Brazil Building Nuclear Subs to Defend Oil Reserves

Brazilian submarine formation. Copyright: Navy of Brazil.

Here’s a turn of South American politics that seems like reality straight-up shoplifting from a cyberpunk novel….or one of several earlier Techyum posts.

If you need proof that the wars of the 21st century are going to be fought not over principles, democracy or even national hegemony per se, look no further than this Al Jazeera story about Brazil building a nuclear submarine to defend its oil reserves:

Plans for a Brazilian nuclear submarine that had been postponed since the 1970s are beginning to materialize, as the nuclear-propelled sub is regarded as a strategic necessity to guard Brazil’s deep water oil reserves, and to project global power.

“Brazil is taking another step toward affirming its status as a developed country with sophisticated industry capable of absorbing, mastering and using advanced technologies,” said Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. [The project] originated in a December 2008 agreement between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. …”Brazil is taking another step toward affirming its status as a developed country with sophisticated industry capable of absorbing, mastering and using advanced technologies,” [said Rousseff].

If it seems strange to you that the French are lending a hand to the Brazilians in developing a nuclear submarine program, it’s actually not. The French are big global arms suppliers, and have long have a critical link with the Brazilian navy. The only Brazilian aircraft carrier, the São Paolo, is the former French carrier Foch — interestingly, the same carrier that featured in the opening narration in the 1995 nuclear-war epic Crimson Tide. The Foch is a non-nuclear vessel (as far as I can tell, diesel-electric) as are all of Brazil’s ships.

Of the 100 currently commissioned ships of the Brazilian navy, very few are of French origin. Most of those not built in Brazil originated with the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany. All of the Brazilian ships under development are from France or Italy. That signals a clear shift of geopolitical alliances — one that’s pretty serious, given that Brazil is very much on the ascendency and the U.S. just had its credit downgraded.

And what of a nation developing a nuclear-propelled submarine force, with conventional arms, to protect its oil reserves? The truth is, that’s not very far away from what the United States, Britain, China, the Soviet Union and now Russia have been doing at least since the end of World War II. All this crap about furthering global democracy and/or Communism is, depending on how you wanna frame it, either a complete scam or is part and parcel of defending oil reserves and other natural resources.

Of course, the most important thing a country’s military defends, at least on the U.S. model, is the opportunity to make money.

Which is why the Brazilian nuclear subs will not be built in France; they’re Brazilian jobs, with French technology. It looks to me like Brazil is doing exactly what the U.S. does when Brazil’s Embraer tries to woo them — tries to bring the project into the local economy, though that often ends up being a bit of a scam. Politicians’ claims that local jobs will be provided could mean anything or nothing…just like in the U.S. They might be lies, damn lies, or more damn lies, but two things are for sure…these subs are nuclear; and they’re being built with French technology, not U.S.


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