“I am very proud to announce that our visit to the United States bore fruit. President Donald Trump has accepted us as a major non-NATO ally,” said Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, at a military event in Brazil, on June 15, 2019.
The news was expected since March, when the leaders of both countries met for the first time. Brazil’s designation as a U.S. major non-NATO ally was among the topics of official discussions.
Now that both nations are aligned, the possibilities for exchanges and bilateral cooperation have increased, particularly in the areas of defense and security. For instance, countries designated as non-NATO ally by the U.S. have priority in the purchase of U.S. military equipment and technology. They can also participate in auctions from the U.S. Department of Defense that sell military products, and have priority to participate in trainings with the U.S. military.
With Brazil’s designation, 17 nations are now part of this group of partners that are not NATO members, but are considered a U.S. priority. Argentina was the only Latin American nation with this status, acquiring the designation in 1998.
Trump forwarded the official petition to designate Brazil to the U.S. Congress on May 8. “I am making this designation in recognition of the government of Brazil’s recent commitments to increase security cooperation with the United States, and in recognition of our own national interest in deepening our defense coordination with Brazil,” said Trump.
“The U.S. government grants major non-NATO ally status unilaterally. After one month, as mandated under U.S. law, without congressional involvement, the status was instantly granted to Brazil,” stated the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, known as Itamaraty, via their press office. According to the agency, the partnership is political. “No specific mechanism will be created, nor are there any legal or scheduled engagements,” Itamaraty said.
During the July 4 celebration at the U.S. Embassy, in Brasília, Bolsonaro cited the news as one more step toward bringing Brazil and the United States together. Bolsonaro met with Trump for the second time on June 28, confirming that he is “available to talk to Trump, establish a partnership, and develop our country.”
NATO was created in 1949, originally as an alliance between 12 countries. Currently, the treaty has 29 members, whose principles include collective defense, meaning that an attack against a NATO member country is considered an attack against all member countries. Since the establishment of NATO, the collective defense principle has only been invoked once, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States. In response, member countries contributed by sending troops to fight in Afghanistan.
The collective defense principle doesn’t extend to non-NATO allies of the organization’s member countries. In addition, since the designation of a non-NATO ally is unilateral, it means the United States, as well as the other NATO members, may choose their strategic partners. The process is completely different when it comes to admitting new NATO members, which requires ratification by member states.