Fleet. This while Argentina flirted with the Nazis and Mexico remained oblivious and even hostile to U.S. needs. Even though this was Brazil’s first foreign war, their contribution was so significant the United States offered the country the chance to take over an Occupation Zone in Austria.
The military governments that ruled Brazil in the ’60s and ’70s adopted interventionist “developmentalist” domestic policies and a neutralist foreign policy that moved it away from its American alliance. The United States was partly to blame for this, as it sought to distance itself from Brazil’s military-led governments. After democracy was restored in 1985, the country’s foreign policy continued drifting further to the left, and even more so when it was governed by viscerally anti-American former Marxists between 2003 and 2016.
In the past few decades, Brazil participated with troops in important peacekeeping missions in the region, especially as the leader of the stabilization force in Haiti between 2004 and 2017. As the most important American ally in Latin America and the second largest country in the hemisphere, Brazil would be expected to further engage in – and lead – peacekeeping military interventions in the region, and to have a more bold and assertive, American-friendly foreign policy. An updated and beefed up Brazilian Armed Forces would be an ideal partner for the American military and could serve as an effective (and perhaps be perceived as a more legitimate) stand-in for U.S. troops at deploying a stabilizing force in trouble spots around the region.
In terms of economics and commerce, as two countries with immense territories, large industrial bases, and exceptionally productive agricultural sectors, the United States and Brazil would both benefit from what President Trump termed “totally free trade” as opposed to the current situation, which is full of distortions. Brazil might at first be timid about pursuing this common goal, because they have, for very long, had many protected sectors and still have a very high tax burden on businesses. But they would ultimately be among the greatest beneficiaries because of the great amount of resources they possess, both human and material, like us.
A renewed American-Brazilian alliance would find many supporters not only among the general Brazilian population of all socio-economic levels, but especially among the rising political moderates and conservatives who are likely to govern it in the years to come. Like the United States, Brazil is a country of immigrants.
What’s not very well known about Brazil is that, despite its colorful Latin ways, it shares a lot of common cultural traits and values with the United States, more so than any other country in Latin America. Brazilians look up to America, and the United States ranks as the number one destination of Brazilian overseas tourists. Since 2013, more than 2 million Brazilians visit the United States as tourists every year, despite a cumbersome and demanding visa application process.
Like America, Brazil is a profoundly Christian country. It has the largest number of Catholics of any country in the world (130 million, or 65 percent of the population), one of the largest numbers of evangelical, Pentecostal, and Baptist adherents (estimated at 44 million), and the third-largest representation of Mormons in the world. In fact, the American-founded and based LDS Church named a Brazilian apostle, the first from Latin America, to its Quorum of Twelve Apostles this year, the highest body of leadership in the church.
Besides being religious like Americans, Brazilians also have an entrepreneurial mentality, and they like both country music – they have their own style – and rodeo. Brazil currently has a higher percentage of entrepreneurs and small business owners than the United States does. According to a 2017 Pew study, Brazil is one of the most pro-American countries in the hemisphere, more sympathetic to us than both Canada and Mexico. This despite decades of widespread anti-American sentiment and indoctrination in academia, the media, and in government.
For well more than the past decade as a tech entrepreneur active in Brazil and as an activist in Latin American conservative and libertarian political circles, I have become convinced that Brazilians are not just ready, but would be thrilled to become America’s best friend in the region, especially if this increased their international stature and prestige.
Despite the predictable reticence of America’s foreign policy establishment, it’s undeniable that this represents a tremendous opportunity for both countries. That’s why this ought to be an initiative coming directly from the Trump administration, which has shown itself open to pursuing a more pragmatic foreign policy and to thinking outside the box.
An American pivot toward Brazil and the resulting alliance could be, in fact, the foundation for stability, peace, economic growth, and the defense of Western values in the entire hemisphere for decades to come. It would also represent a coming of age in America’s relationship with Latin America and the latter’s consolidation as a bastion of Western Civilization at a time Europe is in decline and the international influence of other competing civilizations is increasing.
Brazil and America ought to be best friends, and the rarity of both countries having presidents who see eye-to-eye on a vast array of crucial issues should be the starting point for establishing a strong, deep and lasting alliance.