By Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog
In an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine – one of the most prominent mouthpieces of US imperialism – , and signed by, among others, Marcus Hicks, former commander of the US Special Operations Command in Africa during the period 2017-2019, defends the idea that the increased competition between the great powers ignites a red alert that the United States should turn its attention to the African continent.
The main motivator of this concern would be the urgent need to limit the “malign influence” of the hegemon’s two major strategic rivals: Russia and China.
Citing the increased Sino-Russian presence on the African continent, in which Russia alone would have already established military agreements with at least 19 countries, and China, installed in 2017 its first international military base in Djibout.
It is worth noting, that although the Foreign Affairs article mentions that there was an ebb in the American presence during Donald Trump’s administration, in reality, and in a long-term look, since 2001 American foreign policy has turned more aggressively to Africa, and this posture has even been an incentive for a greater presence of other actors of the interstate system in that continent.
The American presence in Africa, justified by the excuse of fighting transnational terrorism, was therefore the trigger for an increase in the presence of other interstate actors, and consequently, of the imperialist competition that in this pandemic 2021 gains even more dramatic contours.
Although this article is specifically a defense of the American presence in Africa, it serves as a warning of how the American establishment is positioning itself in face of a phenomenon that has deepened considerably in recent years: the new imperialist race.
Therefore, it is of utmost importance to understand the role of South America in this complex power game.
Taking into consideration that the increase in competitive pressure in the world system has been accelerating considerably since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has gained imperial contours after September 11, and has unveiled itself as, in fact, in a scenario of almost war with the advent of the pandemic, it is possible to deduce that the recent events in certain parts of South America definitely place it as a battleground of the current powers’ wider dispute for global hegemony.
Symptoms of this competitive phenomenon could be seen recently in insinuations that the Chinese are carrying out naval maneuvers in Argentinean waters (when in fact it was the Americans who in fact carried out exercises near the Brazilian coast), as well as in the intensification of the diplomatic crisis between Venezuela and Guyana.
There are many fracture points in South America, and perhaps the most visible and dangerous one lies over the Esequibo zone, a Guyanese territory of 159,000 square kilometers never recognized by Caracas.
In early March, Guyana accused Venezuela of having violated its airspace with the use of two Sukhoi SU 30 drones, of Russian origin. Caracas promptly refuted the accusations as false.
Repudiated by the Secretary of State for Falklands, Antarctica and the South Atlantic, Daniel Filmus, more recently, the publication of the new British defense plan – ratifying the decision to maintain a permanent military presence in the Falkland Islands – brought concerns to Buenos Aires.
The presence of foreign powers in South American territory is clear, and in light of the significant increase of competitive pressure in the world system – which has been gradually taking place since the disproportionate display of American military power against a defenseless Iraq in 1991 – the theory of the Expanding Universe is confirmed year after year, and in an increasingly dramatic way.
Contradicting the idea that a unipolar system, and therefore led and conducted by a single hegemon, would lead to Kant’s “perpetual peace,” the theory of the Expanding Universe supports the thesis that the global power game tends to reproduce itself ad infinitum as a continuously expanding, anarchic, and directionless universe.
Thus, it doesn’t matter whether the dispute is bipolar or multipolar: whoever is at the top of the system tends to expand his power even further – even if he is not necessarily being challenged at the moment, as is the case in the period right after the Soviet collapse, when the United States reigned absolute over the rest of the world.
The factual (and cruel) reality that comes to confirm the theory of the Expanding Universe could not fit into a more appropriate outfit than that of the present moment.
Just as 9/11 served as the perfect excuse for the expansion of the United States’ global power (in this specific case against an imaginary enemy – since the usual enemy, Russia, was temporarily out of the game), the Covid-19 pandemic serves today as a ladder for an unprecedented increase in competitive pressure in the interstate system.
Following this reasoning, and contrary to what Atlanticist analysts are saying, the pandemic crisis would be favoring only one country: the United States of America.
Not only because Silicon Valley technology companies have never profited as much as they do now, but the awakening of sovereigntist and militarist instincts brought about by the pandemic chaos has made possible the realization of the only fundamental and untouchable consensus of the currently divided US elites: the permanent and continuous reproduction and expansion of their military industrial complex. This expansion would be nothing more than the viability of the so-called Full Spectrum Dominance contained in the DOD Joint Vision 2020, published in the year 2000.
In this context, South America comes to play a new role in the global geopolitical chessboard, a role that the long period as a zone of peace under Anglo-Saxon influence would have softened.
With the increased competitive pressure caused by the pandemic event, which in other terms could be seen as the hegemon’s reaction to the entrance of new competitors in the system, came an increase or shock in the demand for energy resources.
In this scenario, we could exemplify the perspective of an expressive growth in the global demand for oil for the next 30 years, with China and India alone representing approximately 50% of all demand.
Considering that South America today can be considered the region with the largest oil (Venezuela) and Lithium (Bolivia) reserves on the planet – not to mention the Amazon forest and fresh water reserves (Brazil) – and in light of this global energy order in formation and dispute, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the new imperialist race between the great powers in the beginning of this century would be gradually turning to the region.
This situation is a wake-up call for a country in the region that is currently experiencing the greatest identity crisis in its entire history: Brazil.
Fractured internally since before the pandemic, the South American giant has never found itself so pressured and isolated internationally.
The systemic chaos that began with the Color Revolution of June 2013, and which has been deepening year after year until culminating in the election of Jair Bolsonaro (puppet president emerging from the white coup orchestrated by the consortium between the Armed Forces High Command and the U.S. government), finally goes into full short circuit after the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic.
Since then the growing discontent of sectors of the local economic elites with the disastrous management of the health crisis by the current government ruled by the military junta is visible.
Threatened by external sanctions from all sides, the country that has surpassed the mark of 300,000 deaths, is experiencing an internal fracture unprecedented in its history.
Something little remembered, but already in October 2019, Portuguese-speaking writers Mia Couto and José Eduardo Agualusa, on a visit to Brazil, said they were impressed by the climate of local political animosity, comparing the South American giant to African countries like Mozambique and Angola during the pre-civil war period.
At the same time that military police officers in Rio de Janeiro organize marches dressed in suggestive black shirts in defense of President Jair Bolsonaro, military police officers in the state of Bahia are threatening to cause chaos with a riot against the local governor (Rui Costa, from the Workers’ Party, an opponent of Bolsonaro).
Amid escalating tensions, the arm-wrestling between government and parliament is intensifying, and in particular with regard to two issues of geopolitical relevance: 5G and the Sputnik V vaccine.
Even if it is not clear from the stories reported by the hegemonic Brazilian press, it is visible that the Bolsonaro government deliberately acts as a representative of US interests in Brazil.
The difficulties created for the approval of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, and the constant threat of exclusion of the Chinese technology giant Huawei from the great 5G auction in the country, reflect the current role of Brazil as a battleground of the great expansionist dispute of the world system in this beginning of the century.
The social fracture, and the deepening divide within the local elites expose the serious risk of a country that could spiral out of control at any moment.
The news that the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) has sent a letter to Mr. Joe Biden, and to his Special Climate Secretary John Kerry, requesting a direct channel of communication – and away from the Brazilian government – to deal with issues related to the Amazon, opens a very serious alert about something that, for those who know history, would not be new.
Bearing in mind that geopolitical competition between the great powers is usually concentrated in fracture zones of the world system, history teaches us that fractured societies – and weakened states – tend to become the object of divisive games in the hands of the great powers.
With all due respect to the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil – so mistreated and threatened by the current government – but the moment calls for a deep reflection on this.
Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws (LL.B), MA student in International Relations at the University of Évora (Portugal), writer and geopolitical analyst. He currently maintains a column on international politics at the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.