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    Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro speaks at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, Monday, March 18, 2019.

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    Washington intends to designate Brazil as a major US ally, the White House said in a statement. Sputnik discussed the development with Vinicius Vieira, an international relations professor at the University of Sao Paulo.

    Sputnik: What does Washington's decision to designate Brazil as a major US ally mean for Brazil and why is it happening now?

    Vinicius Vieira: In practice, it doesn't mean much in the first glance, why is that the case? Well, let's look at what happened with Argentina, another South American country, another regional power that was granted the same status about 20 years ago. Argentina hasn't even got close to the United States since then, that's why I would say that this alignment in military terms would only matter if Brazil ever gets attacked by a third-party power, be it a kind of state or a terrorist group. Otherwise, I don't see any immediate consequences in practice. This doesn't mean much unless we see, perhaps, a type of military action over Venezuela.

    Sputnik: John Bolton said that this bilateral cooperation would focus on Venezuela, Iran, and Cuba. How much support do US policies in regard to these countries have in Brazil?

    Vinicius Vieira: Here in Brazil, we have emerging conservatives and those conservative groups often associate Venezuela and Cuba with communism, well whatever it means nowadays, it's another name for the left-wing positions. Perhaps President Bolsonaro, in making these agreements with the United States, is just trying to please those domestic constituencies who have been claiming for years that Brazil should oppose those regimes. Rhetorically, it means a lot, nevertheless, I would say in practice, that view only would be problematic if Brazil would support any military action in Venezuela, I don't see anything coming soon to Cuba, and the United States may be able to handle whatever happens in Cuba in the near future by itself. But as I said before, the Brazilian military strongly opposes any military action in Venezuela. Brazil works under the principle of non-intervention, it's even a key component of its constitution, President Bolsonaro might have problems if it ever happens.

     As for Iran, it's a much more distant issue for the Brazilian average median voter. It means that we may stay in the more rhetorical level regarding that, because it's a Muslim country and again those domestic constituents that are more conservative, they may just be pleased by the signal, just because it's a non-Christian country and, therefore, that may generate further support to Bolsonaro among the evangelicals, in particular.

    READ MORE: Trump Says Discussed Reducing US-Brazil Trade Barriers in Talks With Bolsonaro

    Sputnik: I have to ask, why do you think Bolsonaro decided to visit the CIA headquarters prior to his meeting with Donald Trump? Was it some kind of symbolic a gesture? We know the regard that he shows for the US president, was it part of this?

    Vinicius Vieira: That was a very strange thing to do. Here in Brazil people are still trying to understand what exactly that meant and it's not clear yet. Conspiracy theorists would argue that Bolsonaro was simply trying to pay a tribute to the supposed agents that helped him to [come to] power, but that's not plausible, obviously. It seems that Bolsonaro has a kind of passion for the United States, and he doesn't really realize that it's not appropriate for a Brazilian president or any kind of president to hold a meeting with a subordinate authority of a foreign country before meeting the head of state.

    READ MORE: US to Designate Brazil as Major Non-NATO Ally

    Sputnik: And yet, of course, we know how strongly the US president feels about defence spending targets; do you think that the US will exercise pressure on Brazil as it does on its European allies over precisely this?

    Vinicius Vieira: The US may try to do so, however, the Brazilian military will not like this idea. Moreover Brazil, unlike the European allies of the United States, is not located in a major geopolitical region. Basically, international relations specialists would argue that the United States and Western Europe, they converge in a given point, they meet under their view to constrain Russian ambitions, and not to mention, of course, potential Chinese influence over nearby regions.

    Although, of course, it's known that Venezuela is allied nowadays with the non-Western governments, particularly Russia, Turkey, China, India, I don't see, for instance, the same type of strategy working out in South America, particularly because Venezuela is quite close to the United States, it's just on the opposite side of the Caribbean, so the United States could handle the Venezuelan question without Brazilian support. Moreover, the Brazilian military, perhaps, has other priorities including the need for new equipment and that may be a priority before thinking of defence spending towards targets driven by other countries, particularly the United States, because, as I mentioned before, the military strongly opposes any automatic alignment with the United States and that may be a matter of [a] clash with President Bolsonaro in the forthcoming months.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    military, meeting, CIA, Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, United States
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