The article UNASUR beyond Brazil: Argentina’s position in support of the South American Defense Council, written by Alejandro Frenkel and Nicolás Comini and published at the number 1/2017 (Vol. 60 – No. 1) of Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional – RBPI, presents a deep analysis of the Argentinian position regarding the creation of the Unasur’s South American Defense Council (CDS). Frenkel and Comini started from the two proposals for the CDS – one had the form of a security alliance and the other pursued the establishment of a cooperation forum. In order to examine why and how Argentina chose the flexible model, the authors point some conditioning factors, as normative divergences and international insertion strategies.
The article applies different qualitative methodologies, as comparative analysis and semistructured in-depth interviews with key governmental actors, what makes it a complete review of the Argentinean choices. With the current changes and challenges at the global and regional politics, “UNASUR beyond Brazil: Argentina’s position in support of the South American Defense Council” is a great option to understand the shape and reshape of international arrangements. More of the discussions around the article could be seen in the interview above produced by Isabela Nascimento, a member of the Editorial Team of RBPI.
1. In order to shape the different projects – the Brazilian and the Venezuelan – for the CDS UNASUR, you presented two ways of defining security. For one hand, a restrict sense of security understands the State as “a preeminent actor in the international system as well as a reference subject of security; the threats are generally state or military; and the Armed Forces are the most appropriate instrument to repel eventual aggressions from other States”. By contrast, the expanded view of security “argues that the changes that took place after the Cold War (…) reveal the insufficiency of the traditional security approaches to account for the present dynamics of international security”. Even this abovementioned expanded view of security has obtained more and more space in the last decades, do you think it will keep getting more place with the current political changes regarding international politics?
ANSWER: Indeed. The international political changes are shifting sensitive issues within the region from traditional to open wide perspectives. The US Southern Command is pressuring to impose the idea of the trans-regional threats, which implies the incorporation of the South America to the “red lines” of the global security agenda. A dispute for the acceptance of the new rules for the world order can be observed within the region.
2. In a same line of the first question, Argentina chose between two projects of CDS, one directed to military integration and the other to cooperation and coordination of politics. After the creation of CDS, a lot have changed in the South American politics, as the current debate of the Venezuelan situation in MERCOSUR. Does the current South American politics shapes or reshapes the idea of CDS? How?
ANSWER: South America is undergoing complex domestic and intermestic changes. The combination of fragile governments, ideological conflicts and serious internal problems is having a negative impact on regionalism. Some of the same countries that in 2008 avoided the definition of an expanded view of defense for the CDS (for instance Argentina and Ecuador) are currently adopting new outlooks on this issue. A progressive militarization of security and “policialization” of the Armed Forces processes in such countries could have an impact on the CDS’s nature. Although the CDS has lost its incidence power and many of its members do not consider it a priority negotiating platform, it is visible that states are trying to advance towards multidimensional visions of the defense. However, this course is mainly uni and bilateral since the South American states are defining their defense policy strategies by themselves. They are prioritizing negotiations without intermediaries with global powers, a dynamic that is diminished the importance of multilateral regional institutions.
3. The Argentinian government has changed since the country got engaged in the UNASUR projects. After the election of 2015, Macri was pointed by the media as an incognito for the Argentinian participation on UNASUR’s subjects. Tell us about how his government is dealing with the CDS UNASUR and what patterns can be expected, especially because Argentina will preside the next UNASUR’s Pro Tempore Presidency.
ANSWER: Since Macri became president, the Argentinean policy toward regional integration changed substantially. The new administration left behind the idea of a “resistance” integration to counterbalance the globalization aftermaths and the US hegemony. In that sense, Macri called to “flexibilize” Mercosur and get closer to the Pacific Alliance. In this move, the non-commercial issues lost place in the Macri’s foreign policy. As consequence, organizations like Unasur became less important. Moreover, Argentinean initiatives in the CDS –like the building of a common training plane – are set aside. However, some indicators reflects that Macri did not completely forget Unasur. In a recently meeting with Brazilian president, Michel Temer, Macri put on the table the name of the former Ambassador in US -José Octavio Bordón- to replace Ernesto Samper in the chair of Unasur’s General Secretary.
4. Talking about the methodology used in the research that resulted in the article, you used semi structured in-depth interviews with key governmental actors. Tell us about this experience and how it can enhance the use of other research sources. How interviewing actors of a political and changeable nature, as Presidents and Ministers, and of a more fix nature, as military personal and bureaucrats, helped in building the background of the CDS negotiations?
ANSWER: Most of the time, is hard for the researchers get detailed information of the actions and initiatives agreed in the Latin American regional organizations. Often, we have access to the meeting minutes and other official documents, but is impossible to know the countries positions or the negotiations behind each agreement. In that sense, interviewing key actors is a very useful tool to explore the “kitchen” of the public policies. All this becomes more important considering that the CDS is a military organization, and defense sector is one of the most secrecies governmental areas.
Alejandro Frenkel – Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Cientificas y Tecnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Nicolás Comini – Universidad del Salvador, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Buenos Aires, Argentina (email@example.com).
Isabela Nascimento is a master candidate in International Relations at the University of Brasília, Brazil.
Read the article
Frenkel, Alejandro, & Comini, Nicolás. (2017). UNASUR beyond Brazil: Argentina’s position in support of the South American Defense Council. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 60(1), e013. Epub October 23, 2017.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201700104