Friday, December 15, 2017

IPD: Brazil to Join UN Mission in Central African Republic, MINUSCA

"Brazil to join UN Mission in Central African Republic, MINUSCA"
W. Alejandro Sanchez and Scott Morgan
14 December 2017
International Policy Digest
Originally published: https://intpolicydigest.org/2017/12/14/brazil-to-join-un-mission-in-central-african-republic-minusca/

Brazil will join the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), theUN announced. This is an important decision for the South American nation, as Brasilia looks to maintain a high profile in UN peace operations. This also shows an increased interest in Africa as well perhaps to counterbalance western interests. What remains to be seen is whether the 750 Brazilian troops to be deployed will have a positive impact in MINUSCA’s operations as the violence in the troubled central African state continues.
Brazil and UN Peace Missions
Brazil has had a strong interest in participating in UN missions in order to increase its international profile. In fact, the South American country had a leading role in the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), as well as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). MINUSTAH concluded its activities this past October after 13 years in the Caribbean state, prompting Brazil and other donors to withdraw their troops, and it has been replaced by a smaller mission, the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH).
According to October 2017 statistics provided by the UN Peacekeeping website, Brazil currently has deployed 250 personnel – police, experts on mission, contingent troops and staff officers – in various UN missions. The largest contribution is to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) where Brazil has deployed 205 troops and regularly deploys a warship to UNIFIL’s maritime taskforce.
Furthermore, Brazil operates in other UN missions in Africa, such as the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO); the UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID); the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS); the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA); and the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Finally, it is worth noting that Brazil is already participating in MINUSCA as it has deployed one expert on mission and two staff officers.
The South American country’s contribution to MINUSCA will dramatically increase since, according to reports, 750 Brazilian military personnel will go to the African state. On 23 November, a Twitter account apparently belonging to Brazilian General Estevam Cals Theophilo Gaspar de Oliveira tweeted a collage of photos of the multinational logistic exercises AmazonLog17 that Brazil carried out with Colombia, and Peru. The tweet explains the experience learned from the exercises “will be utilized by the Brazilian army in the UN mission that it will participate in 2018 in the Central Africa Republic, MINUSCA.”
There is no official timeline for when the troops will be deployed, but Brazilian General Ajax Porto Pinheiro has been quoted by AFP in a late November article, stating that “the timing is not precise, but we think our troops will go to Central Africa by March or April.” It is also unclear what types of units will be deployed and what exactly will be their task in MINUSCA. Another Latin American state currently present in CAR is Peru, which has deployed a company of some 200 military engineers that carries out construction and support operations.
The Future MINUSCA
The key question is how effective will the 750 Brazilian troops be towards MINUSCA’s objections, which include the stabilization of CAR, protecting civilians from attacks by Séléka rebels and anti-Balaka forces, and supporting development operations. MINUSCA’s mandate was renewed in November for another year, and it will now expire on 15 November, 2018. According to a UN press release, the Security Council “decided to increase the Mission’s troop limit by 900 military personnel, resulting in an authorized troop ceiling of 11,650 military personnel, including 480 military observers and military staff officers, 2,080 police personnel and 108 corrections officers” via Resolution 2387 (2017). From a pure numbers perspective, an additional 900 troops is a (big) drop of water in an already large glass and it is debatable how impactful they will be.
Certainly, the Brazilian military is well trained, has experience in UN peacekeeping (they just spent 13 years in MINUSTAH, not including other operations), and it remains very motivated regarding future involvement in peacekeeping – the Brazilian ministry of defense and military have repeatedly been praised for their involvement in peace missions.
With that said, MINUSCA is operating in a complex and dangerous situation, where violence is much more prevalent than in Haiti, as fighters from other conflict zones use the country as a safe haven and the famous peacekeepers’ blue helmet makes them a target. Indeed, MINUSCA peacekeepers have been regularly attacked in recent months, including in September, near Gambo, when a peacekeeper was wounded; while an attack in Bria on 4 December, “resulted in one Mauritanian peacekeeper killed and two other Mauritanian peacekeepers and one Zambian peacekeeper injured.”
Thus, there is a high probability that Brazilian peacekeepers will be targeted in MINUSCA, like their counterparts from other nations have been. This is particularly the case if they go out into the field to carry out stabilization and protection operations, not simply remain in their UN compounds – a common critique against UN blue helmets. Other criticisms have included peacekeepers sexually assaulting those who they are supposed to be protecting and providing weapons or looking the other way when a militia attacks the civilian population.
Final Thoughts
Brazil’s decision to join MINUSCA is unsurprising as the country has participated in various peacekeeping operations, taking a leading role in Haiti, East Timor and the UN maritime force in Lebanon. After the recent closing of MINUSTAH, it was only natural that the Portuguese-speaking giant would look to participate in another UN mission.
The real question is how effective will 750 Brazilian troops be in MINUSCA’s overall operations. The UN mission has been operating since 2014 and unfortunately, the Central African country remains unstable, despite the excellent work of certain NGOs working on reconciliation issues, with ongoing violence against civilians, the government and the peacekeepers themselves.
The views expressed in this article are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect any institutions with which the authors are associated.

IPD: The Eurasian Economic Union and Latin America: What could 2018 Bring?

"The Eurasian Economic Union and Latin America: What could 2018 bring?"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
International Policy Digest
11 December 2017
Originally published: https://intpolicydigest.org/2017/12/11/the-eurasian-economic-union-and-latin-america-what-could-2018-bring/

As the world becomes more interconnected, regions that are geographically distant are now becoming closer as diplomatic and trade ties develop. For example, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) is approaching Latin America both as individual members and collectively.
Growing Relations: The members of the EAEU are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Relations between Moscow and Latin America have been well covered – for example, the author has recently reviewed Russia’s relations with Bolivia andNicaragua – hence we will focus on the other EAEU members.
The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is an interesting case study as it has approached several Latin American states, particularly Brazil, which is one of the few Latin America countries where Astana has an embassy. For example, this year Kazakhstan’s Air Astana acquired five E190-E2 aircraft, produced by Brazil’s aerospace conglomerate EMBRAER, and deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2018. Air Astana did not purchase the planes directly from the Brazilian company, but rather signed a long-term lease agreement with AerCap; nevertheless, the decision to utilize EMBRAER platforms could help bring about future deals. Furthermore, the Kazakh company TetraTech, via its partnership with the US Agency for International Development, has been involved in projects among Latin American countries like Mexico(providing clean water) and Peru (supporting good governance).
Moreover, Astana has expanded its diplomatic presence in South America by opening a consulate in the Argentine city of Rosario, apart from already having a cultural center in said city. Additionally, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro visited Astana in September to take part in a meeting of the Islamic Cooperation Organization. As for positive publicity, the Mexican daily El Universal published a flattering piece about Kazakhstan’s interests in Latin America on 1 November, which includes an interview with Kazakh deputy foreign affairs minister, Yerzhan Ashikbayev. The article stresses that Mexican citizens do not need visas to travel to the Central Asian nation and the potential for future bilateral energy-related projects.
Meanwhile, Belarus has developed close ties with Venezuela; case in point: President Alexander Lukashenko met with President Maduro in Minsk just this past October. The meeting between the two leaders was followed by a round of a bi-national high-level commission, which occurred in late November, and the two sides discussed cooperation on issues like energy, agriculture and military strategy. Additionally, Mexico opened an honorary consulate in Minsk in 2016 while in early December 2017, Belarusian Ambassador to Ecuador and concurrently to Colombia, Igor Poluyan, made a working trip to Bogota, to promote bilateral relations, Belarus News reported.
As for Armenia, it is worth noting the migration of Armenians to Latin America, particularly after the Armenian Genocide. A 2016 article bySputnik Mundo discusses Armenia migration to Argentina and Uruguay in particular, though Armenians have migrated to other regional states. Nevertheless, the author has not been able to find recent diplomatic initiatives between the Caucasus nation and Latin America in spite of the Armenian Diaspora in the Western Hemisphere. Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister Aloysio Nunes Ferreria did write an op-ed praising Brazil-Armenia relations prior to his mid-November visit to Yerevan, however no major agreements have been reported as part of this visit. A similar situation occurs with Kyrgyzstan’s stance towards Latin America. Apart from a statement by the Brazilian foreign affairs ministry that in 2013 Brasilia “donated $50 thousand to the Kyrgyz Government through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for supporting activities in favor of refugees,” there have been no significant initiatives.
Finally trade appears to be minimal. For example, the Mexican daily Milenio, reported in March 2017 that trade between Mexico and Belarus centered on Mexican exports of steel, materials for tires and cleaning machines. Meanwhile, Brazil has reported that its bilateral trade with Armenia reached USD$38.4 million in 2016.
Thus, bilateral relations between individual EAEU members, apart from Russia, and Latin America should not be overhyped. Bilateral relations are generally positive, but sporadic. Moreover the scarce trade between the aforementioned EAEU nations and Latin America stresses that there is much to be done still to bring both sides further together.
Mexico’s Faux Pas over Nagorno-Karabakh: There has been one recent diplomatic incident between the two distant regions worth mentioning. Namely, Mexican government officials apparently made a diplomatic statement in favor of Armenia’s territorial dispute with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. In late October, three members of the Mexican Congress – identified as Margarita Blanca Cuata Domínguez, Carlos Hernández Mirón, de Morena, and María Cristina Teresa García Bravo – travelled to Armenia as part of their work for the Mexico-Armenia Friendship Group. The problem is that they also travelled to Nagorno-Karabakh, without authorization from the Azerbaijani government and apparently ignoring orders from the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Affairs.
The Azerbaijani government has vehemently protested the Mexican officials’ visit to the disputed territory.
EAEU-Latin America Deals: Limited bilateral relations notwithstanding, there is optimism regarding the future of relations between the EAEU (as a bloc) and Latin America. Case in point, on 4 December, the author attended a conference organized by the Eurasia Center at the Russian Cultural Center in Washington DC, entitled “4th Annual Conference: Doing Business with the Eurasian Economic Union: Improving East-West Relations.” The speakers included government and diplomatic officials of the five member states, who praised current levels of integration, the new Customs Code that will enter into force in 2018, and ties with countries like South Korea,Singapore and Vietnam.
The author inquired about EAEU-Latin America relations, and the speakers were optimistic about these initiatives and singled out relations with Chile, Mexico and Peru in particular. In fact, Chile and the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) have a joint commission aimed at promoting ties, which held its third round of meetings this past March. An EEC press release mentions that the recent round included lists by both Chile and EEC members of products that they would like to export. Similarly, in 2016 Peru noted that 99% of its exports to the EAEU currently go to Russia and the goal is to approach other states. Finally, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso has declared his country’s interest in looking for new markets. “We would like to establish stable relations with EAEU,” the diplomat has stated.
As a final point, it is worth highlighting the meetings between the EAEU and the South American bloc MERCOSUR – its member states: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela (which has been suspended since December 2016). In late November, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov declared that Latin American nations, including MERCOSUR, are interested in close cooperation with the EAEU. While there have been important meetings between the two blocs in the recent past, MERCOSUR currently is at a standstill due to internal problems, such as the problematic situation in Venezuela. Additionally, regional powerhouse Brazil is under stress due to its ongoing economic woes, while its foreign policy is essentially on hold until the October 2018 elections when a new administration will take over. We will probably have to wait until then to see what direction MERCOSUR takes and if rapprochement with the EAEU continues.
Final Thoughts: It will be important to monitor what 2018 brings for the EAEU-Latin American relations. Russia already has a hefty presence in Latin America, and the key will be to see if the Union’s other members can begin to establish a foothold in this vast area. So far, initiatives by Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have been scarce and, given the geographic distance between these nations and Latin America, in addition to other foreign policy priorities, we will likely not see major bilateral initiatives in the near future. Thus, the EAEU, as a bloc, led by Russia, would be the key to bring these nations and Latin America closer together.
The views presented in this essay are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any institutions with which the author is associated.