Tuesday, April 19, 2016

CAEI: Observatorio de Rusia No. 15

"Observatorio de Rusia."
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Cronologia y Fermologia Pag. 5
Resignificacion y Sentido: Moscu se enfoca en el Medio Oriente Pag. 9

No. 15 / Verano Sur 2015
Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales
Disponible: http://www.caei.com.ar/observatorio/observatorio-de-rusia

Presentation: U.S.-Western Hemisphere Relations - The Obama Legacy

"U.S.-Western Hemisphere Relations - The Obama Legacy"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Miami University (Ohio). Washington  DC Program.
February 3rd, 2016

Presentation: CIMSEC CFAR: Neither Side Appears Ready for War, Falklands Malvinas Islands Analysis

"Neither Side Appears Ready for War, Falklands/Malvinas Islands Analysis"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
CIMSEC - 2016 CFAR Conference
March 24, 2016

W. Alejandro Sanchez presents at the 2016 CFAR Conference, presented by the Center for International Maritime Security and hosted by the Center for Naval Analyses.


"The Uses of the U.S. Navy's Fourth Fleet"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Center for International Maritime Security
March 21, 2016
Originally published: http://cimsec.org/opinion-uses-u-s-navys-fourth-flee/23415

On March 10 Admiral Kurt Tidd, the new commander of Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and presented his posture statement. In his analysis of Western Hemisphere geopolitics and security issues, he acknowledged that he does not possess sufficient vessels to carry out SOUTHCOM’s multiple maritime operations. This statement serves as an ideal point of departure for one of SOUTHCOM’s arguably least well-known agencies, the U.S. Fourth Fleet(FOURTHFLT).
A (Very) Brief History
The history of the Fourth Fleet is actually fairly brief. It was created in 1943 and tasked with protecting the South Atlantic Ocean from Axis warships and submarines. Nazi German vessels had a fairly constant presence in that area, best exemplified by the Admiral Graf Spee incident in 1939. The FOURTHFLT existed for a short period after the war ended as it was dissolved in 1950 and its area of operations was inherited by the Second Fleet.
In 2008, then-President George W. Bush reactivated the Fourth Fleet. It was officially reestablished on July 12 and its headquarters is shared with U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (USNAVSO). The commander of USNAVSO (COMUSNAVSO) is also the commander of the Fourth Fleet; currently that officer is Rear Admiral George Ballance.
It is important to note that the current SOUTHCOM commander is no stranger to the Fourth Fleet since then-Rear Admiral Tidd was the COMUSNAVSO/FOURTHFLT commander from 2011 to 2012. He first relieved Rear Admiral Vic Guillory and was subsequently relieved by Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris a year later. “The mission executed day in and day out by the men and women of the NAVSO/4th Fleet team is important; we are operating on the seas and in the littorals throughout the region every day, building and strengthening partnerships with nations who share a common heritage and a common sense of purpose with us,” Admiral Tidd said during the 2012 change of command ceremony. Admiral Tidd would return to SOUTHCOM this past January 14, when he became its newest commander.

The Fourth Fleet’s reestablishment must be placed in the proper geopolitical context. In 2008, the hemisphere was sprinkled with several Latin American governments that held anti-U.S. sentiments. Then-President Hugo Chavez spent billions of Venezuelan petro-dollars to modernize his country’s military by purchasing equipment from Russia and China, while critiquing “el imperio.” The governments in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua had a similar ideology, while the Lula government in Brazil and the Kirchners in Argentina were neutral at best, if not occasional critics of Washington’s historical hegemony in the region. Moreover, in 2008 Russian warships visited the Caribbean, carrying out exercises with the Venezuelan Navy.
In other words, in 2008 there was a geopolitical logic for reestablishing the Fourth Fleet. This was a highly-visible method for Washington to remind the world that it remained the sole military power in the Western Hemisphere.
Current Activities
The Fourth Fleet/COMUSNAVSO’s website summarizes its activities:
No vessels or aircrafts will be permanently assigned to U.S. Fourth Fleet as part of the re-establishment. U.S. Fourth Fleet is an organizational fleet staffed to fulfill a planning and coordination mission. U.S. Fourth Fleet is focused on strengthening friendships and partnerships and will have five missions: support for peacekeeping, Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief, traditional maritime exercises, and counterdrug support operations.
Even though it has no permanently assigned vessels, the ships it oversees have helped the FOURTHFLT have an ongoing presence in Latin American and Caribbean waters. A major initiative occurred in late 2015 when the carrier USS George Washingtonand its support vessels (i.e. the USS BighornUSS Guadalupe, among others), took part in the Southern Seas 2015 deployment. This included their participation in the multinational UNITAS 2015 exercises as well as making port calls in Brazil, Chile, and Peru. The previous year, the USS America took a tour of the Western Hemisphere during which it docked in Colombia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.
As impressive as the carrier George Washington is, it is the USNS Comfort which arguably has the most continuous presence in the region. The U.S. Navy’s hospital vessel regularly travels throughout the Caribbean and Central America to provide humanitarian support. From April to September of last year, the vessel took in part in Continuing Promise 2015, in which the Comfort visited a total of 11 countries, from Guatemala to Dominica, carrying out procedures like general surgery, ophthalmologic surgery, veterinary services and public health training. This was the Comfort’s fourth trip as part of the Continuing Promise initiative. According to SOUTHCOM, the vessel previously participated in the mission’s 2007, 2009 and 2011 incarnations.
Finally, various U.S. Navy warships regularly patrol the Caribbean Sea in order to help partner nations combat illicit trafficking. In the interest of brevity we will provide only a couple of examples. In 2014, the USS Vandegrift, in a joint operation with the U.S. Coast Guard, successfully stopped a suspicious vessel off the coast of Central America. Upon boarding the vessel, security personnel found almost two thousand pounds of cocaine. More recently, in January 2015, the USS Gary and the U.S. Coast Guard successfully seized more than 1644 kilograms of cocaine from a “go fast” vessel. These two operations were part of Operation Martillo.

As for the Fourth Fleet’s upcoming operations, in an interview with the author, a USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT spokesperson explained that it “will conduct Southern Partnership Station 2016 with USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1) and multinational exercises UNITAS and PANAMAX 2016. We are also supporting a bilateral exercise with Peru, Silent Forces Exercise, and Integrated Advance with SOUTHCOM, this year being a mass migration exercise.” Additionally, ships like the USS Lassen and USS Shamal will participate in Operation Martillo.
The aforementioned examples demonstrate how the FOURFLT has an active presence in Latin American and Caribbean waters, and has successfully partnered with friendly nations to jointly crack down on transnational maritime crimes.  
Does the Navy Need The FOURTHFLT?
The intention of this commentary is not to criticize U.S. naval operations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Rather, the goal here is to understand how the FOURTHFLT has helped SOUTHCOM.
On February 12, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) organized an on-the-record event entitled “A Navy in Balance? A Conversation with Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations.”During the Question & Answer section, this author asked Admiral Richardson whether the Fourth Fleet is necessary, given that it only seems to have the USNS Comfort on a quasi-regular basis while it rotates its other vessels instead of having any permanently deployed to it. The Admiral responded that the Fourth Fleet is “very important” and mentioned the aforementioned USS George Washington deployment and the success of security operations in the Caribbean. “The productivity of that fleet continues to show its value,” the Admiral declared.
The uses of the Fourth Fleet can be divided in three arguments:
1. This author asked the aforementioned FOURTHFLT spokesperson how its reestablishment has helped SOUTHCOM, particularly from an administrative and logistical point of view. The response was that by being “dual-hatted” and reporting to both the CNO and SOUTHCOM, “we are able to represent multiple operations and opportunities for our partner nations in the Navy specific chain of command as well as the Combatant Command chain of command. The establishment of Fourth Fleet elevated us from an echelon 3 command to echelon 2.” Moreover, the reestablishment of the FOURTHFLT has allowed the training of a Maritime Operations Center Staff “to include the USNAVSO Fleet Command Center that planned and executed Lines of Operations in support of USSOUTHCOMs Theater Campaign Plan.”
Indeed, having a Fourth Fleet has also provided a command chain that allows SOUTHCOM to deal with major operations. As the FOURTHFLT spokesperson explains, “a key event was our response to the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 where 4th Fleet served as the Navy Component Commander during Operation Unified Response, the Navy’s largest ever Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR) contingency response. The response consisted of 17 ships, 89 aircraft, and over 15,000 Sailors and Marines assigned to Commander, Task Force Forty, and the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander in support of Joint Task Force Haiti.”
2. Another issue is whether the Fourth Fleet has brought any clear budget or equipment-related advantages to SOUTHCOM. In 2014, six years after the Fourth Fleet was reinstated, then-SOUTHCOM commander General John Kelly declared in his posture statement to the House Armed Services Committee that, “as the lowest priority Geographic Combatant Command, U.S. Southern Command will likely receive little, if any, ‘trickle down’ of restored funding. Ultimately, the cumulative impact of our reduced engagement will be measured in terms of U.S. influence, leadership, and relationships in the Western Hemisphere.”The former commander indirectly talked about the Fourth Fleet, stating that “insufficient maritime surface vessels and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms impair our primary mission to detect threats and defend the southern approaches to the U.S. homeland.” (The 2014, 2015, and 2016 posture statements list activities carried out by USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT).
Regarding the acquisition of additional equipment, in an interview with the author, SOUTHCOM spokesperson Jose Ruiz explained that SOUTHCOM “submits requests for naval resources, including personnel, ships and aircraft, through the Joint Staff. We work the requests with our naval component, [USNAVSO]. The military services weigh all geographic combatant command requests for people and platforms against prioritized national security requirements around the globe, and allocate resources to our command based on what is available after higher priority national security needs are met.” Spokesperson Ruiz added SOUTHCOM does not exclusively rely on the U.S. Navy “for maritime resources to accomplish important missions […] Other important interagency partners, such as the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection also provide key sea and air platforms and forces to support those missions.” (This author has discussed U.S. Coast Guard activities in the Greater Caribbean in “The US Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy”).
In his posture statement Admiral Tidd explained the success of the various U.S. security and defense agencies (including the Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies) that come together under the umbrella of Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) to combat transnational organized crime (TOC) in SOUTHCOM’s area of operations. Nevertheless, during his testimony to the Senate, when asked about his lack of resources he simply stated that “I do not have the ships, I do not have the aircraft” to deal with the amount of TOC in the region. He explained that at any given time, he may have on average five to six surface ships, namely Coast Guard platforms, and one to two Navy platforms, while he ideally needs 21 vessels. Thus, it would appear that the FOURTFLT has not brought additional resources to SOUTHCOM.
3. The one clear advantage brought by the reestablishment of the Fleet is that it helped the U.S. military appear to have a bigger presence in the Western Hemisphere in the eyes of Latin American and Caribbean states, not to mention nations like Russia and China. The word “fleet” conjures images of a plethora of frigates, submarines, and a carrier or two docked in Florida, under SOUTHCOM’s command. Hence, it comes as no surprise when the FOURTHFLT was reinstated, media outlets around the region published numerous commentaries about Washington’s plans – case in point, a 2008 commentary in the Colombian daily El Espectador has the headline “The Return of the Fourth Fleet: What is the objective of this new initiative by the U.S. government?” Unsurprisingly, the Venezuelan government critiqued this decision.
Nevertheless, Admiral Tidd’s posture statement explains that “Russia’s actions [in Latin America and the Caribbean] are directly connected to its broader global efforts to demonstrate that Russia is a global power capable of challenging U.S. leadership and the established rules-based international system.” (P. 8-9). Thus, the FOURTHFLT’s shortage of Naval platforms (Coast Guard vessels notwithstanding) is arguably affecting SOUTHCOM’s, and by extension Washington’s, influence in Latin America and the Caribbean to Moscow’s benefit.
Final Thoughts
At the aforementioned AEI event CNO Admiral Richardson declared that the Navy “will continue to support [the Fourth Fleet] with every resource that we can spare.” Nevertheless, the CNO also stated that allocating resources is “fundamentally a matter of prioritization.” It is clear that SOUTHCOM is low in Washington’s list of defense priorities. Admiral Tidd understands this as he stated in his 2016 posture statement that “because no nation in the region poses a direct, conventional military threat to the United States, Latin America tends to rank fairly low on force allocation priorities.” (P. 2)
To recapitulate, the objective of this analysis is not to critique U.S. naval operations, but rather question the necessity of the Fourth Fleet itself. U.S. Navy vessels have participated in training exercises with regional partners as well as security initiatives like Operation Martillo. Moreover, the 2010 Haiti earthquake highlights how having the Fourth Fleet has provided a more robust command chain which SOUTHCOM can utilize for future major operations.
Nevertheless, it is the opinion of this author that the Fourth Fleet’s reestablishment has not brought any major budgetary or equipment-related advantages. Moreover, given Washington’s focus on Syria, Russia and China, it is unlikely that SOUTHCOM will receive additional naval resources soon.
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.
Alejandro Sanchez Nieto is a researcher who focuses on geopolitical, military and cyber security issues in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him on Twitter: @W_Alex_Sanchez.
The author would like to thank the Public Affairs offices of SOUTHCOM and USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT for their help in drafting this report.

Living in Peru: Peruvian foreign policy will not change under next president

"Peruvian Foreign policy will not change under next President"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Living in Peru
March 21, 2016
Originally published: http://www.peruthisweek.com/blogs-foreign-policy-elections-opinion-109088

The April 10 elections in Peru will not significantly alter the foreign policy of the Andean state, regardless of which candidate wins the presidency or which party (or coalition of parties) gains control of congress. Peruvian foreign policy for the past couple of decades has been fairly predictable and these elections will most likely not bring about major surprises.
Peru’s relations with the rest of the world are not a major issue to the Peruvian electorate; the hot topics of this election are improving internal security and the economy. Obviously, the latter issue has a lot to do with international commerce as the cornerstone of Peru’s growing economy over the past two decades has been the export of its natural resources (such as natural gas, minerals, oil and agricultural goods). Hence, it comes as no surprise that the main candidates have made similar promises, namely to maintain the current trade model. This will include cementing Peru’s role in the Pacific Alliance, a regional free trade bloc (along with Chile, Colombia and Mexico) as well as pushing for new free trade agreements, probably with India and Turkey. Additionally, the next congress will likely ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership which will open Asia Pacific markets to Peruvian goods.
When it comes to foreign policy itself, Peru is not a Latin American powerhouse, and it enjoys cordial relations with most of its neighbors. The only outstanding issue may be the future of the territorial dispute with Chile. Lima already had some success in a maritime dispute with its Southern neighbor via the 2014 ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Hence, the next head of state may see the ICJ as an option to solve this dispute as well.
Ultimately, while the Andean nation has witnessed its fair share of internal turmoil over the past decades, its foreign policy has remained generally constant. Arguably, Peru’s internal problems, such as terrorism in the 1980s or political instability in the 1990s due to the Fujimori dictatorship, did not allow the Andean country to focus on the outside world. Nevertheless, some foreign policy stances have been constant and will remain so. For example, Lima has been a close ally of Washington, and this will not change, particularly as the Peruvian government and security forces will look for U.S. support to combat drug trafficking.
It is worth noting that of the remaining presidential candidates, only a few have an extreme-left ideology. In theory, if one of them is elected, we could see a radical foreign policy change. This is already happening in Argentina, as new President Mauricio Macri is approaching Washington; this is an almost 180 degree turn when compared to the foreign policy of his predecessor, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was known to be a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As for Peru, in the 2006 elections then-candidate Ollanta Humala was defeated, in part, because he was regarded as a close friend of the late President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and a follower of his socialist ideology. Nevertheless, the “extreme left” candidates are fairly down on the polls so unless a major surprise occurs in April, Peru’s relations with the global powers will generally remain unaltered. (The next head of state will likely continue to purchase Russian military equipment, which the Peruvian military is used to utilizing, but we will not see Russian bombers landing in Peru à la Venezuela in 2013).
On a personal note, I would like to see Peruvian presidential candidates address foreign policy. International commerce is an obvious issue, but there are other parts of the country’s foreign policy that should be discussed, such as the future of the Andean Community (which is headquartered in Lima), having a Peruvian citizen elected to head a major international organization (like UNASUR), the significance of Peru’s recent ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty or the future role of the Peruvian military in UN peacekeeping missions.
For over a decade, Peru has enjoyed significant economic growth. Unfortunately, this has not prompted Lima to have a more ambitious foreign policy – coincidentally, I discuss the steps that the Andean country can take to be more influential in regional geopolitics in a working paper for the Argentine think tank Centro Argentino de Estudios Internacionales entitled, Pax Inca: Why Peru is not a Regional Powerhouse in Latin America.
Hopefully Peru’s next president, whoever he or she may be, will be interested in boosting the country’s foreign policy.
You can follow W. Alejandro on Twiter @W_Alex_Sanchez

Interview: Peru’s election shake-up

"Peru's Election Shake-Up"
The Stream - Al Jazeera
March 14, 2016
Originally published: http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201603111507-0025170

On Monday, March 14 at 19:30 GMT:

Julio Guzman and Cesar Acuna, two of Peru’s main presidential candidates, have been barred from participating in next month’s election after weeks of back and forth between various electoral boards. Guzman’s candidacy has been ruled ‘inadmissible’ because it was not registered in accordance with electoral procedures, while Acuna has been banned because of vote buying.

But it is the ruling on Guzman that is particularly controversial. Guzman, a relatively unknown economist until recently, emerged as the main challenger to frontrunner Keiko Fujimori in past few months. Many feel his removal from the race was political. Guzman himself slammed the decision, calling it “flagrantly illegal and unconstitutional.” But the National Jury of Elections struck down his candidacy on the grounds that he was not selected by his party, Everyone for Peru, through a legitimate internal election. Guzman plans to launch one last “extraordinary” appeal, but few expect it to be successful.

For Peruvians, this is the latest twist in an election where around 70 percent of voters were already dissatisfied with the candidates running. Guzman, on the other hand, appealed to 63 percent of voters who wanted a new figure, having cast himself as an outsider in a race full of familiar faces. Despite leading in the polls, Fujimori is opposed by many others who associate her with her father, a former president found guilty of human rights abuses in 2009. She has also been accused of vote buying. Other remaining candidates face controversies ranging from plagiarism to being on trial for murder.

So what’s next for Peru’s election, and how will the shake-up affect the race?

Joining this conversation:

Alejandro Sanchez @W_Alex_Sanchez
International Security Expert

Francisco Sagasti @FSagasti
Everyone For Peru Party (Todos Por El Peru)

Raul Benavides @DiarioAltavoz
Co-Director, Diario Altavoz

Miklos Lukacs @mlukacs
Professor, Esan Graduate School of Business 

Blouin World: Rio Olympics: What’s the worst that could happen?

"Rio Olympics: What's the worst that could happen?"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Blouin Beat: World
April 8, 2016
Originally published: http://blogs.blouinnews.com/blouinbeatworld/2016/04/08/rio-olympics-whats-the-worst-that-could-happen/

The Brazilian government, presidential scandals aside, is focused on ensuring that the upcoming Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro occur successfully and peacefully. The event is expected to attract between 350 to 500 thousand foreign tourists, not counting the 10 thousand athletes that will compete in 42 different sports. The question is: what security-related incident is Brasilia trying to prevent?
The obvious answer is some type of terrorist operation, with the 2015 attacks in Paris and Brussels by ISIS serving as a recent and tragic precedent. In fact, the Paris attacks occurred while a friendly soccer match between France and Germany was taking place at the Stade de France. Moreover, there is already the precedent of one successful terrorist attack during an Olympic event: the 1972 Munich attacks carried out by the Palestinian Black September group, which killed 11 Israeli Olympian athletes and one German police officer.
In order to prepare for the worst-case scenario, the Brazilian security and defense forces will carry out an unprecedented operation. Brazilian Defense Minister Aldo Rebelo announced in March that 38 thousand military personnel will be deployed, with 20 thousand in Rio itself, not counting personnel from other security agencies. According to the Brazilian Defense Ministry, Rio will be divided into four defense command sections (CDS Deodoro, CDS Maracana, CDS Copacabana and CDS Barra da Tijuca) in order for the security forces to better monitor the Olympic venues. Rio certainly appears to be ready for the Olympics from a security perspective as the defense commands are training for any type of incident, be it a terrorist attack or even nuclear, radiological or biological threats.
Nevertheless, this preparedness program has not been scandal-free. Case in point: In late March, Colonel Adilson Moreira from the National Force for Public Security resigned after sending an e-mail to his colleagues that was critical of President Dilma Rousseff.
It is worth noting that, some protests aside, the Brazilian government has successfully organized major sporting events in recent years, namely the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Moreover, Gustavo Palhares, a partner at Furriela Advogados (a São Paulo law firm with a branch in Washington DC), told me that “for the past decade, the city and state of Rio have invested in security, particularly to ‘pacify’ the favelas [shantytowns]; although crime has not disappeared in Rio, the city is more prepared than ever to host the Olympic Games.”
Indeed, as Palhares explained, rather than some terrorist attack à la Munich 1972, the major concern regarding the upcoming Games is crime, i.e., the possibility of tourists or athletes being robbed (or worse) by the city’s numerous gangs. Unfortunately, there have been recent incidents that stress this possibility. For example, in January, four people were killed and 11 were injuredwhen criminals attacked a bar in Rio’s western area, in Vargem Pequena. Then, in mid-March, a member of a Pacifying Police Unit (Unidad de Policia Pacificadora, UPP) was murdered by unknown bandits in broad daylight during a routine patrol. Finally, and in an ironic development,Lieutenant-Colonel Murilo Angelloti of the Copacabana division of the Military Police (BPM) was recently the victim of a robbery. When he left his home on Sunday, April 3, three men held him at gunpoint and stole his car. Palhares clarified that “these crimes occurred in areas of the city where the Games will not take place.”
The aforementioned examples demonstrate that crime in Rio has been contained, rather than completely eradicated. Certainly, it would be naïve to believe that crime in a city like Rio (with a population of well over six million) could be fully solved via the pacification operations.
Ultimately, it is necessary to place potential crimes (not terrorist attacks) during the Olympics in the context of Brazil’s current tense political situation. Should foreign tourists or Olympian athletes be mugged, as Palhares explains, this will negatively affect President Dilma Rousseff’s image, “especially at a moment when she is in a political war to save her presidency.” While the possibility of a terrorist attack in Rio is arguably extremely remote, even a wave of robberies may be enough to hurt the president.
- W. Alejandro Sanchez, researcher
@W_Alex_Sanchez | Blog: Geopolitics

Blouin Politics: Uruguayan navy forced to evolve in peacetime

"Uruguayan Navy forced to evolve in Peacetime"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Blouin Beat: Politics
March 22, 2016
Originally published: http://blouinnews.com/91541/story/uruguayan-navy-forced-evolve-peacetime

Uruguay’s military is undergoing a transformation. Its limited defense budget, combined with no apparent traditional security threat, means that its armed forces must find a new raison d’être in order to justify obtaining new equipment. A prime example of this evolution is the Uruguayan Navy, which is currently attempting to choose the ideal offshore patrol vessel (OPV) to efficiently monitor its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Due to space issues, we will simply define OPVs as small vessels (between 60-90m long) that are utilized for coastal patrol to combat crimes like drug trafficking, illegal fishing, as well as carrying out search and rescue operations.  The fact that Uruguay regards them as the future cornerstone of its naval platforms explains the geopolitical situation in the South Atlanticnowadays. Montevideo enjoys positive relations with its two neighbors, Brazil and Argentina (the dispute with Buenos Aires over a controversial pulp mill notwithstanding), to the point that an inter-state war with either state is too farfetched to be realistically hypothesized. Hence, in order to justify its existence and budget, the South American nation’s navy is now focusing on combating non-traditional maritime threats, such as drug trafficking and illegal fishing. In order to achieve this, Uruguay needs a fleet of small but fast vessels that can monitor its EEZ, namely OPVs.
The need for a modern fleet that can patrol a country’s EEZ was made by a recent incident in which Argentina’s Coast Guard sank a Chinese vessel that was illegally fishing in its territorial waters. Buenos Aires argues that its Coast Guard shot at and sank the vessel after an ineffective chase that lasted hours. The Chinese government has declared that it is “very worried” about the incident.
As for Uruguay’s navy, back in 2013 the Uruguayan daily El País quoted Rear Admiral Daniel Núñez Rodriguez as saying that the fleet’s status was “disastrous” as several of its vessels are decades old and should be retired. To stress that point, in January an Uruguayan vessel, theROU Vanguardia, had to be rescued by a Chilean vessel when it was trapped in a storm in Antarctica and its motor reportedly suffered malfunctions.
The Uruguayan government seems to (finally) recognize this urgency and plans to purchase between two and three OPVs to modernize its fleet. This interest has caught the eyes of several important military industrial companies.
For example, in February the French Navy sent its OPV L’Adroit to Uruguay, both as a good will visit and as a way to showcase the vessel to Montevideo – unsurprisingly, the arrival of the vessel occurred only a couple of weeks before a visit by French President Francois Hollande to Uruguay. L’Adroit is produced by the French shipyard DCNS. Another European competitor for the contract is the German company Luerssen, which is offering its OPV 80.
It is worth noting that companies outside of Europe are also looking to win this coveted contract. One good example is Austal. The Australian company is known for its deals with the U.S. Navyto construct Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) such as the USS Montgomery. However, Austal produces smaller vessels like the High Speed Support Vessel (HSSV 72), which Oman has acquired, and the Patrol 58-cape class, which Austal constructed for Australia. Austal is already well regarded for its LCS warships, so it will be interesting to see if this pedigree helps their OPVs enter the Latin American market via Uruguay.
Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez can govern with the certainty that his country does not face any major security threats (e.g., Brazil trying to invade the country).  And while the Uruguayan military is not at a crossroads per se, it is nonetheless in the process of transforming itself into a new force that will focus on combating non-traditional security threats. Choosing the correct OPVs is the first step for the Uruguayan navy to effectively face its 21st century challenges.